Clashes erupted across the West Bank last Friday as Palestinians held a “day of rage” in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners.
Protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers in cities, villages and refugee camps. It came as around 1,500 Palestinians locked in Israeli prisons began their 12th day of a hunger strike.
The prisoners’ demands include an end to solitary confinement and to “administrative detention”, which allows Israel to detain them indefinitely without trial.
Several thousand Palestinians took part in a general strike a day earlier that saw schools, universities, shops and all public sector offices close.
The streets in cities such as Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus were almost deserted.
Taxis and buses stopped as barricades of burning tyres blocked the main roads.
The protests have been met with brutal repression. Two hunger strikers in Israel’s Ashkelon prison were attacked by Israeli Prison Service guards when they refused to stand for a search.
Hunger strikers have also been punished with solitary confinement. And there were reports that Israeli forces fired live ammunition on protesters during the day of rage.
The protests, general strike and hunger strike were called by the Fatah party which governs in the West Bank.
But as the leading group in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Fatah has also cooperated with the Israeli occupation.
On the day of the general strike, the PA notified Israel that it would stop paying for electricity provided to the Gaza Strip.
Gaza is largely dependent on energy imported from Israel and neighbouring Egypt—more so since Israel bombed its power station in 2014.
Palestinians in Gaza suffer frequent blackouts and periods without electricity.
The decision to stop paying Israel for Gaza’s energy appears to be an attempt to destabilise Hamas, which has governed in Gaza since elections in 2006.
Fatah and the PA have faced crises due to growing dissatisfaction at their cooperation with the Israeli occupation.
The PA has clamped down on resistance while pursuing futile negotiations with Israel.
Economic “reforms” have subordinated the West Bank’s economy to Israel’s.
The latest round of resistance against Israel has to be supported.
But Fatah will hope the protests can help it overcome its crisis—and will try to clamp down if the revolt grows beyond its control.