An employee of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip whose salary has been withheld for several months set himself on fire Saturday night, and was moderately injured.
Fathi Walid Khareb, 22, a father of two, committed the act of self-immolation in a street in Gaza City at around 3 a.m., in front of passersby, who rushed to put him out and provide assistance.
Local reports said he cursed the Palestinian government during the incident.
Khareb, whose wife is soon expected to give birth to their third child, was apparently despondent over his family’s poverty.
He was evacuated to hospital in moderate condition.
A video of the incident is below (warning, graphic content):
— רשת (@Reshettv) May 20, 2018
Hadashot TV news noted that 65 percent of the Strip’s population is poor, with nearly half of the population unemployed.
“Gaza is under blockade,” local journalist Adnan Abu Uda told Hadashot. “You see people in Gaza eating out of the trash…things are deteriorating dramatically.
“Without blaming any side,” he said, “we need a dramatic change to give these people hope.”
Last month it was reported that PA employees in the West Bank had received their monthly salaries but those in Gaza had not, raising fears President Mahmoud Abbas was cutting the payments to increase pressure on Hamas.
The PA has continued paying its tens of thousands of employees in Gaza despite the fact that most have not worked since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, in a near civil war with Abbas’s party Fatah.
Israel has since maintained a blockade on the coastal enclave, to prevent Hamas from importing weaponry, while Gaza’s border with Egypt is also largely closed.
Multiple reconciliation attempts between Hamas and Fatah have failed, most recently after an Egyptian-brokered deal signed in October, because Hamas refused to surrender its considerable arsenal of weapons and military infrastructure.
In February the White House froze around $100 million in contributions to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, after the Palestinians announced they would no longer accept the US as a mediator in peace talks with Israel. The Palestinians were angered after US President Donald Trump on December 6 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israeli security officials have warned that the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza could lead to renewed conflict, and have weighed sending Israeli food and medicine to the Strip.
The past seven weeks have seen mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border with Israel. Demonstrators have said they seek to break the blockade, protest the relocation of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and return to refugees’ former homes in modern-day Israel.
Israel has blamed the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip for the violence in Gaza, saying it co-opted the protests and has used them as cover to attempt border infiltrations and attacks on Israelis.
On Wednesday, a Hamas official said 50 of the 62 killed on Monday and Tuesday rallies were members of the group and the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed another three as its members.