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PLO reelects Abbas its head

Palestinians gather for more protests along Gaza border

May 05, 2018 00:00:00

GAZA CITY, May 04 (AFP): President Mahmud Abbas was reelected head of the Palestine Liberation Organization Friday, as the veteran leader seeks to strengthen his control over politics in the occupied West Bank.

A four-day meeting of the PLO's parliament, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which was not attended by Abbas's Islamist rivals Hamas, backed Abbas and selected a new leadership of the PLO's executive committee.

"President Abu Mazen (Abbas) was nominated and unanimously approved as the president of the State of Palestine," senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP.

"An executive committee was chosen and an executive council was chosen."

The PLO, an umbrella group which is dominated by Abbas's Fatah party and includes most Palestinian factions but not Hamas, represents the Palestinians internationally.

The first regular PNC meeting in 22 years was seen as an opportunity for 82-year-old Abbas to try to increase his legitimacy.

Although his term as president expired in 2009, infighting with Hamas has made elections impossible.

But the event was overshadowed by comments made by Abbas during his opening speech in which he appeared to blame Jewish behaviour for their persecution in Europe.

Israel, the European Union, United States and others lined up to criticise his words, which were labelled anti-Semitic.

In closing remarks early Friday, Abbas did not respond to the criticism.

He also did not directly address the upcoming US move of its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a decision that prompted the Palestinians to boycott the Trump administration.

The new executive committee, the most senior body of the PLO and effectively Abbas's cabinet, included nine new names out of 15.

A number of potential rivals, including Yasser Abed Rabbo, were removed.

The previously 18-member committee was kept to just 15 representatives to leave space for Hamas and two smaller parties that boycotted the event.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians began gathering on the Gaza border Friday for the sixth week of protests in which dozens have already been killed by Israeli fire.

At a protest camp east of Gaza City, several hundred people prepared for demonstrations expected to gain momentum in the mid-afternoon following the main weekly Muslim prayers.

Organisers said part of Friday's plans included attempting to fly dozens of kites, some carrying Molotov cocktails, over the border fence.

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