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Hundreds rally in Ramallah in protest of PA police brutality

March 13, 2017 9:39 P.M. (Updated: March 14, 2017 3:08 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets on Monday afternoon in the city of Ramallah in the central West Bank to protest the brutality of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces, who on Sunday assaulted protesters at an anti-PA demonstration in Ramallah.

Sunday’s demonstrators had gathered in front of the Ramallah magistrate’s court during a hearing into an ongoing case against five Palestinian activists charged by the PA with weapons possession and planning an attack on Israel -- despite the fact that four of them are held in Israeli prison and one, Basel al-Araj, was shot dead by Israeli forces last week.

Monday’s rally was organized via Facebook with activists inviting the public to partake “in protest of the behavior of PA security forces.” Protesters marched from Manara Circle in Ramallah’s city center through a number of streets in the city.

Participants in the rally shouted slogans against police practices, demanding that police officers who assaulted protesters and journalists be brought to justice.

Protesters chanted slogans against the peace-process and in favor of armed revolution, as well as "down with military rule.”

Journalists who attended Monday’s rally deliberately wore flak vests to send a message to PA officials that they were taking the same precautions as they would if they were covering events involving armed Israeli soldiers.

Separately, several media outlets reported on smaller-scale protesters that took place in Beirut, New York, and Haifa, organized by supporters of slain activist al-Araj in opposition of PA practices leading up to and immediately following his death.

The case against the five Palestinian activists has been denounced by Palestinians for typifying the PA’s security coordination with Israel, which has been described by critics as a "revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

Following outrage over the police brutality -- footage of which has been widely shared on social media despite attempts by security forces to block coverage -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Monday that he appointed a fact-finding committee to investigate what he called "events that took place near the court compound."

Hamdallah did not indicate whether a probe would also be opened into clashes that occurred in the Duheisha refugee camp on Sunday evening -- where Palestinian security forces opened live fire in the direction of demonstrators -- which erupted after locals protested against the legal case and the PA police repression of the Ramallah protest earlier in the day.

The killing of al-Araj and the PA’s legal case against his fellow prison mates and activists has evoked a strong emotional response among Palestinians that has only increased since Sunday’s suppression of protests by the PA.

Despite Hamdallah’s investigation, PA security forces spokesman Adnan al-Dmeiri, meanwhile, accused “mercenaries” and “foreign agents” of sparking clashes to cause internal Palestinian strife, and called the protests “cheap incitement," echoing lingo used by Israeli security forces against Palestinians opposing the occupation.
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