Palestinians rally on the streets of Gaza City on Tuesday, March 15. Gaza has been controlled by Hamas since 2007.

Tens of thousands of people have attended rallies in Gaza and the West Bank to call for a national dialogue between the two factions which control the divided Palestinian territories.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since fighting an internecine war in 2007 which left Hamas running the Gaza Strip and Fatah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, ruling the larger West Bank.

Crowds gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah and Gaza City on Tuesday urged their leaders to put the differences aside in the cause of Palestinian unity.

But Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston said the day ended in scuffles in Gaza City as Hamas police shut down the main demonstration at sunset.

Up to 500 "independent youths" then moved to a nearby square. Police quashed that gathering, using force and arresting dozens, our correspondent said.

Organisers were happy at the turnout but disappointed by the alleged politicisation of the protest by Hamas. They wanted a politically neutral rally in the name of Palestinian unity, our correspondent said.

“In fact, Hamas tried to hijack the event and interestingly there were too many Hamas flags at the rally,” Johnston said.

Speaking to his government in Gaza, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said it was time for the sides to meet and set aside their differences and called on Fatah leaders to begin the process of reconciliation.

But a Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Assaf, rejected the offer later Tuesday, saying it wasn't genuine.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies