Palestinians attend funeral for PA critic Nizar Banat in Hebron

PALESTIN – (WARSOOR) – Thousands of Palestinians turned out on Friday in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron to attend the funeral of Nizar Banat, an outspoken critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), who died in the custody of PA forces on Thursday.

Mourners travelled from across the occupied West Bank to attend Banat’s funeral prayers at Wasaya al-Rasool Mosque in Hebron and marched through the streets along with his family and friends before he was buried. The funeral began with the transfer of Banat’s body to his family home for a final farewell.

“People here are incredibly angry at the Palestinian Authority,” Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker said, speaking from Hebron. “They are calling for the downfall of the regime, and are saying they are under a double occupation. They accuse the PA of being hand in hand with Israel.”

The chants also included calls for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to resign. Abbas, who has been president since 2005, technically finished his mandate in 2009, but continued to rule in the absence of new elections.

Banat, 43, intended to run in parliamentary elections before they were cancelled earlier this year. He was a harsh critic of the PA, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and called on Western nations to cut off aid to it because of its growing authoritarianism and human rights violations.

The PA receives millions of dollars in foreign aid as it is recognised by the West to represent the Palestinian people.

Banat was in bed in his home in Dura in southern Hebron, when some two dozen PA officers broke into his home and started beating him in the early hours of Thursday morning, according to his family. He was dragged away screaming, local media quoted them as saying, and he was beaten on the head with batons and pieces of metal.

After conducting an autopsy, a Palestinian rights group said Banat took blows to the head, adding the wounds indicated “an unnatural death”.

Since Banat’s death, Palestinians have been widely sharing his previous writings and videos.

Protests against PA

Videos shared on social media on Friday showed large crowds of mourners protesting against the PA following Banat’s funeral.

Armed men present vowed to avenge Banat’s death from those who killed him.

Many chanted “leave, leave Abbas” and “the people want the overthrow of the regime” as anger continued to mount against the Palestinian Authority.

In occupied East Jerusalem, hundreds of worshippers who attended Friday prayers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, also protested against the killing of Banat.

A statement by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said the investigation into Banat’s death will be “transparent and impartial”, and the results of the investigation will be announced “at the earliest opportunity”.

Hours after Banat’s death on Thursday, large crowds of Palestinians also took to the streets in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah to protest against his killing, but they were met with batons and tear gas fired by dozens of PA forces dressed in riot gear.

“The people want the downfall of the regime,” the protesters chanted at the city’s main al-Manara Square while others screamed, “traitors, traitors” at the security forces.