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Gaza's Youth: Hopes Broken at 15 March End Of Division DemonstrationBy Vittorio Arrigoni for Salem-News.com
“The people want an end to the division”
(GAZA CITY) - Yesterday the Gaza Strip woke up to bright sun, a sign of a new season heading our way. But by the time evening fell upon us, you could count the broken bones among the Palestinians and this meant a new political season rather than a mere weather forecast.
Gaza City, one of the most overpopulated places on the planet which is subject to daily Israeli bombings, yesterday witnessed thousands of people taking to the streets singing, dancing and calling out their unified request: The end to the division between Fatah and Hamas. It is difficult to get an exact estimate regarding the number of people who attended, but local media have put the figures at three hundred thousand (300,000). If I were to compare this to an Italian square, proportionately speaking we would be looking at about twelve million people.
Despite an agreement signed by all the political factions that they would attend the event without the waving of any flag except for the Palestinian one, the organizers of the 15 March: End of Division movement found themselves surrounded by thousands of flag bearing Hamas militants when they woke up yesterday morning having had spent the night in their tents at the Unknown Soldier Square.
Clashes occurred until the coordinators of the youth movement decided to move away from the main square of Gaza City to Al Azhar University. Thousands then neatly filed to the large open space in front of the university with the intention of camping out for the night while waiting for Gaza and Ramallah to satisfy the following requests:
1 - The release all political detainees in the prisons of the PA and Hamas
2 - The end of all forms of media campaigns against each other.
3 - The resignation of the governments of Haniyeh and Fayyad to re-build a government of national unity agreed by all Palestinian factions representing the Palestinian people.
4 - The restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization to contain all the Palestinian factions and get back to its initial aim: Palestine's freedom from illegal occupation.
5 - The announcement of the freeze of negotiations until the full compatibility between the various Palestinian factions on a political program.
6 - The end of all forms of security coordination with Israeli occupation forces.
7 - The organization of presidential and parliamentary elections simultaneously in the time chosen by all the factions
There was but only one chant I heard throughout the entire day and the voices kept screaming the slogan “The people want an end to the division”, a powerful call to national unity.
If the icon of the Tunisian revolution was the young, unemployed Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in front of his town hall, and if the symbol of the Egyptian revolution is Khaled Said, who was killed by Mubarak’s police, then the symbolic photo which is emblematic of the entire 15 March movement is that of Yasser Arafat, Fatah leader and martyr who is seen pouring tea to Ahmed Yassin, the defunct paraplegic Hamas leader and martyr.
At around 15.00 (three o’clock) local Gaza time, armed pro government Hamas militants tried to infiltrate the peaceful crowds again bearing clubs and throwing stones. There was violent scrambling and clashes that caused some wounded but the boys were able to drive away the Hamas mob.
When I left Katiba square, the square which can be now equated to Egypt’s Tahrir square at around 19.00 (seven o’clock), the situation was calm. Demonstrators and paramedics from the Red Crescent were setting up tents and preparing for the night.
Many families flowed into the tent area accompanied by their children bringing food, hot drinks and blankets.
Soon after, about an or so, Hamas decided to end the festivities in its own way: Hundreds of policemen and plainclothes agents surrounded the area, once again armed with clubs and brutally attacked the peaceful demonstrators and burned their tents in the hospital area.
About 300 demonstrators were injured, with the majority of then being women , dozens of broken bones abound. Throughout the whole night, as the injured were released from Al Shifa hospital in the center of Gaza city, Hamas police arrested them one by one as the exited the emergency room.
There were many attacks on journalists whose cameras were confiscated in addition to the violence. Palestinian journalst Akram Atallah’s hand was broken and his young colleague Samah Ahmed was stabbed in the back. The reknowned Gaza blogger Asma Al Ghoul was repeatedly beaten by undercover police as she tried to rescue her wounded friend.
Hamas security forces focused their attention on Katiba square where the concentration of demonstrators were women, They were the mothers and daughters who had felt the joy of hope for change and sadly were woken up to the harsh reality that it was a brief dream.
Stay Human/Restiamo Umani
Vittorio Arrigoni From Gaza city
Vittorio Arrigoni has lived in Gaza City since 2008. An author and freelance journalist he writes predominately for the newspaper Il Manifesto. He is the author of Gaza Stay Human (Gaza. Restiamo umani) and blogs at http://guerrillaradio.
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