Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anger over price increases stokes West Bank protests

Thousands of Palestinians have taken to the streets with some burning tyres, stoning buildings and clashing with security forces

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 September 2012

"Protests in West Bank cities against price increases have escalated over the past week with thousands of Palestinians taking to the streets, some of whom are burning tyres, stoning buildings and clashing with security forces.

Hebron, the most volatile city in the West Bank, was the scene of confrontations on Monday when several thousand protesters threw stones and rocks at a police station and municipal offices. Dozens of police officers and protesters were injured in clashes, during which teargas was fired.

There have also been protests in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem and Jericho, with roads blocked by burning tyres and rubbish bins. Strikes by taxi and bus drivers have paralysed the West Bank's public transport system. The area's public transport union estimated more than 24,000 members have joined strike action. Many schools and universities have also been shut.....

Some have demanded the scrapping of an economic agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians in 1994 following the Oslo Accords, under which the PA was set up. The agreement, known as the Paris Protocol, gave Israel control over the Palestinians' external trade, governed the collection of customs duties by Israel on behalf of the PA and pegged VAT in the Palestinian territories to the Israeli rate. Critics say it has led to prices in the West Bank being similar to those in Israel, while wages are around a third.

A demonstration called for Tuesday evening by Palestinians for Dignity, a youth organisation, demanded the abolition of the agreement. "They are putting the burden where it belongs – on the Paris Protocol and Israel's occupation," said Palestinian economist Sam Bahour. "The issue is the framework of occupation that is causing economic hardship, not a tax increase here or a tax increase there."....."

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