Mandela commitment to Palestinian cause hailed by Abbas

Floral tributes are laid in memory of Nelson Mandela outside the South African High Commission in London on Friday, Dec 6, 2013. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas paid tribute on Friday to Mr Mandela's commitment to his people's cause as he mou
Floral tributes are laid in memory of Nelson Mandela outside the South African High Commission in London on Friday, Dec 6, 2013. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas paid tribute on Friday to Mr Mandela's commitment to his people's cause as he mourned the South African liberation icon. -- PHOTO: AP

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas paid tribute on Friday to Nelson Mandela's commitment to his people's cause as he mourned the South African liberation icon.

"This is a great loss for all the peoples of the world, and for Palestine," Mr Abbas said, hailing a "symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation."

Mandela, who first visited Israel and the Palestinian territories in 1999, was an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause and a champion for Middle East peace.

"The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free," Mr Abbas said.

He described Mandela as the "most courageous and important of those who supported us".

Many Palestinians have taken inspiration from Mandela's successful struggle against apartheid in their decades-long struggle to end Israeli occupation and settlement of the West Bank.

"The name Mandela will stay forever with Palestine and with all Palestinians," Mr Abbas said.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip and remains a champion of the armed struggle despite a year-old Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel, paid tribute to a "great fighter".

Mandela was "one of the most important symbols of freedom and one of the most important supporters of the Palestinian people's cause", Hamas spokesman Mussa Abu Marzuq said.