The Palestinian Authority (PA) held the Gaza Strip ruling party, Hamas, responsibility for ongoing oppression there. Hamas is facing accusations of using excessive force with civilians after leading a crackdown against protesters demonstrating over economic hardship and upped tax brackets.
In a first since Hamas seized the Strip twelve years ago, fierce clashes erupted between its forces and hundreds of young demonstrators in Gaza on Saturday as protests against the high cost of living in the coastal enclave entered their third day.
Hamas security forces were reported to have fired at and used batons against demonstrators. Labeled as unprecedented, the violence between Hamas and the Strip’s residents saw to the detention and arrest of several civilians.
One of the demonstrators, with his face covered in blood, chanted: “We want to live in dignity”.
The Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) said Hamas forces attacked its staff in Gaza because they were doing their job of monitoring and reporting the movement’s crackdown on the street protests.
ICHR director Ammar Dweik said that Hamas forces attacked and severely beat the director of its Gaza branch, Jamil Sarhan, and its attorney, Baker Turkman, and seized their mobile phones.
He said Hamas wants to silence rights groups who are monitoring the protests.
“We are deeply alarmed and shocked by the way our staff in Gaza were treated,” Dweik told Palestine TV, pointing out that this is the first time in 25 years since the ICHR was established that its staff is treated in such a manner. Victim of Hamas brutality, the ICHR, according to Dweik, will rethink its working in Gaza.
He noted that while this is the way human rights defenders are treated, what is actually happening to the civilians in the street is a lot worse.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has also condemned Hamas’ attack on journalists and said that reporters covering the protests were attacked in the streets and at their homes and their equipment was seized.
It said Hamas exercised brutal force against protesters and journalists, leaving many wounded.
Medical sources said over 70 people were treated in Gaza hospitals since Saturday.
Calls were made for a general strike on Sunday in Gaza to protest the crackdown on the demonstrations, as well as the staggering rise in consumer prices and tax hikes in the impoverished and besieged enclave.