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Gaza: Hamas Sweeps UNRWA Union Elections

Hamas won control of nearly two thirds of the Gaza branch of a UN aid agency's labor union. The same agency said Hamas stole its aid to Gaza.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 3/26/2009, 10:32 PM

The Hamas jihadist organization won control of nearly two thirds of the Gaza branch of a United Nations aid agency's employees union. The same agency charged last month that Hamas was stealing its humanitarian
Significantly, Islamist candidates won all 11 seats reserved for teachers.
supplies to the residents of Gaza.

In the elections for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) union in Gaza, held Wednesday, the Hamas-controlled Islamist bloc won 17 out of 27 seats. PLO-affiliated factions won nine seats, with the last seat going to an independent candidate.

In the UNRWA union's legislative body in Gaza, seats are divided among the various employee sectors. Significantly, Islamist candidates won all 11 seats reserved for teachers. The services sector representatives are divided between Hamas (4) and a PLO-supported coalition (5). Four seats designated for labor union members went to the PLO coalition and two to Hamas.

Candidates representing the Islamic Jihad terrorist group also ran in the elections, but obtained no seats. Approximately 10,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza took part in the voting.

UNRWA runs 221 schools and dozens of medical clinics in Gaza; the agency also distributes food packages and quarterly cash stipends to thousands of impoverished families throughout the region.

'A Blow to the Zionists'
Hamas released a statement Wednesday calling the UNRWA election results "a blow to the Zionist occupation authority."

The terrorist group said the outcome "proved to the whole world that the [Hamas] movement's popularity is on the rise and the Palestinian people would never forsake their movement." However, the results represent a relative growth in strength for the PLO among UNRWA workers this year as compared with previous votes.

"The Palestinian people today could separate the wheat from the chaff," the Hamas statement said, hinting at corruption tainting the election efforts of their political rivals.

Stealing From its Voters
Just under two months before Hamas swept its union elections in Gaza, UNRWA charged that Hamas was stealing humanitarian supplies it was trying to deliver to Gaza residents.

In early February, UNRWA informed Israel that it was forced to suspend humanitarian aid to Gaza due to the ongoing thievery of the Islamist regime's thugs. In two separate instances, according to UNRWA sources, armed Hamas gunmen had hijacked 200 tons of supplies, including basic foodstuffs. As a result, forty truckloads of UNRWA supplies were not delivered to Gaza residents that same week alone.

Israeli officials confirmed the reported thefts and noted that it was not the first time Hamas terrorists had stolen humanitarian aid sent to Gaza for its own uses. Hamas uses the population in Gaza "cruelly and cynically," they said.

Hamas took over Gaza from PLO control in a violent and bloody military coup in June of 2007. In January 2006 Hamas won legislative elections encompassing the entire Palestinian Authority, although the Fatah-controlled PLO maintained chairmanship under Mahmoud Abbas, which sparked the ongoing power struggle between the two factions.