Thousands in West Bank urge Abbas not to quit
Thousands of Palestinians turned out in Hebron on Sunday to urge Mahmoud Abbas to run again for the presidency following his announcement that he did not want a second term in the job, Reuters reported.
Waving flags, Abbas supporters lined the streets of Hebron to greet the president as he conducted a rare tour of towns in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, part of the territories where the Palestinians aim to establish a state.
"Mahmoud Abbas, don't step down! You are the foundation," chanted the crowd.
The scenes were broadcast live on official Palestine television, which has been airing programs in support of Abbas since his declaration on Thursday that he did not want to run in the election he recently scheduled for January 24.
Abbas, who opened a cultural center in Hebron, was due to give a speech in Bethlehem at 4.30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EST).
Many analysts believe his announcement could be a tactic to prompt the United States to put more pressure on Israel to halt all West Bank settlement building.
But chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated on Sunday that Abbas's announcement was a not a tactic.
Abbas has built his political career around negotiating a peace deal with Israel. He voiced disappointment in his speech last Thursday with what he described as the United States "favoring" Israel in arguments over re-launching peace talks.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas also heads, has rejected his announcement, urging him to stay on.
Abbas, 74, replaced the late Yasser Arafat as president five years ago. His call for presidential and legislative elections has been rejected by the Islamist group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and contests his legitimacy.
Given Hamas's decision to ban the election in the Gaza Strip, many analysts doubt whether the poll will go ahead at all, and if it did it would lack legitimacy, they say.