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Gaza banks still closed as unity govt financial dispute deepens

June 8, 2014 10:24 A.M. (Updated: June 9, 2014 3:18 P.M.)
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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