Palestinians demand jobs in violent Gaza protest

news42.jpgHundreds of Palestinians demanding jobs clashed with riot police outside parliament on Tuesday in one of the most violent rallies in Gaza since the Hamas government assumed power seven months ago.

Police fired warning shots in the air to disperse demonstrators, who stormed the gate of the building and hurled rocks as legislators met inside. There were no reports of injuries.

“I want a dignified life. I need to be able to feed my family. The new school year is about to start and my children have no uniforms,” said one demonstrator, holding an empty dish and a spoon.

Many of the protesters have not worked for years, denied entry to jobs they held in Israel before the start of a Palestinian uprising in 2000 that has deepened poverty in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

The demonstration, one of the most violent in Gaza since Hamas, an Islamic group, came to power in a January election, was organised by the Palestinian Workers Union, which is controlled by the rival Fateh movement.

Senior Hamas politician Mushir Masri said the government, which is facing international sanctions over Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel, has decided to distribute financial aid to workers within days.

In a clear reference to Fateh, he said “a certain political party” was behind the demonstration and hoped to damage the government’s image.

Commenting on chaos in Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas-led Cabinet, was uncharacteristically critical in an article published on Sunday of armed groups spearheading what he described as resistance against Israeli occupation.

“We are astonished that when a great effort is being made to reopen the Rafah border [with Egypt] to alleviate [the suffering] of people, someone fires a rocket against the crossing, or when some parties are talking about the necessity for calm, someone goes to fire another rocket,” he wrote in the Palestinian newspaper Ayyam.

Israel shut the Rafah crossing after fighters from Hamas and two other groups seized an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid on June 25.

Israeli forces, which pulled out of Gaza a year ago, reentered the territory after the seizure to carry out operations against fighters and to halt rocket fire on southern Israel.

“I wonder where is the impact of the resistance when the country from inside is full with chaos, corruption and pointless killings,” Hamad wrote.

“Isn’t building the country part of resistance? Isn’t order and respect for the law part of resistance?” he said.

In separate remarks in English to Reuters on Tuesday, Hamad said he wrote the article to make “people understand that what is going on is a kind of disaster and a catastrophe.” He urged Palestinians to “wake up … and (think again) about the miserable economic situation in the Gaza Strip” and to “focus on the mistakes and bad behaviour which is done by some people and some groups”.

Israel kills 5 Palestinians

Meanwhile, Israeli troops killed five Palestinians and wounded a dozen in attacks on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on Tuesday, medics and witnesses said.

Troops in Gaza, who launched an offensive in June to free a captured soldier and suppress cross-border rocket fire, fired a tank shell into a crowd in the Shijaia district, a resistance stronghold, killing two people and wounding three, witnesses said.

An army spokesman said troops identified two fighters armed with an anti-tank missile and fired at them.

One of the dead was from the governing Hamas  movement, members of the group said. It was unclear if the second man was a fighter or a civilian.

Earlier, witnesses said two men were hit by high-caliber Israeli weapons fire in the same area. Medics said one had died from his wounds and both wore civilian clothing.

An army spokesman said soldiers in the area had fired a tank shell at three fighters who were spotted planting a device that contained wires, which troops suspected to be a bomb.

Israeli forces have been operating around Shijaia since the weekend and there were clashes there most of Tuesday.

The Israeli army has killed more than 190 Palestinians in Gaza since starting the offensive after fighters captured a soldier in a cross-border raid on June 25.

An Israeli air strike in Gaza wounded eight Palestinians.

Israeli forces killed two men during a clash in Bata refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, said witnesses who identified the two as members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fateh faction.

An Israeli military spokesman said troops patrolling the refugee camp spotted the men on the rooftop and there was an exchange of fire

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