Fatah activists attack Palestinian unity supporters

5 wounded during Ramallah protest demanding end to Hamas-Fatah dispute; attack condemned by Palestinians across spectrum.

Palestinians at Gaza rally 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinians at Gaza rally 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Scores of Fatah activists on Wednesday night attacked Palestinians who were demonstrating in Ramallah to demand an end to the dispute between Fatah and Hamas, eyewitnesses said.
At least five people were wounded in the attack, which drew strong condemnations from many Palestinians across the political spectrum.
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Some Palestinians drew parallels between the incident and similar attacks on anti-government demonstrators in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan.
Last week, Jordanian opposition members and eyewitnesses accused the government of unleashing “thugs” against peaceful demonstrators on the streets of Amman.
The “thugs” were recruited by Jordanian security agencies in an attempt to intimidate the anti-government protesters, who have been staging weekly demonstrations since the beginning of the year, they said.
The Jordanian government has since promised to launch an investigation.
The scenes on the streets of Amman were reminiscent of the massive attack by hundreds of pro-government thugs on Egyptian demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square earlier this year.
The Palestinian Authority leadership has promised to investigate Wednesday night’s assault in Ramallah’s Manara Square. However, some of the youths who were beaten by the Fatah assailants accused the PA of standing behind the attack, saying some 50 activists took part in the assault.
“The Palestinian policemen who were standing nearby did not intervene to stop the attack,” one eyewitness said. “The thugs could not have carried out the attack had they not received a green light from the Palestinian leadership.”
The protesters had set up a tent in Manara Square as part of a Facebook campaign to urge Hamas and Fatah to end their dispute.
The campaign was launched on March 15 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The protesters have since gone on a hunger strike, declaring that they would not leave the square until the two rival parties achieve reconciliation.
This was the fourth assault on the protesters in Ramallah since they began their sit-in strike.
An attempt to set up a similar protest tent in Gaza City was foiled by Hamas policemen, who used excessive force to disperse the pro-unity protests.
Another eyewitness said that the attackers beat the Ramallah protesters with clubs and chains before destroying their tent. They also beat a passersby who tried to film them with their mobile phones, the eyewitness added.
He said that PA policemen intervened only after the attackers began fleeing the area.
One of the demonstrators said that he and his friends were now considering replacing their slogan, “The People want An End To Division,” with “The People Want An End To Attacks On Them.”
A PA security source confirmed that the assailants were Fatah supporters. He said that they were part of a group of Fatah activists who were celebrating the victory of their list in the Bir Zeit University student council election.
However, the PA governor of Ramallah, Leila Ghannam, said that the attack was carried out by a number of unidentified “irresponsible people.” She added that she visited the square shortly after the incident and saw that everything was quiet.
The PA has launched an investigation into the assault, she said.