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Gaza banks still closed as unity govt financial dispute deepens
Published Sunday 08/06/2014 (updated) 09/06/2014 15:18
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(MaanImages)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Banks in the Gaza Strip remained closed Sunday morning as a financial crisis which began Wednesday evening threatened to undermine confidence in the newly-formed Palestinian unity government.

Employees of the formerly Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip have insisted that they should receive their salaries from the new reconciliation government, and local police deployed around banks and ATMs again Sunday to prevent PA employees related to the new unity government from receiving their salaries until a solution is reached.

Hamas and Fatah, it seems, had neglected to reach an agreement on whether the newly-formed unity government would take over paying the 50,000 employees, including security officers, who were employed by the Hamas-run government that was in power in Gaza since the beginning of the political division in 2007.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that the financial crisis -- which he blamed on Hamas -- was "unacceptable."

Speaking to Egyptian satellite TV channel Sada al-Balad, Abbas said that Hamas' demands that the unity government pay salaries to employees of the former Hamas government "is unrealistic," adding that Hamas should adhere to the agreements it had signed, without specifying.

The crisis began on Wednesday, when Gaza-based Palestinian Authority public sector employees went to withdraw their salaries from ATM machines but were prevented from doing so by security officers of the formerly Hamas-run government.

On Thursday morning, banks were unable to operate after Hamas' security forces deployed around them in protest against the unity government's failure to pay the salaries of Gaza employees who had been hired by the formerly Hamas-run government.

When banks tried to open on Sunday morning after the Friday-Saturday weekend, officers of the former Hamas government refused to allow banks to operate because they still had not been paid their monthly wages by the unity government.

Despite the fact that the governor of the Palestinian Monetary Fund Jihad al-Wazir was quoted in a statement Sunday morning as saying that all Gaza banks should be operating normally, eyewitnesses told Ma'an that bank employees on Sunday were denied entry to bank buildings.

In the same regard, a number of the PA public sector employees told Ma'an that the director of the former Hamas government's Gaza police gave orders to keep all banks in Gaza closed.

On Thursday, the union of public sector employees in the Gaza Strip blamed the newly-formed unity government for the chaos, saying that it was discriminating between West Bank and Gaza employees and should take responsibility for paying all salaries.

The statement came a day after scuffles had broken out around banks as employees of both the former Hamas government, the new government, and security forces began to argue.

Since the political division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2007, Hamas has run a separate government in the Gaza Strip with its own civil service. During this time, however, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has continued paying its employees in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the PA was no longer operative.

As a result, confusion has arisen as to whether the employees associated with the Hamas government will be paid by the unity government.
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1 ) Sander / The Netherlands
08/06/2014 10:46
These issues must be alligned and agreed betwwn the 2 parties before signing an unity government contract..

2 ) Rami / Palestine
08/06/2014 13:03
The fact is that these people are/were government employees. They worked for their salaries, therefore they should receive their salaries. It is absurd that the unity government doesn't pay these people for the work that they did. It is equally absurd that Hamas employed people that it couldn't afford to pay. These people must be paid. That is not an option. The Unity government should have thoroughly addressed all of these points before rushing into a deal. Why was this issue neglected?

3 ) Mel / USA
08/06/2014 15:36
PA/Hamas!You can't form a unity govt & have employees paid FACTIONALLY! All these employees are equal Palestinians under Israeli occupation!They have worked hard for ugly occupation-Shekel(NIS)breadcrumbs,to feed their families with dignity! You fools,you are doing exactly what your occupier wants you to do i.e. FAIL IN UNITY!
You either pay them equally,as national brothers,or you lose PALESTINE ENTIRELY!So,do it! Or do you like the Temple money-changers more?

4 ) e / usa
08/06/2014 15:44
Worthless fake people Palestinians cant even agree with each other. How will they agree with israel? Send back to Syria and lebanon and everything will be better

5 ) Bemused / New Zealand
08/06/2014 17:41
Rami, excellent point. In addition, in ANY country, when a new government takes power whether after elections or whatever, it continues to pay those working in the public sector. The Gaza people have worked in good faith, they deserve their salaries. End of story. A better question to ask is how come the people who WORKED for their salary are NOT getting paid, while the people who have sat on their butts for seven years ARE getting paid? Fair? I don't think so!

6 ) Arnold / Canada
08/06/2014 19:34
Rami / Palestine. I think Hamas HAD to reconcile with the PA due to lack of funds coming in.

7 ) JP / USA
08/06/2014 20:44
New Palestinian technocrat leadership should install their own police and other civil service leadership. Those employees that pledge and show their allegiance to new leaders will get paid. Those that do not can quit. Back pay can be funded by selling weapons. (Surely Iran, Saudis, Russia, EU, USA would bid up price for 80% of missiles.) Such sales would bring in badly needed cash and make a significant steps toward peace / renouncing violence.

8 ) Brynababy / USA
08/06/2014 22:05
They should be paid for work they've done SINCE the Unity Government signed it's agreement. Why should the PA pay them for work done while they were still exclusively employed by Hamas. I agree, Hamas thought they were going to benefit from monies the PA has and that's why they signed any agreement. Can you imagine them honoring treaties and agreements the PA signed with Israel?! What a joke. And they're supposed to be able to run a State?!

9 ) Um Muhammed / France
08/06/2014 22:16
The government should pay its workers. Why did they pay those in the W.Bank only, don't they think people in Gaza need to eat too. The responsibility to pay lies with the unity government, because it is a government. Commenters 2 & 5 make good points too!!

10 ) Jossef / USA
08/06/2014 22:34
Hamas joined the "Unity Government" because it was broke; it lost all its major funding sources (including the tunnels to Egypt); so instead of waiting for Hamas to go completely bankrupt Abbas offered Hamas a "life-line" in the form a unity government, since he is now in his 10th year of a 4-year term and has no legitimacy and no popularity. So, if Abbas thinks Hamas wants real unity with Fatah or anything other than getting its employees paid by the PA, he is either naive or stupid or both.

11 ) Geoffrey Rogg / Israel
08/06/2014 22:50
Let's hope that this and all future problems will be solved on a peacefull bipartisan basis without resort to renewed conflict. Government leaders should be role models for their citizens.

12 ) Lev / USA
09/06/2014 00:03
This does not bode well for the unity government. Even Israel, which Palestinians hate, paid its Palestinian employees on time. Which brings us to the main issue, really: If a government cannot pay wages on time, in any country, then that government cannot command the confidence of its people. I think that it is time Palestinians stopped blaming Israel for their problems and instead focused on their government.
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