The EU announced a $124 million funds transfer to the Palestinian Authority as hundreds of Palestinians marched through the West Bank Friday in support of a truce agreement signed between Hamas and Fatah. Leaders from both factions participated in what was described as 'Truce Friday'.
In a supplementary move, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to withhold funds from the Palestinians.
He "noted that Palestinian unity is a process which is just beginning now, and thus, it would be best to assess it as it moves forward," the UN press office said in a statement summarizing Ban's telephone call with Netanyahu. "He also urged Israel not to stop transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority."
In Ramallah celebrations of the Hamas-Fatah truce followed Friday prayer services at the al-Bira mosque. Palestinian police secured the rally that took place at the central Manara Square.
Hamas organized additional rallies in Tulkarem and Hebron, during which members of the group gave speeches lauding the deal.
Fatah Revolutionary Council member Dimitri Diliani told Ynet his organization was unfazed by Hamas flags being waved in public. "The fact that Hamas members are publically protesting in the West Bank does not disturb us, on the contrary – it is natural and good, and a part of the truce agreement," he said.
"Marches like this only prove that the agreement is a success," Diliani added, rejecting the idea that support for Hamas in the West Bank would diminish support for Fatah.
The weekly anti-fence protests at the West Bank villages of Bilin and Naalin also took place under the auspices of the reconciliation. Before protesters headed towards the fence they were treated to speeches by religious officials. In Gaza more of the same took place after Friday prayer services.
Photos of PA president at Ramallah rally (Photo: EPA)
On Thursday a Hamas march was held in Nablus – the first of its kind in four years, during which the factions wallowed in rivalry. Sheikh Hamed Bitawi, Hamas's spiritual leader in the city and one of the top religious leaders in the West Bank, participated in the march.
But some were seen to oppose the long-awaited reconciliation. At the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem the Palestinian Freedom Movement held a protest against the deal after Friday prayer services.
"The Egyptian truce document does not serve Islamic goals," says a manifesto published by the movement, known as a radical Islamist party which opposes secular rule in the West Bank. "The document is part of an American plan to eliminate the Palestinian issue."
Meanwhile the European Union said on Friday it would provide an extra 85 million euros ($124 million) to the Palestinian Authority to help pay salaries of essential workers and to support vulnerable families.
The move was decided on after Israel on Sunday blocked the transfer of $105 million in customs duties and other levies it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, in light of the truce deal signed in the beginning of the week.
A European Commission statement said the EU funds were being advanced under an accelerated procedure at the request of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to meet urgent financial needs.
"It is important that access to essential public services remains uninterrupted and the right to social services is respected," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
The EU funds are in addition to 100 million euros already approved for 2011.
The money will be channeled through an EU mechanism which has provided 762 million euros in support to the Palestinian Authority since 2008, in addition to 276 million from EU states.