Tensions escalate following Palestinian Authority's beating of children

Tensions escalate following Palestinian Authority's beating of children
Analysis: After Palestinian security forces were caught on camera beating three children during clashes with Israeli security forces, tensions in the West Bank have been mounting.
3 min read
22 September, 2015
Palestinians have been tackling Israeli security forces in defence of al-Aqsa mosque [Getty]
Protesters marching on Sunday against beatings given to three children at a Friday rally have been dispersed by Palestinian security forces, reportedly using live ammunition.

Sunday's demonstration, near Deheisha refugee camp in Bethlehem, was called to protest against Palestinian Authority violence towards young protesters during a demonstration against Israeli aggression at al-Aqsa mosque.

More than 300 Palestinians took part in Sunday's march, which began at the entrance to the refugee camp before making its way to a nearby PA intelligence services building.

Demonstrators called for the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

"The people were going to protest and were making non-violent demonstrations until they started shooting," Moataz al-Azzeh, resident of al-Azza camp, told al-Araby.

At one point during the protest, demonstrators threw stones.

Azzeh's 14-year-old cousin, Ramiz, was the youngest of three teenagers who were beaten on Friday. The incident was caught on camera by Middle East Eye, eliciting outrage from the camps in the West Bank.

Ramiz al-Azzeh, 14, after he was allegedly beaten

by PA security forces [Facebook]

"There was a demonstration for Jerusalem - and the PA attacked the people... the children, actually," said Azzeh.

Since the signing of the Oslo accords, the Palestinian Authority has been required to cooperate with Israel in what has become known as "security coordination" - meaning that Palestinian security forces largely enforce Israeli security imperatives.

"They beat my cousin and arrested him at around 1.30pm," said Azzeh. "Once the cameras had stopped filming, the security forces continued to beat the teenagers in the car."

However, after they realised a video of the event had gained traction, Azzeh says Ramiz was treated better.

"They let him out at 10pm. We took him to the doctors and made a medical report," said Azzeh.

Ramiz had been beaten on his arms, head and neck.

"They hit us with their batons, and they kicked us [as you can see] on the video - but after that they hit us with their fists and with cords and used Tasers on us all over our bodies," 16-year-old Mahmoud al-Hamamara told Middle East Eye

Tension continued to mount through Monday, with further protests planned in the refugee camps surrounding Bethlehem.

"There are only 1,300 people in al-Azza camp, and 15 of them were beaten... not just the three in the video," said Azzeh, who feels that the close-knit community of the camp contributed to sense of outrage towards the video.

"Today the PA said 'we are coming to al-Azza camp', but the people told them there is no solution."

The PA announced earlier on Sunday that nine security officers would face disciplinary action over Friday's attack.

While the West Bank's refugee camps can be crucibles of anger at Israeli economic and military violence, it is more unusual for Fatah strongholds such as Deheishah - which has a population of more than 13,000 people in an area less than half a square mile - to show such unrest at the Palestinian Authority.

"Leaders from the PA come from Dheishah camp, such as Majed Faraj," said Azzeh, referring to the head of Palestinian security.

"And its a big camp, we hope it doesn't become bloody."

However, the protests themselves contain Fatah supporters who are increasingly resentful of the PA, whose plain-clothed security forces have also been observed in the camp.

"In the night there were some people who came to the al-Aqsa brigades in Deheishah camp and said they were with the PA. People followed them and knew who they were and found they were mukhabarat [security forces]," said Azzeh.

Meanwhile, anger towards Abbas mounts as he makes increasingly contradictory statements concerning the status of the PA and its security coordination with Israel.

In the wake of the attacks on al-Aqsa, Abbas declared that he would blow up a "bomb" at his speech at the United Nations later this month.

While some suspected this could mean the end of the Oslo accords, over the weekend, Abbas reassured Israel through discussions with European diplomats that he had no intention of dissolving the Palestinian Authority.