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UNARMED PALESTINIANS TRY NEW TACTIC

Associated Press

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian activists are calling it a preview of new tactics to pressure Israel and win world support for statehood: Masses of marchers, galvanized by the Arab Spring and brought together by Facebook, descending on borders and military posts - and daring Israeli soldiers to shoot.

It could prove more problematic for Israel than the suicide bombings and other deadly violence of the past - which the current Palestinian Authority leadership feels tainted their cause.

After attempted border breaches from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Gaza left 15 Palestinians dead Sunday, Israeli officials openly puzzled over how to handle an unfamiliar new phase.

"The Palestinians' transition from terrorism and suicide bombings to deliberately unarmed mass demonstrations is a transition that will present us with difficult challenges," said Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Sunday's protests were driven by renewed hopes that Palestinian statehood - at least as an internationally approved idea within specific borders - is approaching after years of paralysis.

The optimism is fed by reconciliation efforts between the Islamic militant Hamas and the Western-backed Fatah movement after a four-year split, as well as growing international support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' plan to seek U.N. recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem in September over Israel's objections.

Meanwhile, the Facebook generation is increasingly taking a lead in the Palestinian arena, at times sidelining political veterans.

"There is a new energy, a new dynamism," said Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian negotiator.

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