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Gaza security forces assault journalists amid power crisis protests

Friday, January 13, 2017 7:49
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Gaza security forces assault journalists amid power crisis protests
Jan. 13, 2017 11:14 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 13, 2017 3:49 P.M.)

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Amid widespread protests Thursday night regarding the
electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip, reports have emerged of Hamas security
forces assaulting journalists covering the protests, as well as arresting
opposition leaders suspected of criticizing the governing party’s handling
of the crisis. Crowded marches had set off in the northern Gaza Strip,
mainly in the Jabaliya refugee camp, demanding a solution to the power
crisis which has left the besieged coastal enclave with less than half of
the electricity it needs. Witnesses told Ma’an that during the marches, Gaza
security forces opened fire in the air to suppress protesters “to prevent
protesters from reaching the electricity company in Jabaliya.” In the same
march, Gaza police officers assaulted journalists covering the event.

AFP photographer Muhammad al-Baba told Ma’an that “members of the security
forces beat me while covering the Jabaliya march at the electricity company
headquarters injuring me in the head and I was taken to a hospital for

AP journalist Fares al-Ghoul told Ma’an that “members of security put a gun
on my chest and forced me to give them my cell phone.” Al-Ghoul added that
forces returned his cell phone during the incident. Hundreds of Gazans took
part in the march near Jabaliya camp, which was organized by the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Separately, the son of Gaza spokesperson for the Fatah movement Fayiz Abu
Aita told Ma’an that internal security forces arrested his father from his
house in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip following a gathering of
Fatah and Islamic Jihad leaders at Abu Aita’s house Thursday. Coordinator of
national and Islamic forces Mustafa al-Duqus told Ma’an representatives of
the Hamas movement “held the Fatah movement in the northern Gaza Strip
responsible for what happened today,” referring to the protests that had
been organized in northern Gaza. Fatah sources told Ma’an that Hamas
security forces released Abu Aita at 1 a.m. Friday after holding him for

The Gaza Ministry of Interior released a statement Friday morning
“confirming its respect for journalists and the freedom of journalistic
work.” The ministry’s spokesperson Iyad al-Bazm said that AFP photographer
Muhammad al-Baba sustained “an unintentional bruise in the face” while
police were “trying to push away people from the headquarters of the
electricity company.”

Al-Bazm added that al-Baba was taken to the Indonesian Hospital for
treatment, and that al-Bazm paid the journalist a personal visit to “check
on him and apologize.”

“Journalist Fares al-Ghoul, who works with the Associated Press, was not
arrested or assaulted, his ID card was checked and we immediately returned
his cell phone,” the statement said.

The Gaza Strip police also released a statement Friday, saying that they
support “people’s right in peaceful protests in order to deliver a message
to officials without harming the possessions of Palestinian people.”

Spokesperson of the Gaza police Ayman al-Batniji said that the march that
took place in Jabaliya on Thursday was peaceful and people of all sectors of
society took part.

He added that the police in the northern Gaza Strip secured all crossroads
until the march was over, “but afterwards a group of those who wanted to
change the course of the popular demand gathered and started throwing rocks
at police vehicles, the police suppressed them; the activity ended with some

Thursday marked the second consecutive day of protests in the besieged Gaza
Strip, following an announcement by Gaza’s power authority stating that the
blockaded enclave was only provided with 200 megawatts of electricity, only
45 percent of the 450 megawatts needed to fully supply power to Gaza.

Protesters have called on all relevant authorities to find a permanent
solution to the protracted issue, which has seriously affected Palestinians
suffering under the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade.

Gaza residents have struggled under ever-growing daily power cuts during the
cold winter months.

In a statement released Saturday, Gaza’s electricity company said that most
districts of the small Palestinian territory were only receiving power for
three-hour intervals in between 12-hour power cuts, due to severe fuel
shortages. While the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip on Sunday raised
hopes for some relief from the power shortages, the frequent power cuts
create dangerous environments for Palestinians attempting to keep warm in
the winter or needing light during the night, with a number of fires
breaking out since the beginning of the year. Gaza’s usual electricity
schedule alternates eight hours of power followed by eight hours without.
Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with
Gaza’s sole power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs. …


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