In rare defiance, Gazans protest electricity cuts
GAZA CITY — Thousands of people took to the streets Thursday to protest chronic power cuts during the cold winter season in the Hamasruled Gaza Strip, in one of the largest unauthorized protests in the territory since the Islamic militant group took power a decade ago.
Hamas has shown little tolerance for dissent, and it moved quickly to contain Thursday’s demonstration. Police fired in the air to disperse a crowd of stone-throwing protesters and blocked journalists from the area.
A day earlier, Hamas-run authorities arrested local comedian Adel al-Mashwakhi, who made a viral video that received more than 250,000 views. In the one-minute video, titled “Hamas, it’s enough,” he lists the basics missing in Gaza, including jobs and the ability to travel. Take “everything but electricity, Hamas,” he says, facing the camera.
The demonstration began in the Jebaliya refugee camp, and as it grew in size, the crowd marched toward the nearby offices of an electricity distribution company, chanting: “Raise your voice, electricity cuts mean death.”
Hamas police made way for the crowd, but took up positions outside the electricity company’s building. When a group of youths threw stones at them, they fired into the air to disperse the crowd. Later, the protesters arrived at the building and gathered peacefully.
Hamas forces blocked journalists from filming the gathering, and an Associated Press journalist was briefly detained at gunpoint until he handed over his mobile phones to plainclothes security men.
Life has become increasingly difficult for Gaza’s 2 million residents, who are squeezed into the tiny coastal territory. Hamas’ violent takeover a decade ago triggered a border blockade by Israel and Egypt that, among other things, sharply aggravated power shortages.
Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, has ruled the territory since 2007, routinely clamping down on critics.
Despite the hardships, antiHamas rallies have been sporadic, in part because of fear and because even disgruntled Gazans believe there’s no realistic path to toppling the militants.
Gaza’s Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the comedian’s arrest, and said it was the third time since last year that he was taken into custody for criticizing Hamas
Palestinians protest power cuts in a Gaza Strip refugee camp in one of the largest demonstrations since Hamas took control.