Hamas is facing the biggest demonstrations ever seen against its government in Gaza, with hundreds taking to the streets earlier this week to protest new taxes and dire living conditions.
Security forces detained hundreds, arrested dozens, beat activists and prevented local media from covering the demonstrations.
Hamas accused its political rival, the Palestinian Authority, of orchestrating the protests, organizers reject the claim.
The Hamas government recently raised taxes on basic goods like bread, beans and cigarettes. Demonstrators accuse Hamas of corruption and imposing the taxes to enrich itself. They organized protests under the slogan “We want to live!”
The demonstrations continued for five days and appeared to subside Monday, but organizers say the protests will continue until Hamas cancels the tax increases on dozens of goods, creates a national employment program and releases everyone who has been arrested in the crackdown.
The blockades along with three wars with Israel have ravaged Gaza’s economy. Around 2 million people live in Gaza, which faces a severe humanitarian crisis. Youth unemployment hovers around 70%.
The blame for the circumstances in gaza can primarily be put on a crippling decade-long Israeli-Egyptian blockade that severely limits the movement of people and goods into Gaza. Both countries say the restrictions are for security reasons, but experts call the blockades collective punishment against 2 million people.