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PA police crush new Ramallah demo

July 1, 2012 8:48 P.M. (Updated: July 3, 2012 9:57 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian protesters said security forces used brutal force Sunday during the second demonstration in as many days protesting Palestinian Authority policy.

Police attacked protesters with batons, beating and injuring at least seven people. Another seven protesters were taken to a police station along with at least two journalists, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Protesters shouted against police brutality, and the police responded by beating them. Journalists were also attacked for the second day in a row, the correspondent reported.

The reporter said Reuters photographer Saed al-Hawari was attacked and photographer Ahmad Musleh was arrested. A camera belonging to journalist Ahmad Ouda was confiscated.

Another Palestinian journalist told Ma'an that a police officer tried to hit his camera, and when he defended himself, grabbed him by the neck. While the police officer was removed by colleagues, he warned the journalist: "I will see you another day."

"It was more crazy than yesterday, you can't imagine -- they hit girls and were laughing like they don't care about Palestinians," the journalist said.

Near the headquarters of President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, a violent clash broke out as police tried to prevent protesters from crossing a line of security forces, the correspondent reported.

A spokesman for the Palestinian security services said 10 people were hospitalized, and several arrested, without providing the number of detentions.

Adnan Dmeiri said fighting only broke out when protesters tried to reach the presidential headquarters, which police are required to stop as protesting there is forbidden.

He said police were investigating who was behind the protest, saying the "agendas of those unknown movements are to create chaos and harm security and attack Palestinian police."

Dmeiri said protesters had shouted at police without being provoked and vowed to punish those who "violate" police officers.

Rally dispersed Saturday

The protest was called after security forces dispersed a rally in Ramallah on Saturday, injuring at least six protesters.

Dmeiri said later that seven people were taken into custody after they approached President Mahmoud Abbas' headquarters and refused orders to change their route.

Those detained were later released on orders from President Mahmoud Abbas, he said. Dmeiri said neither riot police nor special forces were involved, but rather it was handled by civil police.

More than ten officers and demonstrators sustained bruises as a result, according to Dmeiri.

Youth had gathered to condemn an announcement that Abbas would meet with Israeli vice premier Shaul Mofaz for talks in the city.

The talks were called off after plans to protest the event were announced, but Israeli and Palestinian officials gave conflicting accounts of why. A Fatah leader cited public opinion while Israeli media speculated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu played a role.

'Right to express opinions'

The forceful reaction to the protests drew criticism from some Palestinian officials who said the police were under standing orders not to intervene.

At a PLO executive committee meeting ahead of Saturday's march, officials reiterated their opposition to any interference against the protest, two officials told Ma'an.

One of them, PLO leader Hanan Ashrawi, said that "We did not expect or approve of anybody interfering with the protesters in any way ... We were all quite adamant about respecting the right to protest."

She added: "We felt it was a good thing that people have an opinion (about the talks with Mofaz). Anyway the people have a right to express their opinions without interference."
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