Rival Palestinian groups clash in protest over death of activist

Rival Palestinian groups clash in protest over death of activist

Rival groups of Palestinians clashed Sunday in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on a fourth day of protests against the death of Nizar Banat, a vocal critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA) who died in PA custody.
Nizar Banat, a 43-year-old activist from Hebron known for his social media videos exposing allegations of corruption within the Palestinian Authority, died Thursday after security forces stormed his home and violently stopped him.

Stefanie Dekker of Al Jazeera, reporting from Ramallah, said fighting erupted Sunday between protesters calling for the resignation of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and a rival group demonstrating in favor of the PA and Fatah, the Abbas party that dominates the Palestinian Authority.

“There was a small crowd of about 100 people chanting against the Palestinian Authority,” Dekker said.

“You had another crowd that was just up the street… which is pro-Fatah, the ruling elite party, coming to join them, and then confrontations ensued,” Dekker said.

Al Jazeera’s Dekker said there was “a concerted campaign” against the media covering Sunday’s protests.

“We were surrounded by six [people], I can really only call them thugs, demanding to see our camera. We weren’t shooting at the time. They actually forced us to shine the spotlight on our SMG truck, ”she said.

“Another colleague had his cameras broken. This is what has been happening for a few days. “

Palestinian supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas march in counter-demonstration as others protest death of human rights activist Nizar Banat [Abbas Momani/AFP]

Further protests against Banat’s death also took place on Sunday in his hometown of Hebron and Bethlehem, both in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian security forces in riot gear fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters in Bethlehem, sending many running for safety.

According to the initial autopsy, the wounds indicated that Banat had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, less than an hour between his arrest and his death, said the Minister. pathologist Samir Abu Zarzour.

Banat’s family said security forces used pepper spray on him, severely beat him and dragged him into a vehicle.

The Palestinian Authority has announced the opening of an investigation into Banat’s death, but has done little to quell the anger in the streets.

Following news of his death on Thursday, protesters set fire to, blocked downtown streets and clashed with riot police in Ramallah. Palestinians also chanted against the PA on Friday during Banat’s funeral in Hebron and after Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Protesters clashed with Palestinian security forces and rival pro-PA protesters in Ramallah on Saturday as hundreds attempted to march towards Abbas’ office compound.

The Banat had registered as a candidate in the Palestinian legislative elections, which had been set for May until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.

Mkhaimar Abusada, associate professor of political science at Al Azhar University in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that Abbas and the internationally supported Palestinian Authority face a growing backlash from the Palestinians over corruption and perceived authoritarianism.

“To see these masses of Palestinian demonstrators protest against the Palestinian Authority, chanting directly against President Abbas demanding his impeachment and ousting, is unprecedented,” he said.

‘A shame’

Shawan Jabareen, director of rights group Al Haq, said the confrontations between rival Palestinians in the streets on Sunday were a “shame” – especially after many Palestinians put aside their differences to unite in protest. the 11-day Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in May and the forced evictions of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem.

“Right now you see the Palestinians divided again,” he told Al Jazeera.

“To be honest with you, I worry about the people here.

Palestinians hold posters depicting human rights activist Nizar Banat during a protest in his hometown of Hebron in the occupied West Bank [Mosab Shawer/AFP]

Jabareen said many of the men in civilian clothes attacking journalists on Sunday were members of the security forces.

“They are not civilians. They are security personnel, ”Jabareen said.

Fadi Quran, a senior activist from activist group Avaaz, attended Sunday’s protest and also said PA “thugs” attacked protesters and journalists and sexually harassed women at the rally.

“It is extremely dangerous and painful what happened, all because they fear a public mobilization against Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, who continuously collaborate with the occupation and oppress the Palestinian people”, a- he declared.

The PA coordinates with Israel on security and civil matters.

“People should not see Israel and the PA as separate entities, the PA as an organ is a subcontractor of the occupation,” the Quran said.

Meanwhile, Nasri Abu Jaish, Palestinian Authority labor minister and representative of the People’s Party in government, resigned on Sunday, a member of his party said.

The left-wing Palestinian People’s Party has withdrawn from the Fatah-led PA government because of “its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms,” party member Issam Abu Bakr said.


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