Palestinians remember Arafat six years after his death
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Last Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 19:03
Ramallah: Thousands of Palestinians on Thursday gathered in Ramallah to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, whose dream of an independent state seems no closer than when he died.

Waving Palestinian flags and the yellow banners of the Fatah party that Arafat founded, men and women walked through the shut-down streets to the square across from the white mausoleum where the iconic leader is buried.

Politicians including Nasser al Qidwa, a former Palestinian representative to the United Nations, addressed the massive crowd, many sporting hats and scarves decorated with the Palestinian flag.

Qidwa accused Israel of involvement in Arafat's death and said Palestinians were determined to pursue "the last piece of evidence in the assassination of Yasser Arafat."

Arafat died in a French hospital after several weeks of treatment. French officials, citing privacy laws, refused to reveal the precise cause of death or the nature of his condition, fuelling a host of rumours and theories as to the cause of his illness.

His successor, president Mahmud Abbas, addressed the enthusiastic crowds from the grave site, which is now the centrepiece of a new museum being built in Arafat's honour.

A series of events, including film screenings, were planned to celebrate the life of Arafat, remembered by many as a passionate proponent of Palestinian rights who led his people through nearly four decades of armed struggle and peace negotiations.

But in a sign of continuing Palestinian divisions, Gaza's Hamas rulers banned any public commemoration of the anniversary, a rights group and Fatah officials said.

The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said Hamas officials had ruled out any anniversary events, citing the violence that marred a 2007 rally, when Hamas forces opened fire, killing seven.

Fatah condemned the Hamas ban, with spokesman Ahmed al-Assad saying the "shameful act punishes not only the Fatah movement in Gaza but the entire Palestinian people."

Fatah sources in Gaza told AFP that Hamas forces broke up a private commemoration event inside the offices of a Fatah member.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents foreign reporters working in Israel and the Palestinian territories, accused Hamas of harassing and intimidating journalists trying to cover an Arafat memorial in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

"International television crews were detained and ordered to turn over news footage to the authorities," the group said, calling a news blackout on the event "unacceptable."


First Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 19:03

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