Gaza activist: Hamas stops pro-Egypt rally in Gaza

Fayyad's cabinet announces PA municipal elections "as soon as possible;" demonstrator says police beat up protesters in Gaza.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 1, 2011 15:30
2 minute read.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

fayyad 311. (photo credit: AP)

Hamas police prevented a handful of people in Gaza from demonstrating in solidarity with the Egyptian protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a Gaza activist said Tuesday.

The West Bank's Palestinian Authority also squelched a pro-Egypt protest this week, announcing on Tuesday that it will hold local council elections "as soon as possible."

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The move appears to be a response to unrest in Egypt. The Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's Cabinet said Tuesday it will set dates for the vote next week.

Fayyad hopes to hold elections in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. But in reality, Gaza will likely not participate since it is controlled by Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas canceled local elections in the West Bank in 2009 when it appeared that his Fatah movement would lose to independents.



Hamas detains pro-Egypt demonstrators

Gaza activist Asma al-Ghoul said she and a small group of demonstrators had gathered Tuesday in central Gaza City when police came to stop them. She says police detained and roughed up some demonstrators.

"Everyone should enjoy the right of freedom expression," she said, adding that female police harassed her for not covering her hair and accused her of being a bad Muslim.

New York-based Human Rights watch called on Hamas to "stop arbitrarily interfering with peaceful demonstrations about Egypt or anything else."

Hamas police had no comment.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, has issued no official comments on the Egyptian protests but officials have said privately that change in Egypt could benefit Hamas by easing the Egyptian-Israeli blockade imposed on the impoverished coastal territory.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank put down a similar protest this week — reflecting fears of unrest among its own population.

Witnesses said more than 100 police prevented protesters from reaching the Egyptian diplomatic mission in the West Bank on Sunday. Police, outnumbering the protesters 3-to-1, shoved some protesters and threatened to hit them with clubs and arrest them.

Police also prevented journalists from photographing or filming, warning they would confiscate their cameras. The Palestinian Authority did not respond to requests for comment.

While small, the protest — like the much larger demonstrations in Egypt — was organized over Facebook and other social networking tools.

"We called for this demonstration through the Internet, to come express solidarity with the Egyptian people and their struggle for democracy and human rights," said protester Ramzi Hazboun, 25.

The Palestinian Authority considers Mubarak an ally and has not commented on the Egyptian protests. It has been at odds with Hamas since the Islamist group seized control of Gaza in 2007.


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