Chaos, clashes in Gaza, as residents protest power cuts

Thousands march through streets of Jabaliya in the northern Strip; several injuries reported

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Screen shot of massive protest in Jabaliya, Gaza, on January 12, 2017,  over severe power cuts in the middle of the winter.  (credit: Twitter)
Screen shot of massive protest in Jabaliya, Gaza, on January 12, 2017, over severe power cuts in the middle of the winter. (credit: Twitter)

Clashes broke out Thursday night between Hamas security forces and protesters at a rare massive rally in the Gaza Strip over severe power cuts.

Videos and images from the protest showed thousands of Palestinians streaming through the streets of Jabaliya, located in the northern part of the Strip.

Reports from both pro-Hamas and pro-Fatah media outlets said there had been a number of injuries.

Fatah’s official Twitter account said several protesters were injured by live fire.

Pro-Hamas media said some protesters were injured from police batons, and that guns were fired into the air in order to disperse protesters.

Shots can be heard in video footage of the protest.

Hamas’s police spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Al-Batniji, said that security forces were preventing protesters from “attacking the power company.”

“We are with the peaceful protesters wherever they are,” he added.

Thursday’s demonstration began in the Jabaliya refugee camp, and as it grew in size, the crowd began marching toward a nearby electricity distribution center, chanting: “Raise your voice, electricity cuts mean death.”

Another clip from the protest showed Gazans scrambling through the streets and chanting.

An AFP photographer reported that a policeman hit him in the face with a gun for refusing to hand over his camera. He was arrested and the memory card of his camera confiscated.

He was escorted to a hospital where he was treated with three stitches to his face before being released and his memory card returned.

An AP journalist was arrested by plain-clothed Hamas security forces, who forced him to hand over his mobile phones, according to the Foreign Press Association, the foreign media union operating in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The FPA issued a statement to condemn the “violent behaviour in the strongest terms”, while AFP also issued a complaint with the Gaza interior ministry spokesman.

Power shortages in the Palestinian enclave have occurred repeatedly in recent weeks, with homes in Gaza City typically getting around four hours a day instead of at least eight normally.

A series of protests against the Hamas-run electricity company have been met with a number of arrests, according to the Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network.

Palestinians have complained that these cuts are especially brutal due to the especially frigid weather the Strip is currently experiencing.

The demonstration is a rare sign of dissent in the territory, which the Hamas terror group has ruled for the past 10 years.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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