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Wed 4 May 2011 01:14 PM

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Daniel Barenboim orchestra brings music to the Gaza Strip

Concert precedes move to heal four-year rift between Hamas and Palestinian Authority

Daniel Barenboim orchestra brings music to the Gaza Strip
Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim heads what he calls the "Orchestra for Gaza"

Pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, who has criticized
Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, brought musicians from Berlin,
Vienna, Paris and Milan to play Mozart in the Gaza Strip Tuesday.

The concert is “a sign of our solidarity and friendship with
the civil society of Gaza,” Barenboim said in an emailed statement sent by the
office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace
Process, that helped organize the event.

The 69-year-old conductor, who has Israeli citizenship and
an honorary Palestinian Authority passport, conducted what he calls “Orchestra
for Gaza,” with musicians from the Staatskapelle Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic,
Vienna Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and Orchestra of La Scala di Milano.

The Argentine-born Barenboim prides himself for trying to
promote dialogue between Arabs and Israelis through music. He set up the
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with his friend, the late Palestinian-American
writer Edward Said, bringing together young musicians from Israel as well as
Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Tunisia.

“We’ve come to Gaza not just to play music for you but to
show that we care about you,” Barenboim told the audience, expressing hope that
Palestinian reconciliation between the Islamic Hamas movement and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be successful.

Gaza is governed by Hamas, which is considered a terrorist
movement by the US, Israel, and European Union. The territory has been under
Israeli blockade since Hamas seized control of it in 2007.

Leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas plan to sign
an agreement Wednesday to end an almost four-year rift.

Mahmoud Abbas, the authority’s president and chief of its
ruling Fatah faction, is scheduled to meet Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas
movement, in Cairo to sign an agreement that calls for a united Palestinian
government and elections within a year.

An alliance between the two ruptured in 2007, leaving Fatah
in control of the West Bank and Hamas ruling Gaza.

The Palestinian reconciliation moves follow rallies in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip in which thousands of people, inspired by the wave of
popular protests that led to the toppling of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
and Tunisian President Zine El- Abidine Ben Ali, called for an end to the
division. Abbas is asking foreign countries to recognize a Palestinian state
and has said a united leadership will help the pursuit toward statehood.

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