Several hundred Palestinians marched in an anti-government protest Monday, calling for the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and criticizing the PA’s security coordination with Israel.
Separately, Palestinian journalists staged a sit-in nearby to protest the violent dispersal of an anti-government protest by Palestinian riot police on Sunday.
Sunday’s protest outside the Magistrate’s Court in Ramallah was over the trial of Basel al-A’araj and five accomplices on charges of illegal weapons possession.
A’araj, 31, a prominent activist in campaigns against Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was killed last week in his hideout in Ramallah after he opened fire at Israeli forces who came to arrest him, the IDF said.
During Sunday’s protest, helmeted troops beat demonstrators and journalists with clubs. Jihad Barakat of Palestine Today TV said he was pushed and that his camera was broken. He said he saw three colleagues being beaten with clubs.
PA security forces also reportedly used live fire to break up a demonstration on Sunday at the Deheishe refugee camp outside of Bethlehem over the trial.
Critics have said Abbas and his government are becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent.
Dozens of people have been detained after peaceful protests in the past six months, though most were released, said Amar Dweik, head of Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah promised Monday that he would launch an investigation into Sunday’s incident. He said he formed a committee that includes Dweik, the deputy interior minister and members of the lawyers’ union.
Hamdallah also reportedly met with commanders from the Palestinian Authority’s security services on Monday, with the Ma’an news agency quoting him as saying “nobody is above the law — that includes security officers.”
He also reportedly said that he “completely refuses any violation of freedom of speech and freedom of opinion” and that the Palestinian Authority “remain[s] committed to the protection of journalists.”
During Monday’s protest in Ramallah, marchers called on Abbas to resign and chanted that “security coordination is treason.” The policy, in which Abbas’ forces and Israeli troops cooperate against Islamic militants, is unpopular among Palestinians.
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Demonstrators also chanted, “The people want the downfall of Oslo,” in reference to the 1990s Oslo Accords which set in place the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and led to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority.
While numerous polls over recent years have shown a majority of Palestinians want Abbas to step down, public calls in the center of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority’s power, are rare.
Nearby, dozens of journalists protested against Sunday’s violence by the security forces.
Nasser Abu Bakr, head of the journalists’ union, said his organization demands that the riot troops who beat journalists on Sunday be put on trial.