GAZA CITY (AFP) - Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were united in grief on Thursday over the death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, whose untiring support for their cause saw him make blistering attacks on Israel. The 58-year-old Venezuelan president, who died on Tuesday after a nearly two-year struggle with cancer, was hugely popular with the Palestinians for his outspoken support for their plight. “This is a great loss for us,” president Mahmud Abbas said during a condolence call to the Venezuelan representative’s office in Ramallah. “The Palestinian people will remain faithful to Chavez whose memory will remain engraved in our consciousness in recognition of his courageous support for our right to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” he said a day earlier. The Palestinian love affair with the firebrand Latin American leader began in earnest in January 2009 when he accused Israel of “state terrorism” during its vast 22-day offensive on Gaza and severed all diplomatic ties over its “cruel persecution of the Palestinian people.” Known for his staunch, vocal support for a Palestinian state, Chavez never made any attempt to disguise his contempt for Israel which he described as “genocidal” and a “killer state.” In Gaza City, huge pictures of the stocky former paratrooper could be seen in the streets alongside the yellow, blue and red of the Venezuelan flag which could be seen fluttering outside souvenir shops. Gaza’s Hamas rulers offered similar praise for the Venezuelan strongman who courted controversy with Washington over his close ties with anti-Western regimes in Syria and Iran. Hailing him a “great leader,” the Islamist movement said Chavez had “dedicated his life to defending the dignity and liberty of his people, to refusing to submit to the US-Israeli hegemony and who supported the Palestinian people and their cause in the face of the Zionist aggression and occupation.” “His last act of bravery was to allow the Palestinians to enter Venezuela without a visa, which many Arab leaders have yet to do,” it said.