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Thursday, March 17, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Social media fuel Palaestinian protest movement against Hamas in Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY — Hamas is facing a growing protest movement.


Palestinian sources said young Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been organizing through Facebook and Twitter to clamor for democracy and unity with the West Bank. They said the protests, organized by the so-called March 15 Coalition, have been largely apolitical, although supported by the opposition Fatah movement.

"The youth have a very strong slogan," Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarar said.

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Hamas security forces have sought to quell the demonstrations, which have concentrated in Gaza City. On late March 15, hundreds of Hamas police and security officers surrounded demonstrators and stormed the protest area.

At least 20 people were injured in the central part of the city in which protesters threw stones at police, Middle East Newsline reported. Witnesses said Hamas undercover officers assaulted protesters.

At Al Azhar University, at least 50 people were injured in a Hamas assault on student protesters. Witnesses said undercover agents, some of them driving motorcycles, assaulted and arrested students, teachers and journalists.

At least one Palestinian student was killed in the protests, the sources said. They said the demonstrations on March 15-16 brought out 100,000 people to the streets throughout the Gaza Strip.

The sources said the demonstrations — which also spread to the West Bank — have divided the Hamas regime. They said Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has warned against a violent response by security forces while Hamas military commander sought to end demonstrations immediately.

"I invite the president, brother Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas], and Fatah to an immediate meeting here in Gaza to start national dialogue in order to achieve reconciliation," Haniya said in a television address. "I am with the people and in favor of going back to the people to put an end to the divisions through presidential and parliamentary elections."

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