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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rallies Protest 'Noise' at Annapolis

GAZA, Gaza Strip -- Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined anti-Annapolis rallies in Gaza and the West Bank on Tuesday, chanting "Death to Israel" and calling President Mahmoud Abbas a traitor for attending the peace talks.

Speaking at the largest protest in Hamas-run Gaza, leaders of the Islamist group, which seized the enclave from Abbas' forces in June, said the president had no right to make concessions to Israel at the U.S.-hosted conference.

"Let them go to a thousand conferences. We say in the name of the Palestinian people that we did not authorize anyone to sign any agreement that harms our rights," Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas leader, told a cheering crowd.

"Anyone who does so will be judged by history as a traitor."

U.S. President George W. Bush said in a prepared speech Tuesday that the aim of the Annapolis talks was to launch peace negotiations, not seal an accord -- prompting a Hamas official in Gaza to conclude that the conference amounted to nothing but "noise."

Hundreds also defied a ban on anti-Annapolis rallies in the West Bank, where Abbas holds sway, to attend protests held by an Islamist group in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron -- where up to 3,000 people gathered.

Abbas' security forces clashed with protesters, hitting out at the crowd with batons, shooting into the air and firing tear gas to disperse the rallies. A journalist was injured and up to 30 people were arrested in Ramallah, a witness said.

In Gaza, journalists estimated crowds of up to 100,000 people. Hamas put the number closer to 250,000 -- similar to the turnout at a rally called by Abbas' secular Fatah faction earlier this month for the anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death.

Waving Palestinian flags as well as the green Hamas banner and black flag of the Islamic Jihad group, protesters shouted "Abbas is a traitor."