EU condemns 'brutal' Palestinian crackdown on Ramallah protesters

Rallies increase since death on Thursday of Nizar Banat, whose family say he was beaten while held by security troops in Hebron

The EU on Sunday condemned the “brutal conduct” of Palestinian security forces who beat demonstrators in the West Bank city of Ramallah, as protests mount over the death in custody of activist Nizar Banat.

Plainclothes security officials chased and attacked protesters in central Ramallah on Saturday, while riot police fired tear gas at those rallying against the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The EU said it was “appalled by the brutal conduct of the Palestinian security forces against Palestinian demonstrators in Ramallah".

The statement was published by the bloc’s Jerusalem office.

“The excessive use of force against demonstrators is unacceptable and should be investigated in order to hold those responsible accountable,” said the EU, which is the PA’s largest financial backer.

Some reporters were attacked by the security troops, said the Palestinian journalists’ union, which decried the “grave development in the onslaught on freedom of expression and the media”.

Protesters hurled stones at the troops in Ramallah, where hundreds rallied against the PA and called on Mr Abbas, 85, to quit.

Rallies have been held daily since the death on Thursday of Banat, 43, whose family said he was beaten while being held by the security troops at a house in the West Bank city of Hebron.

His body was covered in bruises and he suffered fractured ribs, said a post-mortem report published by the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Ramallah.

Hussein Al Sheikh, the PA’s head of civil affairs, said Palestinians must not be pushed into “internal conflict”.

“We call on everyone to adhere to law and order and protect our national unity,” Mr Al Sheikh wrote on Twitter.

The Palestinian People’s Party quit the PA government on Sunday in response to its “lack of respect for laws and public freedoms”, party member Issam Abu Bakr said.

The unrest continued on Sunday with supporters of Ms Abbas clashing with protesters calling for his resignation in Ramallah.

Palestinian officials have launched an investigation into the death of Banat, who had registered as a candidate in elections that were cancelled by Mr Abbas.

Demonstrators have voiced anger over the president’s 16-year rule and perceived corruption of the PA, which exercises limited authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Founded as part of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the PA is criticised by many Palestinians for failing to secure their fundamental rights and independent state.

Agencies contributed to this report