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Palestinian protest for Egyptians broken up

By Kareem Khadder and Dan Morgan, CNN
  • Hundreds demonstrate against Mubarak in Ramallah
  • Men chanting for Abbas break up protest
  • Palestinian Authority spokesman suggests government security not the culprit

(CNN) -- Palestinians demonstrating in support of Egyptian anti-government protesters were forcibly disbanded when a few dozen men in plain clothes disrupted the protest.

The men entered the crowd -- enough people to fill three small city blocks -- in the West Bank city of Ramallah chanting "The people want Mahmoud Abbas," a reference to the Palestinian Authority president. Tensions quickly escalated and several fistfights broke out between the demonstrators and those who were seeking to disrupt the gathering. At least two people were injured.

One of the demonstrators, Jamal Tamimi, a professor at Al-Quds University and a member of the president's Fatah party, criticised what he called a government-sanctioned crackdown on free speech.

"These security measurements are against democracy, this is a security regime," said Tamimi. The Palestinian Authority is "gangs against the Palestinian will; they have to leave the Palestinians to express themselves. This is something that does not belong to the Palestinian culture, and Abbas should see what is going on here."

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security services, Maj. Gen. Adnan Dmeiri, told CNN that the incident is being investigated but suggested the Palestinian security played no role in the disruption.

"The clashes erupted between civilians during the demonstration and not between the demonstrators and the Palestinian security. This demonstration had all the permits needed, and it is our duty as the Palestinian security to protect the demonstration, which the police and the security did. Our duty is to protect and serve the people."

The afternoon demonstration against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was joined by Palestinians of all ages. Several hundred carrying the Egyptian and Tunisian flags walked through the center and streets of Ramallah chanting, "The people want to bring down the regime."

Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti, a former Palestinian minister of information, joined the crowds in Ramallah in solidarity.

"What happened in Egypt and what happened in Tunisia are steps taken to move the Arab world in the direction of democracy that will only empower Arab states and Arab people and only change the balance of force and power in our favor," he told CNN

Palestinian activist Jamal Jumma told CNN he came "to stand with the Egyptian people," adding "We are here to show our deep solidarity with the rest of the Arab world. ... It is the right of the people to have democracy and self-determination. We are the same people and from the same region."

Omar Assaf, a Palestinian activist who spoke against corruption, poverty and unemployment during the demonstration, told CNN, "We, the Palestinian people, we send a message to the Arab world to stand together for a better life against the corruption of the authorities and also to struggle against unemployment and poverty, social security and dignity. We support the Egyptian people but the Egyptians must elect their leaders, Tunisian people must elect their leaders, and we Palestinian must elect our leaders."

Saturday's demonstration in Ramallah was one of a handful of Egyptian solidarity events held by Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel. Previous attempts to stage similar rallies were shut down by Palestinian Authority security claiming the participants did not have the appropriate permits to hold such events.