Ramallah (MEE) – Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated again on Saturday in the occupied West Bank to demand the Palestinian Authority (PA) lift punitive measures against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Demonstrators in Ramallah chanted “Scrap the sanctions!” during the protest organized by civil society groups, an AFP reporter said. The Ramallah-based PA has introduced a series of sanctions against Gaza over the past year.
“Clearly, this is not something to be happy about,” chief Palestinian negotiator and PA official Saeb Erekat told MEE earlier this week. He added that he has met with people from all sides, including civil society representatives and human rights organizations.
The conflict between Hamas and Fatah, Palestine’s two key political parties, dates back to 2006 when Hamas won elections in Gaza. The following year, the PA split. Since then, Hamas has been the de facto government in Gaza, with Fatah running the West Bank.
“There’s an urgent need for all of us to leave our differences on the side and focus on strengthening our national project. Palestine is much bigger than all of us,” Erekat told MEE.
Tens of thousands of Gaza’s civil servants, which is separated from the West Bank by a strip of Israeli territory, have gone without full pay for months amid the sanctions.
Critics say such moves by the PA, dominated by the Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, further exacerbate the split between the two parts of the Palestinian territories.
The rally on Saturday passed peacefully, unlike a protest on 13 June during which Palestinian security forces fired stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. This time, policemen were seen handing out Palestinian flags to the protesters.
The Islamist movement Hamas has run Gaza since 2007. And since that year, Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza that it argues is necessary to isolate Hamas.
Rights groups say the siege amounts to collective punishment.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the territory since 2008.
Neighbouring Egypt has also largely sealed its land border with Gaza in recent years, citing security threats.
The United Nations has said Gaza, which is home to two million people, may be uninhabitable by 2020.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement last October, but it has since collapsed.
Erekat went on to tell MEE that his call for Palestinians to unify was a message directed mainly at Hamas.
“The offer to have a national unity government that will call for national elections has been constantly rejected by Hamas,” he said.
“Hopefully, the voice of our people will be heard and Hamas will implement their obligations under our national reconciliation agreement in order to move towards national elections.”
This post was originally written for and published by Middle East Eye and is published here with permission.