Protesters in Bethlehem, Beirut and Amman also denounce the Palestinian Authority's repression of solidarity demonstrations last week
Under the same slogan, “Lift the sanctions”, protesters gathered in the occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan on Wednesday evening to stand in solidarity with the Gaza Strip and call for an end to Palestinian Authority-imposed sanctions on the besieged enclave.
Israeli forces have killed at least 133 Palestinians during demonstrations in Gaza since the Great March of Return movement - which calls for the implementation of the right of return for Gaza’s 1.3 million refugees - began on 30 March.
In the West Bank, demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza have strongly criticised the role played by the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in worsening living conditions in the coastal strip since Fatah’s rival, Hamas, took control of the enclave in 2007 after winning elections there in 2006.
In May, the Palestinian Authority cut in half the salaries of its estimated 50,000 employees in the Gaza Strip without warning. Last summer, the PA stopped paying for Gaza’s electricity, leaving the enclave’s residents with only two hours of power a day, compared to eight hours previously.
PA security forces’ violent repression of one such solidarity protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 13 June has shocked Palestinians, who have vowed to carry on demonstrations and denounce the PA.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, around 150 demonstrators called for an end to the PA’s antagonism with Hamas and its detrimental consequences on civilians in Gaza on Wednesday.
Demonstrators chant against the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem (MEE/Akram al-Wara)
“We are demanding that the PA return the salaries to the civil servants in Gaza, treat the people in Gaza and the West Bank as one, and stop the fighting with Hamas because we are all one people,” 20-year-old protester Alaa al-Daya told Middle East Eye.
“We are demanding that they also fix the electricity and water in Gaza and do everything in their power to ease the medical situation in Gaza.”
The protesters also blasted PA security forces for their violent repression of demonstrations a week earlier using plainclothed officers, chanting slogans such as “you came dressed as civilians but acted like soldiers”.
“I was in Ramallah [last week] and my daughter was hurt," Rehab Nazzal, a professor at Dar al-Kalima University participating in the protest, told MEE. "What happened was horrific, it was unacceptable by any civil power on this planet. They are thugs who infiltrated a civil protest.”
PA security forces positioned near journalists handed out water bottles to protesters in Bethlehem - a gesture most demonstrators saw as a transparent attempt to change the narrative after the events in Ramallah last week.
“When I saw the police giving people water today, I felt cheated,” Daya said. “They are liars and two-faced, trying to make the people forget what they did in Ramallah last week. The whole world saw what they did and how they attacked the people, and now they are trying to put on a good face.”
In Beirut, demonstrators gathered outside the PA embassy, holding signs and banners reading “One people, one blood, one organism”, while a number of people holding Fatah flags held a counter-protest in the same area.
— #FreePalestine 🇵🇸 (@Taghreeba) June 21, 2018
Translation: From inside Beirut in front of the Palestinian embassy, the slogan of "Lift the sanctions" is raised. Victory for the people of Gaza and confirmation that the Palestinian diaspora did not and will not forget the liberation of the homeland.
— Mąřwą 🇵🇸 (@Mrwa199) June 20, 2018
Translation: "They can never be one of us, those that besiege our Gaza”... Photos of the protest in front of the Palestinian Authority embassy in Beirut rejecting the PA sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
A video circulating on social media showed a journalist being pushed away by a man seemingly affiliated to the PA.
عناصر من اعتدوا على الصحفيين في بيروت اليوم، طبعا فتح دعت لمسيرة مضادة لمسيرة تدعو لرفع العقوبات عن غزة. pic.twitter.com/qTJRtQ8ZS0
— شجاعية (@shejae3a) June 20, 2018
“I am a journalist,” the woman is heard protesting. “Are you going to hit me?”
“You’ve come to curse the president,” the man is heard saying referring to head of the PA Mahmoud Abbas.
“Do you want to bring down Abu Mazen?” the man later asks, referring to Abbas by his nickname.
PA-affiliated news outlets such as the Wafa agency reported that "thousands" of Palestinians allegedly rallied in Beirut in support of Abbas, without mentioning the anti-PA protests. However, footage of the demonstration in Beirut did not seem to show more than a few hundred people at most, mainly anti-PA demonstrators.
In Amman, Palestinian news agency Shehab reported similarly sized crowds outside the PA mission in Jordan.
"باعوا غزة هالعرصات.. بدولارين بدولارين" "يا للعار يا للعار غزة تعيش بحصار"
هتافات الشبان في الوقفة الاحتجاجية أمام السفارة الفلسطينية في عمان رفضاً للعقوبات التي تفرضها السلطة على قطاع غزة pic.twitter.com/9LDyKCX5KC
— وكالة شهاب (@ShehabAgency) June 20, 2018
Translation: "They sold Gaza for two dollars" "O shame, o shame, Gaza is living under siege"... Young protesters chant in front of the Palestinian embassy in Amman in response to the Palestinian Authority's sanctions against the Gaza Strip
While several hundred people took to the streets in Bethlehem, Beirut and Amman, bigger protests are expected to take place on Saturday in more locations, both within and outside occupied Palestine.
“The PA has disregard for the Palestinian people’s will,” Nazzal, one of the Bethlehem demonstrators, said. “But these protests are breaking the silence. We have been silent for many, many years.”
Yumna Patel contributed reporting from Bethlehem.