Public anger has mostly been directed at Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, an internationally respected economist who has been widely credited abroad with shepherding the authority toward sound fiscal policies and the building of the institutions needed for a future state.
But a financial crisis caused in part by a shortfall in funds expected from international donors has forced Mr. Fayyad to introduce austerity measures. In Hebron, thousands of youths took to the streets on Monday, furious that the president of the authority, Mahmoud Abbas, had not fired Mr. Fayyad and instead had expressed support for him over the weekend.
Protesters hurled stones at City Hall and Police Headquarters here and smashed the windows of a municipal fire truck. Toward evening, they faced lines of Palestinian security officers clad in riot gear. The police officers acted with restraint, but when they were pelted with rocks by some of the protesters, they fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Stores were closed, and taxi and truck drivers went on strike and blocked roads to protest recent increases in fuel prices. The Palestinian Authority buys its gasoline from Israel, where the price rose sharply this month to more than $2 per liter.
Imbued with the spirit of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the region and toppled long-entrenched leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, protesters in this volatile city adapted the popular slogans of those revolts, calling for the downfall of Mr. Abbas and denouncing corruption in the Palestinian Authority.
In Ramallah, the site of the administrative headquarters of the authority in the West Bank, demonstrators burned tires on the main roads leading into the city and gathered in the central square. There were more protests in Bethlehem, and television images from Nablus, in the northern West Bank, showed damage to Palestinian government buildings.
But unlike the protests in other countries in the region, the evolving Palestinian demonstrations have so far been hampered by confusion over whom, or what, to protest against — the Palestinian leadership that wields limited authority in the West Bank, or the Israelis who occupy the territory.
“Now we have two occupations — the Palestinian Authority government and the Israeli government,” said Muhannad Qafisha, 19, a student at Hebron University who was among the protesters. “In Palestine, the salaries are like in Somalia and the prices are like Paris.”
A high school teacher here said he earned the equivalent of about $625 a month. An employee of a social department in the Palestinian Authority, a father of four, said he earned the equivalent of $425 a month. Unemployment in the West Bank stands at about 19 percent overall, and about 28 percent among young people.
Strict Israeli control over the movement of people and goods has constrained economic growth in the West Bank, according to international bodies like the United Nations. Israel placed tough restrictions on Palestinian movements after the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, saying the measures were essential to prevent suicide bombers from reaching Israeli cities. Many roadblocks have since been lifted, but the easing of restrictions has slowed and the peace process has stagnated.
Israeli, Palestinian and foreign experts have long warned that in the absence of progress on the political horizon and with growing frustration, Palestinians could turn against their own security forces, who are seen as helping to protect Israel.
“That is what the Palestinian Authority wants — for us to be busy with food and prices and not to protest against the occupation,” said Ashraf Najjar, 26, a Hebron graduate with a degree in interior design who is now working as a construction worker. “But you cannot resist occupation on an empty stomach.”
A wave of Palestinian protests last year focused on a call for reconciliation between Fatah, Mr. Abbas’s party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, and the rival Islamic militant group Hamas, which holds sway in Gaza. So far those efforts have yielded no real results beyond declarations of unity by the leaders of the two movements.
Mr. Najjar, the design graduate, said he would prefer a leader “who is not from Fatah or Hamas.”
In Hebron, Hamas activists from the city and the surrounding villages could be seen among the crowds of protesters, though they did not identify themselves as such.
Several local Palestinian legislators affiliated with Hamas were also present.
“This is a natural movement protesting against Fayyad’s authority,” said one of the legislators, Hatem Qafisha, in an interview. “The high prices and the corruption of Fayyad’s ministries have led people to explode.” Mr. Qafisha said that he opposed the calls to oust Mr. Abbas, but that he hoped the president would use his authority to remove Mr. Fayyad from his post.
Mr. Fayyad has told the Palestinian news media in recent days that he would resign if that would solve the economic problems, but that replacing government officials was not the answer.
At a news conference in Ramallah on Saturday, Mr. Abbas offered his full support for Mr. Fayyad.
“I am the first to be held responsible for the situation in the West Bank, and Fayyad is part of the Palestinian Authority,” Mr. Abbas said. “He should not be held fully responsible.”
Nayef Hashlamoun contributed reporting.