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Palestinians rally in Gaza in opposition to Israeli siege, Abbas

May 2, 2017 6:01 P.M. (Updated: May 2, 2017 6:03 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Political rallies were organized across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to express opposition to the decade-long Israeli siege of the small Palestinian territory and to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas, Gaza’s de facto rulers, suspended schools and government offices to encourage people to take part in the rallies, which involved Palestinians from across the political spectrum, including members of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al-Mujahidin, al-Ahrar, and others.

Demonstrators waving Palestinian flags took part in some 20 rallies, marching from Rafah, Khan Yunis, Deir al-Balah, and the northern districts of the coastal enclave, merging at a mass rally in Gaza City’s Shujaaiya neighborhood.

Hamas leadership took part in the demonstration, including deputy head of Hamas’ politburo Ismail Haniyeh, and Yahya Sinwar, the newly elected head of the party’s politburo in Gaza.

One Hamas leader, Abd al-Rahman Abu Askar, addressed crowds in the northern Gaza Strip, applauding the masses for taking to the streets “to affirm their rejection of the ongoing siege and recent measures taken by President Mahmoud Abbas against Gaza.”

Abu Askar denounced recent salary cuts imposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) on civil servants in Gaza, and also blamed Abbas for a deepening electricity crisis -- as Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave are being forced to make due with only a few hours of power a day.

The Hamas official avowed that the resistance in Gaza "refuses to surrender.”

A high-level Hamas official Ahmad Yousif told Ma’an on Saturday that the situation in Gaza could implode at any moment, lashing out at the Fatah-led PA for its role in the deteriorating situation.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the Gaza Strip.

However, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliations, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov released a statement earlier this month expressing his “deep concerns” over the “growing tensions” in Gaza.

The enclave's severe electricity shortages over the years have exacerbated the already dire living conditions in the impoverished Palestinian territory.

The UN has previously warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable for residents by 2020, pointing to the devastation of war and nearly a decade of Israel's blockade.
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