— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) December 14, 2018
PA forces used batons to suppress protests in cities of Hebron and Nablus and to prevent journalists from filming the incidents
HEBRON, Occupied West Bank – Jamal Karameh’s teeth fell out after members of Palestinian Authority forces attacked him with batons in the southern city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on 14 December.
Karameh, a 50-year-old, was participating in a peaceful march against Israeli increase of military operations in the West Bank towns last week. The protest was planned to take off from downtown Hebron and head towards Bab-al-Zawiya – some 2km away.
Karameh was sporting a formal navy blue cardigan, white shirt and a red tie; he was planning to attend a relative’s wedding after the march, which took place following Friday prayers.
What is required of the PA security forces is to protect these rallies and not constrict them or use force against them.
– Majed Arouri, journalist
He told Middle East Eye that when members of the security forces began suppressing the march, they dragged him and tried to push him into a civilian vehicle. When he tried to resist, they surrounded him and beat him all over his body, including his head, with batons.
Moments later, his wife Hanaa ran towards them and threw herself onto her husband, trying to protect him and hoping to block the blows.
Karameh, who spent years in Israeli jails, and has been arrested and summoned by PA’s security services on several occasions, had his house raided at night by the Israeli army in October.
Karameh’s daughter, Janeh, said in a Facebook post that the PA forces attack on her father reminded her of the Israeli raid and arrest of her father and mother and the beating of her brother.
Karameh told Middle East Eye that his 12-year-old son was with him when the PA attack happened.
“They did not care, and continued beating me until a group of journalists took notice and came quickly to document the assault. At that moment, the security forces stopped,” adding that he has bruises all over his body and suffered cuts to his head and some of his lower and upper teeth fell out.
Karameh was not the only one who was assaulted during the PA’s dispersion of the march, which dozens had participated in, to mark the 31st anniversary of the foundation of Hamas, the Gaza-based armed resistance group.
PA forces proceeded to assault women and children who were taking part in the march and prevented journalists from filming and taking footage, witnesses say.
The PA security forces began throwing sound bombs directly at people. They then began attacking the men, beating them and arresting them
– Jamal Karameh, protester
Sari Jaradat, a journalist who was covering the march, said that dozens of Palestinian security forces were deployed to the area and declared it a closed military zone, despite there being no reason to do so.
“It was a peaceful march and the participants did not exceed more than 50 people, including many women and children.
“They marched for about 50 meters before the PA security forces began throwing sound bombs directly at people. They then began attacking the men, beating them and arresting them,” Jaradat told MEE.
The journalist explained that the security forces surrounded the media and threatened them not to approach or film.
Journalists who were working for governmental media were bent on obstructing the work of other journalists by standing in front of their cameras and blocking visibility, said Jaradat.
Another local reporter at the scene, Abdulmohsen Shalalda, said that while he was covering the assault of Karameh, two security agents dragged him and beat him with batons. They tried to push him into a nearby vehicle in hope of arresting him.
“When the situation became tenser, and the assault on Karameh intensified, they left me and ran back to him,” Shalalda told MEE.
Similarly, Malek al-Jaabari, a media student who is training at a local media station, was subjected to assault, which ended with his arrest. Jaabari was released after more than two hours.
“I saw more than 20 men in the detention centre, including elderly men, who had been arrested during the suppression of the march. Most of them were arrested by men in civilian clothing and who took them to the station in civilian cars,” Jaabari told MEE.
But the PA’s use of excessive force did not only occur in Hebron. In the northern city of Nablus, security forces crushed a similar march on the same day and prevented journalists from covering the event.
Translation: Palestinian security forces attack women and arrest tens of people while preventing journalists from filming while suppressing a march of Hamas movement in Hebron.
Earlier this year, in June, a march in Ramallah city demanding the lifting of sanctions imposed by President Mahmoud Abbas on the Gaza Strip had a similar fate. At the time, PA forces blocked the rally from reaching the PA’s presidential compound and the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) political party responded to the PA’s actions against the rallies in Hebron and Nablus, in a statement saying the assaults were a “disgrace to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and its security services”.
The party called on the security services to provide protection to the Palestinian people by preventing attacks by the Israeli army and settlers, rather than restricting freedoms and repressing peaceful protests.
The Palestinian Bar Association also condemned the PA’s response. In a statement on 14 December, the association urged the ruling Fatah political party to investigate the events, highlighting that freedom of assembly and expression are guaranteed by basic law and should not be violated under any circumstances.
Majed Arouri, a journalist specialised in human rights and law, said that freedom of expression must be protected at all costs, even during emergency situations.
He told MEE that peaceful protest, like the one in Hebron, do not constitute any justification for the use of violence and excessive force by PA forces.
“The suppression that took place in Hebron confirms that the security forces used extreme force, that requires investigation because it is a worrying indicator of the reality of freedom of expression in Palestine,” said Arouri.
Under Palestinian law, continued Arouri, freedom of expression is fully guaranteed, including the right to gather and protest peacefully. “What is required of the PA security forces is to protect these rallies and not constrict them or use force against them.”
The security forces defended their actions, saying that the marches aimed to criticize the PA and its president, Mahmoud Abbas.
In media statements, spokesperson of the security forces Adnan Damiri said batons and sound bombs are not violent tools, and that therefore there was no use of force in the suppression of the marches.
The reason that the PA suppressed the march, said Dmairi, was that “it was called for by Hamas against the PA and not against the occupation”.
How can we stay quiet when there is an invitation for a march against the PA and the security forces?
– Adnan Damiri, spokesperson for the security forces
“How can we stay quiet when there is an invitation for a march against the PA and the security forces?” he said, but added that there would be an investigation into any complaints against the security agents.
On Monday, civil society organisations held a meeting with PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, requesting that the government respect freedom of expression as guaranteed under Palestinian law.
Arouri said that Hamdallah promised to open an investigation into the events.
Speaking to MEE, Khalil Assaf, head of the Consortium of Independent Palestinians, a grassroots association of businessmen and academics, said: “What happened in Nablus and Hebron has no justification. It is the people’s right to express their thoughts and feelings, and it is a protected right in Palestinian law and international treaties.
“A security agent should maintain the law and not violate it.”