Gaza Strip Power Protests

After years of power cuts in Gaza by the ruling Hamas, residents of the Strip finally took to the streets to protest.

These protests began immediately after the Hamas arrested the comedian Adel al-Mashwakh for posting a video calling for an and to the power cuts. Protesters took to the streets of the Jebaliya refugee camp, and marched to the one of the nearby offices of the local electrical distribution company, chanting: “Raise your voice, electricity cuts mean death.” The protesters eventually occupied a small area near the building, but only after police fired into the air to disperse them (as well as hitting them with batons according to some reports).

Right now, Gaza is in the midst of its worst electricity shortage in years. Power is only being supplied to households three to four hours a day. Gazans have attempted to improvise, using kerosene heaters to keep warm and restarting discarded community ovens for baking and cooking.

However, the protests erupted into something far bigger than just a challenge to the local electricity distributor. Many cried that “the people want the fall of the regime” (referring to the Hamas government which ruled the Strip since 2007). This is notable because it was also the battle cry of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which also began with street protests.

Many of the protesters were arrested, and foreign media has been instructed not to cover the events. These both attest to the severity of the demonstrations in the eyes of the Hamas government.

Ismail Haniyeh, PM of the Gaza Strip, has been out of the country for nearly half a year now. Meanwhile, the local leaders are split between those who support allowing the protesters to let off steam. This is because Hamas hopes they will channel their anger towards the Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for bringing diesel oil to the power station in Gaza. There are also those who believe that the protests should be suppressed immediately, in order to prevent a full-blown revolution in Gaza.

It is clear that Gaza residents are not happy about their government. What they will do in the next few weeks is up to them, but it is possible (though unlikely at this point) that we will witness dramatic changes in the political status of the Gaza Strip.