Over 1,500 Demonstrate in Ramallah Calling on Abbas to Lift Sanctions on Gaza

The demonstration in central Ramallah on Sunday is the biggest popular show of solidarity toward Gaza by Palestinians in the West Bank since the beginning of the "Great March of Return" in the Strip at the end of March

Demonstrators in Ramallah on Sunday, June 10, 2018
Mohamad Torokman (Reuters)

Over 1,500 people demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday night calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to lift punitive sanctions imposed on Gaza in an attempt to weaken Hamas, the rival Palestinian faction that rules the Strip.

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Demonstrators in Ramallah on Sunday, June 10, 2018
Mohamad Torokman (Reuters)

Because of the measures put in place by Abbas, PA employees in the Strip experience delays in the payment of their salaries or outright cuts. April salaries, for instance, have only recently been paid and not even in full, while May salaries are yet to be paid. This wage freeze makes the situation of most families in the Gaza Strip even more problematic, and has coincided with the so-called "Great March of Return" which began at the end of March.

Over 1500 demonstrate in Ramallah calling on Abbas to lift sanctions on Gaza

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The demonstration on Sunday night followed a call on social media by several artists, journalists and activists.  It is the biggest popular show of solidarity toward Gaza seen in the West Bank since the beginning of the "Great March of Return" in Gaza. Several Palestinian residents of Jerusalem who came to Ramallah just for the occasion also participated to the march.

Demonstrators in Ramallah on Sunday, June 10, 2018
Mohamad Torokman (Reuters)

Initially, around nine and a half at night, only a few dozen demonstrators could be seen on Al-Manara Square in central Ramallah, most of them well-known activists of left-wing organizations. There were also a lot of TV cameras, as well as police and undercover security personnel. But shortly afterwards, the crowds arrived. Under Palestinian law, demonstrations do not require official permissions from the police, but authorities need to be informed of the place and time of the gathering. One of the promoters of Sunday night's demonstration, however, told Haaretz that no one had warned police as far as he knew. 

At some point during the night there was a moment of commotion: according to eyewitnesses, undercover security personnel tried to stop some demonstrators who were chanting slogans against Abbas. But after the episode the demonstration only grew larger, and lasted for another hour and a half. Activists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front could be seen marching alongside students from Bir Zeit University in Ramallah.

Demonstrators in Ramallah on Sunday, June 10, 2018
Mohamad Torokman (Reuters)

Demonstrators chanted slogans in support of Gaza and carried posters with the image of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian paramedic who died after being shot in the chest on June 1.

Some slogans targeted the Palestinian Authority accusing it of being a "contractor of the occupation" while the Gaza Strip is revolting, and calling for an end to security coordination with Israel. Other slogans said "Shame on you, you sold Gaza in dollars," and "With soul and blood, we will save you Gaza." A group of young demonstrators also called for armed struggle and the "return to guns and missiles."

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To the surprise of demonstrators, at the end of the march when people walked back into Al-Manara Square, huge posters were hanging on four different building carrying claims that Hamas was responsible for the situation in the Strip. The posters claimed that the Palestinian Authority disbursed 17 billion dollars for the benefit of the Strip since 2007, only for Hamas to turn the place into a disaster.

Toward the end of the demonstration, a group of youths who claimed to be from Gaza said they left for the West Bank because of intolerable conditions endured under the Hamas regime. They praised  Mahmoud Abbas and argued with the demonstrators saying they had no idea what it was like to live under Hamas.