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Palestinian labor minister quits amid anti-gov’t protests

Palestinian protesters chant slogans as they gather in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on June 26, 2021, during a demonstration against the death of human rights activist Nizar Banat wh
Palestinian protesters chant slogans as they gather in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on June 26, 2021, during a demonstration against the death of human rights activist Nizar Banat while in the custody of Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces earlier in the week. (Photo: AFP)
RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories — The labor minister in the Palestinian Authority resigned Sunday, a member of his party said, as security forces braced for further protests demanding president Mahmoud Abbas step down.اضافة اعلان

The decision comes after three days of heavy protests against the Palestinian Authority (PA), triggered by the violent arrest and death in custody of an activist.

Nizar Banat, a 43-year-old known for social media videos denouncing alleged corruption within the PA, died on Thursday shortly after security forces stormed his house and violently arrested him, his family said.

New protests are slated for Sunday evening in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in both Ramallah — the seat of the PA — and Banat's hometown of Hebron.

The left-wing Palestinian People's Party withdrew from the Fatah-led PA government due to it "its lack of respect for laws and public freedoms", party member Issam Abu Bakr said.

Nasri Abu Jaish, the labor minister and the People's Party representative in the government, has therefore resigned, said Abu Bakr.

The PA has announced the opening of an investigation into Banat's death, but it has done little to appease anger on the streets.

According to the autopsy, injuries indicated Banat had been beaten on the head, chest, neck, legs and hands, with less than hour elapsing between his arrest and his death, pathologist Samir Abu Zarzour said.

On Saturday, protesters in Ramallah hurled rocks at Palestinian security forces, who opened fire with a barrage of tear gas canisters, with reports of several injured.

Protesters called for 86-year-old Abbas to quit.

Banat had registered as a candidate in Palestinian parliamentary elections, which had been set for May until Abbas postponed them indefinitely.

The original mandate of Abbas expired in 2009, and he has since governed by decree.

In May, Abbas declared that legislative and presidential polls set for May and June respectively should not be held until Israel guaranteed voting could take place in annexed east Jerusalem.

In addition to holding the presidency, Abbas is also head of Fatah and president of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), recognized internationally as representing the Palestinians.

But Fatah faces a growing challenge from its longtime rivals, the militant Islamist organization Hamas, which rules the Palestinian coastal enclave of Gaza.

The PA exercises limited powers over some 40 percent of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Israel, which controls all access to the territory and coordinates with the PA, directly administers the remaining 60 percent.

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