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Police in Gaza break up Egypt solidarity rally

Feb. 1, 2011 2:10 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 3, 2011 2:29 P.M.)
Correction appended

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Police in the Gaza Strip shut down a demonstration Monday in support of the uprising in Egypt.

Activists said six women and two men were arrested at a park in Gaza City, where a few dozen demonstrators had gathered.

The women were released after a few hours. It was not immediately clear when the men were freed because they were separated, one of the protesters said.

Asmaa Al-Ghoul, a Gaza-based journalist and writer, was among those detained.

"Hamas police arrested me with group of demonstrators in Gaza in solidarity with Egyptian people," she wrote on Twitter. "Women's police beat me violently" and detained other young women.

They were standing in solidarity with the Egyptian uprising, Al-Ghoul added.

Human Rights Watch slammed Gaza's Hamas rulers for breaking up the rally.

"The Hamas authorities should stop arbitrarily interfering with peaceful demonstrations about Egypt or anything else," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group's Middle East director, in a statement.

"Police committing unlawful arrests and abusing demonstrators should be held to account," she said.

A day earlier, Palestinian Authority security forces shut down a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah, after calling in one of the organizers for questioning multiple times a day earlier.

Forces pushed demonstrators and a man who identified himself as a police commander said the demonstrators were in a "security area" and would have to disperse, they said.

The PA banned a similar demonstration in solidarity with the uprising in Tunisia last week.

Human Rights Watch urged the PA to stop its "arbitrary interference with peaceful demonstrations."

Palestinians have eagerly followed the revolution in Tunisia and the unprecedented protests sweeping across Egypt, but the PA has offered little comment, saying only it hoped the country would weather the unrest.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian writer and activist, said neither authority tolerated protests.

"Fatah and Hamas agree on so little; at the core of that little common denominator lies repression of dissent and suppression of freedoms," Barghouti said Monday in an email.

(This version CORRECTS the number of men who were arrested.)
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