UN official criticizes Hamas for “arrests and violence” in Gaza

The United Nations logo is pictured in front of the United Nations Headquarters building during the 71st United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri - RTSP172

UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — The United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nikolai Mladenov, condemned the Islamist movement Hamas on Sunday for what it called a campaign of arrests and violence in the face of street protests in the Gaza Strip over the past few days.

Hundreds took to the streets in the Gaza Strip in demonstrations that raised the slogan “We must live.” Human rights officials said there were dozens of detainees or injured.

Video clips on mobile phones and published on social media showed Hamas security forces beating protesters with batons and heard gunshots. Protesters burned tires and threw stones at police.

“The people of Gaza, who have long suffered from the painful economic situation, have protested and called for improving the quality of life in the Gaza Strip,” Mladenov said in a statement. They have the right to protest without fear of retribution.”

“I strongly condemn the campaign of arrests and violence used by Hamas security forces against demonstrators, including women and children in Gaza over the past three days,” he said.

Hamas spokesman, did not comment on Mladenov’s comments.

Most of Gaza’s 2 million people live in poverty. The sector’s economy is affected by the Israeli blockade and measures taken by Egypt for security reasons, as well as by the disagreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority based in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas accuses the security forces of Fatah, the main faction of the Palestinian Authority, of being the mastermind behind the protests to weaken them. Fatah officials have denied the charges.

The Palestinian Authority imposes economic restrictions in Gaza to force Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip in 2007, to implement a power-sharing agreement.

A local expert in the economy said the Gaza economy ministry had imposed additional import duties, leading to higher food prices in an effort to increase the revenues of the Hamas government.

Mladenov said in his statement that he was particularly concerned about “the brutal beatings of journalists and employees of the Independent Commission on Human Rights and the raiding of houses.”

Local rights groups said several of their employees were beaten or arrested by Hamas police while monitoring the protests.

Organizers of the demonstrations, who hide their identities in a statement, said the protesters were exercising their right to freedom of expression under Palestinian law.

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