RAMALLAH: Shops, schools and government offices shut across the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem Monday as Palestinians staged a general strike protesting against Israel’s relentless onslaught in the Gaza Strip.
The bloodiest ever war in Gaza has killed more than 18,200 Palestinians in the territory, mostly women and children, and 104 Israeli soldiers, according to the latest reported death tolls.
Activists had called for a strike in solidarity with the besieged territory covering businesses, public workers and education.
Many Palestinians took part and rallies were staged in the West Bank, according to Essam Abu Baker who coordinates Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
He described the protest as part of a global effort to put pressure on Israel to stop the war, reporting strikes taking place in parts of Jordan and Lebanon.
In Lebanon, public institutions, banks, schools and universities closed after the government decided on a nationwide strike in solidarity with Gaza and with border areas in the south, which have seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah.
The stoppage was also observed in Istanbul’s western Esenyurt district, where many businesses are owned by residents from the Palestinian territories, Syria, Yemen and Iran.
Footage on social media showed deserted streets and Palestinian flags billowing.
“The strike today is not only in solidarity with Gaza, but also against the USA which used its veto in the Security Council against a truce,” Abu Baker said in Ramallah, referring to the US rejection of a cease-fire resolution on Friday.
Overnight in Gaza, more Israeli air strikes targeted the biggest southern city of Khan Yunis, while deadly fighting and bombing were also reported in the center and north of the narrow territory.
Hamas, which triggered the war with its October 7 attacks in which 1,200 people were killed in southern Israel, warned that the remaining 137 hostages held in Gaza would not survive the conflict unless Israel meets its demands and frees more Palestinian prisoners.
At a rally in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, demonstrators unfurled a huge list of names of the victims in Gaza.
Whole families came out to protest, with parents carrying children on their shoulders.
“All we can do is take part,” an elderly man in the crowd told AFP. “We don’t have anything else.”
AFP photographers also saw the work stoppage being observed in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and Hebron in the south, where another rally was held.
In east Jerusalem’s Old City, many shops were closed. The sound of keys echoed in the bazaar as Palestinian business owners locked their brightly painted doors.
“We want the war to stop,” said Nasser, a 65-year-old coffee shop owner who gave only his first name. He has not heard from friends in war-torn Gaza for weeks, and doesn’t know if they are dead or alive.
He said he had little to lose by closing his shop along the Via Dolorosa, a Christian pilgrimage route.
“We’ve had no business anyway since the war started,” he said, after the outbreak of violence prompted visitor numbers to plummet.
The few shopkeepers who did open said they had strong reasons for doing so.
Florist Raja Salama, 62, came to work to prepare wreaths of white roses for an elderly relative’s funeral.
“I’m only open because the funeral is today,” he said.
“When I’ve taken the flowers over, I’ll close.”
Others were desperate for business.
“I need to work to feed my baby son,” said a young Palestinian barber.
He did not give his name, explaining that he was ashamed to open his shop in the Old City.
“I should respect the strike, but I have no choice. I have a one-year-old at home and I haven’t had work since the start of the war. That’s the ugly truth.”