Thousands of Gazans Rally for Palestinian Reconciliation

Palestinian Facebook activists organize multi-party grass-roots rally calling for reconciliation between Hamas government in Gaza and Fatah government in the West Bank.

Thousands of Gazans attended a grass-roots rally urging the rival Palestinian governments to unite on Tuesday.

The majority of the estimated 10,000 protesters waved the black, red, green and white Palestinian flags but some also held the green banners of Gaza's ruling Hamas Party.

gaza - Reuters - March 14 2011

Hamas loyalists appeared to be the most prominently represented, but small groups loyal to the rival Fatah Party and other small Palestinian factions were also out. So, too, were Facebook activists who organized Tuesday's rally in Gaza City.

Bitter rivals Hamas and Fatah established rival governments in June 2007 after Hamas violently overran Gaza. Since then, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah has controlled only the West Bank, and reconciliation attempts have repeatedly failed.

Reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian factions has been affected by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority's waxing and waning relationship with Israel. Israel and Hamas are not known to have had any talks, either direct or indirect.

The rally in Gaza comes at a time when there are no ongoing direct talks between the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank and Israel.

Face-to-face peace negotiations between the two sides came to a halt in September 2010 over the refusal to extend a partial construction freeze in West Bank settlements.

Hamas cancelled a planned reconciliation meeting with their Fatah rivals in August 2010 after direct Mideast peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were announced, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency then reported.

A freeze in the Egyptian government's attempt to facilitate the reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas brought efforts to negotiate the release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit to a standstill in July 2009, Israeli defense sources said at that time.