'Gaza is rising up in face of oppressors,' says Abbas aide

Hamas said to beat Gazans protesting dire economic conditions for second day

Reports of live fire as residents of Hamas-ruled enclave burn tires in Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis in rare show of dissent to terror group’s rule

A screenshot of video shown by the Kan public broadcaster of a protest in the Gaza Strip over the cost of living on March 15, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)
A screenshot of video shown by the Kan public broadcaster of a protest in the Gaza Strip over the cost of living on March 15, 2019. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took to the streets on Friday for the second successive day to protest against Hamas and the dire economic condition in the Strip, with some reports saying the terror group used live fire to put down the demonstrations.

The protests came after a night of violence surrounding the Strip, that was sparked when two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv. In response Israel hit more than 100 Hamas targets and Hamas fired seven more rockets into Israel before the two sides reportedly reached a fresh ceasefire.

The center of the demonstrations was in Deir el-Balah, where Hebrew media reports said protesters burned tires and blocked one of the central Gaza city’s main roads.

Similar protests were also taking place in Khan Younis in the south of the Strip.

In video from the demonstrations, protesters could be seen throwing rocks as the sound of apparent gunfire is heard in the background.

Quoting the demonstrators, the Ynet news site said they were beaten by security forces loyal to Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza. The Hamas members also reportedly used live fire to disperse the protests.

There were no immediate reports on the number of injured.

The rare public show of dissent in Gaza began Thursday as demonstrators took to the streets in a number of locations throughout the Strip to protest the cost of living and Hamas rule.

Friday’s protests came after the firing of two rockets from Gaza late Thursday toward Tel Aviv threatened to spark a serious military escalation between Hamas and Israel before a reported ceasefire was reached, and weekly clashes with Israeli troops along the border were called off for the first time since they began last March.

Channel 12 said many of the those who took part were the same people who normally go to the border protests.

According to Ynet, photographer Osama Kahalut was arrested by Hamas for taking a picture of Friday’s protests. An AFP reporter had said Thursday that journalists were prevented from filming or taking pictures at one of the demonstrations.

The protests had been organized to call for an improvement in the quality of life in Gaza, which suffers from high unemployment, widespread poverty and poor electricity and water infrastructure.

They were also seen as a challenge to Hamas, an Islamist terror group which has ruled the Strip since 2007.

A statement purporting to be from the organizers said the protests were non-political and against the rising cost of living and taxes in the Strip.

The Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network, which includes more than 100 charities, said in a statement it “strongly condemned the campaign of arrests and aggression that the security forces launched in Jabaliya in northern Gaza against the right of dozens of citizens.”

It said the protesters were “gathering peacefully to demand an improvement in the life quality in the Gaza Strip.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, a close confidant of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, expressed support for the protesters.

“Gaza is rising up in the face of oppressors,” he wrote on Twitter.

Hamas seized Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in a 2007 near civil war. The terror group had surprisingly won Palestinian parliamentary elections a year earlier. Since then it has controlled Gaza, while the PA has maintained limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

AFP contributed to this report.

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