Several hundred Palestinian protesters gathered Thursday in Ramallah’s Al-Manara square to rally against US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank.
The protesters shouted at the president such slogans as “Go home you devil, we don’t want to see Americans here,” and “We don’t want anything peaceful, only bullets and missiles.”
Protesters tried to march toward the Muqata presidential compound, where Obama was meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but were held back by five rows of police, according to Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
Minor scuffles broke out between police and demonstrators, Ma’an reported.
Anger also turned against Abbas during the demonstration, with protesters calling “Down with the military regime.”
Rasem al-Masri, one of the rally’s main organizers, told the daily newspaper Israel Hayom that “Obama is not welcome here.”
Al-Masri expressed his frustration with Obama, explaining that the US president has repeatedly “stated that he does not intend to pressure Israel into returning to the negotiation table,” and that “any Palestinian attempt to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council is automatically vetoed.”
Many of the protesters held up signs calling for Palestinian prisoners to be released, including Fathiya Ajaji, whose son Ahmed is in an American jail for involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993
“He didn’t do anything wrong,” Ajaji said.
Obama’s reception in Ramallah, where the US is seen as a major backer of Israel, was expected to be much frostier than in Jerusalem.
“It’s a slap in the face,” demonstrator Huwaida Arraf told Ma’an. “People are angry and disappointed that this far into his presidency, Obama has done nothing, and aid to Israel’s occupation continues to flow.”
The absence of American flags from Ramallah streets is also noticeable. The Muqata is the sole location in town where American flags can be seen, Channel 2 reported.
During the past week, hundreds of Palestinians throughout the West Bank have participated in demonstrations against the US president.
In a Wednesday demonstration held in Ramallah, protesters tore up a large portrait of Obama and called on passersby to step on the picture’s shredded remains.
In Bethlehem, portraits of Obama put up in honor of his visit were torn down and disfigured, and some were spray painted over with swastikas and black Xs.
Israel Radio reported that on Wednesday night, Palestinians burned US flags hung from electricity poles in Bethlehem ahead of Obama’s visit to the town on Friday. Obama is scheduled to visit the Church of the Nativity, the legendary birthplace of Jesus.
Palestinian residents in Gaza also expressed their disapproval of the president’s visit. On Wednesday, hundreds of Gazans attended a protest against Obama, calling the US president a “collaborator with Zionist criminals” and setting fire to pictures of him.