Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Israelis should choose peace over West Bank settlements.

Abbas
called for national unity as he spoke at a rally marking the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat where thousand attended, waving Palestinian flags.

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In his speech, Abbas said children on both sides should "taste coexistence ... before the opportunity is lost."

Abbas said that the Palestinian position is clear and there will not be negotiations while building continues in the settlements.

"The Palestinian state will be established when no settlements exist within it," Abbas said.

The Palestinian Authority president stressed that the Palestinians will not sign any peace agreement that does not include the release of Palestinian prisoners and said that the prisoners are the pride of the Palestinian nation.

Earlier on Thursday, a Palestinian lawmaker said that Hamas police broke up a private screening of a film about Arafat.

Ashraf Jumma reported that police threatened to seize a screen and a VCR and arrested some of the more than two dozen attendees. Police also detained journalists, watched footage from the event and made them promise not to air it.

Hamas officials could not be reached for comment.



On Monday Hamas announced its decision to ban Fatah supporters from holding a rally in the Gaza Strip to mark the anniversary of Arafat’s death.

Hamas has done this every year since taking control of the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

Zakariya al-Agha, member of the Fatah Central Committee, said the Hamas government had informed him formally of the decision to ban the rally.

Khaled Abu Toameh


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