Transport strike paralyzes West Bank
Cities across the West Bank ground to a halt on Monday as transport unions called a mass general strike in protest over rising petrol prices, AFP correspondents said.
Clouds of black smoke poured into the air across the territory as angry protesters set light to tires, kicking of a second week of mass social protests against the spiraling cost of living, high petrol prices and unemployment.
With no public buses, minibuses or taxis in operation, the streets were emptied, with private cars also barred from entering towns and cities by makeshift roadblocks set up on key access roads.
In the southern city of Hebron, protesters used heavy boulders to block the streets, while in Bethlehem, lorries were parked across roads leading into the town center. Similar scenes were reported from Nablus.
With no available transportation, thousands of people could be seen walking to work or school.
At the Qalandia crossing between Ramallah and Jerusalem, small groups of bus and taxi drivers were on patrol to look for any strike breakers.
“People need to appreciate what we are doing and they should support us because you shouldn’t be paying seven shekels ($1.8/1.4 euros) to get here from Ramallah,” one driver told AFP, without giving his name, saying the current price of 3.5 shekels was set to double with the next hike in petrol prices.
Much of the public anger over the cost of living has been directed at prime minister Salam Fayyad and his government, with many protesters calling for his resignation.
On Sunday, Fayyad and a group of ministers held four hours of talks with business and union leaders, the private sector and representatives of civil society to try and find ways of reducing prices and regulating the payment of salaries, officials said.
The recommendations are to be put to the cabinet on Tuesday. The Palestinian Authority has also said it is seeking talks with Israel on amending the Paris Protocol, a key accord which has a direct impact on local taxes and fuel prices.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]