Youth continue hunger strike in Ramallah`s Al-Manara

Published March 14 (updated) 14/03/2011 22:05

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A group of young Palestinians on hunger strike in Ramallah’s city center Al-Manara continued their protest Monday, holding banners demanding an end to the national division.

The demonstrators began the strike Sunday afternoon, as a prelude to mass protests planned for March 15.

The defiant youth are calling for Hamas and Fatah to end their rivalry, which has split the West Bank and Gaza into separately governed territories.

But “not the way the politicians want it,” said Maath Musleh, one of the 10 protesters on hunger strike in Al-Manara.

The demonstrators have clear demands: they want democratic elections to be held for the Palestinian National Council, in which all Palestinians participate — including those inside Israel and those in the diaspora.

They also want the release of all political prisoners held by Hamas’ government in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

Musleh said the group planned to continue their hunger strike until Tuesday’s large-scale demonstrations begin. After that, they would take it “step by step,” he said.

Palestinian Authority security forces have promised not to intervene in the demonstrations.

“There will be no intervention by the security people whatsoever, except to protect them,” senior PLO negotiator Nabil Shaath told reporters in Ramallah on Sunday.

On Sunday night, police stopped the group erecting a tent on the sidewalk, where they had planned to sleep.

At around 3 a.m. Monday morning, police forced them to leave the square as Israeli military patrols were entering Ramallah, Musleh said. Police told the group they were not able to protect them from Israeli soldiers. They disbanded and waited in homes in the area before returning to the square after receiving information that Israeli forces had left.

But they plan to sleep in Al-Manara on Monday night.

Several of the protesters had never met in person before convening Sunday in Ramallah to begin their hunger strike.

They said the movement has no leaders, but is led by the people. “We are tired of leaders deciding for us,” one said.

Like other uprisings across the region, the movement has used social media sites to galvanize support.

One Facebook page for the movement, “Third Palestinian Intifada,” has over 160,000 supporters since its launch on March 6.

But the burgeoning movement has also grown through word-of-mouth.

One woman from Jerusalem protesting Monday said she would bring all her friends and family for the March 15 demonstration. Protesters were expected to join the rally from cities across the West Bank.

However in the spirit of unity, only Palestinian flags will fly. Some demonstrators had political affiliations, but they were irrelevant to the cause, they said.

Organizers have stated they refuse any attempt by political parties to co-opt them, and have been critical of political leaders they say have tried to exploit the movement.

Most factions have publicly urged their supporters to join the rallies.

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Democratic Union – Feda, Palestinian People’s Party, the Palestinian National Initiative, the Palestinian Liberation Front, Fatah Youth and Hamas all issued statements praising the call to protest for unity.

Maan News Agency: Youth continue hunger strike in Ramallah`s Al-Manara.

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