(AFP) – Feb 17, 2011
RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories — Around 1,000 young Palestinians converged on central Ramallah on Thursday to call for unity between the main two Palestinian factions, who are locked in bitter rivalry.
They waved Palestinian flags and held up banners reading: "The people want an end to division," an AFP correspondent said.
The demonstration was organised through websites such as Facebook and Twitter and was closely coordinated with hundreds of other people who are based in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, one of the organisers told AFP.
"We are giving the Palestinian factions until March 5 to make a reconciliation deal," said Badur Zamara, one of the protest organisers who works for a youth organisation called Sherek Forum.
Zamara said the group was planning a sustained pressure campaign which would include marches, rallies and protests, all calling for Hamas and Fatah to reconcile their differences.
"They have already failed to do this but we feel that we can do that the factions couldn't do," he told AFP, saying the protesters wanted to use "Egyptian tactics" to bring about reconciliation within the bitterly divided Palestinian national movement.
Last month, a group of young, disgruntled Egyptians organised a series of anti-government rallies that mushroomed into an unprecedented civil protest movement that succeeded in bringing down the 30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak within the space of just 18 days.
The uprising sparked shock waves across the Middle East, and has prompted widespread calls for democratic reform.
Zamara said protesters in Ramallah were planning to form a human chain stretching from the Muqata headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to the parliament building, which would take place on February 27.
In the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Arrar, one of the main organisers said he had been arrested by Hamas security forces for 12 hours on Tuesday, who pressured him to stop the protests.
"The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia gave us hope that if the people need to change something, they can," he told AFP.
The rivalry between Hamas and Fatah dates back to the early 1990s. It soured dramatically after the Islamist movement won elections in 2006 and, a year later, seized control of Gaza after deadly street fighting with Fatah.
Since then, the Palestinian territories have been effectively split in two, with Abbas's rule confined to the West Bank.
Repeated attempts at getting the two parties to reconcile their differences have led nowhere, and the Mubarak regime, which played a key role in reconciliation efforts, is now firmly out of the picture.
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