Palestinian attempts self-immolation at anti-Fayyad rally

A Palestinian protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask gestures as he stands near a burning effigy of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad during a demonstration against the high cost of living, in the West Bank city of Hebron 4 September 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Mussa Qawasma)

A Palestinian man tried to set himself alight in front of protesters in the central West Bank city of Ramallah Wednesday, onlookers told the Ma’an news agency.

Protesters stopped the man just as he was about set himself and his six-year-old daughter on fire at Manara Square in the center of Ramallah, witnesses said.

Police officers arrived at the scene shortly after and detained him.

Hasan Qahwaji is in his 30s and is originally from Gaza. Locals said his daughter suffers from cancer and that Qahwaji is unable to pay for her treatment.

The incident is the latest in a string of self-immolation attempts in occupied Palestine over the last week.

Khaled Abu Rabee, 42, doused himself in gasoline Tuesday after entering the municipality building in Dura, Hebron, but a security guard prevented him from setting the petrol alight.

On Thursday, Ehab Abu Nada, 18, poured petrol on himself before setting himself alight near the Shifa hospital in Gaza City. He died on Monday, according to medical officials.

All three incidents occurred as Palestinians joined protests across the West Bank and Gaza to protest rising living costs in the occupied territories.

Overall unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip stand at 57 percent and 30 percent respectively, with youth unemployment coasting at around 70 percent.

Roughly 75 percent of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza depend on international aid.

Criticism has been levied at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s neoliberal economic policies that has left Palestinians largely dependent on foreign donors, while prices continue to soar.

After a day of protests on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority said it asked a special economic committee to study a government memo about high living costs.

The committee will respond to the memo, prepared by the Ministry of National Economy, within two days.

The report focuses on possible ways to cope with the situation amid growing protests.

The assignment was made during the PA cabinet’s weekly meeting in Ramallah where Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and his ministers discussed the financial situation as they prepared a budget for 2013.

The International Labor Organization released a statement Wednesday addressing Abu Nada’s suicide and warning of “serious concerns” about “the precarious situation of workers in Gaza and the West Bank.”

“The situation of workers in Gaza is one of the worst in the region and the world,” said Nada al-Nashif, ILO regional director for Arab states.

“Gaza’s growing youth population has a right to better work opportunities and growth with equity. They need decent jobs, a minimum of social protection and respect for their basic rights to ensure a life of dignity.”

The Palestinian West Bank has been under harsh Israeli occupation since 1967, while the Gaza Strip has been besieged by Israeli forces since 2007, leading the UN to declare a humanitarian crisis there.

(Al-Akhbar, Ma’an)

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