Palestinians rally against Bahrain-Israel normalisation

Palestinians burn images of the Bahraini king, US president and the Israeli prime minister during a protest in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza Strip on Saturday [Mahmud Hams/AFP]
Palestinians in Gaza burned pictures of Israeli, American, Bahraini, and United Arab Emirates leaders on Saturday in protest against the two Gulf countries' moves to normalise ties with Israel.
Bahrain on Friday joined the UAE in agreeing to normalise relations with Israel, a move forged partly through shared fears of Iran but one that could leave the Palestinians further isolated.
The Gaza protest, attended by a few dozen people, was organised by the ruling group Hamas.
"We have to fight the virus of normalisation and block all its paths before it succeeds to prevent it from spreading," said Hamas official Maher al-Holy.
Demonstrators set fire to images of US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the UAE's Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
While the United States, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain hail the diplomatic moves as a significant step towards peace and stability in the Middle East, the Palestinians see it as a betrayal.
They fear a weakening of a long-standing pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.
Despite a deep political rift going back to 2007, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority (PA) has a limited rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and his Hamas rivals have been united against the Gulf states' move.

'Military alliance'

In the West Bank, Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said the diplomatic push will not achieve peace if the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved first.
"The Bahraini, Israeli, American agreement to normalise relations is now part of a bigger package in the region. It isn't about peace, it is not about relations between countries. We are witnessing an alliance, a military alliance being created in the region," Erekat said.
Iran, meanwhile, said on Saturday that Bahrain's move meant it would be complicit in Israeli policies that threatened regional security, Iranian state television reported. Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Bahrain would face "harsh revenge" from its own people and the Palestinians over the Gulf state's move.
Turkey also condemned the deal saying it undermined the Palestinian cause and would "further embolden Israel to continue its illegal practices ... and attempts to make the occupation of Palestinian territories permanent".
Bahrainis opposed to their government's agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Israel vented their frustration on social media on Saturday, underlining the complexities of the Gulf's rapprochement with Israel.
The hashtags #Bahrainis_against_normalisation and #NormalizationIsBetrayal were trending on Twitter after Trump announced the deal late on Friday.
Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled kingdom with a large Shia population, shares with Israel a deep enmity towards Iran, and relies on the United States, which stations its Fifth Fleet on the tiny but strategic archipelago.
Gaza protest
Palestinians carry placards during a protest in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday [Said 



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