Protests broke out across the Gaza Strip on Sunday in a rare display of dissatisfaction with the Hamas government amid increasingly difficult living conditions, a dwindling economy and allegations of corruption.
Hamas security forces quickly dispersed the protesters, who were burning flags of the militant group. Security personnel also destroyed demonstrators' phones, witnesses said.
Crowds in the city of Khan Younis chanted “Where is the electricity and where is the gas?” and “What a shame. What a shame.”
Protesters also criticised Hamas for deducting fees of about $15 fee from the monthly $100 stipend given to Gaza's poorest families by the state of Qatar.
Sunday's demonstrations were called for by activists via an Instagram page called "Al Virus Al Sakher" (Satirical Virus) in a post on July 16.
"We have been resilient for years ... we will not be silent about our right to life's fundamental needs. We will not be silent over lies and exploitation," the post read.
The activists called for a solution to Gaza's chronic power cuts and for measures to be taken to "satisfy Gazans' hunger", such as by providing them with sufficient money through grants and salaries.
There was no immediate comment from the Hamas authorities.
More demonstrations have been called for August 4.
Also on Sunday, Hamas and the West Bank's ruling Fatah party held talks in the Egyptian coastal city of Alamein in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reconcile and form a unity government.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to meet Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Monday for further talks.
Hamas and Fatah could reconcile if the militant group agrees to join the Palestinian Liberation Office (PLO) – which recognises Israel as a state.
Hamas currently denies Israel's right to exist.
"If Hamas recognises the PLO Charter, it effectively becomes Fatah. The existence of Israel is an existential issue for Hamas," Washington Institute senior fellow Ghaith Al Omari, who has previously held positions in the Palestinian Authority, told The National.
Mr Abbas, who is also head of the Fatah ruling party, criticised Hamas's 2007 "coup" in Gaza that saw the militant group overthrow the Palestinian Authority and led to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory that continues to this day.
Last year, nearly half of all Gazans (46.6 per cent) were unemployed, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said in a report published in February. That is equivalent to 239,000 people.
"There is still a wide gap in unemployment rate between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as this rate reached 45 per cent in Gaza Strip compared to 13 per cent in the West Bank," the findings showed.
"On gender level, unemployment rate for females reached 40 per cent compared to 20 per cent for males in Palestine."
Additionally, the majority of those employed (89 per cent) were earning less than the minimum wage ($508) at an average of about $188 per month, it said.
Gazans also suffer from power cuts that can last up to 10 hours at a time, with supply interrupted throughout the rest of the day.
Most Gazans, about 80 per cent, rely on humanitarian aid and cannot afford any alternative sources of power that come at extra cost, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in an appeal for donations after an exchange of attacks with Israel in 2021 that killed 261 Palestinians, including 67 children.
"The ability of people in Gaza to rebound is an unfortunate testament to the harsh reality they live within the face of repeated escalations," William Schomburg, the ICRC's head of sub-delegation in Gaza, said in May.
"Beyond the visible humanitarian consequences of these hostilities, the unseen scars run deep and will continue to affect Gaza’s young and struggling population for years to come."
The damage to residential and commercial buildings, schools, health centres, water and power networks, roads and public buildings also resulted in the disruption of basic and vital services, the UN said.
"The overall estimated cost of damages due to the 2021 escalations is $108,278,755, with the housing sector being the most severely affected ($35,008,917, representing 32.3 per cent of the total costs), followed by the roads and transportation sector ($22,433,832, representing 20.7 per cent) and the energy sector ($21,915,104, representing 20.2 per cent)," the UN found in an assessment published last year.