GAZA CITY //The Gaza branch of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party has started celebrating its 48th anniversary in the Hamas-ruled territory.
The last time Fatah, which governs the West Bank, held celebrations in the Gaza Strip to mark its foundation was in 2007.
Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since the Islamist movement seized control of Gaza in June 2007, following its victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections the previous year.
On Friday, Fatah announced it had reached an accord with Hamas, enabling it to mark its anniversary in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Thousands gathered on Monday night at the Saraya complex in Gaza City, holding pictures of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and Mr Abbas and waving Fatah flags as fireworks were set off.
"We lit the light starting the anniversary of the revolution," said Atef Abu Seif, the local leader.
Similar events took place throughout the Gaza Strip. The main event will take place on Friday at the Saraya, the former Fatah security headquarters, and will be attended by the senior Fatah official, Nabil Shaath.
Under Egyptian mediation, Hamas and Fatah reached a unity agreement in April 2011, although it has not yet been implemented.
The anniversary commemorates Fatah's first operation against Israel, claimed by its armed wing, then known as Al Assifa, on January 1, 1965.
On Monday, Mr Abbas pledged that the coming year would see the implementation of Palestinian independence.
Lighting a torch in the grounds of his West Bank headquarters to start the anniversary celebrations, he spoke of last month's historic United Nations vote upgrading the Palestinians's diplomatic standing, referring to it as the "birth certificate" of a Palestinian state.
Despite the UN vote and widespread international support for Palestinian statehood, Israel still occupies the West Bank, maintains tight control of movement of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip and has annexed the largely-Arab east Jerusalem.
Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians began in September 2010 but failed within weeks over a dispute about settlement building. International efforts to bring the two sides closer together have so far led nowhere.