Hamas cracks down on protests over cost of living
Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip on Thursday forcibly dispersed hundreds of Palestinians protesting dire living conditions in the blockaded territory.
Videos circulated on social media showed police firing live rounds in the air, beating protesters and hauling them into police vehicles. Hamas says it is restoring order after demonstrators burned tires and blocked roads.
Rights groups say Hamas arrested a dozen activists this week who were organizing the rally under the slogan: "We want to live."
The protests were centred in the northern Jabaliya refugee camp, with smaller gatherings across the territory.
Journalists were prevented from filming or taking pictures at the protest, an AFP journalist said.
In a separate protest in central Gaza, dozens of people demonstrated, including by setting tyres on fire.
Police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji said in a statement, referring to the protest in central Gaza, that "police in the area of Deir Balah dealt with a group of citizens who closed roads and ignited fires."
"The police have restored calm and order, and a number of violators were arrested."
The Palestinian Non-Government Organisations 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."
Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized power in 2007, and the closures, coupled with mismanagement by Hamas authorities, have devastated the local economy. Hamas tax hikes have sparked further outrage.