Palestinian demonstrations against steeply rising prices turned violent in some parts of the West Bank on Monday, as protesters smashed windows and attempted to storm a municipality building, before clashing with police.
In Hebron, police beat some demonstrators and hurled tear gas to disperse the crowd. The violence lasted for about an hour before it was brought under control. There were no reports of injuries.
On Sunday morning, trucks and taxis blocked the road leading from Bethlehem to Hebron, and in the evening, youths set tires alight in Ramallah and blocked streets.
The protesters – mainly taxi and public transport drivers – called for demonstrations against the rising price of gas, which reflects the recent hike in Israel’s gas prices. In Bethlehem, classes at the university and some schools were canceled on Monday as a result of the expected public transport strike, while calls for a general strike across the Palestinian market were being encouraged.
Much of the rage was being directed at Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who says he is crippled by a huge budget shortfall. Over the weekend, Fayyad said that he does not rule out the option of resigning from his post, “if that would lead to solving the problem.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas defended Fayyad on Sunday, saying the prime minister, together with his government ministers, were in fact implementing his policies.
Abbas also discussed at length the Palestinians’ intention to seek recognition as a non-member state by the United Nations General Assembly later this month, in what appeared to be an attempt to distract the public from the economic situation.
Also on Sunday, the PA asked Israel to consider amending a key economic agreement.
Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, who is also in charge of coordination with Israel, said he had sent an official letter to Israel’s Defense Ministry at the behest of Abbas. The PA is seeking an overhaul of the 1994 Paris Protocol, which is in fact the economic part of the Oslo Accords interim peace agreement.
The Paris Protocol has determined Palestinian tax and customs rates for the past 18 years and requires that the PA maintain the same value-added tax as Israel, where VAT rose to 17 percent in September. It also prevents the Palestinians from maintaining open trade relations with other states unless they occur via Israel.
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