A massive rally organized by the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip on Friday gathered tens of thousands of Palestinians, including many fishermen from Gaza City’s fishing harbor.

The rally, organized under the theme ‘Setting Sail for Freedom,’ was the first mass celebration in which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sought credit for the pullout.

Speaking to the crowds, Abbas  promised that the West Bank and east Jerusalem will be next for withdrawal.

‘From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,’ said Abbas.

The Palestinian Authority decided to use the Palestinian flag as the official banner for all celebrations.

‘This era is the era of unity, and the era that will end any competition or disagreement,’ Minister of Civil Affairs Mohammad Dahlan told the crowd.

Israeli army has prohibited the Gaza fishermen from fishing in the small Gaza harbor sine 2000.  Fishing is the main income for many Gaza residents.  The Israeli withdrawal would ease the situation considerably.

Rabiya Hissi, 52, the wife of a fisherman, came to the rally with her two grandchildren. Hissi’s family suffered for years due to army limitations on how far into sea Palestinians could fish.

‘We have been waiting for this minute for ages,’ Hissi said. ‘We have been waiting for joy and peace in our streets instead of blood and fear. I hope that the future of the coming generations will be a promising one.’

The Islamic resistance movement (Hamas) said on Friday that it will not disarm after the pullout, which poses a challenge to Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, who have vowed to maintain law and order in the areas Israel will withdraw from.

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