Arafat jeered by students

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The Independent Online
STEPHANIE NOLEN

Ramallah

West Bank university students protested outside the Palestinian authority prison in Ramallah yesterday, demanding the release of the hundreds of students and Hamas activists arrested in the past few weeks, while a mile down the road, Yasser Arafat was leading the first Palestinian Legislative Council meeting ever to be held in the West Bank.

Speaking from an impromptu podium, the Palestinian President told the students he had come to them as soon as he heard of their gathering. But as he began to speak about "partnership" Mr Arafat was jeered by the crowd and some yelled "collaborator", the most hated epithet in the Palestinian lexicon.

It was a marked change from a scene only three months earlier, when Mr Arafat addressed an adoring crowd at the same site, days after the prison had been abandoned by Israeli soldiers redeploying from Ramallah. Now its cells are full again, with Palestinians arrested in a crackdown on Hamas activists demanded by Israel after the recent suicide bombings. At least 450 students have been jailed in the past two weeks.

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