A commission of inquiry established to investigate peaceful protests in the occupied West Bank earlier this month – when Palestinian police assaulted protesters and smashed equipment belonging to journalists covering the events – found that security forces violated regulations and acted disproportionately at a Ramallah sit-in.
However, the same commission determined that security forces acted with “a high level of self-control” at a protest near Bethlehem, when live fire was used on locals, and called for an investigation into protesters’ actions.
Demonstrators had first gathered in front of the Ramallah magistrate’s court on 12 March during a hearing into an ongoing case against Palestinian activists charged by the Palestinian Authority (PA) with weapons possession and planning an attack on Israel – despite the fact that four of them are held in Israeli prison and one, Basel Al-Araj, was shot dead by Israeli forces the previous week.
A similar protest held later the same day in Duheisha refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank was also violently suppressed.
The case against the activists has been denounced by Palestinians for typifying the PA’s security coordination with Israel, which has been described by critics as a “revolving door policy” funnelling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
Following outrage over the police brutality, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in his capacity as interior minister ordered the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the events in both cities, which was appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In the wake of the protests, PA security forces spokesman Adnan Al-Dmeiri also accused “mercenaries” and “foreign agents” of sparking the clashes to cause internal Palestinian strife, and called the protests “cheap incitement”.
“There was excessive use of tear-gas bombs, with no consideration of the nature of the area [in which the sit-in took place], which is crowded with schools.”
“The manner in which [the tear gas] was used – in some cases being fired horizontally and directly at protesters – was dangerous and violated principles of using tear-gas,” the report said.
The commission recommended that the Interior Ministry issue instructions regarding the appropriate use of tear gas and taking the nature of the area and people into account.