“Our Palestinian people, who have always loved you as a great leader, still have that love, respect and loyalty,” Abbas said in pre-recorded message honoring Yasser Arafat, a terrorist leader responsible for thousands of deaths.
By: AP and World Israel News
Tens of thousands of Gaza Palestinians marked the 13th anniversary of the Palestinian arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat’s death on Saturday for the first time since the Islamic Hamas group seized the territory a decade ago.
In the wake of a brewing reconciliation between Hamas and the Fatah party Arafat founded, Fatah supporters flocked to al-Saraya Square in Gaza City from all over the coastal enclave to commemorate the event, waving their yellow flag, raising posters of Arafat and donning his trademark kaffiyeh headgear.
Arafat, head of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization and president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), died in 2004 at a hospital in France after two years of an Israeli siege on his headquarters in Ramallah. Palestinians accuse Israel of poisoning him but offer no proof.
After winning legislative elections in 2006, Hamas forces violently overthrew Fatah in Gaza the following year. The commemoration comes amid improving relationships between Fatah and Hamas, a month after the two rivals signed a deal in Egypt paving the way to end the Palestinian internal divide.
Under the deal, Hamas would cede control of Gaza to the Fatah-led PA after a decade of unilateral rule by the Islamic terrorist movement.
“The accurate implementation of the deal and the full empowering of the government will surely lead to easing the suffering and reviving hope of a better future for all of us,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, told the crowd in a prerecorded speech from Ramallah.
“Our Palestinian people, who have always loved you as a great leader, still have that love, respect and loyalty,” Abbas stated, according to AFP, adding that the people were “united” in determination to achieve Arafat’s “dream… for freedom, sovereignty and independence on our Palestinian national soil.”
“There is no state in Gaza and there is no state without Gaza,” he asserted.
The event ended peacefully after two hours of speeches and people swaying to patriotic songs blaring from huge loudspeakers.
Not all participants belonged to Fatah. Some came because they missed the sort of unity that prevailed during Arafat’s reign. “Arafat is for all the Palestinians,” said Ashraf Hamouda, 34.