x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Thousands gather in Ramallah to commemorate Arafat

Palestinians gather in Ramallah to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, as peace talks with Israel remained stuck in a stubborn stalemate.

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah today to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat as peace talks with Israel remained stuck in a stubborn stalemate.

Waving Palestinians flags and the yellow flags of the Fatah party that Mr Arafat started, men and women walked through the shut-down streets to the square across from the white mausoleum where the iconic leader is buried.

Around noon, Mr Arafat's successor, President Mahmoud Abbas was to address crowds at the site of his grave, which is now the centrepiece of a new museum being built in his honour.

Huge crowds were expected to attend a series of events celebrating the life of Mr Arafat, who is remembered by many as a passionate proponent of Palestinian rights and who led his people through nearly four decades of armed struggle and peace negotiations.

But, in a sign of continuing Palestinian divisions, Gaza's Hamas rulers had reportedly banned any public commemoration of the anniversary, a rights group said.

The sixth anniversary of Mr Arafat's death comes as President Abbas toys with plans to seek United Nations recognition for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence.

The suggestion comes as direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which were launched on September 2, remain mired in a deadlock over the issue of Jewish settlement construction.

The negotiations ground to a halt just six weeks after they started with the expiry of a 10-month moratorium on Jewish construction in the West Bank, with the Palestinians refusing to continue talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.