Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hamas police in Gaza detained a Palestinian protester and two Palestinian cameramen on Thursday while breaking up a rally calling for political reconciliation, and 16 other protesters holed themselves up in a U.N. school.

The event took place a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered to go to the Gaza Strip for talks with his Hamas rivals.

About 40 activists gathered in front of a U.N. school, waving flags and chanting slogans for unity between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions. When Hamas police approached the group, it dispersed, and police detained the three Palestinians.

The 16 other Palestinians rushed into the U.N. school compound, where Hamas police are prevented from operating. Protester Nuha Wajeh told reporters by text message that the group vows not to leave the school until representatives from the dueling Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah, meet with them and pledge to end their bitter rivalry.

Chris Gunness, spokesman of UNRWA, which aids refugees, said his agency appealed to authorities in Gaza to "allow these 16 people safe passage from the UNRWA compound and to guarantee their safety."

Abbas has not visited Gaza since Islamic militant Hamas activists expelled his forces in 2007. Since then, he has ruled only the West Bank. No date has been set for his trip.

Repeated efforts to reconcile the two rival governments have failed.


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