Hamas Police held up the Gaza City Bank of Palestine on Monday, taking nearly half a million dollars allegedly on behalf of a medical organization, “aggressively” forcing staff to open the bank vault.
The Palestine Monetary Association (PMA), which regulates the Palestinian Authority's banking system, responded by calling on Hamas to “abide by the rule of law to safeguard the soundness of the banks so that they can continue to provide services to the people.”
The Patient's Friend Association hospital's assets deposited at the Fatah-controlled bank were frozen after Hamas had seized control of its board following the terrorist group's June 2007 victory over Fatah in a bloody region-wide PA civil war.
The Fatah-run government maintained control of PA areas in Judea and Samaria, as well as primary control over the PA financial institutions. But Hamas took control over the Gaza court system, which then issued an injunction against the bank, ordering it to unfreeze the hospital's assets.
Hamas police showed up at the bank on Monday, ordering the staff to hand over 1.5 million shekels ($400,000). A bank employee who asked not to be named said the police acted “aggressively,” forcing staff to open the vault before they “signed a paper showing the amount of money they had taken.”
The Reuters news agency quoted Fatah-linked banking sources as saying the PMA had frozen the hospital's assets “seeking to apply global regulations against money laundering.”
A spokesman for the de facto Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza, Ehab al-Ghsain, said police actions were “implementation of a judicial decision” and that the hospital's board has “resorted to court[s] after the Fatah government froze its account in the bank.”
The Fatah-run PA government based in Ramallah, funded by Western nations, continues to pay both Fatah and Hamas civil servants in all of the Palestinian Authority areas, including Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, through its banking system. The PA also receives millions of dollars every month from Israel, which collects tax revenues for the PA.