Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to visit the Gaza Strip after the UN General Assembly vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians to non-member observer state, a senior PLO official announced Thursday.
The announcement came shortly before Abbas was asked the GA in New York to vote inĀ favor of the statehood bid.
This would be Abbas's first visit to the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control over the area in the summer of 2007.
Abbas's visit to the Gaza Strip is aimed at ending the dispute between his Fatah faction and Hamas, PLO Executive Committee member Zakariya al-Agha said. Agha said that Abbas's talks in the Gaza Strip would focus on the possibility of establishing a Fatah-Hamas unity government.
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar was recently quoted as saying that his movement would not permit Abbas to enter the Gaza Strip out of fear that the PA president's rivals in Fatah would try to harm him. Zahar also revealed that he had asked the prosecutor-general's office in the Gaza Strip to arrest Abbas for "libel and slander" when and if he enters the area.
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Thursday to celebrate the statehood bid at the UN.
Speakers at the rallies voiced support for Abbas and hailed international support for the statehood bid as an historic achievement. Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials also participated in the rallies in some West Bank cities.
Jibril Rajoub, a former PA security commander and top Fatah representative, told supporters in Ramallah that the Palestinians have come out to seek an end to injustice.
Rajoub said that there was no room for Jewish settlers on Palestinian lands after the UN vote.
He also urged the Arab countries to support the Palestinians if they come under sanctions following the statehood bid, and emphasized the need to end the Fatah-Hamas dispute.
Hamas representative Nasser Eddin Shaer, who participated in the Ramallah rally, praised the statehood bid and called for Palestinian unity.
"We are a people who are entitled to live," Shaer said.
"The UN bid is an important step. It is not a declaration of war against anyone."
Islamic Jihad official Said Nakhleh told the crowd that it was high time the Palestinians ended their differences. He also called for reconstructing the PLO to pave the way for Islamist groups to join the organization.
In Hebron, where tens of thousands attended a rally in support of the statehood bid, PLO representative Abbas Zaki blamed Israel for the current stalemate in the peace process.
Palestinians estimated the number of participants in Hebron at more than 70,000.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a top Fatah official and close aide to Abbas, told a rally in Jenin that the Palestinians were today "reaping the fruits of a long march that began in 1965."
He said that the UN vote was the result of the "sacrifices" made by Palestinians despite the hardships and threats.
"Tonight the world [will] stand up and say yes to a Palestinian state," Ahmed declared. "The world will say yes to a Palestinian state and no to occupation." The Fatah official described the statehood bid as "political rockets" that are being used against Israel.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip also celebrated the UN bid at a rally attended by thousands of Fatah supporters.
Hailing the statehood bid as an historic achievement and diplomatic victory, speakers at the rally, the first of its kind since 2007, called for Palestinian unity.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA presidency, said that Thursday's rallies were a "great referendum."
He said that the widespread support for the statehood bid was a message of "love and justice" on behalf of the Palestinians to the world.
"The countries of the world will vote in favor of Palestine," Abu Rudaineh said. "This is a historic event in support of Palestinian rights. This is a moment of hope."