Friday, February 11, 2011

Palestinian protesters vandalize Al-Jazeera offices in Ramallah

Hundreds of Palestinians loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas broke into Al-Jazeera's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a day after the media agency released two decades of secret information known as the Palestine papers.

About 250 Abbas loyalists rallied in support of the president in front of the building housing the local Al-Jazeera office on the seventh and eighth floors. A small group climbed the stairs to the station's offices, where they tried to break in. They did succeed in shattering security cameras, glass door panels and station logos.

The protesters also sprayed graffiti on the wall, declaring "Al-Jazeera are spies" and "Al-Jazeera equals Israel"."Oh Jazeera, you are spies!" chanted the Abbas loyalists, mainly young men. They set fire to an Israeli flag with "Al Jazeera" written on it, witnesses said.

Palestinian police removed the violent protesters and prevented the larger crowd outside the building from entering.

The documents released on Sunday showed Abbas' negotiators willing to give substantial ground on important issues at the heart of the decades-old conflict with Israel, such as the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Abbas, speaking to journalists in Cairo, accused the television station of intentionally misleading viewers. "We say very clearly, we do not have secrets," he said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, accused Qatar of launching a campaign against Abbas' administration, saying documents released by Doha-based Al Jazeera television aimed to mislead.

The emir of Qatar had "given a green light" for a campaign against the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, Abed Rabbo said. Qatar has close ties to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

Al Jazeera is sponsored by Doha, although the government denies it has direct control of the channel.

Palestinians burn Israeli flag with the name of Al-Jazeera sprayed on it.

Palestinians burn a mock Israeli national flag with the word Al Jazeera during a protest outside the television channel's offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 24, 2011.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said "reports" had misrepresented the Palestinians' positions and "statements and facts" had been taken out of context.

In a statement, he said negotiations with Israel had included discussion of some ideas that the Palestinians "could never agree to", adding: "No agreement will be signed without the approval of the Palestinian people."

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