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PA forces arrest local activists over protest against US delegation in Bethlehem

Jan. 31, 2018 12:24 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 31, 2018 2:16 P.M.)
PA security forces (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces on Tuesday briefly detained at one Palestinian activist and summoned at least four others for interrogation over their involvement in a protest earlier in the day against a visiting American delegation.

Locals told Ma’an that Mohammad Lutfi, a local activist and resident of the Aida refugee camp, was arrested on Tuesday evening by PA security forces. Three other activists identified as Anas Abu Srour, Ahmad Odeh, Ibrahim Msallam, were summoned for interrogation with PA special security in Bethlehem. A fourth activist was also summoned, though his identity remained unknown.

Shortly after the detention of Lutfi, dozens of Palestinians from the Aida refugee camp and the surrounding area took to the PA headquarters in Bethlehem to demand the release of Lutfi. PA forces released Lutfi after he, along with the four others, were made to sign documents saying they would appear for interrogation on Wednesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lutfi, along with the other activists were filmed as they interrupted a meeting of Palestinian officials and American delegates at the office of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Lutfi and other activists held signs denouncing US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and comparing Trump and America to Nazim and ISIS.

In the video of the protest, brief physical confrontations can be seen between the activists and Palestinian employees of the office, who were attempting to have the activists removed.

The activists called on all the Americans in the room to leave, saying they “are not welcome here anymore.”

Tensions in the occupied Palestinian territory have remained high since US President Donald Trump announced in early December 2017 that the US would be recognizing Jerusalem -- the Eastern half of which is illegally occupied by Israel under international law -- as the capital of Israel, breaking with longstanding US policy in the region.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has announced that it would withhold millions of dollars in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN Agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees.

Trump made the announcement after a series of threats he made earlier this month, where he accused Palestinians of showing "no appreciation," and said payments were conditional on other countries "stepping up to the plate" and contributing more.

The move has sparked protests and calls for a full boycott of American intervention in Palestinian political, economic, and civilian life.

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