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Hamas civil servants declare strike over unpaid salaries

Feb. 23, 2016 6:58 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 25, 2016 1:12 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Civil servants hired by the Gaza Strip's de facto Hamas leaders on Tuesday declared a strike across all Gazan ministries and public institutions to protest unpaid salaries.

The employees have not been regularly paid since the formation of a unity government in 2014, although even before that Hamas struggled to pay their salaries regularly.

A spokesperson for the employees' union, Muhammad Siyam, said during a press conference that the strike would take place on Thursday across all public institutions, including schools.

He also announced a rally on Tuesday next week, marching from Gaza City's Saraya Square toward the city's government buildings.

Siyam said the unpaid civil servants would "take our rights by force and would be ready to die for the sake of our means of living."

He called on Fatah and Hamas to reach an agreement on the issue as part of the latest round of unity talks in Qatar, warning: "If our problem is not addressed and solved during the ongoing talks in Qatar, we won't accept a reconciliation agreement that ignores us.”

The employees's status has been one of the major points of dispute between the two rival factions, especially after they agreed to back the creation of a unity government of politically-independent technocrats in June 2014.

Hamas then demanded that the government regulate the salaries of its 50,000 employees, who were hired when the movement seized power in the coastal enclave in 2007.

Their employees took over from 70,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority who were forced out of their positions but have continued to receive their salaries from Ramallah -- albeit erratically.

The unity government said the Hamas workers would only be hired "according to need," while they pledged to return the PA's former employees to their positions.

Most of the Hamas employees have gone without pay for months, by some estimates receiving only 40 percent of what is owed to them.

There has been little prospect of a solution to the dispute, with a high-profile bid by the unity government to establish itself in Gaza last summer ending in complete disarray.
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