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Palestine protests live report

March 16, 2011 7:40 P.M. (Updated: March 18, 2011 10:57 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- 0150: Here ends our live report on events in Ramallah on Wednesday. Below is a recap of the main developments of the day. We'll be back tomorrow.

0110: According to the same group in Gaza, quoting eyewitnesses, a girl was kidnapped today beside Ash-Shifa hospital after taking photos of Hamas officers.

0020: The Gaza Youth Break Out movement reports: Organizers getting phone calls from unknown numbers saying that they will be killed if they keep moving on the March 15 movement. Three activists in Gaza were sitting together when they received the same call, a spokesman for the group said.

2310: Another fight just broke out. Police moving in to break it up. This is getting repetitive. Protesters are singing and waving flags. Fatah crowd standing around watching.

2301: Our correspondent says the Fatah mob is complaining to police about her presence at the scene in Manara, apparently after reading this live report. The police are keeping an eye on the situation, she says. She and the protesters agree that the police have generally acted to keep things calm so far.

2258: A mob of Fatah loyalists tried to attack a foreign photographer. Police arrived pointing guns and dragged him into a station for his own protection. "The chief of police was really cool," he says.

2250: A female protester was injured in the attack against March 15 demonstrators by Fatah loyalists who arrived in Manara. She is being treated in an ambulance. Protest has regrouped in Manara, chanting again.

2239: Another fight breaks out. Police are running in again. Much bigger scuffle than last time. People are screaming and running everywhere. Stay tuned for more.

2230: Fatah group is dispersed, protesters have Manara back.

2211: President Abbas is ready to head to Gaza in coming days, his spokesman says. In a statement posted on the official Palestinian news agency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh says Abbas wants to meet Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders to form a government to prepare for elections under international supervision.

2229: The protester just walked out of the ambulance. "He looks fine to me," says our correspondent.

2219: A big fight just broke out between the groups. A March 15 protester is being carried into an ambulance. A few within the Fatah group are determined to cause trouble. Police are intervening.

2204: There is only one female protester in the Fatah group, as opposed to the rather mixed March 15 crowd. Draw your own conclusions.

2200: Plainclothes security have forced at least four people to delete all their photos.

2152: The protesters are holding a sign calling for a new Palestinian National Council. They're all clapping and chanting and appear united. The Fatah arrivals "look quite lost, just standing around and not chanting," according to our correspondent. They seem to have no real purpose.

2150: All good things must come to an end: Now Fatah people are holding signs saying things like "No, no, no to a new PNC," "NGO = Israel," and "No to Mustafa Barghouthi and Khalida Jarrar." They also turned the stereo back on, it's deafening. They're chanting about wanting Mahmoud Abbas again.

2149: Could we be on the verge of a breakthrough? Now the Fatah group is saying they too refuse the division, speaking over a loudspeaker. They say they want to form one circle with the protesters. The Fatah group leader also salutes the hunger-strikers, turns off the stereo.

2140: Fatah people trying to break into circle, acting very aggressively. Male protesters form a ring around female protesters. Last night it was the opposite.

2129: Protesters are chanting, "The people want to end the division" and "New Palestinian council." Clashes after Fatah crowd shoves protesters in Manara. Protesters are singing and clapping defiantly.

2127: Now the Fatah crowd is shouting, "The people want Mahmoud Abbas." This is in contrast to the organizers' call to keep from talking about individual figures.

2121: Fatah crowd is very loud and confrontational. Not shouting slogans, just blasting music. At least 100 of them pushing against protesters, saying they don't raise flags but are here as Palestinians. They support Abbas' decision to go to Gaza to negotiate an end to the split, they say.

2120: One hunger-striker says they are avoiding clashes because the Fatah people are being paid by the hour and only have to do this for another two hours anyway.

2115: Fatah supporters arrive in Manara with huge stereo, blasting Fatah music to drown out March 15 movement organizers who are playing guitars and drums.

2045: Activists release video with highlights from Tuesday's demonstrations across the occupied territories. Do you have footage to share? Send it to [email protected]

2023: Even more food-related chants: "No falafal, no cola!"

2011: The food issue is growing more contentious among the protesters. Some saying they must accept it as a matter of respect. Others say it's an obvious ploy to break the hunger-strikers' resolve.

2008: Around 500 people have gathered in Manara. They're chanting, "The police and the people are one." Boxes of food going back to jeeps full, many refusing to eat. Not our correspondent!

2006: The hunger-strikers are gathering in a different area away from the food.

2003: Slogans in support of Gaza, condemning Hamas' crackdown. President Abbas sends food again, four jeeps' worth. One organizer says that while they appreciate the gesture, they don't want it brought near the hunger-strikers. They have also asked the police to join the protests.

2001: Footage from a demonstration at Gaza City's Azhar University. Send more to [email protected] Our journalists in Bethlehem are reviewing submissions around the clock.

2000: Second: Immediate release of all political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, supervised by the Independent Commission for Human Rights. An end to repression of protests.

Third: A complete halt of incitement on media of all types and by both parties.

19:45: Protesters in Manara square begin listing demands. The first: Palestinian National Council elections guaranteeing representation of all Palestinians wherever they are.

1945: Gaza Youth Break Out denies reports that a Palestinian was killed in Gaza.

1930: Protesters in Ramallah's Manara square say they will shortly release a list of demands.

1900: Protesters in Ramallah say the police are being helpful and protecting them, despite the presence of a handful of agitators. Still, the protest has remained peaceful all day. March 15 youth have handed out statements of demands which they say they plan to hand over to PLO officials.

1818: The UN's envoy to the Middle East throws his support behind President Abbas' statement that he would go to the Gaza Strip to reconcile with Hamas: "I very much welcome this development and hope that President Abbas' visit to Gaza will happen soon," Robert Serry says. "I think it is very important that the leaders respond to the clear wish of the people to reunite. Unity is overdue and vital for Palestinian legitimate aspirations."

1800: Received footage of a Hamas security agent assaulting a woman to make her remove a Palestinian flag she was carrying. The video was recorded today, according to activists in Gaza.

1645: The Foreign Press Association says it is "gravely concerned" by Hamas’ crackdown on the media Tuesday. On a day ostensibly devoted to unity, "police brutally attacked photographers and cameramen, beating them, breaking equipment and confiscating photos and video footage," it said.

"This is the latest in a string of chilling attacks on reporters in Gaza. We again implore the authorities to respect the basic right of freedom of the press and to let all journalists do their jobs freely and safely."

1437: Hamas security forces have attacked students carrying out a demonstration at Al-Azhar University. Students tell us a group of men wearing civilian clothing surrounded entrances and prevented protesters from leaving. When they insisted on exiting, witnesses said, the protesters were beaten with batons.

The group was carrying banners and shouting slogans calling for an end to division. AFP quoted university sources saying at least 10 students were taken to hospital after being beaten and around 20 were arrested.

1600: Twitter is abuzz with rumors that Hamas killed a Palestinian demonstrator in Gaza City. Ma'an has not been able to confirm the reports, though two people were separately killed in an airstrike.

1331: President Abbas says he is ready to visit the Gaza Strip in an effort to promote reconciliation between his Fatah party and Hamas: "I am ready to delay the formation of the new government to give Hamas a chance to join," he said in a speech at the start of a two-day meeting of the PLO leadership.

0937: Ten hunger strikers and twenty supporters slept in the center of Ramallah, waking Wednesday morning to prepare for another day of protests, which were called for 11 a.m.

Hannah Patchett reported from Ramallah; editing by George Hale in Bethlehem.
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