GAZA CITY, Gaza City -- A protest of Hamas rule by Fatah supporters turned violent Friday when Hamas men began forcefully dispersing the crowd, firing in the air and beating demonstrators.
About 20 people were injured in the clashes, including children, according to doctors and witnesses.
The violence began at the end of a Fatah prayer meeting held to protest Hamas, which seized control of the coastal territory in June. A similar protest a week ago also ended in clashes and harassment of journalists. Fatah had called its supporters to hold weekly Friday prayers in the open throughout the Gaza Strip to protest what they said was persecution of its members in Hamas-controlled mosques.
After hundreds of Fatah supporters finished prayers in Gaza City, a group of worshippers pelted Hamas-controlled buildings with stones and pipe bombs. Some shouted insults at Hamas officials, including "Shiites," in reference to the group's links to Iran.
Hamas men began firing into the air to disperse the crowd. In a frenzy, Hamas security forces then began arresting protesters and taking them away in jeeps, chasing them in the streets and also beating several demonstrators. AP Television News video showed several uniformed Hamas men beating an unarmed protester with long sticks. A similar protest in Rafah broke up when Hamas men fired in the air. Stun grenades also landed in the crowd, injuring the two children.
A statement from President Mahmoud Abbas's office in Ramallah said the crackdown on protesters "aims to impose a blind dictatorship and an extremist culture that contradicts the values of our people and their heritage."
Exactly how does this contradict the "...values of our people..." ? The PLO with Abbas as the #2 man "behind" Arafat perpetrated Ma'alot killing school children, the PLO perfected hijacking and blowing up other innocent people eating pizza and enjoying ice cream, etc. So exactly how does Hamas arresting and beating protesters contradict the values of these people?
"The events in the Gaza Strip prove to everyone that the [Hamas] coup is nearing its end. Our heroic people in Gaza will not be terrorized by these mercenaries," the statement said.
Just like on June 20, 2007 Abbbas called Hamas terrorists and there shouldn't be any dialogue with those terrorists - except for the calls from Jimmy Carter, Arafat's personal speech writer. I guess one man's "terrorist" is another man's "freedom fighter"
Hamas men in civilian clothes had also joined the uniformed forces in dispersing the protest, beating protesters with sticks.
A small explosion from an unknown source injured two French journalists, but neither was seriously hurt. A Hamas security spokesman said stun grenades and pipe bombs were used by the protesters.
Ihab al-Ghusain, the Hamas security spokesman, said "rioting is unacceptable in the law ... they had to be contained in anyway possible, according to the law."
After the clashes, heavily armed Hamas security agents entered AP's offices in Gaza City and instructed staff not to film or photograph a nearby security building from the balcony without prior permission.
The BBC should have an easy time filling this position:
BBC offers Palestinians 'support'
The BBC has been advertising for a “Project Director, Palestinian Territories” to advise Palestinian journalists.
[Hat tip: Hot Air and Daled Amos ]