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Gaza authorities release Palestinians detained during electricity protests

Jan. 16, 2017 6:11 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 16, 2017 7:51 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Security authorities in the Gaza Strip said on Monday that they had released all Palestinians who had been detained for their involvement in recent protests against the enclave's devastating electricity crisis, which left the majority of Palestinians there with only three hours of power a day.

The announcement came the same day that funding arrived in Gaza from Qatar, which would enable the electricity company to return to its normal schedule of eight hours of power followed by eight hours without.

Leader of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Mahmoud Khalaf told Ma’an that the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces Committee held a meeting on Monday with the head of Gaza's security forces Tawfiq Abu Naim, where it was agreed to release the detainees.

Spokesperson of Gaza's Ministry of Interior Iyad al-Buzm said in a statement that those who were detained on suspicion of "creating chaos during the protests" were released as "a token of appreciation" for the role political factions and security forces played "in supporting popular causes for the Palestinian people."

It had already been announced on Sunday that a member of the the socialist Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), Adnan al-Faqaawi, was released, after being held incommunicado in a detention center for his alleged involvement in the protests.

Hamas’ security forces were accused of assaulting journalists and restricting the freedom of expression of demonstrators amid the protests, with rights groups and United Nations harshly criticizing Hamas for possible human rights violations and its suppression of dissent amid the protests.

According to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), security forces arrested, attacked, and beat civilians during and after the demonstration, and at least three journalists were targeted while covering the protests.

AFP photographer Muhammad al-Baba told MADA: "after I finished covering the demonstration I was stopped by police members who tried to confiscate my camera. Although I informed them that I am a journalist performing my job, they insisted and continued to forcefully confiscate my camera.

"When they failed to pull the camera, one of them hit me on my face above my left eyebrow, using a cudgel. I started bleeding, they took my camera, and I was transferred to Kamal Odwan Hospital, where they stitched my injury and transferred me to the Indonesian Hospital to receive the medical treatment and do some medical tests and X-rays."

Gaza's Ministry of Interior said at the time that al-Baba sustained “an unintentional bruise in the face” while police were “trying to push away people from the headquarters of the electricity company.”

Separately, a reporter for the Associated Press (AP) Fares al-Ghoul told Ma’an that members of security put a gun to his chest and forced him to turn over his cellphone and camera.

The internal security service also summoned freelance journalist Salah Abdullah Abu Salah, and he was "abusively interrogated" for hours over reports he wrote that were critical of the poor service provided by the electricity sector.

He told MADA that he was blindfolded for two hours in a cell prior to his interrogation.

MADA also said that the spokesman of Fatah in Gaza Strip, Fayez Abu Eita, was detained for a few hours.

Adel al-Mashwakhi was also arrested by military police after he posted a video on his Facebook page criticizing the Hamas movement over the past week.

Since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and became the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, the movement has stifled many dissident voices in the blockaded Palestinian territory.
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