JABALIYA, Gaza Strip — The nearly two million residents of Gaza have been suffering through a cold winter of crippling power cuts, receiving electricity for only three or four hours a day.
The popular anger over the cuts erupted on Thursday in a large protest.
In a rare display of defiance against the Hamas authorities who control the Palestinian territory, about 10,000 people took to the streets in the Jabaliya refugee center in the northern Gaza Strip. They marched toward the offices of an electricity company, chanting slogans against Ismail Haniya, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, as well as against the rival Fatah party and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.
“Oh, Haniya and Abbas, we are being trampled!” people shouted.
Outside the electricity company, protesters hurled stones and burned tires as the Hamas police fired their weapons into the air to disperse the crowd.
The protest was one of the largest unauthorized demonstrations in the Gaza Strip in the decade since Hamas took full control of the enclave.
The political schism between Gaza and the West Bank has compounded the misery for many residents of the Gaza Strip, who already face tough restrictions from Israel and Egypt on crossing the territory’s borders.
Divisions and arguments over taxation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have contributed to the cuts — a perennial problem in Gaza that has recently worsened, with rolling power interruptions that once lasted 12 to 16 hours a day now stretching to 20 or 21 hours.
Most of the population is too poor to run private generators, given the scarcity and price of fuel, and those that have them use them sparingly.
“I look at the sky but even the sky in Gaza has no stars,” said Ahmed Mohareb, 19, a student who was demonstrating. “I cannot read or study in my home, and even when I go out into the street there is no light.”
Iyad al-Buzom, an Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement that the police had acted on Thursday to protect the electricity company from “vandalism.”
Smaller protests had been building all week. Hamas security forces on Wednesday detained Adel Al-Mashoukhi, a comedian and singer, hours after he posted on Facebook a video of himself cursing the lack of electricity, as well as “no jobs, no border crossings, no food, no water,” and shouting, “Enough, Hamas! Enough, Hamas!” By Thursday night the video had nearly 300,000 views.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights based in Gaza said Mr. Mashoukhi had been arrested by the military police at his home in Rafah, in southern Gaza. The rights group said he had been arrested twice before after making other videos critical of Hamas.
A close friend and neighbor of Mr. Mashoukhi said by telephone that the comedian “loves art and songs more than Hamas and its military,” and that Mr. Mashoukhi was “fed up of being without electricity and being treated like a sheep.” The friend requested anonymity for fear of retribution by Hamas’s security apparatus.
An Interior Ministry official said that Mr. Mashoukhi, aside from being a comedian, received a salary from the ministry as a member of the security apparatus, and that he was arrested for disciplinary violations, as well as a lack of commitment to the performance of his duties.
Gaza requires up to 470 megawatts of power per day — with demand increasing when people use heaters during the winter — but it is producing or receiving barely a third of that amount, according to officials.
The Gaza power plant, bombed by Israel in 2006 during fighting between Israel and Hamas, has long been working at half capacity, in part because of funding shortages that limit fuel purchases. It has been producing only 60 megawatts since 2013, according to the United Nations office for humanitarian affairs in the region.
In addition, Israel supplies 120 megawatts and Egypt up to 30 megawatts, but the flow from these lines is sometimes disrupted for technical reasons.
Many Gaza residents do not pay their electricity bills, leaving the electricity companies in debt. The Palestinian Authority has also been reducing the tax exemptions it grants to Hamas to purchase fuel for the Gaza power plant, increasing the cost. Authority officials, for their part, have blamed Hamas for imposing its own taxes and tariffs.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, blamed the Palestinian Authority for delays in upgrading the electricity supply lines to Gaza. Addressing Gaza residents at a news conference he said, “I suffer like you. I don’t have electricity in my home.”