West Bank residents fought with Yasser Arafat’s security forces for a third day Saturday, in what the militant Islamic group Hamas called the beginning of a new Palestinian uprising - this time against the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian police fired live ammunition and tear gas overnight Saturday to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators in Tulkarem. Five children were treated for smoke inhalation.
Tulkarem was tense but calm later Saturday as residents staged a protest strike against Arafat’s two-year-old government, which governs autonomous Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Police arrested dozens of suspected Hamas activists on Friday, during a day of rioting in which security forces opened fire on demonstrators who stormed a Palestinian jail to free inmates arrested in a roundup of suspected militants earlier this year.
One protester was shot to death, and dozens of others were wounded by gunshots or beatings.
The Palestinian Authority blamed the killing of Ibrahim Hadaideh, 44, on Hamas, saying militants opened fire on the crowd.
But a Hamas statement issued Saturday held the authority responsible for the violence and warned the protests were the “beginning of a new popular uprising against the authority.”
“What took place in Tulkarem was a natural continuation of a process started by the authority that has been violating the human rights of our people,” Hamas said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were the scenes of a popular uprising against Israeli occupation troops.
About 60 prisoners escaped during Friday’s rioting in Tulkarem. But by Saturday morning, all the prisoners were back in custody, security officials and Hamas activists said.