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
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
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