Angry protesters clashed with Palestinian security forces during a third day of protests in the West Bank. the death of a frank critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA) who died while in the custody of the PA.
Hundreds gathered in the city of Ramallah, the headquarters of the AP, to chant slogans against President Mahmoud Abbas, two days after Abbas’ forces arrested activist Nizar Banat.
According to Banat’s family, two dozen officers hit him in the head with clubs and metal rods. His death was confirmed a few hours after his arrest.
Protesters had Palestinian flags and banners from the Banat and asked Abbas, 85, to step down. “The people want to overthrow the regime,” they sang along with “leave office, Abbas!”
“We want a total political reform that really reflects the interests of the people,” Esmat Mansour told Reuters news agency.
As protesters began marching on the premises of Abbas’s office, a group of supporters of the president blocked the rally, sparking a stone-throwing exchange between the two sides. Palestinian security forces with riot gear fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters and sent many to run for cover.
PA security crackdown on protest to demand accountability after death of political activist and PLC candidate #NizarBanat in custody of PA the DMI. At least 20 protesters and three members of the PA security were injured. Five journalists attacked. AlJazeera’s latest video: pic.twitter.com/JWurEjR4uy
– Rania Zabaneh (@RZabaneh) June 26, 2021
Later, Abbas supporters gathered in a counter-rally, with dozens of chants: “People want Abbas as president.”
At least five journalists, four of them women, were injured in the protests, including Middle East Eye correspondent Shatha Hammad, who was hit in the face with a container of tear gas.
Hammad said AP forces had “intentionally targeted” journalists and used plainclothes police to attack and detain protesters.
PA thugs attacking journalists. pic.twitter.com/1cOuBKcQNo
– Tariq Dana (@TariqNDana) June 26, 2021
According to medical sources, at least 20 people were injured in the clashes.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the AP was acting in “criminal conduct.”
“The brutal repression of the PA security services in the occupied West Bank against protesters is criminal conduct and a flagrant violation of all humanitarian laws and regulations,” he said, adding that the PA acts against national considerations. and morals “.
Witness: Suppression of Ramallah’s march by security forces in civilian and official clothing pic.twitter.com/a74lrmndRI
– Xuds de Xuds (@qudsn) June 26, 2021
On Thursday, protesters had set fire to, blocked the streets of the city center and clashed with riot police in Ramallah.
Palestinians also sang against the AP on Friday Banat’s funeral in Hebron and masked gunmen fired shots into the air.
Hundreds also gathered against Abbas after Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Subcontractor to Israel”
The crackdown comes as the PA with international support faces a growing backlash from Palestinians who see it as corrupt and increasingly autocratic, a manifestation of a three-decade peace process that is not approaching nothing to Palestinian independence.
Palestinian protesters have accused the PA of being a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation.
We cannot talk about what is happening on the Palestinian streets without talking about the complex oppression. PA is just a subcontractor of the Israeli security system, both attacking journalists and critical activists. #JusticeForNizar #NizarBanat #PalestinaFree pic.twitter.com/wHYxdY1710
– Mona shtaya (@Monashtayya) June 26, 2021
The AP has controlled parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, while its rival group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, after defeating attempts by Fatah, the AP’s dominant party, to withdraw them. of power after being elected in 2006.
Critics of Abbas, who was elected for a four-year term in 2005, say he has little to show for more than a decade of close security coordination with Israel.
The European Union has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the PA over the years, and the United States and other nations have trained and equipped their security forces. The PA is internationally regarded as a key partner in efforts to revive the Middle East peace process, which came to a halt more than a decade ago.
According to human rights groups, Abbas regularly arrests critics. A Human Rights Watch official said Banat’s arrest was “no anomaly.”
In a series of posts and live videos on his Facebook page, Banat, 43, had spoken of the PA’s close security coordination with Israel, seen by many Palestinians as a betrayal, and its corruption. .
He assassinated Abbas in April calling what would have been the first Palestinian elections in 15 years. Banat was a legislative candidate on a blackboard made up of academics and opponents of the AP.
The AP said it formed a high-level committee to investigate Banat’s death. An initial forensic examination concluded that the cause of death was “unnatural.”