PA blames Hamas for anti-Abbas protests after critic dies in custody

Banat’s family said that he was ‘viciously beaten’ for eight minutes by security forces as they took him into custody.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Palestinian protests raged for the third straight day after well-known Palestinian Authority critic Nizar Banat died Thursday while in PA police custody.

Banat was a social media presence known for his acerbic commentary on PA government officials, especially in regards to security cooperation with Israel.

He called out major public figures, including PA president Mahmoud Abbas, for alleged corruption, which landed him in hot water in the past.

Banat’s family said that he was “viciously beaten” for eight minutes by security forces as they took him into custody.

An initial forensic report determined that his death was “unnatural.”

In Ramallah, hundreds of protesters gathered on Saturday to express their outrage over Banat’s death, calling on Abbas to resign and demanding a full investigation.

“The people want the fall of the regime!” protesters chanted. “Get out.”

“Abbas, you [Israeli] spy, we want to break your head,” others chanted.

PA police responded to protesters by firing tear gas and dispersing the crowd.

Thousands of protesters also gathered in Hebron on Saturday, but no clashes with police were reported.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a senior PA official accused Hamas and supporters of Abbas rival Mohammed Dahlan of “taking advantage of the incident to incite against the PA leadership.”

In May 2021, Abbas cancelled what would have been the first Palestinian general elections since 2005.

While Abbas blamed Israel for the cancellation, it’s believed that because Abbas is wildly unpopular with the Palestinian public and likely would have been defeated in a landslide, he stopped the elections in order to remain in power.

A spokesman for the Gaza-based terror group Hamas, which has a bitter rivalry with the PA, called Banat’s death an “assassination.”

In a statement, Hamas said that “this premeditated crime reflects the intentions and behavior of the Abbas Authority and his security services toward our people, opposition activists and his political opponents.”

Dozens of Hamas-affiliated activists chanted pro-Hamas and anti-Abbas slogans at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Friday.

“The Palestinian Authority are [Israeli] spies, from the lowest soldier to the president,” the crowd chanted.