RAMALLAH: Hundreds of Palestinian activists demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah Tuesday to protest against the violent dispersal of two similar rallies over the weekend.
The demonstrations are a rare expression of public discontent with the West Bank’s ruling Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.
As the rally got started at 1400 GMT, several hundred activists waved Palestinian flags, watched by only a handful of local police.
The demonstration was called by the “Palestinians for Dignity” youth group, and comes after Palestinian police broke up two earlier protests Saturday and Sunday.
“With this march we emphasize that the people are the source of authority, and that we reject the use of violence against the Palestinian people by any and all hands,” the youth group said in a statement.
On Sunday evening, Palestinian police and plainclothes security officials beat a crowd of around 200 demonstrators in Manara Square, injuring at least three and arresting several others.
Sunday’s rally followed a demonstration a day earlier called by activists to protest against a planned meeting between Abbas and Israeli Deputy Premier Shaul Mofaz, who they accused of “crimes” against the Palestinians.
During that demonstration, Palestinian security forces prevented protesters from marching to Abbas’ Ramallah headquarters, and clashes broke out.
At least three activists were hospitalized, and security forces also attacked journalists covering the rally. At least seven people were arrested.
In the wake of Sunday’s violence, Abbas’ office said it would establish a commission to investigate the incidents.
In a statement carried by the official WAFA news agency, Abbas’ office said the commission would be headed by Munib al-Masri, an independent political figure.
“We will not permit any type of violation of freedom of expression and the right to free assembly, including the right to protest in a manner consistent with the law,” Abbas said in the statement. “We will not permit any abuse on the part of official bodies against our people,” he said, adding that “we will not accept any attack on the prestige of official institutions.”
The protests were sparked by a bid last week by activists to prevent a scheduled meeting between Abbas and Mofaz in Ramallah, which was later canceled with neither side giving an explanation for the decision.
The demonstrators Tuesday called on Abbas to abandon peace talks with Israel altogether, waving signs reading: “No to negotiations with the murderer Mofaz.”
Protest organizers also called on Abbas and his government to issue “an unequivocal announcement to abandon negotiations” with Israel.