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Israel president welcomes Abbas' refugee remarks

Associated Press Modified: November 3, 2012 at 3:32 pm •  Published: November 3, 2012
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"In connection to what Abbas said in the interview unfortunately there is no connection between his words and his deeds," the statement said.

Nimer Hammad, an adviser to Abbas, said he was being "realistic."

"He knows he can't bring back five-and-a-half million Palestinian refugees to Israel," Hammad said. Palestinians consider refugees to include not only the original 700,000 from the 1948 war, but also their 4-5 million descendants.

During his interview, Abbas vowed to prevent another violent Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, like that of last decade that saw suicide bombers detonate their explosives on buses and in cafes.

"We don't want to use terror...we want to use diplomacy, we want to use politics, we want to use negotiations, we want to use peaceful resistance," he said.

The comment came as Abbas prepares for a trip to the United Nations later this month, where he will seek an upgraded observer status for the Palestinians at the U.N. Palestinians believe the upgrade will add pressure Israel to withdraw from its current positions to lines it held before the 1967 war. Israel says negotiations alone should set a course for Palestinian statehood.

The prime minister of Abbas' rival government in Gaza condemned his remarks, voicing a view was shared by many Palestinians there. Some supporters from Abbas' own party, Fatah, said they hoped he leaves power.

In the northern Gaza town of Jabalia Saturday night, hundreds of Palestinians gathered to watch men burn posters of a suited, smiling Abbas.

They waved the green flags of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that seized Gaza five years ago after bloody street battles with forces loyal to Abbas. Others held up colorful posters with the word "traitor" emblazoned on photos of Abbas. One Hamas official shouted: "We have burnt Abbas, this rotten picture."

"My daughter asks me, does Abbas work for us, or for the Jews?" said Sahar al-Muqayid, 35. The woman, who wore the face veil of a devout Muslim, bought four of her six children to the protest.

By Gaza standards, the demonstration was small, as were protests that took place in other parts of the territory. Near the Jabalia demonstration, dozens of families strolled around streets brightly lit by thudding generators on the balmy Saturday evening, ignoring the nearby protest.

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AP writer Diaa Hadid reported from Gaza