West Bank jitters as Abbas forces crush protests

Members of the Palestinian security forces attack demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 1 July 2012 (Photo: Reuters – Mohamad Torokman)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has promised to investigate the conduct of its personnel after security forces crushed two protests over the weekend.

Minister of Interior Said Abu Ali on Monday told the Ma’an news agency he would form a committee to look into the crackdown in Ramallah, which saw at least a dozen protesters arrested and many more injured.

Several hundred protesters gathered in the city on Saturday to condemn President Mahmoud Abbas’ planned meeting with Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz and to call for an end to negotiations with the Israeli state.

They were prevented from reaching the PA’s offices, with security forces attacking dozens of protesters with batons and sticks.

The crackdown prompted a fresh protest against police brutality on Sunday, but that too was violently dispersed.

One protester, who preferred not to be named for security reasons, said he was beaten on Saturday but had returned to the streets on Sunday.

“We were marching to the PA headquarters in demonstration against the negotiations with Israel and the police blocked the road. We talked to them and said we wanted to deliver a message but they didn’t listen and started to beat us up,” he told Al-Akhbar.

“I was hit with sticks, then when I was on the ground and they started to step on me. I got a cut on my head and several bruises.”

He added that further protests were planned for Tuesday.

Al-Akhbar contributor Lazar Simeonov said the crackdown had been the most severe since March 2011, when PA forces attacked youths calling for Palestinian unity.

“People were gathered in the central square in Ramallah and tried to walk to ministry but after 200 meters they were stopped by police, both policemen in uniform and plain clothes,” he said.

“They were beating even girls on the head and back, they broke several people’s cameras and they tried to steal my camera,” he added.

Abbas has previously been accused of running a quasi-dictatorship in the West Bank, suppressing any forms of Palestinian dissent to his rule.

Abbas’ security forces are tightening their grip on the West Bank as fears of a popular revolt to his authority increase.

Below is a video of the peaceful protest in Ramallah on Sunday, which could not be independently verified:

Protester Anan Quzmar said he had reported the violence to human rights organizations but criticized the PA-run investigation for not being sufficiently independent.

“There is a massive problem with the Ministry of Interior investigating themselves. The level of violence used yesterday shows that they are not capable of monitoring themselves, particularly the fact that this is two days in a row,” he said

Elsewhere, the PA said on Monday it had detained some 200 people in recent weeks, including security officers, in a campaign that targeted an alleged illegal weapons trade.

Officials said the campaign was unusual because its targets included alleged vigilante gunmen linked to President Abbas’ Fatah movement.

Of some 200 people detained since May, just under 100 have been released after surrendering their weapons while the others remain in custody, said police spokesman Adnan Damiri. In all, about 100 guns have been seized, he said.

The weapons roundup was sparked by a shooting attack in May on the house of the governor of the Jenin district, Kadoura Mousa, who later died of a heart attack. Damiri said suspects in that shooting are among those in detention.

The operation focuses on the Jenin district, the largest contiguous area under Palestinian self-rule.

Israel maintains an illegal occupation in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and a siege on Gaza.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an, AP)

LIVE BLOG | Violent PA suppression of protest in Ramallah | Incl Footage

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