No Ceremonies for Arafat in Gaza

There was not a single public commemorations in Gaza of the fourth anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death (November 11, 2004). The rallies scheduled for Gaza Strip cities were canceled by order of the police, Fatah officials said. However, a spokesman for the Hamas government said there had been no request made for a permit for the demonstrations.

The first event was scheduled for Monday in Rafah and was supposed to combine three issues: Arafat's memory; a protest over the siege of Gaza and the closing of the border crossings; and support for rapprochement talks between Hamas and Fatah being held in Cairo. Officially, all the canceled demonstrations were not under Fatah auspices but were being arranged by a coordinating committee of all PLO member organizations. In any case, the organizers of the Rafah rally were summoned by the police, held for a few hours and then asked to sign a statement they would not organize any activities or they would be fined. Some signed and others refused. The organizations have canceled all their demonstrations, though Fatah made no official announcement.

Printers were also ordered not to print any material related to Arafat or his pictures without approval.

The police in Rafah also raided a nursery school run by the Popular Front, claiming Fatah posters were hung there.

Dozens of university and high school students considered affiliated with Fatah were arrested yesterday. The security forces have increased their presence on Gaza streets since last Friday and are randomly stopping cars, especially at night. A Hamas spokesman said no arrests were made, but people were invited for a short talk with the police.