Palestinians protest in Gaza, W. Bank

Police push into Gaza parliament building; Hebron mothers break into clinic.

PA police protest 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA police protest 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hundreds of Palestinian police firing in the air pushed into Gaza City's parliament building and dozens of parents carrying infants broke into a West Bank clinic Saturday in protests against the cash-strapped Hamas government. The violent marches escalated tensions between Hamas and its political rival, the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The clashes came as Abbas met with senior PLO officials at his West Bank headquarters to decide whether to dismiss the Hamas government and call early elections or let it continue, with the expectation that it would eventually be brought down by a deepening economic crisis. Hamas, squeezed by an international aid boycott since it came to power 10 months ago, has had trouble paying salaries of 165,000 civil servants, including about 80,000 members of the security forces, 40,000 teachers and some 15,000 health care workers. Doctors and nurses have been on strike for weeks. On Saturday, more than 2,500 members of the security forces, many loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement, marched toward the parliament building in Gaza City. Parliament guards, most of them from Hamas, tried to block the crowd, but were pushed aside as protesters fired in the air. Marchers alleged that Hamas was paying its own militia, the so-called Executive Force, while neglecting the members of the regular security forces. Addressing Hamas legislators inside the building over a loudspeaker, one of the protesters said: "Why are you hiding? Why are you ignoring our demands while you are feeding and increasing your militia and distributing the money that you smuggled from the outside." Hamas leaders have brought cash in suitcases across the Gaza-Egypt borders, circumventing the refusal of most banks to transfer funds to Islamic militants from abroad, for fear of violating anti-terrorism regulations. In the West Bank town of Jenin, some 4,000 members of the security forces staged a march to press for their salaries. In the West Bank town of Hebron, dozens of parents carrying infants broke into a mother-and-child clinic, which has been closed because of the health workers' strike. The parents demanded vaccinations for their babies. Several of the protesters burned tires outside the clinic and set large garbage bags on fire.