Gaza Protests Struggle to Gain Traction as Police Crack Down

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Security forces in the Gaza Strip successfully prevented protesters from holding rallies across the territory on Monday, suppressing a rare expression of dissent against Hamas, the authoritarian Islamist group that controls the area. This marks the third time in recent days that protest leaders called for demonstrations, only to be deterred by a heavy police presence that made it difficult to gather in large numbers.

Last week, however, several hundred Gazans managed to evade police interventions and march through several neighborhoods, despite the limitations on free expression. This initial wave of successful rallies seemed to encourage the protesters, but their second attempt on Friday was once again prevented by a large number of police, who even detained several journalists trying to cover the protests.

The main motivation behind these attempted demonstrations is opposition to Hamas’s authoritarian rule and its failure to improve the dire living conditions in the Gaza Strip. Hamas took control of the territory in 2007, prompting Israel and Egypt to impose a blockade to prevent the flow of arms to the group. This blockade restricts the import of goods, including essential equipment like electronics and computers, and prevents most people from leaving the territory.

These restrictions have severely undermined the Gaza economy, with over 2 million people living in one of the world’s most crowded territories. The unemployment rate exceeds 45 percent, less than 10 percent of residents have access to clean water, electricity is only available for a few hours a day, and many medical procedures are unavailable. Hamas attributes these dire conditions solely to the blockade, a view that is widely shared among Gazans. Israel and Egypt control the amount of fuel that enters the territory, which affects the amount of electricity the power plant can provide.

However, some people also blame Hamas for their poor governance. The group is frequently accused of nepotism, corruption, and prioritizing military operations over economic and infrastructure projects. Public anger has further intensified due to senior Hamas officials, including the group’s leader Ismail Haniyeh, living in safer conditions outside of the Gaza Strip.

Frustrations peaked during a July heatwave when there was an unusual surge in power outages and when authorities demolished an unauthorized addition to a building in southern Gaza, resulting in the death of the owner buried under the rubble. These events triggered widespread outcry and prompted people to take to the streets demanding their rights and a dignified life.

Some of the anger has also been directed towards Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which previously controlled the Gaza Strip before Hamas seized control. The authority is accused of corruption and not doing enough to improve the situation in Gaza, despite still paying the salaries of thousands of government officials.

Hamas leaders have dismissed these protests as not genuine expressions of local discontent, claiming that they were organized by collaborators with Israel. However, the continued efforts by the protesters and their widespread support among Gazans suggest that the underlying grievances are real and significant.

In conclusion, the recent attempts to hold rallies in the Gaza Strip against Hamas’s authoritarian rule and dire living conditions have been largely suppressed by security forces, despite a brief period of successful demonstrations. The blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt has contributed to the deteriorating situation in Gaza, but there is also growing frustration with Hamas’s governance. While some accuse Hamas of corruption and prioritize military activities, others hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for not doing enough to improve the lives of Gaza residents. Regardless of the official response from Hamas, it is evident that many Gazans are genuinely demanding their rights and a better quality of life.

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