Wave of suicides grip Gaza Strip as enclave nears economic collapse

Demonstrators chant “We want to eat, we want to live,” as the economic hardship in Gaza takes a growing toll.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Several dozen protesters gathered in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City on Sunday to demand an answer to their economic woes as a wave of suicides grips the Gaza Strip, reportedly due to the difficult financial situation.

Calling out, “We want to eat, we want to live,” protesters decried the rising rate of unemployment and the lack of decent living conditions. The impetus for the angry gathering were the weekend suicides of four people in their 20s and one attempted suicide that left a young woman badly injured. Two of those who took their lives were unemployed university graduates.

Channel 20 reported Sunday that “Gaza is collapsing,” with rising unemployment, emigration and suicide rates. It said that there have been 60 deaths in the Strip in the last four months whose cause was officially classified as “unknown” or “inexplicable.” All of them were people under 30. Gazan sources say the suicides were due to economic hardship, difficult social or family circumstances, and psychological stress.

The report added that between three to five of them had been prisoners in Hamas’ “torture basement.” They took their lives after being released, while others died after having pressure put on them by the authorities after they participated in protests in 2019 over the economic situation.

Thousands of participants throughout Gaza were then drawn to the banner “We Want to Live,” sending an apolitical message that jobs were needed to put food on the table. Calling the demonstrations an attempt to bring Hamas down, the authorities put down the protests brutally, beating demonstrators, raiding homes, and arresting hundreds.

The most prominent of those who took their own lives this weekend was Sleman Alajoury, 23, who was one of the leaders of those protests. The report said that he shot himself, while the other deaths came from self-immolation or jumping off high buildings.

According to the report, two rival terrorist groups in Gaza, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front, have blamed Hamas for the wave of deaths, saying that it has not dealt properly with its citizens’ economic and social straits.

Hamas has put its security forces on high alert to try and prevent another wave of demonstrations. Several Arab journalists and social activists have already been detained, and an alleged cell of “saboteurs” was recently arrested and accused of working for Israel.

“There’s an attempt to destabilize the internal front in the Gaza Strip,” said Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou. “The attempt is part of a plot concocted by the Zionist enemy to undermine the resolve of our people and create confusion among the members of the Palestinian resistance.”