Thousands rally for unity in Palestinian territories

15:28, March 16, 2011      

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Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank Tuesday, calling for an end to the bitter split that worsened when Hamas ousted Fatah and took over Gaza in 2007.

The demonstrators shouted with slogans for the restoration of national unity and chanted "People want to end division!"

In Gaza, the protests started Monday night in the Unknown Soldiers Square, with hundreds of youths waving the flag of Palestine. But in the morning, Hamas, which controls Gaza, pushed its supporters with their own green flags to mingle in the crowds and brought massive loudspeakers to chant slogans in favor of Hamas' vision for the end of the split.

As a result, the original protest organizers turned the slogan to: "People want to drop flags!" in reference to Hamas' attempts to hijack the protest for its own.

In unexpected development, hundreds of independent protestors moved to another square and more people joined them. More than 3, 000 people had gathered at the Al-Katiba Square by Tuesday afternoon.

"We are reaching our goals by mobilizing people to support the end of the split and achieve reconciliation," said Asad Al-Saftawi, one of the independent activists who called for the protests on the Facebook.

Local televisions and radio stations dedicated hours to cover the ongoing protests, which the organizers say will continue as long as the two Palestinian factions remain in feud.

The deposed Hamas government of Gaza deployed dozens of policemen on the streets to control traffic and facilitate the flow of people to the sites of protests.

In the West Bank, where the Fatah-dominated Palestinian National Authority has held sway since it lost Gaza in 2007, thousands gathered at Al-Manara square in Ramallah city, with only the flag of Palestine prevailing.

Similar demonstrations were reported in other cities like Nablus, Jenin and Hebron.

Monday's protests are the biggest movement to put pressure on Hamas and Fatah to reconcile, after numerous Arab initiatives failed to strike a power-sharing deal between them.

Source: Xinhua
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