A top United Nations official issued a rare rebuke of Hamas violence against Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, after its security forces cracked down on protesters and journalists.“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against protesters, including women and children, in Gaza over the past three days,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said. “I am particularly alarmed by the brutal beating of journalists and staff from the Independent Commission for Human Rights and the raiding of homes. The long-suffering people of Gaza were protesting the dire economic situation and demanded an improvement in the quality of life in the Gaza Strip. It is their right to protest without fear of reprisal,” Mladenov said. “I call on all Palestinian factions to engage in earnest with Egypt in order to implement the Cairo Agreement (2017) in full,” he continued. “The United Nations will continue its efforts to avoid escalation, relieve the suffering of people in Gaza, lift the closures, and support reconciliation.”
The street protests erupted in response to Hamas's imposition of new taxes, and to protest the continued electricity and unemployment crises. Hamas has forcibly controlled Gaza since it ousted Fatah in a bloody coup. The protests, held under the banner, “We Want to Live,” are seen as a direct challenge to that rule.Hamas security officers responded by beating and arresting protesters, including journalists who were covering the story.Eyewitnesses said that Hamas security officers also beat human rights activist Jamil Sarhan, who was taken to a hospital for medical treatment. They said that Baker al-Turkumani, a lawyer working for the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, was also beaten by Hamas officers.