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Palestinian police ban pro-Hamas protests

Palestinian police have violently cracked down on protests organised by their rivals in Hamas as rallies against Israeli air strikes in Gaza turned into demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority.

world Updated: Jan 03, 2009 08:35 IST

Palestinian police have violently cracked down on protests organised by their rivals in Hamas throughout the West Bank as rallies against Israeli air strikes in Gaza turned into demonstrations against the Palestinian Authority.

Police of Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority pounced on demonstrators protesting seven days of heavy Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip targeting the militant Hamas movement.

Security forces particularly focused on anyone carrying Hamas' green flags, a telling indication of Abbas' determination to thwart any challenges to its own rule in the West Bank from Hamas.

Feelings are running high among Palestinians and across the Middle East against the strikes which have killed at least 400 Palestinians, including around 100 civilians, according to a UN estimate.

Abbas, together with his allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have blamed Hamas for bringing the attacks on themselves by repeatedly firing rockets into Israel. These criticisms, though, have angered many in the face of Israel's assaults.

"Abu Mazen is on the side of the Jews!" yelled 66-year-old Umm Maher at a small demonstration in east Jerusalem, referring to Abbas by his nickname.

Israeli police quickly dispersed the few dozen protesters in that demonstration, but elsewhere, it was the security forces of the Palestinian Authority stopping the rallies against Israel's actions.

In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, demonstrators who for decades had being throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, now pelted Palestinian police after they tried to disburse 400 Hamas loyalists brandishing the movement's green flag.