West Bank on Fire with Anti-Abbas Protests
Hundreds of Palestinians on Saturday held their third day of violent protests in the West Bank against the Palestinian Authority, following last week’s death of Nizar Banat, a well-known critic of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Banat reportedly died in custody after being violently arrested and beaten by Abbas’ security forces on Thursday. Saturday’s clashes with police led to 20 injured people, including five journalists, as demonstrators called for the 85-year-old Abbas’ removal and later confronted dozens of the longtime Palestinian leader’s supporters. On Thursday and Saturday, riot gear-clad officers were deployed to Ramallah as protesters set fire to car tires, blocked streets and marched on the PA’s government compound. In April, Abbas called off the elections slated to be held in the West Bank and Gaza for the first time in over 15 years, accusing Israel of barring Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from voting. The move was decried by critics as yet another authoritarian step, aimed at preventing the rival Hamas faction, which has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2006, from taking over the West Bank as well.