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Palestinian labor minister to quit amid protests over activist’s death

Nasri Abu Jaishto to resign on Monday as his Left-wing Palestinian People’s Party withdraws from PA government over death in custody of Nizar Banat

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

The labor minister in the Palestinian Authority will resign, a member of his party said Sunday, as protesters marched for a fourth day demanding PA president Mahmoud Abbas step down.

The left-wing Palestinian People’s Party has decided to withdraw from the Fatah-led PA government due to “its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms,” central committee member Issam Abu Bakr said.

Nasri Abu Jaish, the labor minister and the People’s Party representative in the government, will therefore resign on Monday, Abu Bakr told AFP.

Demonstrations against the PA erupted Thursday following the violent arrest and death in custody of activist Nizar Banat and continued Sunday evening.

Banat, a 43-year-old known for social media videos denouncing alleged corruption within the PA, died on Thursday shortly after security forces stormed his house, beat him, and dragged him away, his family said.

The PA has announced the opening of an investigation into Banat’s death, but it has done little to appease anger on the streets.

Screen capture from video of then Palestinian Authority Ambassador to Tanzania, Nasri Abu Jaish. (YouTube)

On Sunday evening, protesters defied a heavy deployment of security forces, holding up photographs of the activist as they marched in the West Bank, in Banat’s hometown of Hebron.

In Ramallah, the seat of the PA, protesters demanded those responsible for Banat’s death be held accountable, while several supporters of the Fatah party of Abbas gathered to shout slogans backing the president.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate called for the dismissal of the PA police chief “due to the police’s failure to protect journalists who were attacked, prevented from reporting and threatened” within view of police officers at the protests.

According to the autopsy, injuries indicated Banat had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs, and hands, with less than hour elapsing between his arrest and his death, doctor Samir Abu Zarzour said.

On Saturday, protesters in Ramallah hurled rocks at Palestinian security forces, who opened fire with a barrage of tear gas canisters, with reports of several injured.

Nizar Banat, an outspoken of the Palestinian Authority, speaks to journalists at the family house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, May 4, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq on Sunday accused security forces of “attacking the participants with batons and rocks” while dragging others to the ground and beating them, adding that some suffered head injuries.

Protesters called for 86-year-old Abbas to quit.

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

The president’s original mandate expired in 2009 and he has since governed by decree.

In April, Abbas declared that legislative and presidential polls set for May and July respectively should not be held until Israel guaranteed voting could take place in annexed East Jerusalem.

Al-Haq warned there had been a “serious regression on public rights and freedoms” since the decision to scrap the elections.

In addition to holding the presidency, Abbas is also head of Fatah and president of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), recognized internationally as representing the Palestinians.

But Fatah faces a growing challenge from its longtime rivals, the Islamist terror organization Hamas, which rules the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza.

 

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