RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian ministers met on Tuesday to discuss ways of easing economic hardships, which have provoked growing protests across the West Bank, challenging the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

The demonstrations turned violent in the cities of Hebron and Nablus on Monday as thousands of angry youths burned tyres, blocked streets and hurled stones at armed police, raising pressure on Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

The protests are being eyed with growing concern by Israel, which fears the frustration against Palestinian leadership could snowball into a third, general uprising against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Out of cash and bound by economic accords that peg its sales tax to steep Israeli rates, the Palestinian Authority is struggling to salvage its legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

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