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Hamas supporters rally against Annapolis conference
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20:51, November 27, 2007

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Hours before the much-touted Annapolis peace conference opens, thousands of Hamas supporters took to the streets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, protesting against the U.S.-hosted forum and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Since Tuesday morning, Hamas-dominated mosques in Gaza have been calling on people to participate in the rally, saying that the public gathering aims at showing opposition to the outcomes of the U.S.-host conference.

From the Islamic University in Gaza, hundreds of male students rallied through Gaza City streets towards the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). A group of female students followed the boys.

"Do (you) accept any concessions?" a rally leader asked the crowds of the students, referring to any compromises the Palestinian delegate to Annapolis led by President Abbas may make with the Israelis.

When the crowds answered "No," the leader asked them to repeat their answer loudly "so (that) the unfaithful can hear it."

Local observers said that Hamas jump-started the widely public opposition to Annapolis conference in a bid to prove that Abbas was responsible for the catastrophic situation in the Gaza Strip.

In mid June, Hamas defeated pro-Abbas security forces in Gaza and violently seized control of the impoverished enclave, prompting President Abbas to fire the Hamas-led unity government and form another one in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The geographically-divided Palestinian territories are thuspolitically split, with Hamas led by Ismail Haneya controlling Gaza and a caretaker government headed by economist Salam Fayyad reigning the West Bank.

Israel has since closed all the crossing points into and out of the Gaza Strip, allowing only basic necessities like food, medicine and fuel to enter the coastal enclave.

In a televised speech earlier Tuesday, Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haneya, lashed out at the U.S.-sponsored peace conference aimed to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, saying it "will be an autumn without fruits or products".

Haneya also announced his rejection to any possible outcomes of the Annapolis conference.

"The Palestinian people will stand in front of any attempt aimed at breaking their determination to continue resistance against the occupation," Haneya said.

He said that concessions by the Palestinian delegation to Annapolis on national principals, especially the right of refugees' return and the prisoners' release, are not obligatory.

"Annapolis conference will not change the historical and geographical facts which maintain the holy places... any conference exceeds these facts will fail despite the bids to make it bright," he said.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad movement also said that the Annapolis conference will not succeed "since the objective, moral and fair basis are not available."

"Annapolis meeting will not succeed in erasing the Palestinian people's memory or ending Palestinians' sticking to their rights," said Nafez Azzam, an Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza.

Earlier in the week, the pro-Fatah security services in the West Bank banned any public activities against the high profile Annapolis conference.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) slammed the banning, considering it an "attack against democracy."

The Annapolis conference, proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush in July, gathers more than 40 countries, including Arabs, and international organizations, seeking to revive the long dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.


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