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Pro-unity youth protests continue

March 27, 2011 5:18 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2011 12:10 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) --- Palestinian youth say they will continue to protest across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip calling for an end to national division and elections for the Palestinian National Council.

"Youth will continue picketing until national unity is restored," a statement from the protesters said.

A loose coalition of youth groups called for protests on March 15 to end the division between the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied on Gaza's streets and faced a brutal crackdown from government security forces during the mid-month protest, but small groups continued protest actions throughout the following week.

In Ramallah, thousands gathered in Manara square demanding national unity, and protesters have slept in the square every night for two weeks since. Similar actions have also continued in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Bethlehem.

Around 10 demonstrators are on hunger strike in Ramallah, and say they will not eat until Hamas and Fatah release all political prisoners and stop inciting against each other in the media. They have sent their demands to President Mahmoud Abbas and Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh.

The protests have garnered support from Palestinians inside Israel. The March 15 movement is calling for all Palestinians to have a vote in elections for a new Palestinian National Council, including those inside Israel and in the diaspora.

One youth group said the participation of Palestinians from inside Israel in the protests "reflected confirmation that they support unity of blood, attitude and destiny."

Palestinians in Israel join call for unity

Protesters were joined Tuesday by Ayman Auda, secretary general of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, a party inside Israel.

Auda went on hunger strike for three days in solidarity with the youth in Ramallah.

On Sunday, Abu Salameh came from Umm Al-Fahm in northern Israel to join the protest. The Al-Tajomoa party official told hunger strikers that buses of Palestinians from inside Israel would join the demonstration.

The movement is planning activities for Land Day on March 30, as Palestinians commemorate events of 1976 when Israeli forces violently crushed mass protests against plans to confiscate vast swathes of Palestinian land for settlements.

Demonstrators said they would plant tree saplings on land slated for confiscation in villages close to the separation wall, and join rallies across the West Bank, Gaza and inside Israel.

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