Palestinians use Facebook to push PA, Hamas to end rift

PA forces arrest journalist Sami-al Assi days after release from Israeli jails; organizers plan protests against internal PA-Hamas conflict.

Facebook 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Facebook 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Thousands of Palestinians are using Facebook to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to end their differences and form a unity government.
The PA security forces in the West Bank, meanwhile, arrested Palestinian journalist Sami al-Assi only days after he was released from Israeli prison, where he had been held for three years under administrative detention.
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A PA security source said that the journalist was arrested for “security reasons,” but did not elaborate. The source confirmed that eight Hamas supporters were taken into custody by the PA security forces in the past 48 hours.
The Internet campaign has been initiated by Palestinian youth who say they are encouraged by the role Facebook and Twitter played in the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
One of the campaigns to end the PA-Hamas rift has already attracted some 5,000 supporters.
Journalists, former ministers, academics, political activists and ordinary citizens are among those who have joined the Facebook campaign.
Organizers said they are planning a series of demonstrations in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to demand that the PA and Hamas end the conflict and establish a “national unity” government.
Fatah activists in the West Bank said that the PA leadership has given them a green light to continue with the campaign, which has been launched under the motto, “The People Want an End to Division.”
Last week Fatah supporters used Facebook to call on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to revolt against Hamas, but to no avail. Similarly, some Hamas-affiliated activists have been using the Internet to stage protests against the PA in the West Bank.
Palestinians are concerned that without Hamas’s consent, there would be no new elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The PA has called municipal elections for July and presidential and legislative elections by next September.
But Hamas has rejected the PA’s plan, warning that it would not only boycott the vote, but also prevent it from taking place in the Gaza Strip.
A PA official in Ramallah disclosed on Wednesday that contacts were already under way with Hamas to persuade the Islamist movement to agree to the elections.
The PA is also trying to arrange for Hanna Naser, chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee, to visit the Gaza Strip for talks with Hamas leaders on the planned elections.