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Abbas welcomed home as hero while Qatar denounced

RAMALLAH (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Abbas got a hero’s welcome on Tuesday from thousands of Palestinians who denounced the Qatari regime and its Al Jazeera television channel for accusing their leader of selling out to Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a news conference after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Supporters burned posters of the Emir of Qatar, who an Abbas aide said had approved Al Jazeera’s broadcast of leaked Middle East negotiation documents, as well as Israeli flags with Al Jazeera’s name sprayed inside the blue Star of David.

“We will go to Jerusalem, a million martyrs strong,” the crowd of over 3,000 chanted, in a rousing endorsement for Abbas using a famous slogan not heard since the days of his more charismatic predecessor, Yasser Arafat.

“The Palestinian principles ... have not and will not change and the first of them is that East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas said to cheers from supporters from all over the occupied West Bank.

He said Al Jazeera had used “fake” documents in its bid to convict Abbas’s Palestinian Authority of cowardice and duplicity in confidential talks with Israel over concessions it would make for a peace treaty and a Palestinian state.

“No one in the world can make us give up on a centimeter of our land, the issue of the refugees or the issue of Jerusalem,” Abbas told the people. Their rally was “the most important response to what Al Jazeera alleged,” the president said.


Palestinian officials say Qatar has launched a campaign against Abbas’s administration through its Doha-based news broadcaster that is intended to mislead Palestinians.

Documents released by Al Jazeera since Sunday show Abbas’s negotiators willing to give substantial ground on major issues at the heart of the decades-old conflict with Israel, such as the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Al Jazeera is sponsored by Doha, though the government disavows direct control of the channel.

Many Middle East commentators said they see little new in the documents, which mostly confirm the gist of negotiations and concession points discussed over the past 17 years in the “peace process” and already debated in the media.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said the Emir of Qatar had “given a green light” for a campaign against the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. Qatar has close ties to Hamas, the Islamist group which governs the Gaza Strip.

Hamas regularly accuses Abbas of treason, for recognizing Israel at all and for engaging in negotiations on a permanent end to the conflict and the creation of a Palestinian state on borders as they existed on before the 1967 war when Israel captured the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Writing by Douglas Hamilton; Editing by Louise Ireland