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Man tries to set self on fire in Ramallah

Sept. 5, 2012 4:28 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 6, 2012 3:10 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man tried to set himself on fire in front of a crowd of protesters in the central West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, onlookers said.

The man was stopped at the last moment by bystanders before he set himself and his 6-year-old daughter on fire at Manara Square in the center of Ramallah, witnesses said.

Protestors saw the man preparing to set fire to himself and his daughter and immediately stopped him. Police officers arrived, detained the man and took him away.

The man, Hasan Qahwaji, is in his 30s and originally from Gaza. Locals said he tried to set fire to himself and his 6-year-old daughter who suffers from cancer because he can't afford to pay for her treatment.

President Mahmoud Abbas' office responded that Qahwaji had previously received financial aid from the office's humanitarian department and several other sources.

"He has been receiving financial aid from the president's office for his daughter's treatment. He also receives aid for accommodation and transportation between Ramallah and Gaza back and forth," Abbas' office said.

The king of Jordan also offered to cover his daughter's treatment, and the president's office paid his transportation to Jordan from Ramallah, it said.

Days before his protest, Abbas' office said, the man received a grant of 2,000 shekels ($500) and he has received cash donations from other organizations including media outlets.

"Several PA lawmakers have given him cash donations when he asked them for help," the office said.

According to Abbas' office, Qahwaji refused to receive a grant of 1,000 shekels ($250) from their office to cover his transportation to Jordan, and came back asking for 200 Jordanian Dinars (about $300). They offered him 1,700 shekels ($420) but he refused to receive the money.

The incident in Ramallah occurred just one day after a man in Hebron tried to set himself on fire and two days after a man died after successfully setting himself on fire in the Gaza Strip.

Khaled Abu Rabee, 42, doused himself in gasoline on 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 voice demands that something be done about the rising cost of living in the occupied territories.

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.
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