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Public transport strike brings West Bank to a halt

Sept. 10, 2012 10:28 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2012 12:45 P.M.)
WEST BANK (Ma'an) -- A public transport strike paralyzed Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps across the West Bank on Monday, as popular action against rising living costs continued.

Many schools reported that students and teachers were unable to reach class, and main roads were quiet as buses, taxis and trucks held protest actions in West Bank cities.

According to Nasser Younis, head of the West Bank union of public transport, more than 24,000 drivers are on strike.

Younis told Ma’an that the union would meet later Monday to discuss future moves, and warned of more protests that if the Palestinian government does not comply with the drivers' demands.

Demonstrations erupted across the West Bank over the past week, protesting the rising prices of basic commodities including fuel.

An onlooker in Bethlehem, Muhammad Riziq, said that seeing streets empty except for rocks and burning tires brought back memories of the first Palestinian intifada in the late 1980s.

Strikes, protests across West Bank

At Bethlehem’s main crossroads, Bab al-Ziqaq, drivers parked their trucks in the middle of the road and stood in the street blocking traffic. Police patrols watched from distance without intervening.

In Hebron in the southern West Bank, hundreds of school children went to their schools on foot.

Before dawn a group of protesters blocked the main entrance to the city with burning tires and rocks, while damaging traffic signs and letting off fireworks. Youth groups came to try to calm the situation, while fire fighters extinguished the burning tires and cleaned the street, according to a Ma’an reporter.

A major popular protest is scheduled to start from Hebron’s industrial zone and march across the city later on Monday.

In Balata refugee camp east of Nablus, dozens of young men blocked traffic in Al-Quds Street with burning tires, forcing private cars onto bypass roads.

Meanwhile the union of kindergartens in Nablus said it was joining the transport strike.

Young people blocked the southern entrance to Ramallah, and the northern entrance near Birzeit with burning tires.

Some demonstrators in Ramallah set fire to street lights and hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles near the entrance to al-Jalazoun refugee camp.

Large trucks also blocked main streets in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, preventing many people from getting to work.

"This is a message to the citizens to urge them to join the protests," Muhammad Yasin, head of the union of transport in Tulkarem, told Ma'an.

In Jenin, the head of the union of taxi services Mahmoud Abu al-Wafa said some people took advantage of the strike to use their private vehicles as taxis. The union, he said, asked police to stop those drivers, but police responded they hadn’t received directives to stop drivers or impose fines.

As a result, taxi and bus drivers blocked the main street between Jenin and surrounding villages to prevent private vehicles from offering public transport.
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