Hundreds of Palestinian activists have demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah to protest against the violent dispersal of two similar rallies at the weekend.
Watched by only a handful of local police, the activists waved Palestinian flags in a rare expression of public discontent with the West Bank’s ruling Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
The demonstration on Tuesday, called by the youth group “Palestinians for Dignity” after Palestinian police broke up protests on Saturday and Sunday, passed without incident.
“With this march we emphasise that the people are the source of authority, and that we reject the use of violence against the Palestinian people by any and all hands,” said the group.
Chanting for an end to the Oslo accords, which were meant to pave the way to permanent peace with Israel, the flag-waving crowd cut through Ramallah’s crammed city centre under the watchful eye of plainclothes security officers.
“The streets are open to us today, and that’s the result of a political decision. They realise the violence before made them
look bad,” said Ali Nakhle, a student who joined approximately 400 others, mainly youthful protesters.
|Protests were covered by a large media cohort|
[Ahmad Nimer/Al Jazeera]
On Sunday evening, Palestinian police and plainclothes security officials beat a crowd of about 200 demonstrators in Manara Square, injuring at least three and arresting several others.
It came a day after a demonstration called by activists to protest against a planned meeting between Abbas and Israeli vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz, who they accused of “crimes” against the Palestinians.
During that demonstration, Palestinian security forces prevented protesters from marching to Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters, and clashes broke out.
At least three activists were hospitalised, and security forces also attacked journalists covering the rally. At least seven people were arrested.
Following Sunday’s violence, Abbas’s office said it would establish a commission to investigate the incidents.
In a statement carried by the official WAFA news agency, Abbas’ office said the commission would be headed by Munib al-Masri, an independent political figure.
‘Freedom of expression’
“We will not permit any type of violation of freedom of expression and the right to free assembly, including the right to protest in a manner consistent with the law,” Abbas said in the statement.
“We will not permit any abuse on the part of official bodies against our people,” he said, adding that “we will not accept any attack on the prestige of official institutions.”
In a statement after its weekly meeting, the cabinet affirmed “its commitment to the protection of freedom of opinion and expression” while noting such incidents cannot be repeated and holding accountable those who break the
The protests were initally sparked by a bid last week by activists to prevent a scheduled meeting between Abbas and Mofaz in Ramallah, which was later cancelled with neither side giving an explanation for the decision.
But the demonstrations quickly became an opportunity to express larger frustrations with the PA, calling The demonstrators on Tuesday called on Abbas to abandon peace talks with Israel altogether, waving signs reading: “No to negotiations with the murderer Mofaz.”
Protest organisers also called on Abbas and his government to issue “an unequivocal announcement to abandon negotiations” with Israel, calling it the “bare minimum” they expected from him.
The 1993 Oslo Accords gave the Palestinians limited self-rule in the occupied territories, and set out guidelines for future peace talks to end the Middle East conflict. However, a lasting deal has proved elusive and the latest round of talks collapsed two years ago in a dispute over continued Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
The protesters, who do not appear to belong to any political faction, called for a fresh rally on Thursday, hoping their grass-root movement, which first took to the streets at the weekend, will gather momentum.