Palestinian killed as police break up rallies

A097456431.jpgPalestinian police killed one man in the West Bank on Tuesday as it broke up rallies against a US peace meeting, while Hamas supporters in Gaza rallied in force against the conference.Palestinian security forces fired into the air and pummelled demonstrators with batons as they dispersed protests throughout the occupied West Bank against the meeting opening in the US city of Annapolis.

Riot police and other security forces moved in on members of the Hezb Al Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party) as soon as they left mosques in the cities of Ramallah, Nablus and Hebron aiming to march in demonstrations.

In Hebron, 36-year-old Hisham Baradi died in hospital of a gunshot wound received in the melee. The circumstances surrounding the shooting were not immediately clear.

At least 35 other people were wounded. It was not immediately clear how many people were wounded or detained in all, with AFP correspondents seeing dozens hauled away in police vans in all three cities.

Earlier in Ramallah, police broke up demonstrations in the central Manara Square after scuffling with the protesters for several hours.

On Monday, President Mahmoud Abbas’ government banned rallies against the Annapolis meeting, with Information Minister Riyad Malki saying the decision was taken because “we look forward to the Annapolis meeting being successful”.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters poured into central Gaza City on Tuesday for a rally to reject the conference being held in the United States, as the Islamists slammed Arab participation.

Waving the green flags of Hamas and the Palestinian tricolour, demonstrators flocked from all over the impoverished and overcrowded territory that the Islamists have ruled since violently wresting control in mid-June.

“They can go to thousands of conferences and we will still say in the name of the Palestinian people that we do not accept,” Hamas’ Mahmoud Zahar told the assembled crowd.

“We don’t authorise anyone to use our name to sign any document or any agreement that infringes on our national demands,” he said. The demonstration was the latest protest by the Islamists who have been further isolated by the US meeting opening later on Tuesday.

Blacklisted by both the European Union and the United States as a terror group and not invited to the US meeting, Hamas said on Monday that it would not be bound by any decisions taken there.

“Any concessions on any Palestinian rights are unacceptable and the Palestinian people will not implement any decisions if they touch on our rights,” the premier of the sacked Hamas government, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Tuesday. He also slammed the participation of Arab countries – including powerhouse Saudi Arabia – in the US peace meeting despite Hamas’ appeals for a boycott.

“We are against any attempts for either direct or indirect normalisation [with Israel] and are against the presence, for the first time, of an Arab delegation by the side of a Zionist delegation at the Annapolis conference,” Haniyeh said. “Such a presence is a step back on the historical position of opposition [to Israel] by these countries,” he said.

The Islamists have warned the Palestinian leadership against making any concessions on the most intractable issues of the conflict such as the right of return for refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

Having swept aside Abbas’ long-dominant Fateh Party in January 2006 parliamentary polls, Hamas argues that without its agreement the president lacks the mandate to negotiate on behalf of all Palestinians.

Also on Tuesday, groups of Palestinian refugees protested in Lebanon against the US-hosted conference that aims to revive peace talks, fearing it would jeopardise their right to return home.

More than 120 refugees marched along the main road of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain Al Helweh, on the outskirts of the southern port city of Sidon, an AFP correspondent said.

They held aloft Palestinian flags and old property deeds of their lost homes and lands during the march organised by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In the northern Lebanon refugee camp of Beddawi, dozens of refugees held a sit-in during which they raised placards reading: “Palestine is not anyone’s property”. “Palestine is a national cause and anyone who jeopardises it will be a traitor,” read another banner.

About 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, about half of them in miserable conditions in a dozen refugee camps.

Israeli troops kill three Palestinians in Gaza

Israeli troops killed two Palestinian fighters and a civilian in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the Hamas movement and Palestinian medical staff said.

Hamas said two of its fighters were killed near the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops shot two Palestinians trying to plant an explosive near the border fence.

In a separate incident, a civilian was killed by Israeli gunfire near the Sufa border crossing in southern Gaza, said Palestinian medical staff.

The army said troops in the area shot at a person acting suspiciously and crawling towards them. On Monday, three fighters were killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes.

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