by: Ilse Posselt
Wednesday, 15 March 2017 | Large-scale demonstrations swept through the city of Ramallah on Sunday and Monday as protestors demanded that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas step down.
The calls for his resignation were, however, not born from discontent over the rife corruption, gross mismanagement or violation of basic human rights perpetrated by the government, supposedly tasked with the welfare of the Palestinian people. According to Israeli and international media, the demonstrators’ anger over Abbas had one source: the PA’s security cooperation with Israel.
Security cooperation between Israel and the PA serves as one of the cornerstones of the Oslo Accords and has been ongoing since 1993, despite being widely unpopular among the Palestinian public. The policy which has Israeli troops and Abbas’s forces working together against Islamic militants is considered by both sides as key to stability in the Palestinian governed areas of Judea and Samaria.
This particular series of demonstrations was aimed at railing against the PA for helping Israel locate the members of a terror cell. Four of the members are currently in Israeli custody. The fifth member, Bassel al-Aaraj, was killed earlier this month in a fire fight with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops. According to the Israeli army, soldiers came to arrest al-Aaraj at his hideout on 5 March 2016. Al-Aaraj opened fire on the soldiers and was killed during the ensuing exchange.
The PA initially arrested the five-member terror cell in 2016 for planning attacks against Israel and the possession of illegal fire arms. The arrests resulted in an outcry from the Palestinian public. The five terrorists also went on a hunger strike and the PA conceded to their release, stressing that they would still stand trial for the possession of illegal weapons.
Israel subsequently arrested four of the five terror cell members while the fifth, al-Aaraj, was killed resisting arrest.
The trial for the four terror cell members started on Sunday in Ramallah, sparking large-scale protests in front of the courthouse. Palestinians view the hearing as a direct result of the security cooperation between Israel and the PA.
PA security forces reacted to the demonstrations by dispersing the protestors using tear gas, clubs and batons. A number of journalists and civilians, including al-Aaraj’s father, were injured in the violent crack-down. Video clips have also surfaced showing the PA security forces beating protestors with batons and dragging both men and women from the scene, The Times of Israel reports.
Monday’s protests were altogether more peaceful. Under the gaze of armed PA security forces, demonstrators chanted, “Security coordination is treason,” “Down with security cooperation,” and “The people want the fall of the president.”
While demonstrations against the PA policy of security cooperation with Israel happen from time-to-time, the public have rarely made the PA president their target, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Following Sunday’s violence, Abbas’s main political rival, Mohammed Dahlan, was quick to speak out against the current PA president. He called on Abbas to cease all cooperation with the Jewish state, citing Israel’s alleged continued construction in Judea and Samaria as well as Jerusalem growing “more and more” Jewish.
Hamas, the terror group in charge of the Gaza Strip, also commented on the events. Hamas spokesperson, Hazem Qassem, hailed the violent crackdown as a “national crime” and demanded that the perpetrators be “held accountable and punished.”
Posted on March 15, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 15 March 2015)
Photo Credit: Public Domain/ Wikipedia
Photo License: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Una_strada_centrale_di_Ramallah.JPG
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