Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Sunday that his ruling Fatah faction would hold its seventh general conference soon.
Abbas said that the conference would be held either in Ramallah or Bethlehem. He did not give a date for the planned conference.
“The conference will be held under very difficult circumstances, which we have become accustomed to,” Abbas said during a meeting of top Fatah officials in Ramallah.
He expressed hope that the conference would see the emergence of “young leaders.”
The last Fatah parley was held in August 2009 in Bethlehem – the first meeting of its kind in 20 years – although the faction’s constitution says that it should be held every five years.
During the Bethlehem conference, which was attended by 2,250 delegates, Fatah reelected Abbas (who ran unopposed) as the leader of the faction.
Hamas prevented some 400 Fatah members from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend the conference.
Abbas has not said whether he plans to nominate himself again in the elections. However, a senior Fatah official in Ramallah said he expected Abbas to contest the election under the pretext that he needs to pursue his efforts to achieve a Palestinian state.
The upcoming conference will be held amid increased tensions in Fatah, with some leaders openly challenging Abbas’s autocratic rule over the faction.
Abbas has over the past year expelled a number of top Fatah leaders, including Mohamed Dahlan, after accusing them of conspiring to undermine his regime.
The conference also comes amid growing tensions between Fatah and Hamas in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.
The Fatah Central Committee, a body dominated by Abbas loyalists, on Saturday accused Hamas of committing the “ugliest crimes and violations” against Fatah members in the Gaza Strip during the war. The committee also accused Hamas of confiscating humanitarian aid sent to Gaza and distributing it among its men in mosques or offering it for sale on the black market.
The renewed tensions between the two parties are likely to prompt Hamas once again to prevent Fatah delegates from Gaza from attending the conference in the West Bank.