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Jordan Warns Hamas: Control Your Militants or No Banks

After a day in which Hamas militants stormed a Palestinian Authority TV station and government employees attacked several banks, Jordan warned Hamas to control militants and the rising anarchy.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 6/5/2006, 6:21 PM / Last Update: 6/5/2006, 9:08 PM

Jordanian spokesman Nasser Judeh warned Hamas on Monday that his government will close branches of Jordanian banks in PA-controlled territories if its branches are attacked either in the PA-controlled areas or within Jordan itself.

The Hashemite kingdom and Hamas are already at odds over allegations that Hamas terrorists smuggled weapons into Jordan in order to stockpile them for future attacks.

In Gaza City, some 30 PA Arabs screamed at the manager of the main branch of the Arab Bank, throwing water on his desk and forcing staff members to call police for assistance. The bank was closed after the rioters were removed.

A number of banks were attacked by disgruntled PA government workers who demanded salaries they have not received for the past three months. Despite an announcement from the PA government that some 40-thousand civil servants would receive their salaries, it appeared that much of the money did not reach the accounts as promised.

One of the protestors was Talal Bustan, a police officer, who said he was given the runaround when trying to find out where to receive his salary. “No one is truthful in this country,” he said. Bustan was told to go to the post office to draw the funds. The post office told him to go to the bank. The bank sent him back to the post office.

Only the lowest-paid workers were to be paid and only one month’s wages, up to a maximum of NIS 1,500. The Palestinian Banking Association published an announcement in the local newspapers on Monday that banks had still not received the funds from the government.

Nonetheless, the government persuaded all but one of 20 banks to advance the funds against a promise to pay them back later, although the timeframe for that payment was left unclear. The sum came to approximately $13 million.

The one exception was the Bank of Palestine, which started paying partial salaries Sunday night. Approximately 10,000 government workers hold accounts at the institution, which drew funds for the transfers from tax revenues deposited with the bank.

More than 100,000 workers have still received no salaries at all. PA government workers have not been paid since March, when international funding was cut after terrorist group Hamas took over its newly-elected position as the PA ruling party. That funding is not forthcoming until Hamas renounces terror and recognizes Israel and its existing agreements with the PA. Not only has Hamas refused to renounce terror or recognize Israel, it has also tried to annul the existing agreements.

“These are people who don’t have money to buy milk,” said Raed Abu Ghoneima, another unpaid police officer who stormed the Arab Bank in Gaza City. “It has nothing to do with politics,” he said. “It’s about wages.”

Meanwhile, PA President Mahmoud Abbas met in Ramallah with the foreign policy chief for the European Union, Javier Solana to discuss ways to channel funds to PA residents while bypassing the Hamas-led government.

Jolana pledged further EU aid to PA residents at a joint conference with Abbas following their meeting. “The EU continues to be the most important donor to the Palestinians,” he told reporters. “More money is being given in the year 2006 than 2005. We will not let the Palestinians down,” he said.