Palestinian Authority security forces reportedly used live fire to disperse a violent protest by Palestinian youths gathered in the Deheishe refugee camp outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank on Sunday evening.
Police were said to have used live bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
Dozens of Palestinians marched from Deheishe to the nearby village of Artas to protest legal proceedings brought against six Palestinian activists arrested by the Palestinian Authority last year, one of whom was killed in a shootout with the Israeli military earlier this month, and against alleged police brutality during a demonstration outside the Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah earlier Sunday.
The six were detained last April on charges of possession of illegal weapons and planning an attack against Israel. After the arrests, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told the German daily Der Spiegel that the operation had been the fruit of security cooperation between Israel and the PA. Ma’an reported that the six were tortured while in PA custody.
They were released six months later, according to a Palestinian court ruling, after they went on a hunger strike that grabbed headlines in Palestinian media.
Among them was Basel Al-A’araj, 31, a prominent activist in campaigns against Israel and the Palestinian Authority and a well-known local personality who was killed last week in a Ramallah hideout after he opened fire at Israeli forces who came to arrest him, the IDF said.
After his release from PA prison, he had appeared on an Israeli wanted list, and four of his same associates were rearrested by Israeli forces. An IDF operation to arrest him last week descended into a shootout, resulting in his death, according to the Israeli military which also said that an M-16 rifle and an improvised Carlo-style submachine gun were found in the house.
On Friday, the army backtracked on its decision to hand over the remains of Al-A’araj’s body, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. The IDF confirmed that it would not yet be handing over the body, but declined to say if it had ever planned to.
The lawyer of the other four re-detained suspects filed for the charges against them to be dropped in the Ramallah Magistrate Court, a request ignored by the judge, who postponed the trial until April arguing that they might be released by Israel by then and could face the proceedings.
The charges against Al-A’araj were dropped after his death certificate was procured, Ma’an reported.
Earlier Sunday, Palestinian Authority security forces used batons and tear gas to suppress a protest against the legal proceedings outside the Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah and where the case against Al-A’araj was eventually dropped.
Video showed Palestinian security forces beating back protesters with batons and violently dragging men and women away from the scene. Police also fired tear gas into the crowd.
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) March 12, 2017
Ma’an reported that six protesters were detained and 11 were injured, among them Mahmoud al-A’araj, A’araj’s father.
Protesters shouted “the son of the martyr,” as security forces beat A’araj’s father while he lay on the ground, videos from the scene showed.