Difference Between Fatah and the PLOThe Palestinian Liberation Movement should not be confused with the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, which was created in 1964 not by Palestinians, but by Egypt and the Arab League. The PLO was to be the umbrella organization below which various Palestinian parties and militant branches operated.
Fatah's earliest military wing, Asifa, or the Storm, was created in 1964, when it launched its first operations against Israel from what's today referred to as the West Bank (which belonged to Jordan in 1964). In 1969, during the fifth session of the Palestinian National Council--a Palestinian government in exile--Fatah elected Arafat chairman of the executive committee of the PLO, then given the title of commander in chief.
Fatah's identity has historically been confused with the PLO's--justly at first, as there were few ideological or personnel differences between the two. But various militant groups within the PLO gradually split off the more Fatah proved either too ineffective, too corrupt or too moderate. By the time of the first Intifada, or uprising, in the Occupied Territories in 1988, Fatah's power had been significantly diluted. The party became the chief proponent of a negotiated solution with Israel, and by 1993 accepted Israel's right to exist.
Rivalry Between Fatah and HamasFatah's main rival since then has been Hamas, the militant, Islamist organization whose main power base is in Gaza. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abou Mazen, is the current Fatah leader. In January 2006, Hamas stunned Fatah and the world by winning, in a largely free and fair election, a majority in the Palestinian parliament. The vote was a rebuke to Fatah's chronic corruption and inaction. The Palestinian prime minister has since been Ismail Haniya, a Hamas leader.
Rivalries between Hamas and Fatah exploded on June 9, 2007, into open conflict on the streets of Gaza. As Robin Wright wrote in Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (Penguin Press, 2008), "Bands of masked fighters roamed Gaza City, waged gun battles in the streets, and executed captives on the spot. Both Hamas and Fatah reportedly hurled opponents from high-rise buildings, with gunmen hunting down wounded rivals in hospital wards to finish them off."
The battle was over in five days, with Hamas easily defeating Fatah. The two sides remained at loggerheads until March 23, 2008, when Fatah and Hamas agreed to a Yemeni-brokered reconciliation.