Fatah emerged out of the Palestinian revolution in the 1960s to take on the might of Israel, which had been created in 1948 with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
It was a key part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which affirmed the existence of the Palestinians and Palestine at a time when Israelis declared that “there is no such thing as Palestine”.
The bitter guerilla struggle of the 1960s and 1970s gave way in 1987 to the first Intifada, or uprising, in the Occupied Territories seized by Israel in 1967.
The Intifada revived the Palestinian struggle following the defeat of the PLO during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
The Intifada proved that the struggle would continue. But it also paved the way for the PLO to recognise Israel in 1988 and abandon its demand for a secular, democratic state for Jews and Arabs in historic Palestine.
PLO leader Yasser Arafat accepted a “two state solution” and signed the Oslo Agreement in 1994.
But Israel’s methodical ethnic cleansing of cities like East Jerusalem and Hebron, the strangulation of West Bank villages, the continual land grabs and new settlements carried on uninterrupted.
As the PLO abandoned its charter, the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood became radicalised by the Intifada.
In 1988 it launched Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement,) to continue the military struggle.
The Palestinian movement now moved along two tracks. Fatah established itself as the Palestinian state and negotiated with the Israelis. Hamas and other Palestinian groups continued the military resistance.
The US and Israel saw Fatah’s compliance as weakness, and dragged it further into a political process over which it had no control.
The Oslo process became a humiliation for Arafat and Fatah. But the final blow was delivered by Israeli war criminal Arial Sharon, when in 2000 he marched into the Haram al-Sherif, the golden domed mosque at the heart of Jerusalem.
All the anger and frustration that had been building among Palestinians exploded into the second intifada.
Sharon was elected as Israeli prime minister in 2001. He sent Israeli tanks back into the West Bank.
Arafat, who had staked everything on a strategy of concessions, died while under siege in his Ramallah compound.
But the Fatah leadership that replaced him hung onto a promise made by George Bush in 2003 that Palestine would get its state as part of the “roadmap”.
Israel demanded the Palestinians crackdown on the resistance. It continued a campaign of “targeted killings” against militants, assassinating among others Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound spiritual leader of Hamas.
The campaign continued despite repeated offers by Hamas for a ten year ceasefire.