Hamas, Fatah clash during funeral

At least 26 hurt in Hebron funeral for man killed Tuesday in anti-Annapolis demonstration.

hebron clashes 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
hebron clashes 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian police loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday fired shots in the air and beat protesters with sticks during the funeral of a man killed during a protest against this week's US-hosted Mideast peace summit. At least 26 people were wounded, one critically, medics said. It was the second straight day of violence stemming from the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert formally agreed to relaunch peace talks and pledged to reach an agreement within one year. Some 5,000 people participated in Wednesday's funeral procession for Hisham Baradei, 36, who was shot in the chest Tuesday during a demonstration against the Annapolis conference. The procession turned violent when marchers refused to stick to a pre-arranged route that had been cleared with police. The forces began firing live ammunition over the heads of the procession. Protesters hurled rocks at police, who pitched the rocks back and beat people with clubs. Jittery store owners shuttered their shops, deserting Hebron's main streets to clashing police and protesters. Officials at two local hospitals confirmed a total of 26 people wounded, including three people with gunshot wounds. Dozens of people were arrested. Abbas's government announced a ban on public demonstrations over the weekend ahead of the Annapolis summit. In Tuesday's unrest, Palestinian police violently dispersed a series of protests throughout the West Bank using clubs, tear gas and live fire. In addition to the Hebron fatality, four people in other towns were critically wounded and dozens were arrested. The Liberation Party, a tiny, unarmed Islamic group, organized Tuesday's protests. But Hamas activists joined the funeral procession on Wednesday, waving the movement's green flag and hurling rocks at police. The protest ban, and heavyhanded tactics used by Abbas' police, could threaten to undermine him as he tries to rally support for peace making with Israel. Human rights groups have accused him of suppressing dissent. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the violent reaction to the funeral procession "illustrates the extent of the conspiracy in Annapolis" and shows "killing and repression at the hands of Palestinian security because they hang on to their rights." Despite the comments, Hamas has shown little tolerance for dissent in Gaza. Earlier this month, Hamas forces killed eight people at a mass rally organized by Abbas' Fatah movement. Palestinian officials had said this week's protest ban was needed to prevent Hamas from wreaking havoc in the West Bank. Officials did not return messages seeking comment on the Hebron shootings. US and European security experts have been busy training Abbas's forces to help bring stability to the Palestinian areas and help lay the groundwork for a future Palestinian state. Colin Smith, the head of the EU mission training Palestinian police, said the Palestinian police response in Hebron was unacceptable, but could be corrected in the future. "I think the way that the demonstrations were dealt with was not in a manner that I would generally find acceptable," he told The Associated Press. "In this particular instance they were just not equipped, resourced and trained to deal with it," he added. "We're here to address that. We need to move to a more acceptable, disciplined type of response, but like many things that takes time." In Gaza, meanwhile, Palestinians fired five mortar shells toward the Israeli border, the IDF said. There were no injuries, although a chicken coop in an Israeli farm was damaged.