Islamic Jihad rallies in Ramallah despite Palestinian Authority
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Tension ran high in the West Bank city of Ramallah as several hundred supporters of the radical Palestinian movement Islamic Jihad held a rally.
Palestinian security official tried to stop the organisers from setting up a podium in Manara Square of central Ramallah and confiscated loudspeakers they had brought along for the event.
However, the gathering went ahead, with supporters chanting slogans against the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"We are astonished by the PA's decision to ban our march," shouted Islamic Jihad spokesman Khader Adnan.
Addressing the crowd, he said the group rejected any attempt to disarm the Palestinian factions and urged the PA to avoid "setting itself up against the resistance".
The demonstration broke up at the request of Palestinian security forces after the protestors burned an Israeli flag.
Around a thousand people attended a similar Islamic Jihad demonstration in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. Unusually for such a gathering, not a single gunman was seen among the demonstrators.
Over 50 suspected Islamic Jihad activists were arrested by Israeli troops in the West Bank earlier this week following a series of attacks and attempted operations claimed by the movement.
On Tuesday, Israel also tried to assassinate an Islamic Jihad member in an air strike in Gaza in what was the first such targeted killing operation in months.
Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad official, told AFP the Israeli "threats to arrest or assassinate Jihad members" risks destroying the fragile truce which has been observed by militant groups since the end of January.
"The truce is on its last legs and is just waiting for the death blow from the Israeli occupier," Batsh said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has long insisted the Palestinian Authority take action to disarm and dismantle militant groups such as Islamic Jihad and its larger rival, Hamas.
He has made it a condition for any Israeli concessions.
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