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Palestinians Celebrate Fatah Anniversary - 2003-01-01

Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in the main square of Gaza City Tuesday, to mark the 38th anniversary of the founding of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction. Mr. Arafat addressed that crowd by live broadcast as more supporters marked the 1965 creation of Fatah with him at his compound in the West Bank City of Ramallah.

He said the only way to end the Palestinian conflict with Israel is through direct negotiations. He said he welcomes calls for a cease-fire but he is afraid violence may increase especially if war breaks out with Iraq, adding that Israel could take that opportunity to escalate its conflict with the Palestinian people.

Mr. Arafat said despite the ongoing violence, he is again extending his hand in peace and called on his people to put an end to violence against civilians.

“We have extended our hand and we do it again today, in peace, because we respect what we have signed, despite our bleeding wounds and despite the killing, the arrests and the complete destruction of our people and our land and our projects.”

Mr. Arafat’s supporters clearly appreciated his message. The crowd listening to those words in Gaza City Tuesday was one of the largest since the Palestinian leader’s 1994 return from exile.