Refugee youths protest Tulkarem municipality electricity plan
Published Sunday 22/12/2013 (updated) 23/12/2013 11:05
TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- Dozens of youths in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank on Saturday demonstrated against their municipality's decision to require residents to prepay for electricity, witnesses said.
Witnesses told Ma'an that young men in Tulkarem refugee camp burnt tires for several hours in protest against the Tulkarem municipality, which is set to install prepaid electricity meters in the camp.
Under the current electricity meter system, a counter tells the municipality how much electricity each family uses each month and sends a bill corresponding to the amount.
Asem Musallem, a member of the camp's services' committee, said that due to unpaid electricity bills, the camp's total debts to the municipality has surpassed 500,000 shekels ($140,000).
He said the economic situation made it very difficult for people in the camp to pay electricity bills.
But Musallem told Ma'an that the municipality had breached an official agreement with the people of the camp that was to postpone the installation of the paid counters. He said the protests in the camp were not against the prepaid counters themselves, but against the decision not to postpone their installation.
Tulkarem Mayor Iyad al-Jalad told Ma'an he was unaware of any agreement to postpone the installation of the prepaid meters.
Nevertheless, al-Jalad said there was a meeting scheduled for Sunday evening with the people of the camp to discuss the protests and the installation of the counters.
There are 19 refugee camps in the occupied West Bank, within which live about a quarter of the 771,000 registered refugees in the territory.
More than 760,000 Palestinians -- estimated today to number 4.8 million with their descendants -- were pushed into exile or driven out of their homes in the conflict surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.