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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Palestinian anger over student's death
Funeral for Haitham Abu Shammalah
The student's death has caused widespread anger
By Kylie Morris in Gaza

While Yasser Arafat builds bridges with the international community, back home the mood on the streets is far from calm.

Thousands of angry Palestinians have marched through Gaza City, declaring the city's police chief a traitor and calling on the Palestinian Authority to implement its laws.

Protesters marching in Gaza
Thousands are calling for the police chief to be sacked
The march was in honour of 20-year-old Haitham Abu Shammalah, who was shot by police at a demonstration against the Afghanistan war a week ago.

The head of the powerful Abu Shammalah clan - which numbers as many as 5,000 members - declared in a statement that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat must sack the hated police chief, Ghazi Jabaly, and hold a proper investigation into what happened.

Two university students and a 13-year-old boy died when police opened fire on protesters last Monday, who had gathered to demonstrate against the attacks on Afghanistan, some carrying posters of Osama Bin Laden.

Strong police reaction

The Palestinian Authority via its police force acted quickly and forcefully to end the public display of anti-war sentiment, with officers shooting live fire and tear gas into the protesters.

Police blame the students for the violence, and claim that masked gunmen were among the crowd.

But those who gathered to mourn Haitham Abu Shammalah in Gaza today reject that story.

Haitham Abu Shammalah
Haitham's family say he was simply expressing his opinion

They called on Ghazi Jabaly to come out into the streets, and face his fate.

A family spokesman, Khalil Abu Shammalah, said the Palestinian Authority must implement its own laws, and bring to justice those who are responsible for the three deaths, and injuries to more than a 100 protesters.

Others made a more direct connection between the Palestinian Authority's bid for international approval, in its support for the US-led alliance in the war against terrorism, and its response to last week's protests.

One poster declared: "Shame! The blood of Haitham is the price of the attack on New York."

Misdirected anger

Uniformed police were absent from the streets, as students joined the march as it wound its way by the university, the site of last week's shootings.

But accompanying the protesters were scores of plain clothed police, swapping progress reports on walkie talkies.

The head of the clan, Fayez Abu Shammalah, who is also a local politician in the clan stronghold of Khan Younis, said his people were feeling a mix of sadness and anger.

He added that this was the anger that should be directed toward Israel and the settlers, not at the bodies of Palestinian students, whether they supported or opposed the attacks in Afghanistan.

Khalil Abu Shammalah mourned his family member, saying that Haitham was an independent, supporting neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad.

He said the law student was protesting to express legitimately his feeling against the American attacks on the people of Afghanistan.

See also:

14 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Arafat arrives in the UK for talks
09 Oct 01 | Middle East
Bin Laden stirs up Arab world
12 Oct 01 | Middle East
Palestinians protest against US
09 Oct 01 | Middle East
Palestinians on emergency footing
27 Sep 01 | Middle East
Analysis: The intifada one year on
03 Oct 01 | Middle East
Q&A: Mid-East violence surges
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