Hamas represses gatherings commemorating Arafat

GAZA, Nov. 11 – Hamas forces that were deployed across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday quickly crushed any attempt of gathering by supporters of rival Fatah movement who try to commemorate the fourth anniversary of late leader Yasser Arafat. Abed, a 16-year-old student who did not want his family name to be mentioned, said that members of Hamas forces beat him with a stick and took off the Kufiya, a veined black and white scarf that Palestinians wore after Arafat.

“They (Hamas forces) stopped every student who has the Kufiya on his shoulder and beat him, describing us and Abu Amar (Arafat) as infidel seculars,” Abed added.

Meanwhile, the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, reported that Hamas forces have stormed tens of schools in the Gaza Strip and attacked the pupils for trying to mark the fourth anniversary of President Arafat.

Wafa added that at least “20 students were injured due to heavy beating in a Abbassan secondary school in southern Gaza Strip.”

Hamas interior ministry or the spokesman of its police forces were not available for comment.

On Monday, the national work committee, which represents the factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, called on the residents to mark Arafat’s memory by wearing the Kufiya, raising Fatah flags out from their windows and light candles on their rooftops in the night.

The announcement was made after Hamas decided to ban any public ceremony to commemorate Arafat’s death. Last year, 12 Palestinian civilians were killed when Hamas crushed a mass rally marking the event in Gaza city.

Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip since June 2007 when it routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, and ousted his Fatah movement.

In Ramallah, a West Bank city in which Abbas consolidated his rule, several thousands of Palestinians gathered in a mass ceremony at the Palestinian presidency headquarter where Arafat’s temporary burial place is located.

Arafat died in 2004 in a French hospital where he was being treated for an unknown sort of poison.

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