Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called on Palestinians to refrain from internal fighting and to direct their guns only against Israeli "occupation." Abbas, speaking during a rally marking the 42nd anniversary of the founding of his Fatah party, told thousands of supporters that the Palestinian struggle would continue until the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. He also expressed opposition to the idea of establishing a Palestinian state with temporary borders.
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"The issue of the refugees is non-negotiable," Abbas said. "We will not give up one inch of land in Jerusalem and we consider the settlements illegal. We also reject any attempt to resettle the refugees in other countries."
MK Ahmed Tibi, who represented Israeli Arabs at the rally, said: "Fatah was the first group to launch the revolution, and Palestine and Fatah will remain. The liberation of Palestine is a long process, and the path is full of obstacles. The Palestinians will continue their struggle until the liberation of the land and the establishment of a Palestinian state."
Tibi also condemned what he termed "Israeli crimes against Palestinians," including children.
Before the speech, Abbas placed a wreath on the tomb of his predecessor Yasser Arafat at the Mukata "presidential" compound. Sources close to Abbas estimated the number of the Palestinians who attended Thursday's rally at more than 250,000. They claimed that thousands of Fatah supporters from other parts of the West Bank were unable to reach Ramallah because of IDF checkpoints. However, local reporters put the figure at less than 50,000.
The rally, seen as a show of support for Abbas and Fatah in their ongoing power struggle with Hamas, is the second of its kind this week. Earlier, tens of thousands of Palestinians participated in a massive rally in Gaza City marking the same event. The main speaker at that rally was Fatah representative Muhammad Dahlan, who condemned Hamas as a "bunch of murderers."
Unlike Dahlan, Abbas refrained in his speech from attacking Hamas, although he reiterated his willingness to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections and to pursue his efforts to form a unity government with the Islamic movement.
"When Fatah was established, it was accused of treason and we were chased in every place," Abbas told the crowd. "But with the will and determination of its sons, Fatah has and will continue. We will not give up our principles and we have said that rifles should be directed against the occupation."
Appealing to Palestinians to avoid civil war, Abbas said: "We are all one people regardless of differences of opinion. My top priority is to preserve national unity, because Palestinian infighting and blood are a red line that must not be crossed."
Defending his call to use weapons against Israel, he added: "We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation. It is forbidden to use these guns against Palestinians. The occupation has perpetrated brutal attacks in Jenin, Beit Hanun and Ramallah."
Referring to the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in PA-controlled territories, Abbas said he was strongly opposed to the presence of militias and weapons on the streets. He also condemned as criminal a series of attacks on several businesses, figures and vehicles belonging to Hamas supporters and officials in Ramallah earlier this week.
Abbas also appealed to Iraqi President Jalal Talibani to halt "massacres" against Palestinians living in Iraq.
Hamas dismissed Abbas's speech as unrealistic, saying it was full of empty slogans. Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said Abbas's remarks about national unity were designed to "beautify the face of those Fatah leaders who are involved in attempts to topple the Hamas government."
In an unrelated development, Fatah gunmen announced Thursday that the main square in the Jenin refugee camp has been named after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Zakariya Zubeidi, the local commander of Fatah's armed wing, Aksa Martyrs Brigades, said the decision was taken in honor of Saddam's support for the Palestinians over the past 25 years.