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Thousands protest Hamas’s rule in Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in Gaza yesterday for a third day of protest against Hamas’s management of the Strip.

The demonstrations are organised by journalists, academics, youth movements and several Palestinian groups, all of whom have united under the banner: “We want to live”. They are protesting the recent tax rises and corruption by Hamas authorities, which have caused living conditions to deteriorate.

The protests started in the two cities of Khan Younis and Deir Al Balah, where demonstrators burned tyres and blocked roads on Friday. A 32-year-old demonstrator from Jabalya was taken to hospital after he set himself on fire. Over the last two days the protests spread to Jabalya, Shati, Khan Yunis, Deir al-Balah, and Maghazi.

Hamas’s security forces have used violence to break up the demonstrations. Footage from mobile phones posted on social media showed security forces beating protesters with clubs, and there are reports that live fire was used to break-up some of the protests.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a West Bank-based journalist group, told The Times of Israel that since the start of the protests, 17 reporters were arrested but 10 of them were released. Four required hospital treatment. Palestine TV report that Hamas kidnapped Rafat Al Qadra, director-general of the Gaza Strip’s radio and television station, from his home on Saturday night.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for Middle East peace, said in a statement: “I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days.”

He added: I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights and the raiding of homes. The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal.”

Hamas has accused the security services of the rival Fatah movement of organising the protests in an attempt to weaken its control over Gaza. Fatah officials have denied the allegation.

Weekly protests along the border were called off last Friday for the first time since they began last March.