Thousands of Palestinians demonstrate in Hebron against chaos, high prices

Protesters blame the Palestinian Authority, as the city reaches its boiling point and prices on essential commodities have increased significantly.

 Palestinians take part in a protest against rising prices in Hebron, in the West Bank, February 6, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)
Palestinians take part in a protest against rising prices in Hebron, in the West Bank, February 6, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)

Holding signs reading: “We want to live, no to high prices,” thousands of angry Palestinians demonstrated in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday and Monday against high prices and the security chaos. In addition, dozens of truck owners and drivers organized a convoy protest in the center of Hebron demanding the Palestinian Authority government reduce prices and taxes, and provide security to end the recent uptick in lawlessness and the state of chaos in the city.

The mayor of Hebron, Tayseer Abu Sneina, told The Media Line that he holds the Palestinian Authority responsible for the current situation in his city.

"What is happening in the governorate, including the high cost of living and the absence of security and safety, is the PA's fault, and they are responsible for fixing it," the mayor said.

Other areas of the West Bank witnessed similar protests, called for by labor unions

"Where is the tax money that is paid from the pocket of the people?" said Abu Sneina, adding that "the people suffer as they live in a state of fear and anxiety worrying about their future."

 Palestinian Fatah supporters hold flags during a rally marking the 49th anniversary of the Fatah movement, in the West Bank city of Hebron January 2, 2014. (credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA) Palestinian Fatah supporters hold flags during a rally marking the 49th anniversary of the Fatah movement, in the West Bank city of Hebron January 2, 2014. (credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)

Protesters chanted slogans calling for "the fall of the government and the governor of Hebron."

Since the beginning of the month, prices in the West Bank increased significantly, affecting dozens of food products, essential commodities, electricity and fuel.

Hebron resident Yacoub Al-Wery, who drives a minibus, told The Media Line that the government must pay attention to their "demands and needs."

"We are sending a message to the government that it should help the people, who will not remain silent about what is happening. This policy of starvation aims to displace people and we will not allow that," he said. 

Amin Zahdeh, who works at a local phone store in the city, told The Media Line that the PA is out of touch with the people.

"They should feel with us; all basic commodities have increased in price: diesel, oil, even soft drinks. We cannot provide for our families and meet the minimum of their needs. This is not a life worth living," Zahdeh said.

The current tension is not new to the largest Palestinian city, where tribal order rules and the PA security forces have had difficulty reining in the violence. The past few days have seen a surge in violence in the city, where a band of young men from one family attacked businesses belonging to another family, at times firing live bullets.

The city has been simmering and on the verge of boiling over for more than a year, and many of the leaders warn that unless the Palestinian Authority moves quickly to confiscate illegal weapons and restore order to the city, the situation will explode out of control.

Two of Hebron’s largest families are feuding since last summer, when one member of the Al-Owaiwi family killed a member of Al-Jaabari family in a revenge act for the murder of a relative more than 15 years ago.

"What is happening in Hebron goes beyond security chaos; it is practically a street war that terrifies women and children. No one feels safe in their homes; all of this, and the official response is absent," taxi driver Jawdat Amer told The Media Line.

Hebron resident Ihab Ja'abari told The Media Line that the "rise in prices and the chaos in the security situation herald a major explosion that might get out of the PA's control." 

In addition, Palestinian political and social activist Issa Amro told The Media Line that the PA "has lost its prestige and is no longer able to extend its control over Hebron and other areas in the Palestinian territories."

Meanwhile, last week several Palestinian businesses hiked the prices of their products, putting substantial pressure on the PA, which forced the businesses to reverse their decision. Public pressure also led to the decision by businesses to cancel the price hikes. 

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the formation of a committee to study and follow up on the issue of price increases in local markets. Shtayyeh stressed that the government "will not abandon the poor and low-income groups by controlling the prices of basic commodities," insisting that the government will take the necessary measures to protect those with limited income.