July 25, 2021

Palestinian Authority intensifies repression in West Bank

A thin white bandage conceals the top of Shatha Hammad’s cheekbone. We guess a bruise on the bridge of his nose. “I thought I was going to lose my eye”, blows the journalist. On June 26, she covered a demonstration in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority (PA), in the West Bank. Hundreds of people have gathered to demand justice after an activist, Nizar Banat, was killed when arrested by Palestinian security forces two days earlier – presumably beaten to death. “A man, dressed in civilian clothes, first tried to grab my cell phone and attack me. He wore a mask so as not to be recognized ”, said the 32-year-old Palestinian woman, a purple veil framing her tired face.

In front of the demonstrators, a group of supporters of Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and members of the security forces stand in the way. That day, a man was dragged several meters, kicked and beaten with stones, as the crowd tried to hold him back in the face of an outburst of violence from PA supporters. Shatha Hammad moves away a little; she was suddenly hit in the face by a tear gas projectile. She claims to have been targeted knowingly because she is a journalist.

Lead screed

The next day, Sunday, “They were around 500 members of the security forces, if not more, dressed in civilian clothes, attacking the demonstrators and beating them, armed with tear gas and sticks ”, says the young woman. “Usually, the Palestinian Authority represses and then tries to give itself the image of a democratic institution. So we thought that after what happened on Thursday, Saturday they would give us space to express our anger. We were surprised! “ On July 3, another demonstration took place rather calmly, but the accesses to the presidential palace were cordoned off and certain roads closed to prevent the arrival of demonstrators from other cities.

Palestinian activist Shatha Hammad shows on her phone a photo of the injury she suffered during a protest a few days earlier.  In Silwad (Palestine), June 30, 2021.

At the same time, the effective lead screed established by the AP is operating at full capacity. Power in Ramallah “Did not recognize or explain anything, it is as if nothing had happened” after the repression of the demonstrations, is indignant Shatha Hammad. The institutions remain silent; Faced with the inaction of their union, some journalists ended up cutting their press cards, humiliated. Only the Minister of Labor, Nasri Abu Jaish, from the Communist Party, tendered his resignation in reaction. The security apparatus denied any involvement: “There are no plainclothes security personnel. Why would they dress in civilian clothes? “ their spokesperson, Talal Dweikat, declared on the radio.

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