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Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh collapsed on Friday during his speech at the rally in Gaza in support of Hamas and its beleaguered government.
Haniyeh, who is fasting during Ramadan, stopped speaking in mid-sentence and collapsed onto aides standing next to him as he addressed tens of thousands of Palestinians that had gathered in a Gaza Strip soccer stadium. After resting for several minutes, Haniyeh recovered and resumed his speech to the crowd. "Our bodies may tire, but not our spirits," the PA prime minister declared as enthusiastic Hamas supporters cheered his return to the stage.
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Haniyeh promised that any future Palestinian government would include his party, dismissing PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' halting efforts to establish a unity government as an attempt to remove Hamas from power.
Cheered on by supporters, Haniyeh vowed that Hamas would never recognize Israel. He said, however, that the group was prepared to accept a long-term cease-fire with Israel if it withdrew to 1967 boundaries.
The rally comes at a time of increasing tension between Hamas and the chairman's Fatah Party.
The dispute between the two turned violent earlier in the week, with gun battles erupting between Hamas and Fatah gunmen in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, raising fears that the conflict could turn into a full-fledged civil war.
Adding to Hamas' troubles, the international community has slapped debilitating sanctions on the government, demanding the Islamic group recognize Israel, accept past peace deals and renounce violence.
Hamas has so far refused to accept the conditions, making it impossible for the government to pay all of its 165,000 employees and increasing poverty in the already cash-strapped Palestinian areas.
The economic problems, coupled with Hamas' inability to make good on other campaign promises, have led to mass protests and public sector strikes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
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