Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse an anti-government protest in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, as hundreds demonstrated against the Palestinian Authority’s punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The protest in central Ramallah, the West Bank city that houses the Palestinian government, was in defiance of a temporary ban on demonstrations announced earlier on Wednesday.
The protesters were demanding that 83-year-old Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas drop measures against Gaza, which critics say amount to collective punishment of the two million residents there.
After the protesters were dispersed, organisers pledged to hold fresh rallies in the coming days in a new challenge for the ailing and unpopular Palestinian leader.
“There will be more protests within the next week,” campaign activist Fadi Quran told AFP.
Seemingly to hurt Hamas, the PA has introduced a series of measures against Gaza over the past year, while it has not paid the full salaries of tens of thousands of its civil servants in the besieged coastal enclave for months.
Critics say such moves further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
Since 2007, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza, which detractors say amounts to collective punishment.
The protests come at a difficult time for Abbas, who was recently hospitalised for a week with a lung infection.
Polls show the majority of Palestinians want him to resign.
He is also facing potential isolation after cutting off all contact with Donald Trump’s administration, because of its pro-Israel bias.
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The decision to ban protests in the city came after a Sunday demonstration where some 2,000 Palestinians called for an end to the PA’s measures imposed on Gaza.
A statement on official news agency Wafa on Wednesday cited the Eid Muslim festival, which is expected to begin Friday, as justification for the ban.
On Wednesday night, dozens of Palestinian security forces, positioned in the city’s central Manara square and roads leading to it, fired sound grenades and tear gas after hundreds of protesters began chanting in support of Gaza.
The measures forced the protesters, including men, women and children, to retreat, before returning, with the scene repeating itself for nearly an hour.
A small group of pro-Abbas demonstrators then emerged, but were not dispersed by the security forces.
Quran denied that the march was pro-Hamas, instead stressing that it was in favour of Palestinian political unity and ending the decade-long split.