Current time and date in Gaza:
WEDNESDAY, March 16
Demands from protesters in Manara square:
- Palestinian National Council elections guaranteeing representation of all Palestinians wherever they are.
- Immediate release of all political prisoners in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, supervised by the Independent Commission for Human Rights. An end to repression of protests.
- A complete halt of incitement on media of all types and by both parties.
There have been many Twitter reports, both today and yesterday, of threatening texts from unknown numbers sent to all Gaza phone numbers and warning them to not attend protests or they would be killed.
Yesterday WL Central reported what seemed to be conflicting reports of assaults by Fateh officers and Fateh officers offering food to the protesters. The offers of food are beinginterpreted as an attack on the hunger strikers resolve and chants today include “No falafel! No cola!” President Abbas sent four jeeps full of food today, to divided reception.
Police are assisting in keeping the Fateh and March 15 groups from attacking each other in Bethlehem and broke up multiple fights today. According to Ma’an News reports, the Fateh group seems torn between disrupting or joining the protests.
“#March15Ramallah hunger strikers are up to 25 now, spirits are high and we’re determined to go all the way to the end”
“things are back to normal, Fateh members helped to contain the thugs that attacked us”
As protesters attempted to gather on March, 16 morning in Al Kateeba sq, dozens of thugs (with sticks and clubs) cracked down on the crowd chanting for unity and raising the Palestinian flag to disperse them.
At least 10 students were taken to the hospital today and around 20 were arrested after Hamas plain clothes police and security forces arrived at Al Azhar university and beat up students and blocked anyone from entering or leaving the grounds. Many of the students were planning on attending today’s unity rallies. A spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry denied that police had entered the university. “What happened at the university was a problem between students,” Ihab al-Ghussein told AFP.
Journey to Gaza is documenting the protests in Gaza with many great pictures and videos (one below) and blog posts. From yesterday: Back home, friends called me telling me police had intervened, fired warning shots in the air. Told them I was on my way back but they strongly urged me not to – all cameras were confiscated, journalists arrested and activists beaten up. My friend Adham said “Al Kateeba is on fire” … thuoght he was being metaphorical but then another one called to say Hamas had set the tents on fire…
ranabaker is another blog with great pictures and eyewitness accounts. The next day –which is today-, everything looked calm as if nothing had taken place the night before. I took a taxi to The Islamic University, my university, and on the way I asked the driver if anything was happening in The Al-Kateebah Square. He said: “they were forcibly quelled yesterday, nobody is there, the uprising has finished!”
But he was mistaken! At 11:00 in the morning, thousands were protesting at the campus of The Al-Azhar University. It was soon encircled by the regime’s forces and students and girls were again beaten with clubs.
When I heard about the escalation, I called my friends who study there, I could hardly understand what they were saying due to the noise around them. They only thing I could get was: “if you want to protest come to our university!”
When I arrived, there were crowds and crowds of young students being expelled from their own university and hit harshly by clubs. Others were receiving threats and an ambulance was evacuating causality. Actually a couple of ambulances were outside but people were talking about only one casualty.
Yesterday’s protests across the occupied territories
TUESDAY, March 15
In a day of rare unity, the Palestinian Authority attacked protesters in the West Bank’s Ramallah while Hamas attacked a larger protest in Gaza. The Palestinian populations of both territories also vowed to unite in their call to protest. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people demonstrated in Gaza according to Maan News, calling to end the division of Palestine and unite under the national flag.
The March 15 Youth Coalition in Gaza said violence in Gaza City broke out when some 200 Hamas supporters in the Square of the Unknown Soldier carried party flags and beat up protesters who had called for only the national flag. Security forces had set up hundreds of barriers around the square and they beat people with batons and set fire to their tents. Protesters then gathered in Al-Khatib Square. Women and children were very present in the protests, as shown in the videos and pictures below.
The few thousand protesters in Ramallah had by evening staged a sit in, singing and lighting hundreds of candles in defiance of the security forces. Maan News is now reporting that tear gas was fired at them and two were shot with tasers, along with other reports of security forces handing out food to Ramallah supporters. Reportedly 20 protesters of the roughly 1000 left in Ramallah are on a hunger strike.
Hamas and Fateh had both previously pledged to protect the unity rallies. Gaza’s Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh responded to the protests by inviting his rival, Fateh president Mahmoud Abbas, to talk. “I invite the president, brother Abu Mazen (Abbas), and Fatah to an immediate meeting here in Gaza … to start national dialogue in order to achieve reconciliation,” Haniya said in a live broadcast after an emergency meeting of his government.
And Abbas proposed holding elections “as soon as possible” in order to end the division. “I am with the people and in favour of going back to the people to put an end to the divisions through presidential and parliamentary elections,” he said after talks in Ramallah with Cypriot President Demetris Christofias.
Pictures from Gaza today.
Previous coverage of Palestine on WL Central.