GAZA CITY, March 21 (JMCC) – Protesters in Gaza
calling for an end to political division say they are committed to continuing their demonstrations, despite a heavy-handed crackdown by Hamas
On Sunday, tens of young Palestinians held rallies on the grounds of al-Azhar University, too worried about the police response to carry their protest outside the institute of higher learning. Human rights workers said that six activists were detained in a demonstration on Monday at the Red Cross compound.
We will not surrender,” said activist Ahmed Arar. “It is obvious that both factions do not care about ending division, so it is our duty to do so, and we can.”
Palestinian factions Fateh
and Hamas have been at odds since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006. The conflict erupted in violence in June 2007 and Hamas security forces subsequently overran Fateh-dominated Palestinian Authority
security installations in the Gaza Strip.
Today Hamas governs Gaza and the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas
is largely restricted to the West Bank
Hamas claims that calls in Gaza to end this schism are driven by Fateh, which it charges with trying to unseat its rule.
But youth organizers inspired by revolts for democracy in Tunisia and Egypt deny being driven by any one political organization.
We have support from various unions, lawyers, clans and students - all people are with us, said Arar.
On Saturday, Hamas police and undercover security officers roughed up both protesters and journalists.
Veiled women attacked female protesters participating in a sit-in organized by the Popular Movement for Ending the Division at the Square of the Unknown Soldier in Gaza City.
Hamas police searched the cell phones of passersby, checking if they contained any video clips of their crackdown.
When JMCC.org’s reporter saw Hamas police brutally striking a young man with black clubs, he wrote the man’s name, “Mahmoud Yassin,” in his notebook. The police then confiscated the notebook and began to beat the reporter, ordering him to leave the area.
Bissan Salam, producer for NHK, said that Hamas security members entered the offices of the Japanese broadcaster and confiscated cassette tapes of Hamas beating citizens.
They saw the camera in the window, then they stormed the office and confiscated the cassette, she said. The broadcaster was threatened against airing any similar footage.
The office of Reuters news agency was also ransacked, one of its employees hit and injured with an iron bar and some of its equipment smashed.
Saed al-Swairki, reporter for the Arabic-language Russia Today, said that Hamas police detained his cameraman and confiscated a cassette by force.
Protesting the attacks on the media, Palestinians journalists gathered for a sit-in in the afternoon. But even that event was not allowed to pass without incident.
Cameraman Mostafa Al-Bayedh said he was cornered in a store by three Hamas security agents after filming the press protest. The security men confiscated his cassette and tried to arrest him, but he fled.
Fateh, its invisible security apparatuses and some of its collaborators insist on resuming the conspiracy against the Palestinian cause and against our people in Gaza by creating chaos, instability and attacking public and government property, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said in a press conference held Saturday in Gaza.
No evidence was seen of damage to government institutions.
The Gaza ministry of interior also issued a statement denouncing the eruption of lawlessness by security apparatuses who receive salaries from Fateh.
Fateh, which is largely prevented from organizing in the Gaza Strip, has denied funding or controlling the Gaza protests, but said it supports their aim.
The demonstrations have organized by independent youth to end the division, Fateh spokesperson Ahmed Assaf said in a phone interview. We support them as long as their goal is a noble goal. We also support ending the division, but we neither fund nor control.
Mohammed Sheikh Yousef, one of the activists involved in organizing the demonstrations, strongly denied being backed by the once-dominant Palestinian faction.
We deny any relationship to the Palestinian Authority or Fateh,” he said. “What Hamas is saying is just an attempt to justify their attacks against the protesters against internal division.
He said that the protesters are a loose coalition of college students and new graduates who are paying for the stationary and communications needed to organize the demonstrations out of their own pockets.
A young woman who asked to remain anonymous said claims the group is made up of Fateh members or receive funding from Fateh are completely ridiculous.
I am leftist. I do not support Fateh. All the activists come from various points of view, but when it comes to the internal division, all of us are united, she said.
Demonstrations began on March 15 when tens of thousands of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip poured into the streets to protest the ongoing schism, calling on social networking sites for Fateh and Hamas to stop their infighting.
Smaller but similar protests have continued in the West Bank towns of Ramallah
. Palestinian Authority security forces there have briefly detained numerous activists and are keeping a close eye on the young people’s activities.