GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Palestinian women took to the streets on Tuesday to call for unity and an end to the Israeli occupation in a series of rallies called to mark International Women’s Day.
In Gaza City, around 500 women waving Palestinian flags marched through the city centre demanding an end to the political division between the rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, an AFP correspondent said.
Holding banners calling for equality and justice for Palestinian women, they marched from the Square of the Unknown Soldier past the parliament building and on to the headquarters of the United Nations in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
“No to division, yes to national unity,” they chanted in a rally which passed off peacefully.
Several different demonstrations were also taking place in the occupied West Bank to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, with Israeli groups also planning a big rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon.
In the south, around 150 women rallied in Hebron calling for an end to the divisions within the Palestinian national movement, in an echo of the youth-led unity protests which have recently cropped up across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In Beit Ummar, dozens of women blocked the road leading south to Hebron for half an hour in a protest against the network of Israeli roadblocks littered across the territory.
The demonstration ended when Israeli troops herded the women off the road, an AFP correspondent said.
Near Ramallah, around 150 women demonstrators including two female cabinet members in the outgoing government of prime minister Salam Fayyad tried to march through the Qalandiya checkpoint to Jerusalem in protest against the Israeli occupation, an AFP correspondent said.
But troops blocked their way, and the rally broke up.
In east Jerusalem, around 15 demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and handed out roses to women coming in and out of the Old City via Damascus Gate.
Shouting slogans and greetings to the women of Libya and Tunisia, which have both been shaken by mass popular uprisings, they called for an end to the Israeli occupation.
“Today is a celebration of International Women’s Day and the Palestinian women of Jerusalem are raising our voices and calling on the world to show solidarity with us and help us get rid of the Israeli occupation,” said activist Fadwa Khader, a member of the left-leaning Palestinian People’s Party.
“Part of the women’s rights issue is the harm caused by the Israeli occupation. Can you imagine women being woken up and kicked out of their homes in the early morning so their homes can be demolished to make way for settlements?” she said, referring to the evictions of east Jerusalem families to make way for new settler homes.
“We are talking about human rights and women’s rights.” she said.
Other rallies took place in the northern town of Jenin, in the village of Burin near the West Bank barrier, and outside the hardline Jewish settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus, AFP correspondents said.
Later on Tuesday, Israeli demonstrators were to gather in Tel Aviv for a demonstration organised by 14 women’s groups to call for an end to rape and sexual violence against women.