In contrast to the clashes later in the day, Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh, in a live broadcast on Tuesday, invited Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss reconciliation in Gaza, ostensibly the same call being made by protestors who were reportedly later attacked.
Deeply divided into two governments for years, Hamas and Fatah have more recently been calling for national unity and even offered suggestions towards that goal. So far neither side has moved towards the other. The political separation threatens aims for a unified Palestinian state, although their reunification could create problems with Israel and the West.
Hamas is officially boycotted by the US due to its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, while the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority [PA] receives millions of dollars each year from the US. The PA also helps Israel with counterterrorism operations against Hamas.
While the crowd size was more extensive in Gaza, Ma’an said reporters estimated that around 7,000 demonstrated on Tuesday for national unity in the West Bank, about 3,000 of those in Ramallah.
There too violence erupted, including tear gas canisters sent into the crowd from an unknown assailant in a car. While it was unclear if security forces were behind that attack, Ma’an did say that PA security forces attempted to control the protests; some isolated instances of violence injured at least 20 people. Again, the exact motive for the violence appeared unclear.
In contrast to the clashes, meanwhile, security forces also provided food to the protestors, and Abbas was quoted as calling for an end to the Palestinian division.
The Palestinian protests called to mind the mass demonstrations in other areas of the Arab world against their governments, although the focus for these was on reunifying the Palestinian government, not overthrowing it. Also notably absent from the Ma’an reports were any significant, explicit protests against Israel.
Posted on March 16, 2011
Source: (By Joshua Spurlock, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio, March 16, 2011)
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