A UN Middle East envoy on Sunday condemned Hamas violence against protesters in Gaza.
Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said the “long-suffering people of Gaza” were protesting their dire economic situation and demanding an improvement in their quality of life, reported Arab News.
“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. I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights and the raiding of homes. It was people’s right to protest without fear of reprisal,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.
The demonstrations — under the slogan “We Want to Live” — started at the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza in response to a Hamas tax hike.
The World Bank says 54 percent of the labor force is unemployed in Gaza, including 70 percent among youth, while the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said 53 percent of Palestinians were living in poverty on less than $4.6 per day in 2017.
The director of the field research unit at the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Yamen Madhoun, said there were no accurate statistics for injured protesters but estimated that at least 150 people had been taken to hospital and that hundreds had been detained.
He told Arab News that Hamas security forces were indiscriminate with their violence. Videos posted to social media appeared to show them beating and verbally abusing people, including women and children.
Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has been at loggerheads with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank.
Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem accused Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) of pursuing a “starvation policy” through sanctions to create turmoil.
“The sanctions of the authority against Gaza intersect with the Israeli siege imposed 13 years ago, (it) is a national crime, and the authority aims to weaken the internal front,” he told Arab News, referring to financial measures imposed by PA to isolate Hamas.
But Fatah spokesman Atef Abu Saif rejected the accusation. “This is naive, and reflects Hamas’ desire to seek power up to the end against the will of the masses,” he told Arab News.
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