Palestinian protests turn violent
HEBRON / RAMALLAH
Palestinian demonstrators throw stones towards security forces during a protest against the high cost of living in Hebron. AP photoPalestinian demonstrators fed up with high prices and unpaid salaries shuttered shops, halted traffic with burning tires and clashed with riot police in demonstrations across the West Bank yesterday, the largest show of popular discontent with the Palestinian Authority in its 18-year existence.
The violence showed that the unrest, initially supported by Palestinian leaders in hopes of drawing international attention to the struggling economy, risks backfiring and morphing into a broader movement against the government. The violence was significant because it targeted a symbol of Palestinian self-rule. Most of the rage has been directed toward Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist who oversees the government’s finances. Usually, Palestinians reserve their anger for Israel, which captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and wields overall control of the area.
The most heated clashes occurred in Hebron, where hundreds of protesters smashed the windows of a municipality building with rocks. The crowd tried to storm the building but was thwarted by riot police who fired tear gas and beat back some of the demonstrators. Later, protesters tried to attack the police station, prompting a pitched rock-hurling battle between police and demonstrators.