Palestinian demonstrators fed up with high prices and unpaid salaries shuttered shops, halted traffic with burning tires and clashed with riot police in demonstrations across the West Bank on Monday, in the largest show of popular discontent with the Palestinian Authority in its 18-year existence.
Some 24,000 public transportation drivers went on strike to join the action, which hampered life in West Bank cities, villages and refugee camps.
The strike's organizers called for peaceful protest, but there were violent clashes between demonstrators and police in Hebron, The Associated Press reported. Protesters smashed storefront windows and tried to storm a municipality building before they were dispersed by police who beat demonstrators and hurled tear gas, the AP said.
Meanwhile, many storekeepers closed up shop, students and faculty did not show up at schools and universities, and protesters rallied in many city centers.
Earlier, the Ma'an news agency reported that striking taxi drivers had blocked the Bethlehem-Hebron road and that people threw stones at the Hebron municipality building. Tires were set alight in many cities.
Ma'an added that private motorists were ferrying passengers for a fee and that in response taxi and bus drivers blocked roads to surrounding villages. Most of the stone throwing and tire burning reportedly took place in the refugee camps and poorer villages.
One retiree told a Voice of Palestine radio interviewer, almost in tears, what it was like to live on only NIS 1,200 a month.
Interviewers repeatedly ask senior PLO officials why the Paris Protocol should not be annulled. The protocol is an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the framework of the Oslo Accords that imposes a similar tax level on both Israel and the PA despite the vast differences in income and GDP.
One grocery store worker in Ramallah said he heard about the Paris Protocol from leaflets handed out by a movement called Palestinians for Honor. He said he understood from the protocol that the PLO had "sold" the Palestinians 18 years ago.
"The Pension Law was passed so that people coming from outside [the West Bank] could get NIS 200,000 or more, while someone like me, who has lived here, cannot get NIS 80 for kindergarten," he said. "The entire people hates them. The Jews have more mercy on us than they do."
Palestinians for Honor has called for a general strike today in Ramallah. Much of the rage is being directed at Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who says he is crippled by a huge budget shortfall. Over the weekend, Fayyad said he did not rule out resigning "if that would lead to solving the problem." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas defended Fayyad on Sunday, saying the prime minister and his ministers were implementing his policies.
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