Abbas loyalists open fire at funeral march, injuring 26

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The Independent Online

Security forces loyal to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opened fire during a funeral procession in Hebron yesterday for a man killed in a demonstration against the Annapolis talks on Tuesday. Medics said the fresh outbreak of West Bank violence left 26 injured, one seriously.

The Hebron clashes in which witnesses said the security forces also used clubs on marchers and Hamas activists stoned the forces came at a funeral organised by the small unarmed Islamist Liberation Party for Hisham Baradi, 36.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly criticised the security forces for using "excessive force" against peaceful demonstrators in Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus, accusing them of using batons as well as "firing indiscriminately to disperse the demonstrators, who threw rocks at the security personnel".

The PCHR which also strongly condemned the shooting by Hamas forces of at least seven Fatah demonstrators in Gaza two weeks ago said that several Palestinian journalists had been beaten, detained or prevented from covering the protests. It added that several protest organisers detained in a West Bank round-up on Monday were still in custody though most had been released.

Ashraf Ajrami, a member of the Ramallah-based emergency cabinet appointed by Mr Abbas in June, claimed Hamas had provoked the violence which some witnesses said started when protesters failed to keep to a route agreed with police but acknowledged that that did not justify the use of lethal means by police. Saying a committee of inquiry had been set up, he added: "As long as security forces are not facing real danger, it should have been dispersed with the minimum amount of force."

Meanwhile two Hamas naval force members were killed yesterday in southern Gaza and another 10 people injured in an air strike on one of the faction's positions near Khan Yunis, according to Hamas Radio.

The Israeli military said the attack came after militants fired 11 mortar shells and Qassam rockets at nearby Israeli communities.