Palestinians demand: 'We want to end the division'

Tens of thousands rally in W. Bank, Gaza in support of national unity; Hamas PM invites Abbas to urgent meeting to discuss reconciliation.

Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Palestinians in Ramallah rallying for unity 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip took to the streets on Tuesday to demand an end to the Hamas-Fatah dispute.
The demonstrations, the largest of their kind in many years, were part of a campaign organized by several Palestinian political factions and youth groups.
RELATED:Palestinians use Facebook to push PA, Hamas to end riftPalestinians urged to hold rallies for Hamas-Fatah unity
Inspired by the current wave of popular uprisings in a number of Arab countries, some of the organizers used Facebook to call on Palestinians to participate in the demonstrations.
The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Oh Abbas, Oh Haniyeh, we want national unity,” “The people want to end the division,” and “One flag, not two flags.”
Fears that Hamas and Fatah would use the demonstrations to incite against each other proved to be unfounded as the protesters insisted on chanting slogans that only urge the two sides to seek unity.
In the Gaza Strip, eyewitnesses said that thousands of Palestinians belonging to several political groups participated in the “unity” rallies.
Many of the demonstrators said that they would hold sit-in strikes in main squares in Gaza City until Hamas and Fatah agree to end their dispute.
Hamas deployed hundreds of policemen in the city as organizers used megaphones on top of vehicles to call on Palestinians to join the demonstrations.
The Hamas government had vowed to allow the demonstrations to take place, saying it supported calls for unity.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to an urgent meeting to discuss reconciliation between the two sides.
Haniyeh, in a message to the demonstrators, said he supported demands to end the division. “The Palestinian government is delighted to see the masses demanding reconciliation,” he said. “Our government never wanted the division and did not cause it.”
Haniyeh added that Hamas had even made concessions to end the split, “but outside factors thwarted” the efforts.
Haniyeh called on Palestinians to take advantage of the recent changes in the Arab world to achieve unity.
Hamas legislator Ismail al-Ashqar said that his movement was serious about ending the dispute with Fatah and forming a Palestinian unity government. He expressed hope that Abbas would heed Haniyeh’s call for holding an urgent meeting to discuss ways of achieving reconciliation.
In Ramallah, hundreds of youths gathered in the city’s Manara Square, chanting slogans in favor of unity between Hamas and Fatah.
Mahmoud Taha, one of the organizers of the Facebbok campaign, said that the protesters will remain in the square until the two parties heed their call.
“The four-year division has hurt the Palestinians,” he said.
Abbas also voiced his support for the campaign, saying it was needed to end “occupation.”