Palestinians Protest in Ramallah Against Abbas Crackdown on Gaza

mahmud abbas
AP/Muhammed Muheisen

(AFP) RAMALLAH — Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated Saturday in the West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “scrap the sanctions!” during protests against the Palestinian Authority, organized by civil society groups.

The Ramallah-based administration has introduced a series of measures against Gaza over the past year.

Tens of thousands of its civil servants in the coastal enclave, separated from the West Bank by Israeli territory, have gone without full pay for months.

Critics say such moves by the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.

The rally passed peacefully, unlike a protest on June 13 during which Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

On Saturday, policemen were seen handing out Palestinian flags to the protesters.

Islamist movement Hamas has run Gaza since seizing it from the Palestinian Authority amid deadly clashes in 2007.

Since that year, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza which it argues is necessary to keep Hamas from building up military infrastructure.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the territory since 2008.

Neighboring Egypt has also largely sealed its land border with Gaza in recent years, citing security threats.

Rights groups say the siege amounts to collective punishment.

The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, will be uninhabitable by 2020.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.

.