Hamas authorities prevented demonstrations in the Gaza Strip aimed at showing solidarity with anti-government protesters in Egypt, Human Rights Watch said late Monday.
Throngs of Egyptians have taken to the streets in the last week demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, in what observers are calling the largest protest movement to sweep the country in the last quarter-century. Egyptian security services have tried to stem the wave of unrest, to no avail.
Police arrested six women and threatened to arrest some 20 other would-be demonstrators who arrived at a park in Gaza City in response to a Facebook-planned demonstration, the group said citing witnesses. Police allegedly ordered the women to sign pledges not participate in unsanctioned demonstrations, witnesses told the human rights group.
"The Hamas authorities should stop arbitrarily interfering with peaceful demonstrations about Egypt or anything else," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch's Middle East director. The ruling Islamist group has so far been reluctant to comment on the demonstrations in Egypt demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
On January 20, a group of young people in Ramallah who wanted to demonstrate their support for the Tunisians were thwarted by Palestinian Authority police.
After organizing themselves using Facebook and e-mail, they informed the police 48 hours in advance of their intention to gather in Manara Square - only to learn that public demonstrations in support of the Tunisian people had been forbidden.
Some of the young people arrived at the square anyway, at the scheduled time. When one of them was seen carrying a Tunisian flag, policemen rushed over and dispersed the crowd.
Demonstrators in front of the Egyptian Embassy in north Tel Aviv on Friday expressed support for the anti-government protests taking place in Egypt and demanded that President Hosni Mubarak resign immediately.
A few dozen young people of various faiths carried Egyptian, Palestinian and Tunisian flags aloft, held signs in Arabic and Hebrew and chanted slogans denouncing the Mubarak regime. Israeli police kept a watchful eye from across the street but did not interfere.
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