Fatah Protests Rock Gaza, West Bank
DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Debbie Elliot.
Another day of angry protests in the Palestinian territories. In the West Bank City of Ramallah today, angry gunmen fired shots in the air and stormed the Palestinian Parliament building. The unrest follows the surprise election victory earlier this week of Islamist militant group, Hamas. NPR's Eric Westervelt is on the line with us from Jerusalem. Hi, Eric.
ERIC WESTERVELT reporting:
Good evening, Debbie.
ELLIOT: Who are the people taking part in these protests and what do they want?
WESTERVELT: Well, it's a real mix of Fatah members. Some are Fatah loyalists working in the Palestinian security services, some are armed factions within Fatah, militant members of one of the branches of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Others are just angry rank and file Fatah supporters. Many in this movement, which has dominated Palestinian politics for four decades which led the push for an independent Palestinian state, they're still in a state of shock that they lost and lost so badly in Parliamentary elections. They're shocked that Hamas will now effectively take control of forming a new government and these protestors are venting their anger and frustration at Fatah officials and they're demanding Fatah not join with Hamas in any power sharing alliance. Fatah leaders, so far, have said they will not join in.
ELLIOT: Now some of the protestors are also demanding the resignation of their leaders. Who are they most angry with?
WESTERVELT: Well, that's right, in the Gaza Strip on Friday, protestors march outside the Gaza home of Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, they denounced Abbas and some called on him to resign. Abbas wasn't home at the time, by the way, he was in Ramallah. And today at the Parliament building, demonstrators called for the resignation of this central Fatah committee. This is the body that controls this movement that's become a de facto political party. Many of these committee members, including Mahmoud Abbas are part of the so-called old guard of Fatah, leaders who helped create this movement but who are seen by many in the younger generation as out of touch and tainted by corruption and cronyism that has plagued Fatah for years.
ELLIOT: How violent are these protests and are there fears that they'll escalate?
WESTERVELT: Well, may of these protests have been very short-lived, the protestors have been boisterous and angry but not particularly violent. A few cars have been burned, rocks have been thrown, and in Southern Gaza, there was a brief shoot-out yesterday. Today, the protestors took over the Parliament building for just about half an hour and then dispersed peacefully but there is concern among many Palestinians that I've talked with that things could get worse, that protests could escalate. Many at these protests are certainly well-armed and some Fatah factions, especially those in the security services, are concerned that their jobs and privileges will be taken away under a Hamas led government so it is a volatile situation
ELLIOT: Some senior Hamas leaders spoke today. What do they have to say?
WESTERVELT: Well, these leaders have reiterated in the past day that they have no intention of recognizing Israel, of talking with Israel, or of disarming and disbanding their military wing. In fact, Khalid Maschal(ph) a senior Hamas leader in exile in Syria today, said he's interested in combining Hamas militia with other factions. He said, "We're willing to form an army like every country. An army to defend our people against aggression." It's statements like that, Debbie that are likely to further alienate Israeli officials who've made very clear they will not deal with Hamas and that Hamas in their eyes is a terrorist organization bent on Israel's destruction.
ELLIOT: NPR's Eric Westervelt in Jerusalem. Thank you.
WESTERVELT: You're welcome.
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