The Palestinian Authority has temporarily banned public protests, it announced Wednesday, ahead of a planned demonstration in the West Bank opposing punitive measures against Hamas-run Gaza.
Late Sunday hundreds took to the streets of Ramallah, the West Bank city that houses the Palestinian government, calling for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to end measures against Gaza that critics say harm the two million residents.
Organizers estimated 2,000 people attended, a rare show of opposition to the government in the city.
A statement on the official news agency Wafa said Wednesday that no permits for protests would be given out during the coming days — citing the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, which is expected to begin Friday.
If the protest by Palestinian youth in Ramallah and the West Bank continue against the sanctions and blocked system imposed on Gaza by Israel and the PA , we will see the collapse of this system soon. pic.twitter.com/TqScDcJgQx
— Nasser Atta (@nasseratta5) June 11, 2018
“In order to facilitate citizens’ normal life in this period, it is prohibited to grant permits to organize marches or to establish gatherings that would disrupt the movement of citizens and disturb them,” it said.
Despite the ban, organizers vowed to go ahead with fresh anti-government protests on Wednesday night.
“The (Israeli) occupation is the main culprit responsible for the blockade on Gaza, but President Abbas is making things worse by also imposing collective punishment on families there,” campaign activist Fadi Quran said, vowing to take to the streets.
Abbas sends his forces to Al-Manara roundabout in Ramallah in attempt to stop the protest against Abbas & PA sanctions on blockaded Gaza pic.twitter.com/9k4Pk7kxnZ
— Palestine Video (@PalestineVideo) June 13, 2018
Gaza, which is only reachable from the West Bank via Israeli territory, is run by the Hamas terror group, which seized it from the Abbas-led PA in a bloody coup in 2007.
The PA has introduced a series of measures against Gaza in the past year, including dramatically reducing payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies Gaza in a bid to pressure Hamas to loosen its grip on the territory.
Abbas’s Fatah movement has also not paid full salaries to tens of thousands of its civil servants in the Strip for months.
Critics say such moves exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza for over a decade, which it says is necessary to prevent Hamas, which is regarded as a terror group by Israel and much of the West and is sworn to Israel’s destruction, from smuggling in weapons and material used for digging tunnels into Israel. Egypt also maintains the blockade.
The United Nations has said the Strip will be unlivable by 2020.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.