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PA 'spent $7 billion' in Gaza since split

March 21, 2012 7:53 P.M. (Updated: March 24, 2012 10:43 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority has spent over $7 billion in Gaza since 2007, Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf said Wednesday.

The Fatah-led government in Ramallah has continued to meet its obligations in Gaza even though Fatah was ousted from the coastal enclave by Hamas in 2007, Assaf said in a statement.

The PA spends around $120 million each month on the Gaza Strip, paying the salaries of around 80,000 civil servants, the Fatah official said.

The Ramallah government pays for all health and education needs in Gaza, including teachers' salaries, books and school maintenance. It also pays Israel around 50 million shekels ($13.37 million) for 120 Megawatts of electricity for Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas charges residents for electricity and collects the payments for itself, he said.

Gaza's Hamas rulers now have billions of dollars because the administration has not had to spend any money, Assaf said, adding that there were now over 2,100 "Hamas millionaires."

Assaf also blamed the Hamas government for the ongoing fuel crisis in Gaza, saying Hamas was demanding a discount on fuel from Egypt.

The Egyptian government buys diesel for $1 a liter, but Hamas wants to pay 0.5 shekels a liter ($0.13) and to charge residents 4 or 5 shekels a liter, he said.

The Fatah official said Hamas has stolen privately-owned land in Gaza to build malls for trade, yet has failed to build schools or hospitals.

Gaza protests against Abbas

Assaf's statement followed a protest in Gaza City accusing Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas of neglecting his responsibilities to the Gaza Strip.

Protesters carried posters urging the president to resign if he could not fulfill his duties, and reminding Abbas that he presides over all Palestinian people and not just the West Bank.

"Our message to the president is that he should secure our basic needs of electricity, water, fuel and work opportunities for his people," one protester said.

Demonstrators also said Palestinians were suffering because of the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah.

"The president takes care of his people in the West Bank, and (Hamas premier Ismail) Haniyeh takes care of his people in Gaza. The rest of the Palestinian people have nobody to help them provide food for their children," a protester said.

Firas al-Masri, urged Abbas "to do something for the sake of the Gaza Strip which is being ignored as a result of rivalry and failure to finalize a reconciliation agreement."

Another urged Abbas to quit: "If President Abbas doesn’t want the Gaza Strip, let him leave it alone. Those who rule over subjects should care about the needs of their people."

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal in May 2011 and agreed to form a unity government, but the agreement has yet to be implemented and the factions continue to trade blame for the failure to form a joint administration.

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