Palestinian security forces tear gassed protesters calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to drop the economic sanctions against Gaza on Wednesday, further eroding the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation process.

Palestinians take part in a protest demanding the lifting of sanctions on Gaza Strip, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, June 10, 2018.
Palestinians take part in a protest demanding the lifting of sanctions on Gaza Strip, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, June 10, 2018. ( Reuters )

The reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah factions appears to be falling apart, with Gaza's residents being the ones to suffer the consequences.

Palestinian security forces in Manara square used tear gas and batons against hundreds of protesters calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to end financial sanctions on their fellow Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday.

There was no immediate confirmation on the number of arrests and injuries, but a number of people were seen being detained, according to AFP.

The protesters demanded that 83-year-old Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas drop measures against Gaza which critics say amount to collective punishment of the two million residents there.

These series of measures against Gaza introduced by the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the past year include failing to pay the full salaries of tens of thousands of its civil servants in the Strip for months.

Hundreds of protesters in the West Bank city of Ramallah faced down forces loyal to Abbas, who had banned such rallies earlier in the day. The Eid Muslim festival was used as justification for the ban.

Security officials keep watch during a protest calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to end financial sanctions on Palestinians in Gaza, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank on June 14, 2018.
Security officials keep watch during a protest calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to end financial sanctions on Palestinians in Gaza, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank on June 14, 2018. ( AFP )

Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) has sought to use financial measures to isolate its chief rival Hamas, the political party which controls Gaza.

In April 2017, Abbas slashed the salaries of thousands of government workers in Gaza by 30 percent, increasing hardship in the impoverished coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.

He has also cut the PA payroll in Gaza by ordering early retirement for nearly a third of its employees.

PA officials said at that time that those moves were meant to increase pressure on Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza.

The rivalry between Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas has simmered for years, and sometimes boiled over into violence since Hamas became a threat to his authority by winning parliamentary elections in 2006 and seizing military control of Gaza in a brief civil war the following year.

It's been 11 years since Hamas took charge of the Gaza Strip. Since then, the small self-governing territory has faced war with Israel, as well as an Israeli blockade supported by Egypt.

A reconciliation deal in October — known as the Cairo agreement — between Hamas and their political rivals Fatah was supposed to hand over control of the Strip to the Palestinian Authority and end more than 10 years of animosity.

TRT World's Abubakr al Shamahi looks back at the takeover and reconciliation efforts and explains that the agreement may soon collapse.

Protesting that ordinary Palestinians have been caught up in the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, activists have held rallies in the West Bank demanding that Abbas restart the full payment of government salaries and services in Gaza.

Demonstrator Fadi Quran spoke to Reuters as policemen clashed with protesters in the centre of Ramallah. 

“We came here to demonstrate against the sanctions imposed by President Mahmoud Abbas on Gaza. Sanctions must be lifted,” he said.

Protesters held up banners reading, “Gaza unites us. Remove the sanctions.”

Economic hardship caused by years of blockades, conflict and internal rivalries has brought Gaza near to breaking point. Poverty is rampant, and Gaza economists say the unemployment rate rose to 49.9 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

In an Egyptian-mediated bid to end the rift, Hamas said last year that it would cede control of Gaza to Abbas. But a dispute over how to implement power-sharing has hindered implementation of the agreement.

Abbas' government said on Tuesday that Israel was mainly responsible for Gaza's misery, but it also blamed Hamas.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of borders, citing security. Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

Source: Reuters