For two consecutive days, EU and US-trained Palestinian Authority (PA) police and un-uniformed thugs attack Palestinians protesting against the invitation of Israeli war criminal Shaul Mofaz to Ramallah.
Saturday 30th June started as a protest against the invitation of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas extended to former Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Chief-of-Staff and former Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. Following massive opposition to the visit, from the independent Palestinian youth movements, as well as from political parties across the board , the PA postponed the visit. Mofaz was Chief-of-Staff of the IOF from 1998 until 2003, and then Israeli Defence Minister from 2003 until 2006, making him directly responsible for Israeli war crimes during the Second Intifada and the during the 2006 war against Lebanon. Under his command, the IOF carried out numerous atrocities, such as the massacre in Jenin refugee camp in 2002 and the murder of thousands of Palestinian civilians, including hundreds of children.
Despite the alleged postponement of the meeting, the demonstrators decided to continue with the planned protest in order to underline their fury that such an invitation was issued in the first place, and to stress that no such meeting should occur with representatives of the Israeli occupation. Some 200 people gathered at Al-Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah, and began to move towards the Muqata'a, the fortress-like base of the PA. On their way people in the streets joined the protest and the crowd swelled to almost 1000 people. Before the protestors could reach close to the Muqata'a, lines of PA police formed human chains to block the road. Protesters managed to break through these and continued as far as the taxi stations on Al-Irsal street, where they were met by a second line of police. Demanding to reach the Muqata'a to deliver a message that they refuse to return to negotiations under the current conditions, and that the invitation of Mofaz to any area at least formally under PA control is an insult to all who have been murdered by the IOF, and to the thousands of prisoners still in Israeli jails.
Women led the Saturday demonstration from the front, and faced the initial onslaught of the PA police and mukhabarat. The repression started with plain-clothed thugs attacking members of the crowd with telescopic batons and metal chains, dragging people along the ground to the police station next to Al-Manara Square. There the protesters were beaten and then released to be treated at hospital for their injuries. From witness reports, the majority of Saturday's violence was perpetrated by the mukhabarat, the plain-clothed secret police who often outnumber uniformed police at political events in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities.
While the pale-blue shirts of the PA civilian police delegated much of the brutality to the plain-clothed mukhabarat on Saturday, yesterday (Sunday 1st July)'s violence surpassed that of the day before, with the PA police enthusiastically demonstrating their complete opposition to popular manifestations of discontent within Area A. While Saturday's march was organised specifically to protest Mahmoud Abbas's invitation to Mofaz, yesterday's demonstration was in response to the regime's violence, which resulted in some 20 people being treated in hospital for their injuries and three seriously injured.
Starting from Al-Manara Square, demonstrators, numbering around 500, marched in formation towards the scene of Saturday's worst violence. Linking arms and stamping their feet in defiance of the line of baton-wielding police who awaited them, the demonstrators stopped some ten metres from the police lines. The chief of the PA police in Ramallah remonstrated with the crowd for about ten or fifteen minutes, but the crowd moved forward. Many mainly female protesters managed to move past the police lines, causing the police line to temporarily break and reform twenty metres behind its original position. At this point the police, who had their batons drawn from the very start, started to beat protesters.
People tried as best as they could to defend themselves, but the police surged forward, striking people as they held their hands in the air. The police operation was chaotic and didn't appear to have any purpose other than to inflict as much pain and violence as possible on the crowd. Female protesters, many barely in their twenties, were not spared the violence, with many falling to the ground and being trampled by the police. As protesters went to the defence of others, they themselves became the target of this police rage. The situation was chaotic, with mukhabarat punching protesters in the face, and several police officers seeming to temporarily lose control of their own actions, screaming and lashing out at anyone within striking distance.
There were horrifying scenes as people had to negotiate the many cars in the street as they tried to escape the surges of police beatings, with people being beaten as they tried to scramble over cars and jump over fences. Many people were crying, and the pavement along Al-Irsal Street saw several people lying on the ground being treated for their wounds, with some police officers continuing to chase protesters along the street.
As with Saturday, around over 20 people were treated in hospital for their injuries with another three seriously injured. At least one protester had to be treated for a head injury sustained after being struck on the head with a baton. One protester was kidnapped by police and mukhabarat, beaten, and then released, receiving X-rays and treatment for his injuries. Around fifty demonstrators marched from Al-Manara Square to the hospital, and stayed in the courtyard to offer solidarity with the injured, and to defend the injured from further police violence and kidnapping.
As with Saturday, journalists, Palestinian and foreign, were also attacked by the police and mukhabarat, with several being struck with batons and at least three cameras being stolen by police.
We condemn unreservedly the brutal violence of the PA police and mukhabarat against unarmed protesters, the kidnappings and beatings, and the attacks on journalists and theft of their property.
We offer our complete solidarity with all those who were at Saturday and Sunday's demonstrations, all those who were beaten, kidnapped, injured and brutalised by the PA police and mukhabarat. To see Palestinian police, with the Palestinian flag on their uniforms, beating unarmed Palestinians in the streets of Ramallah, is a particularly shocking sight that forces a deep examination of the role of PA security forces in occupied Palestine.
For Videos from Saturday and Sunday's demonstrations: