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Unity protesters plan to recruit thousands

April 13, 2011 2:36 P.M. (Updated: April 14, 2011 10:07 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Leaders of the March 15 unity movement said Tuesday they would recruit thousands for a sit-in protest in Ramallah, after their “demands fell on deaf ears.”

Pro-unity protestors have been on hunger strike in Ramallah’s central square since March 26, and two of the movement, Ma'ath Musleh and Iyas Sarhan, are said to be in a serious health condition.

Organizers told Ma'an that protest efforts will be re-doubled because of the strikers’ worsening health, and the lack of progress on the movement’s demands.

"At the beginning we thought recruiting thousands of protesters might complicate the situation, and for that reason we decided to limit the number. But now, as both sides have ignored our demands, we will move forward with the plan," one striker, who preferred to remain unidentified, said.

Protestors are considering picketing in front of detention centers and homes of Palestinian Authority officials, he added.

The hunger-strikers led dozens of protestors who rallied in the central West Bank city’s main streets Tuesday afternoon.

Over 20 political prisoners President Mahmud Abbas promised the movement would be freed, in one of the unity protestors’ key demands, have yet to be released.

Their release had been ordered by the High Court, but was never implemented by the PA.

On March 15, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of the West Bank and Gaza demanding an end to division between Fatah and Hamas via new elections for the Palestinian National Council.

Security forces in both Palestinian enclaves attacked the demonstrators but Abbas' Palestinian Authority responded more positively to their demands, saying he was ready to sign a unity deal with Hamas.

Amid the protests, Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh invited Abbas to visit Gaza for reconciliation talks. Abbas accepted the offer but Hamas balked when the president offered to form a temporary unity government.

Last Wednesday, the president departed for Cairo for talks on ending the divide. A unity deal brokered by Egypt in 2009 was signed by Fatah but Hamas took issue with certain aspects and turned it down.
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