Palestinian forces break up Ramallah protest over Gaza

Palestinian forces break up Ramallah protest over Gaza

Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas Wednesday to disperse a demonstration in the occupied West Bank opposing Palestinian punitive measures against Hamas-run Gaza, an AFP reporter said.

The demonstration in Ramallah, the West Bank city that houses the Palestinian government, came after the Palestinian government temporarily banned public protests.

Dozens of Palestinian security forces, positioned in the city’s central Manara square and roads leading to it, fired sound grenades and tear gas after hundreds of protestors began chanting in support of Gaza.

The measures forced the protestors, including men, women and children, to retreat, before returning, with the scene repeating itself for nearly an hour, an AFP reporter said, noting a number of people were arrested.

The decision to ban protests in the city came after a Sunday demonstration, in which some 2,000 Palestinians called for president Mahmud Abbas to end measures against Gaza that critics say harm the two million residents.

A statement on official news agency Wafa said Wednesday no permits for protests would be given out during the coming days — citing the Eid Muslim festival which is expected to begin Friday.

“In order to facilitate citizens’ normal life in this period, it is prohibited to grant permits to organise marches or to establish gatherings that would disrupt the movement of citizens and disturb them,” it said.

Despite the ban, organisers had vowed to go ahead with fresh anti-government protests on Wednesday night.

“The (Israeli) occupation is the main culprit responsible for the blockade on Gaza, but President Abbas is making things worse by also imposing collective punishment on families there,” campaign activist Fadi Quran said, vowing to take to the streets.

Gaza, which is only reachable from the West Bank via Israeli territory, is run by Islamists Hamas, who seized it from the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority in a 2007 near civil war.

The PA has introduced a series of measures against Gaza in the past year, while it has not paid full salaries to tens of thousands of its civil servants in the strip for months.

Critics say such moves further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.

Since 2007, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on the strip it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, but which detractors say amounts to collective punishment.

The United Nations has said the strip will be unlivable by 2020.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed. – AFP