Palestinian austerity measures spark violent W. Bank protests

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RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority has confronted fresh violent
protests in the West Bank.

Palestinian sources said the violent protests have spread throughout the
northern West Bank. They said the unrest, which included clashes with
security forces, stemmed from PA austerity measures.

Palestinians protest against the rising cost of living in the West Bank city of Ramallah. /Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

Protest organizers said the latest demonstrations spread through the
northern cities of Nablus and Jenin.

They said the unrest stemmed from a PA decision on Dec. 30 to pardon debts, including utility charges, from residents of Palestinian refugee camps.

On Jan. 2, the government announced an amnesty on all utility debts for Palestinians. Officials said the amnesty would be followed by full
enforcement of utility charges.

But protest organizers said the PA decision would not relieve the plight
of Palestinians. They cited the PA inability to pay salaries to some 180,000 civil servants, including security forces.

“Many of these protests include Fatah members,” a source said.

“Any protester who destroys private and public property will be held
accountable,” Nablus Gov. Jibrin Al Bakri said.

On Jan. 1-2, Fatah operatives helped organize attacks on PA security
forces in Nablus. Some 200 protesters torched tires, blocked roads and
hurled rocks and stones in clashes that resulted in more than 50 injured.

“We urge the freezing of all debts and fines that took effect before the
end of 2012,” Mahmoud Ishtayeh, Fatah secretary in Nablus, said.

So far, the West Bank cities of Jenin, Kalkilya, Nablus, Salfit and
Tulkarm went on strike to protest the PA’s debt policy. Earlier,
Palestinians torched the Jenin municipal building.

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