Employees of the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza launched a one-day strike on Thursday, in a move protesting the newly formed Hamas-Fatah unity government's unwillingness to pay their backlogged salaries.
The employees, who number 40,000, shut down all government offices and services in Gaza except for hospital emergency rooms and security patrols.
"This strike is a first step and an initial warning to the unity government," Mohammed Seyam, chairman of the Hamas workers' union in Gaza, told Reuters.
"We want to be recognized as employees of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and merged into the main salary list. If there is no response from the unity government we will escalate our protests," added Seyam.
The demand by workers of the terrorist group that kidnapped three Israeli teens two weeks ago has been met with several setbacks until now.
Hamas employees were enraged when the new unity government did not pay their salaries at the start of the month, despite the 70,000 PA employees in Gaza being able to withdraw their paychecks. The rage boiled over into fistfights, with Hamas eventually shutting down all the banks in Gaza for roughly a week.
Eventually a financial bail-out from Qatar stemmed the crisis, but chances of pay for the next month remains unlikely.
The unity government, based in the Samaria city of Ramallah, has said the Hamas employees need to be vetted before they are put on the payrolls of the new government; the process could take months.
Unity government Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah admitted in an interview two weeks ago that his government is powerless in Gaza, and has no plans as to how to defuse the explosive salary situation of Hamas employees.
Hamas violently ejected Fatah from Gaza in 2007, at which point it instituted its own government and hired its employees. Hamas's weak economic situation, heightened by an Egyptian siege, has made it unable to pay its workers.
On Sunday it was reported that Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman demanded the eviction of UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry from Israel, on suspicion that he has been trying to financially assist Hamas, a terror organization.