Abbas's Attendance at Peres's Funeral Stirs Controversy in the West Bank

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks to the media in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 23, 2016.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks to the media in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 23, 2016. Credit: Mohamad Torokman, Reuters

Several hundred Palestinians held a rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after he was criticised for attending the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.

"Regardless of whether we agree with him or not about the visit which he sees as politically justified, President Abu Mazen will remain the symbol of the Palestinian legitimacy. And we will not accept that anyone would regard him as less patriotic," said Abu Alabed, one of Abbas' supporters.

While Abbas supporters waved the flags of his Fatah party and carried banners showing his picture, opponents of the Palestinian president looked on with disapproval.

"Today is the funeral of the martyr, as opposed to the funeral of the criminal which the Palestinian president attended. This is an outrage, the loss of our sense of national dignity," said Rula Abu Dihho.

At the funeral of Peres, Abbas took a front-row seat and shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It was Abbas's first visit to Jerusalem since 2010.

Peres, a former Israeli Prime Minister and President, died on Wednesday at the age of 93.

He shared a Nobel Prize for the interim land-for-peace accords he helped reach with the Palestinians as Israel's foreign minister in the 1990s.

But he also built up Israel's powerful military and nuclear might in the 1950s and 1960s and, as defence minister in the 1970s, backed the expansion of settlements in territory that Israeloccupied in a 1967 war.

Peres was buried in a state ceremony in Jerusalem attended by U.S. President Barack Obama and dozens of dignitaries from around the world.

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