Palestinians took to the streets on Thursday and Friday, according to news reports, after months of disputes and deadlock both between the extremist Hamas faction, and the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, together with Israeli authorities, which control all access into Gaza under a years-long blockade policy.
Electricity supplies have been sporadic for months, with Israel also withholding fuel deliveries in retaliation for rocket attacks, and lately, Israel decided to withhold around $140 million in tax revenue transfers to Palestinians.
It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal – Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator
Hamas has imposed extra taxes on basic products across Gaza, one of the issues which also fuelled this week’s protests against the economic crisis there, where mainly youth-led marches reportedly displayed banners citing “down with price hikes”, and “the revolt of the hungry”.
“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days” said UN Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, in a statement issued on Sunday.
Alarm over ‘brutal beating’ of journalists
With news reports suggesting that the violent suppression of demonstrations by Hamas security forces included efforts to confiscate reporters’ phones and evidence of the heavy-handed response, Mr. Mladenov said that he was “particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the raiding of homes.”
News reports said that hundreds of those who took part in the demonstrations, were begin held in detention over the weekend.
“The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip”, said the UN Special Coordinator, adding that it was “their right to protest without fear of reprisal.”
Mr. Mladenov urged “Palestinian factions to engage in earnest with Egypt in order to implement the Cairo Agreement in full”, referring to the stalled deal in October 2017, between Hamas and Fatah, that it was hoped would end more than a decade of disagreement, beginning with Hamas’s victory at the polls in Gaza, in 2006.
“The United Nations will continue its efforts to avoid escalation, relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support reconciliation,” said Mr. Mladenov.