The US and Israel-backed Fatah Palestinian Authority used the money it recently received from Olmert to pay an entire year’s salary to 3,500 members of Hamas’s terrorist forces.
Fatah claimed the payment – amounting to $16 million – was wired “accidentally.” The claim was believed and reported at face-value by the Associated Press (“Abbas' gov't inadvertently pays salaries to outlawed Hamas militia”) and other international news agencies. Not passing the money to Hamas was the only stipulation set by Israel in transferring the money to the PA.
Hamas officials in Gaza confirmed that they had received the payment, telling the PA-run Ma'an News Agency that 3,500 Hamas “operational forces” had received salaries covering the year from June 2006 to June 2007.
Salam Fayyad, formerly PA Finance Minister, was appointed by Fatah chief and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister following Hamas’s takeover of Gaza, due to the US and Israel’s reliance on him to refrain from mismanaging and funneling money the way Yasser Arafat’s regime was notorious for doing. The latest funneling of millions to Hamas casts substantial doubt on Fayyad's trustworthiness in this regard.
Fatah officials claim a “computer error” was responsible and that the Bank of Palestine was ordered to withdraw the deposited funds. Most Hamas members had already withdrawn the money, however.
Hamas officials told Arabic newspapers that they see the move as a “goodwill gesture” of the kind Israel displays toward Fatah intermittently. The same day, Fatah’s Abbas told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he would be willing to engage Hamas in negotiations if they stood down from their Gaza takeover.
Hamas Executive Forces militia spokesman Sabir Khalifa told the PA-run Ma'an news agency that "this is an official recognition from Abbas and Fayyad that the [Hamas] force is legitimate and legal."
Hamas and Fatah are holding “secret talks” to revive a unity government. The popular Dry Bones political cartoon Thursday showed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert predicting that there would be no Fatah and Hamas unity “Because Israel has not finished delivering all the new weapons to the West Bank ‘moderates’ yet.”