Hundreds of Palestinians protested across several West Bank cities Monday, in a public uproar over rising consumer prices and the Palestinian Authority’s budget crisis.
The PA leadership instructed its security forces to avoid confrontations with the protesters to prevent a further escalation. However, in some cases, policemen were forced to use live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. According to regional media, PA officials in Ramallah expressed deep concern over the escalating protests and warned that the security forces would not allow demonstrators to damage public and private properties.
Youths in Ramallah and Bethlehem threw stones, burned tires, blocked roads and set trashcans on fire. Thousands of taxi and truck drivers launched a strike throughout the West Bank to protest the recent spike in gas prices. Holding signs that read, ‘We Need a Loan to Buy Gas,’ the drivers called upon the cash-strapped Palestinian government to subsidise the latest hike. Similar protests took place in Jenin, Tulkarm, Jericho and Nablus.
The worst violence erupted in Hebron, where dozens of protesters hurled stones at the municipality offices and a fire station, according to the Palestinian news agency Maan. The protesters also attacked a number of shops in the centre of the city, causing extensive damage. Palestinian police used tear gas to quell the crowds, but no injuries were reported.
Most of the public anger has been directed at the PA, which is struggling to stay afloat given a deficit of $100 million a month. Salaries for more than 150,000 government workers are a month behind, and President Mahmoud Abbas warned over the weekend that October pay checks are in doubt, as Arab countries fail to fulfill their donation pledges.
Some protesters were also calling for the resignation of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, despite Abbas on Saturday taking full responsibility for the budget and economic policies.