Tension … a Palestinian youth throws a rock at Israeli soldiers in the West Bank town of Nablus to protest military action on Gaza. Photo: AFP
RAMALLAH, West Bank: Fresh clashes erupted in the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Palestinian youths threw rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas.
But anger in the West Bank has not only been directed at Israel: many also blame the Palestinian Authority for failing to take action over the Gaza offensive and for co-operating with the Israeli security forces against protesters.
Hazem Abu Helal was arrested after joining a protest at the Beit El checkpoint, near Ramallah, after several female demonstrators were arrested by the Israeli army.
''They began shooting a lot of tear gas so I moved back to the City Inn Hotel, which is inside the Palestinian-controlled area,'' he said.
Mr Abu Helal was detained not by the Israeli army but by Palestinian security forces, who took him to a Ramallah police station for questioning.
''They said, 'You're making a problem for the [Palestinian Authority]','' Mr Abu Helal said. ''They told me, 'Go make a demonstration in Ramallah'.''
According to Shawan Jabarin, the director of al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group, Palestinian security forces often suppress protests against Israel in the West Bank.
''They stop them, arrest them, beat them sometimes,'' Mr Jabarin said.
On Sunday, he said, Palestinian security forces prevented protesters from reaching Israel's al-Jalame checkpoint, near Jenin. ''The Palestinian police have become a guard for Israel's interests,'' he said.
This security co-operation, outlined under the now two-decade-old Oslo Accords, is a key grievance for Palestinian activists.
''At minimum what [the Authority President, Mahmoud] Abbas could do now is stop this co-operation with Israel,'' Mr Abu Helal said. ''He doesn't believe in the power of his people, only of the people outside. Now he only cares about the UN.''
Despite Mr Abbas's push for statehood at the United Nations, less than half of Palestinians are satisfied with his performance, according to a September poll by a local research institute.
Many Palestinians see this co-operation with Israel as fruitless and allowing expansion of Israeli settlement in the West Bank to continue, without stopping attacks on Gaza.
Mr Abbas has not been to Gaza since June 2007, when clashes saw his Western-backed Fatah movement kicked out of the strip.
Since then the division between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, has created divergent economic, social and political realities.
Mr Abbas and other West Bank leaders have condemned Israel's latest operation, but this is not enough for most Palestinians, said Samir Awad, a professor of political science at Birzeit University near Ramallah.
''The Palestinians in the West Bank are not happy to sit here, where they are separated from Gaza,'' Dr Awad said. ''The Palestinian Authority did not do anything to stop security co-ordination with Israel or even threaten the future of peace talks during this attack on Gaza.''
Guardian News & Media