Ramallah: Protesters suspend hunger strike

March 17, 2011 21:59

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A core group of protesters from the March 15 coalition decided Thursday morning to put their hunger strike on hold as Fatah and Hamas leaders prepared to meet in Gaza.

Around 10 protesters began a hunger strike in Ramallah’s Manara square on Sunday, demanding elections for the Palestinian National Council to end the division between the Hamas-led government in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Others protesters joined the strike, and by Wednesday around 25 demonstrators were refusing to eat.

The March 15 Movement organizers told Ma’an that their calls for unity would continue in the form of a sit-in at Ramallah’s Manara Circle.

“We will host art events to avoid being dragged into violence,” one organizer told Ma’an.

Protesters said they would resume the hunger strike Saturday if Hamas and Fatah leaders did not follow-up on their agreement to meet in Gaza.

Medical Relief Teams stationed ambulances at the protest, treating any injured demonstrators and offering check-ups to those on hunger strike.

Director of the emergency and ambulance services for medical relief, Muhammad Skafi, said medics sought to ensure the safety of the hunger strikers.

Protests remain unpolitical

The group said several attempts at hijacking the events had occurred over the previous day, with groups handing out unofficial press releases at the protest site. Organizers said some of the statements criticized Hamas. “That is not the purpose of our protest,” one official said.

On Wednesday evening, groups of young Fatah supporters brought loudspeakers blasting Fatah songs drowning out the March 15 protesters’ chants. They did not appear to have any demands of their own.

Several scuffles erupted, but police managed to contain the confrontations in what was an otherwise-peaceful protest.

Organizers said they would announce the agenda for the day’s activity at a news conference at 10 a.m.

The March 15 Movement is a coalition of youth groups from the West Bank and Gaza Strip which have organized mass protests since Tuesday calling for the end of Palestinian political division.

On Tuesday, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh invited Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas to Gaza for talks. Abbas accepted the invitation, but said he would go only to make a deal, not for continued negotiations.

The president called on Gaza officials to make preparations for his visit.

Since mass demonstrations Tuesday, when hundreds of thousands gathered in Gaza City and some 3,000 in Ramallah, smaller protests have continued in both locations.

See Palestine Live Report for coverage of Wednesdays demonstrations.


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