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PA said to ask Israel to allow in riot gear amid protests over activist’s death

Demonstrations have diminished over the past two days, but Ramallah said to be worried about resurgence; Israel has previously approved the transfer of riot control means to the PA

Palestinian security forces block a road during a demonstration in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on June 26, 2021, protesting the death of human rights activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Palestinian security forces block a road during a demonstration in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on June 26, 2021, protesting the death of human rights activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel for permission to obtain additional riot equipment in anticipation of an uptick in protests over the death of prominent opposition figure Nizar Banat while he was in the custody of PA security forces, the Ynet news site reported on Tuesday night.

PA security forces arrested Banat, who was known for his scathing social media presence criticizing the Palestinian leadership, in a raid early on Thursday morning in Hebron. According to his family, Banat was “viciously beaten” by PA officers before they dragged him away.

Banat’s death sparked protests in Hebron and Ramallah over the weekend, with thousands calling for a end to the rule of octogenarian PA President Mahmoud Abbas. PA security forces cracked down on the Ramallah demonstrations, firing tear gas and arresting protesters.

Human rights groups have alleged that PA officers in civilian clothes deliberately targeted journalists to ensure that footage of the crackdowns did not reach the press.

While the PA has a stock of riot dispersal materiel, those reserves have been somewhat depleted in recent days, leading it to ask Israel to approve further shipments, the Ynet news site reported.

The report did not clarify where the equipment could come from.

Even though the protests have diminished over the last two days, the PA is preparing for their potential return following the conclusion of a commission of inquiry into Banat’s death. Justice Minister Mohammad Shalaldeh announced on Tuesday night that he had handed the commission’s findings to prosecutors.

Palestinians hold posters depicting human rights activist Nizar Banat during a protest triggered by the violent arrest and death in custody of Banat, in his hometown of Hebron in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (MOSAB SHAWER / AFP)

Banat’s family has already said they will not accept the inquiry’s results. Both the Banat family and a prominent Palestinian human rights group withdrew their representatives from the body, leaving only the Justice Ministry and the Palestinian Authority intelligence services to carry out the investigation.

“We do not accept a crippled, hollow committee, most of whose elements represent the Palestinian Authority,” the Banat family said in a statement on Monday.

Israel controls all border crossings into and out of the West Bank, and the PA cannot obtain weaponry without coordination with Israel. But Israel has previously provided additional equipment to the PA when its security forces have struggled to maintain law and order in the West Bank.

Palestinian protesters clash with Palestinian security forces in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on June 26, 2021, following a demonstration against the death of human rights activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces earlier in the week. (ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)

In 2016, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Avigdor Liberman agreed to allow the transfer of Jordanian armored vehicles to the PA to crack down on unrest in the northern West Bank, the Haaretz daily reported at the time.

Abbas’s four-year term ended in 2009, but he has since continued his rule by emergency decree. The PA has not seen a presidential vote since Abbas’s election in 2005. Surveys regularly find that a majority of Palestinians demand his resignation.

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