Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas said on Monday they had agreed to end their infighting in a show of solidarity over the spiralling Gaza crisis.
The unexpected announcement came as sporadic clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces returned to the relatively peaceful West Bank.
Five Palestinians were wounded in clashes and a 22-year-old man was shot dead by Israeli troops in circumstances whose details were not immediately clear. Another man died of injuries sustained during a weekend protest.
The elusive agreement between Hamas and Fatah — a less militant movement that runs the West Bank and is viewed by Israel as a possible negotiating partner — was announced following a meeting between senior representatives of both sides.
“From here, we announce with other (factional) leaders, that we are ending the division,” Fatah’s Jibril Rajoub told a crowd of about 1,000 who had gathered for a demonstration in the West Bank’s political centre Ramallah.
Among those present were top members of Hamas’s leadership in the West Bank, as well as senior officials from its smaller rival Islamic Jihad.
Ramallah’s Manara Square was a sea of Palestinian flags as the crowd chanted “Unity!” and “Hit, hit Tel Aviv” in an appeal to Hamas militants who have fired at least five rockets at the Israeli coastal city since Thursday.
“Whoever speaks about the division after today is a criminal,” top Hamas leader Mahmud al-Ramahi told the crowd.
Fatah and Hamas — its power limited to Gaza and its leadership refusing to recognise Israel — have been locked in a bitter dispute for years, and little has emerged from an interim truce the two sides struck in April last year.
But the ongoing bloodshed appears to have prompted a rethink of traditional rivalries as the Palestinian death toll in Gaza reached 104 late on Monday.
Palestinian Prime Minister Minister Salam Fayyad — a Fatah member — said in a statement that there was “an urgent need to respond positively” to the idea of a meeting between all Palestinian groups in both Gaza and the West Bank.
Violence had largely spared the West Bank in recent years despite protests over growing Jewish settlements and the continued presence of the Israeli army whose roadblocks and patrols make everyday life difficult for civilians.
But large demonstrations in support of Gaza broke out across the West Bank over the weekend and resulted in the death of one man whom associates identified as Ahmed al-Betawi.
The associates said Betawi was a relative of jailed Palestinian activist Bassem Tamimi — adopted by Amnesty International as a “prisoner of conscience.”
Tamimi was sentenced to four months in prison on November 7 for his part in a flash mob demonstration against Jewish settlements last month.
The weekend West Bank unrest was followed by more violence on Monday near Ramallah and in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Medics said two people were seriously injured in the Hebron area as protesters threw stones at Israeli security forces. Three more were lightly hurt near Ramallah.
AFP correspondents also reported sporadic incidents at a checkpoint near the northern town of Jenin.
Palestinian medics said a 22-year-old man named Hamdi al-Salah was also shot dead on a road in Hebron. The circumstances of that incident remained unclear.