Hundreds of women marched in Gaza and the West Bank on Thursday marking International Women’s Day with a call for national unity and the release of Hana Shalabi.
Women marched from the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City to the UN headquarters before heading to tents set up in solidarity with Shalabi, who has been on hunger strike in an Israeli prison for 22 days.
Carrying Palestinian flags and photos of Shalabi, the women demanded the 29-year-old’s freedom and called for an end to the split between Hamas and Fatah.
In the West Bank, women rallied at a demonstration in Qalandiya, near Ramallah. Soldiers broke up the rally which was also marking women’s day and in solidarity with Shalabi.
Israeli forces fired tear gas and youths threw stones at the demonstration south of Ramallah, witnesses said. Eight people suffered tear-gas inhalation and were treated at the scene, they said.
International Women’s Day is a national holiday in Palestine.
Marking the occasion, Gaza’s Minister of Women’s Affairs Jamila al-Shanti told Reuters TV that all Gazan women are heroines and set an example to others.
"I tell this woman who is a heroine and is brave, whether she is a house wife or a working mother, she is a prisoner, a wife of a martyr, a mother of a martyr.
"Anywhere she exists she is a heroine and has recorded history. Her story has been exported and this woman has become an example to follow," she said.
Meanwhile in Ramallah, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters the women’s movement was growing across all social divides.
"The educated community was always open minded and supportive of women, and the women in Palestine work continuously. It used to be only by groups, but today it represents all women not only those thinkers or those who are more wealthy," Ashrawi said.
She added: "The women’s movement, as a result of hard work and the support of open minded men, has been able to change the reality and to break the barriers and borders that had been set in place."