The two rivals, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief, met for the first time in 15 years on the occasion of Algeria’s 60th independence. The two leaders were invited by the Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The duo, who last met in person in Doha in October 2016, were brought together by Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose country was celebrating its independence anniversary celebrations from France. Algeria’s state broadcaster reported late Tuesday that representatives from the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement were also present at the “historic” meeting. The footage showed that Algerian counterparts were getting the two leaders, Abbas and Haniyeh, to shake hands and that Hamas members embraced Abbas later.
While it is not clear whether Abbas and Haniya spoke to each other, President Abbas’s archrival heads the Hamas politburo—the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. Abbas’s party controls the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and it has clashed with Hamas’s leader. In 2006-07, Hamas’s leader also served as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Following the dissolution of the government and inter-fighting with Abbas’s secular Fateh party and the establishment of an autonomous Hamas-led administration in Gaza, Haniyeh served as the leader of the de facto government in the Gaza Strip from 2007 to 2014. He was appointed to replace Khaled Meshaal as Hamas’ political bureau chief in 2017. No Palestinian election has been held since, primarily because of the internal divisions. Algeria is a major supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Algeria and Palestine have a strong and long-lasting alliance. Algeria supports the Middle East peace process but does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. Algeria continued to support the Palestinian cause after the 1993 Oslo Accords, and it also endorsed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. At the podium, the presence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was notable, through which Algeria emphasized that the Palestinian cause was and remains its “central concern,” a true essence of the late President Houari Boumediene’s iconic saying “Algeria with Palestine, whether it is unjust or oppressed,” which has been passed down through generations. “Algeria’s independence will not be complete until Palestine is liberated.” Mr. Tebboune and Mr. Abbas also signed a document naming a street in Ramallah, West Bank, “Algeria.” On Tuesday, the three leaders even hosted several foreign dignitaries and watched a massive military parade honoring Algeria’s independence from the French occupation in 1962.
In an interview before the parade took place, Tebboune told the media that the Independence Day celebration “bears the meanings of loyalty to the martyrs and to the eternal message of November” 1954, referring to the victory of the Algerian War of Independence. Senior Algerian military officials, including the Army Chief of Staff, said that along with the foreign leaders, the presidents of Tunisia, Ethiopia, and Nigeria also attended the event.
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Algeria honors its 60th anniversary by remembering its struggle for independence from French colonialism. French colonial rule in Algeria lasted 132 years, beginning in 1830 with the invasion of the capital, Algiers, and ending with the signing of the Evian Accords in March 1962, when the country got independence. The treaty effectively ended a bloody war. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Algerians died between 1954 and 1962. Any form of resistance was suppressed by French forces, particularly those fighting for independence, known as mujahideen.
Algeria has seen a series of transformative events since independence, ranging from the assassination of President Mohamed Boudiaf in 1992, one of the pivotal early moments of Algeria’s Civil War (1991-2002), to the outbreak of the 2019 Hirak uprising, which led to the fall of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika after he had spent nearly 20 years in power. Despite leading to Bouteflika’s demise, much of Algeria’s elite remains unchanged, which means that Hirak’s goals remain unfulfilled for many of the masses who took to the streets.
Algeria’s current government, led by Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has continued to impose restrictions on protesters to put an end to the movement. Algeria was eager to include several state leaders and guests who were carefully chosen because their convictions, policies, and trends overlapped with them, as well as memory.