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West Bank Palestinians cheer on their Gaza counterparts

Palestinians in the West Bank have staged solidarity marches, praising Gaza's rocket strikes on Israel and calling for an end to the diplomacy track with Israel – an indirect blow to President Mahmoud Abbas.

By Correspondent / November 20, 2012

Palestinian youths take cover during clashes with Israeli troops against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip in the West Bank city of Hebron, Tuesday. As Israel and Hamas traded blows across the Gaza Strip, Palestinians throughout the West Bank cheer on their Gaza counterparts.

Nasser Shiyoukhi/AP

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Ramallah, West Bank

As Israel and Hamas traded blows across the Gaza Strip, angry demonstrators throughout the West Bank staged solidarity marches praising rocket strikes and calling for a new uprising and the abandonment of diplomacy with Israel.

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"We cheer for the all rockets, especially the ones on Tel Aviv," chanted a voice from the booming sound system at the head of a parade of about 300 demonstrators in Al Manara Square, at the center of Ramallah. "Negotiations are dead.''

Sentiment like that is a blow to the prestige of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has spent seven years in office trying to convince his countrymen that talks with Israel are the only route to Palestinian statehood. It is also generating sympathy with Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and is a bitter rival of Mr. Abbas.

Though beset by a two-year impasse in the negotiations, rejection by the Israeli government, and a budgetary crisis, Abbas was poised to mount a controversial bid for international recognition at the United Nations, which could have revived support. But the Gaza fighting is making him look like a spectator rather than a central player to the regional events; the Palestinian Authority isn't believed to be a part of the cease-fire talks, which are led by Egypt and include Qatar, Turkey, and Tunisia.

"The UN bid of the Palestinian Authority is one of the early casualties of this war... the political significance of this move is going to be much less than it could have been. All the attention is going to this war,'' says Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst and former spokesman for the Palestinian Authority.

Escalating war?

"If this war will continue, I think the protests will expand and escalate. It has a radicalizing effect on the population," Mr. Khatib adds.

There were unconfirmed reports of hundreds of demonstrators in Hebron, in villages south of Jerusalem, and outside of the Jalameh crossing into Israel in the northern West Bank. Yesterday two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces at West Bank demonstrations, and the body of one of those killed was carried through Manara Square under a thicket of Palestinian flags and with an escort of Palestinian security forces.

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