Palestinians took to social media and the streets to protest a trial currently taking place in the West Bank city of Ramallah, against four Palestinians who are being held in Israel.
Starting on Sunday and carrying over into Monday, Palestinian politicians and citizens alike have come out against the killing of wanted terrorist Basil al-Araj by an Israeli SWAT team in Ramallah. The four Palestinians held in Israel are part of al-Araj's terror cell, and their trial, held in close proximity to his killing, sparked outrage, protests and a public debate over the Palestinian Authority's security cooperation with Israel.
The story begins a year ago, when Palestinian intelligence agencies, in apparent cooperation with Israeli intelligence agencies, proceeded with a manhunt after members of a terror cell heavily suspected of an intent to carry out an attack on Israelis. Palestinian forces eventually discovered them while in possession of assault weapons. They were then taken and held in one of the Palestinian detention centers.
The Palestinians' arrest by the PA for allegedly planning an attack against Israel led to a public outcry and the suspects going on a hunger strike, and shortly thereafter they were released. The PA did, however, stress that they will stand trial for possession of an illegal weapon.
Israel responded to the cell members' release by the PA by arresting four out of its five members. The fifth member was al-Araj, who Israel later had killed, claiming he was busy planning a terrorist attack. This, in turn, has led to the current Palestinian protests on Sunday and Monday.
Several hundred Palestinians marched in the anti-government protests in the Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah, calling for the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and criticizing his security coordination efforts with Israel. Marchers also chanted that "security coordination is treason." The policy, in which Abbas' forces and Israeli troops cooperate against Islamic militants, is considered unpopular among Palestinians. Palestinian police reportedly dispersed the protestors by force, injuring journalists and, among others, al-Araj's father.
The public backlash to the arrests and killing escalated quickly, with political organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine threatening to boycott the local elections, schedules for May.The PA in turn accused external groups bent on disrupting the peace in the Palestinian streets.
In Sunday's incident, Palestinian troops reportedly beat demonstrators and journalists with clubs. Jihad Barakat of Palestine Today TV said he was pushed and that his camera was broken. He said he saw three colleagues being beaten with clubs.
Critics have said Abbas and his government are becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent.
Abbas's political rival and former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan was quick to join the wave of protests. Dahlan called for the PA to stop all cooperation with Israel due to the Jerusalem's becoming "more and more" Jewish and due to settlement construction. Abbas's other major rival, the Hamas party, also expressed support of the protestors and of stopping all cooperation with Israel.
Amar Dweik, head of Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, stated that dozens of people have been detained after peaceful protests in the past six months, though most were released.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah promised Monday that he would launch an investigation into Sunday's incident. He said he formed a committee that includes Dweik, the deputy interior minister and members of the lawyers' union.
Nearby to Monday's protest, dozens of journalists protested against Sunday's violence by the security forces.
Nasser Abu Bakr, head of the journalists' union, said his organization demands that the riot troops who beat journalists on Sunday be put on trial.