Popular rallies already underway in Gaza

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GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The day before popular protests calling for unity were set to begin, hundreds gathered in Gaza City, Rafah and other locations in the Gaza Strip shouting "We will not leave until the rivalry is over."

In Ramallah, ten hunger strikers sit in the city center Al-Manara for the second day, and say they plan to sleep there.

Gaza protesters marched through the streets in Gaza City calling on residents to join them, in what organizers hope will be a mass movement calling for an end to political division, elections for the Palestinian National Council with participation of Palestinians from across historic Palestine.

Ma'an correspondents on the scene described a crowded protest outside the Islamic University campus, with hundreds gathered.

A coalition of organizing groups held a news conference in Gaza City ahead of the start of the march, calling on student unions and civilians to join in the action, stressing that the protests are non-violent.

Several youth groups joined together last week, and have called for protests on 15 March in both Ramallah's Al-Manara, and the Unknown Soldier Square in Gaza City.

Simultaneous protests are expected to be held outside Palestinian embassy buildings around the world.

On Sunday, West Bank police said they would not intervene in the Ramallah protests, and on Monday Spokesman of the Gaza government’s police Atyman Batniji said police there would keep distance from the event.

"Police will intervene if protests cause damage to public property or become violent," Batniji said.

Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said he supported the protests, saying he had given directives to police to help create a "positive atmosphere" for them to proceed.