Protests in the West Bank descended into violence last night after Palestinian Authority (PA) police attempted to break up demonstrations demonstrating against the PA’s policies in the Gaza Strip.
Riot police arrested journalists and dozens of protesters and fired tear gas and stun grenades into the crowds in Nablus and Ramallah. Security forces in civilian clothing were also present, with many reporting having been beaten, having their cameras and smartphones confiscated, as the new ban on public protests was enforced; the move has been justified by the PA as necessary in the run up to Eid Al-Fitr holiday tomorrow.
The protesters called for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to remove sanctions he imposed on Gaza in an effort to pressure Hamas into handing over control of the Strip, following failed reconciliation talks at the end of last year.
The PA announced a temporary ban on demonstrations yesterday, after over 2,000 people took to the streets of Ramallah on Sunday to condemn the government’s role in the siege of Gaza. However the ban did little to stem last night’s collective action.
Many Palestinians have taken to social media to organise themselves, with a Facebook page “The sanctions against Gaza are a crime,” informing the public of planned protests.
The [Israeli] occupation is the main culprit responsible for the blockade on Gaza, but President Abbas is making things worse by also imposing collective punishment on families there
campaign activist Fadi Quran said, vowing to take to the streets.
Talks between the Palestinian factions have stalled in recent months. Although Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo in October in an attempt to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza, they failed to make progress in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In April, the PA cut salaries of its civil servants in the Strip by a further 20 per cent, causing widespread protest. This came after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slashed Gaza salaries by nearly a third last year. He has also reduced PA staff numbers in Gaza from 60,000 last year by ordering early retirement for nearly a third of employees.
Last month, in the aftermath of the Great March of Return, Hebrew media sources revealed that the PA had threatened to sever security cooperation with Israel if the blockade on the Gaza Strip was lifted.
PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj reportedly sent a letter to his Israeli counterpart Nadav Argaman, warning him against any action that would help alleviate the suffering of the population in Gaza, seeking to maintain pressure on Hamas.