Thursday, August 04, 2005


Security forces watch over Palestinians gathering a in front of the Legislative Council for "Victory Festival", which marked the launch of the PA's withdrawal celebration campaign. Posted by Picasa

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Blogger solitarioh2005 said...

Abbas, Hamas vie for hearts of Gaza


By Lara Sukhtian
ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 8, 2005
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The battle between Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas over who will get credit for the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is being fought in print shops, flag factories and back-alley sewing workshops.
The Palestinian Authority has commissioned tens of thousands of national flags as well as mugs, bumper stickers and posters with the slogan "Today Gaza, tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem." The props are for planned mass celebrations meant to portray this month's planned pullout as an achievement of the Abbas government.
Hamas is striking back, preparing for military-style victory parades. Hamas supporters are sewing thousands of martial uniforms and flags in the group's trademark Islamic green and activists are buying up privately owned jeeps and pickup trucks to lead the marches.
The Palestinian Authority is spending $1.7 million on withdrawal celebrations. A Gaza City flag shop is sewing about 200,000 Palestinian flags.
"They want the whole country to be carrying Palestinian flags," said the owner, Tareq Abu Daya.
For the victory rallies, the government will give away to its supporters 128,000 pairs of bluejeans along with white T-shirts, either with Palestinian flags or pictures of the late Yasser Arafat.
The winner of the competition may well be the next ruler of Gaza.
Hamas, increasingly popular because of disaffection with government corruption and chaos, could make an even stronger showing in upcoming parliamentary elections if seen as the liberator of Gaza. Hamas has claimed all along that its shooting, bombing and rocket attacks during the past five years of fighting have forced out the Israelis.
Most Palestinians appear to agree. In a survey of 1,320 Palestinians last month, 72 percent said Israel was driven out of Gaza by militant attacks. The poll, by the independent Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, had a margin of error of three percentage points.
However, the Palestinian Authority could make a comeback if it quickly delivers some achievements after the pullout, winning some freedom of movement for fenced-in Gazans and creating jobs.
"We are still in the middle of the competition," said Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, adding that Israel is undermining Mr. Abbas by delaying decisions on crucial issues, such as establishing a passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and new rules for border crossings.
While waiting for a deal with Israel, Mr. Abbas is trying to wrest control of the streets from the militants, at least symbolically.
Banners and posters of militant groups have been banned from public places, but removing them is an overwhelming job. Shop shutters and walls of houses across Gaza are covered with political graffiti and posters of gun-toting militants. Police have cleared a few areas in Gaza City, but militant art still dominates most streets.

7:34 AM  

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