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Thousands celebrate Hamas anniversary in West Bank

Dec. 13, 2012 7:18 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2012 9:52 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in the West Bank on Thursday for the first time since the movement's violent split from Fatah in 2007.

The festival in Nablus celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of Hamas under the banner "Sijjil stones are the path to freedom," in reference to a Quranic verse.

The secretary-general of Fatah's revolutionary council Amin Maqboul, Nablus governor Jibrin al-Bakri and other Fatah officials joined the rally, which began at the al-Nasr Mosque in the Old City of Nablus.

Khalif Assaf, who heads a coalition of independent leaders, said the festival marked the beginning of the end of national division.

"We tell all those who try to block the reconciliation, enough! The people have spoken that it’s time to reconcile," Assaf told Ma'an.

Amid a sea of green Hamas flags, demonstrators chanted: "From Gaza to the West Bank, our unity is honorable, a national reconciliation, Fatah, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine."

Abbas phones Hamas chief

A day earlier President Mahmoud Abbas phoned Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal to discuss the possibility of ending the division according to prior agreements, a Fatah official said.

Azzam al-Ahmad said Abbas phoned Mashaal to accelerate implementing national unity. Abbas talked with him about his first visit to Gaza, and about Hamas' anniversary celebrations.

Al-Ahmad said he met Mashaal on Wednesday and a member in Fatah's central committee as part of new efforts to see if a reconciliation deal could finally be implemented.

Al-Ahmad said it was too soon to say when a meeting in Cairo with all the factions would take place, as Hamas officials were still in Gaza for the anniversary and Egypt is holding a constitutional referendum.
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