Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

West Bank anger at Gaza strikes

By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Ramallah

Protest in the West Bank village of Azzun , 28 December 2008
There have been protests and clashes at several West Bank locations

"Of course we want another intifada," chorus a group of female students in their late teens.

They clutch hand-scrawled sheets of paper proclaiming "Gaza under fire", as rally-goers mingle with shoppers in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The Syria-based head of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, called for a third intifada, or uprising, as Israeli F-16s began pounding targets in the Strip on Saturday.

The last intifada, which broke out in 2000, was characterized by violent protests, suicide bombings and other attacks on Israelis - is this what the young women mean?

"Yes, all of those things," says graphic design student Amna Issa, 19, emphatically, as groups of youths chant slogans at a rally in memory of two Palestinians killed during protests nearby on Sunday.

Growing frustration

As the Israeli operation has continued, clashes have mounted at various sites across the West Bank, as groups of youths have gathered to throw rocks, hurl firebombs and burn tyres.

Amna Issa, graphic design student, Ramallah
Ms Issa backs an intifada, or uprising, after the latest round of killings

Ms Issa says her opinions have hardened since the Gaza offensive began.

"A week ago, I would have said there are other ways to stop the [Israeli] occupation, but now, no - they killed a lot of people... we can't just stop and watch."

Ramallah is the seat of the Palestinian Authority, dominated by the Fatah movement of its leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

Fatah has been locked in a vicious power struggle with Hamas for the past two years.

Fatah flags are much in evidence, but the protesters' message is one of unity. "We are all brothers," says one youth; "We are all Gazans" reads a banner.

[Another intifada] wouldn't have any results, people would die for nothing
Mohammad, Ramallah resident

But among the protesters, frustrations are clearly growing with Mr Abbas, who has become increasingly involved with Israel in terms of security co-operation, but has little to show from months of negotiations aimed at securing a Palestinian state.

Ms Issa says she supports Fatah, but has "no comment" on Mr Abbas: "It's not just me, but all people will say 'no comment'."

And Motir Mawahda, 19, attending the rally with two friends also supportive of a fresh uprising, says Mr Abbas is dealing too deeply with the Israelis.

"He's speaking with the name of Fatah, but we don't like what he's doing," he says.

Ramallah 'bubble'

However, just metres away, ordinary life is continuing in the centre of the West Bank hub.

Isam Moharib, Ramallah jewellery shop
Mr Moharib says he is "on the side of logic", not Fatah or Hamas

Businesses are open again after a day-long strike in protest at the Israeli attacks, while cars, pedestrians and vendors plough through the busy streets.

Some locals describe Ramallah as a "bubble", where the economy has recovered faster from the violence of last intifada than in the rest of the West Bank, and middle-class Palestinians frequent bustling restaurants, bars and shops.

"As long as it's quiet, everything will get better, but now with these problems, nothing will get better," says a man who gives his name only as Mohammad, eating hummus in a friend's shoe shop as the protesters gather.

Even in the past two days, the increased tensions have made it harder for wholesalers to bring goods from Israel, he says.

He says he has been glued to the television "24-seven", and wept when he saw the first pictures of the aftermath of the Gaza bombings.

But "nobody" in the West Bank supports the idea of another intifada, he says. "It's not necessary. It wouldn't have any results, people would die for nothing," he says.

A supporter of Mr Abbas, he says Hamas "should take responsibility for what is happening".

"Of course I'm angry with them. This is the reaction to the missiles they fire - missiles that aren't even hurting the Israelis."

No sides

For others, the primary emotion is resignation.

Hanan Ashrawi, 21 March 2001
It's unleashing a whole new cycle and escalating the spiral of violence
Hanan Ashrawi
Veteran Palestinian lawmaker

Isam Moharib sits in his cousin's jewellery shop, the glass cases of sparkling gold a world away from the twisted piles of concrete debris in Gaza the television on the wall is showing.

"I am so disappointed, but there is nothing we can do," says Isam Moharib, adding that he supports neither Fatah or Hamas. "I'm on the side of logic," he sighs.

And Jamila Mohamad, mother of six boys and three girls, peers out from under her headscarf as she heads home from a hospital appointment.

Having had one son held in an Israeli prison for more than two years in the wake of the last intifada, she says she feels for the people of Gaza and has little appetite for more violence.

"Yesterday I was crying all day. I feel like they are all my sons. I am with nobody, not Fatah or Hamas. I just want peace."

Veteran Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi tells me she believes a third intifada is a "possibility".

She is strongly opposed to the use of violence for the Palestinian cause, but is all too aware of the frustrations among young people like Ms Issa.

"It's a response, a reaction to being on the receiving end of such unbridled violence," she says.

"There are many people who are reacting in a visceral way and saying we want revenge - it's unleashing a whole new cycle and escalating the spiral of violence."

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