Palestinian Officers Punished After Bethlehem Beating Video Emerges

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By F. Brinley Bruton and Lawahez Jabari

JERUSALEM — Nine members of the Palestinian security forces have been punished after video emerged of officers brutally beating protesting youths in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority said Monday.

A hidden-camera video obtained by Middle East Eye news service and posted online Friday appeared to show officers in riot gear beating and kicking at least three young men en route to a protest against Israeli policies.

The Palestinian Authority's national security spokesman Col. Hafez al Refai told NBC News on Monday that four members of the security forces have been "relieved" of their positions and another five imprisoned for three months and suspended without pay for a year in relation to the incident. Palestinian officials have also apologized to the families of the three, Refai added.

Palestinian police officials did not respond to NBC News requests for comment on the video and questions about whether they too had taken steps to reprimand their officers.

The protesters in the video were going to a demonstration against Israeli policies governing the Al Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. The compound, the most sacred site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, has been at the center of growing tensions between Jews and Palestinians.

The video, and growing anger among Palestinians for what they see as an impasse in peace talks aimed at the creation of an independent state, has intensified calls for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to step down. Protests also intensified in Bethlehem over the weekend.

A Palestinian policeman reacts next to fellow police officers as he tries to prevent Palestinian demonstrators (not pictured) from reaching an Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday.Luke Baker / Reuters