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Fair demands and political exploitation of the Gaza protests against Hamas

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The Gaza Strip has just witnessed a series of demonstrations against poor living conditions. They prompted widespread reactions critical of Hamas’s way of dealing with protesters, with some within the movement talking about stepping down from the de facto government of Gaza and calling for a new leadership. Who was behind the demonstrations? How were they used by the Palestinian Authority? And what are the Palestinian and Israeli positions on all of this?

It is no surprise that the Palestinians in Gaza took to the streets to protest against the harsh humanitarian situation and the ongoing suffering under the Israeli-imposed siege since Hamas’s victory in the 2006 legislative elections. The PA has imposed its own harsh financial and economic sanctions, helping to cause unprecedented conditions.

What is surprising is that the protests on 14-15 March making reasonable humanitarian demands were exploited politically by the Ramallah-based PA. This prompted Hamas to use force against the protestors amid claims that the movement has evidence proving that the PA and its security agencies were inciting them.

The Palestinians have a right to demonstrate peacefully in the Gaza Strip against injustice. This right should not be challenged by any security forces, because this puts more pressure on the people in Gaza. Hamas was required to make space for the protests and protect participants without dispersing them as long as they were peaceful in nature.

READ: Israel causing new crises in GazA says Hamas

The de facto government of Gaza believes that the catastrophic economic conditions are caused by the Israeli blockade on Gaza as well as the PA’s own sanctions. It is this, says Hamas, which is the context for the PA’s efforts to weaken the enclave by starving the people.

However, there are some within Hamas who see the popular protests on the streets of Gaza as a wake-up call that there are flaws in the local and government administrations in the territory that need to be corrected. This does not mean that the public is against Hamas, but the people are sending a message to the Israeli occupation authorities, regional powers and the international community. This message is clear: the Palestinians in Gaza want to live a dignified life despite the presence of........

© Middle East Monitor