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GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas authorities did an about face on Saturday and dropped a plan to keep schools in the Gaza Strip open on a Palestinian holiday founded by the rival Fatah faction.
An official with Gaza's Education Ministry said schools would shut down on Sunday, designated as an "independence day" for Palestinians, "in order to avoid misinterpretation of the decision to keep it a regular school day."
A ruling issued on Friday to keep the schools open drew criticism from non-Hamas factions in Gaza as well as ordinary people who have been living under the Islamist movement's administration since it seized control from the Western-backed Fatah in the territory in 2007.
Fatah still holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and enjoys U.S. recognition, while Hamas is largely isolated in Gaza over its refusal to accept permanent co-existence with the Jewish state. Egypt has been trying to broker factional reconciliation.
Sunday is the anniversary of the symbolic November 15, 1988 declaration of independence by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Arafat, and Fatah, subsequently negotiated interim peace accords with Israel that secured Palestinians some self-rule.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Michael Roddy)