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Gazan youths call for uprising on Friday

Inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, youths in Gaza call for demonstrations demanding Palestinian unity across the territory following Friday prayer

AFP , Thursday 10 Feb 2011
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A Palestinian Facebook group is urging Gazans to take to the streets on Friday in demonstrations calling for "change" and unity within the Palestinian movement.

The Arabic-language Facebook group, entitled Thawrat al-Karameh (The Dignified Revolution), is calling for rallies to take place after the traditional Friday prayers in Gaza City, Khan Yunis and Rafah as well as in the enclave's eight refugee camps.

"Gaza's youth is going to take part in a huge popular movement which will change the face of history, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt," the organizers wrote on the page, which was created on 28 January, just days after tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to call for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

Many of the group's members appear to be supporters of the secular Fatah party of president Mahmud Abbas, which is locked in bitter rivalry with Gaza's Hamas rulers, and which dominates the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

But Hamas played down the campaign, which has sparked numerous online debates.

"It makes no sense, this is little more than media hype. Gaza has already had a revolution - what happened in 2007 was a real revolution against corruption," interior ministry spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein said, referring to Hamas's forcible expulsion of Fatah forces from Gaza.

However, the Hamas-run security forces appeared to be closely following anyone believed to be linked to the page, and in the last few days have interrogated dozens of young people about it, according to a student who gave his name only as Mahmud, who said he had been questioned twice.

And according to a blog posted by journalist and rights activist Asmaa al-Ghul, who was arrested at a pro-Egypt demonstration on 31 January, police had accused her of being behind the Facebook page.

The group initially had around 8,000 members before being closed down by the social networking site for reasons which were not immediately clear. It later reopened and at last count had some 2,000 members.

Those behind the page, who use false names, say their aim is to "put an immediate end" to the bitter divide between Fatah and Hamas and to bring about their reconciliation.

Protesters in Tunisia and Egypt used Facebook, blogs and Twitter as tools to garner support for their calls for protests against their respective regimes, and the resulting uprisings have been widely monitored and tracked through social networking sites.

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