Gaza Wage War Partially Quelled

Civil servants paid, but military and security personnel still waits, in latest bid to dispel tensions in precarious 'unity government.'

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Money at Gaza's 'Bank of Palestine'
Money at Gaza's 'Bank of Palestine'
Flash 90

Thousands of civil servants in Gaza queued outside post offices Wednesday, waiting to receive their first paycheck from the Palestinian Authority (PA)-Hamas "unity government" over four months after it was formally established, AFP correspondents said.

However, thousands more - all holding jobs in the military and security services - were not being paid and it was unclear if and when they would be.

In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza after deadly clashes with Fatah, the party of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

After the takeover, the PA ordered the civil servants to stop working, so Hamas hired more than 40,000 people to replace them in the ministries and the security forces.

It has been paying those workers ever since.

But after a reconciliation deal with Abbas that led to the formation in June of a national unity government, Hamas relinquished responsibility for paying salaries and demanded that the new government do so.

On Wednesday, UN trucks brought $30 million (24 million euros) in cash from Ramallah, the government's headquarters, into Gaza through an Israeli-controlled crossing.

Banks had refused to transfer the money directly, fearing sanctions for involvement in financing employees of Hamas, the Islamist terror movement blacklisted by the US and EU. 

Gaza justice ministry worker Hana al-Abssi told AFP the payment was "a positive step for all employees."

Umm Yusef Saleh, another worker, had been queuing up since the morning.

"It's been months that we haven't been paid. I waited here from 7:00 am to receive my salary. I have debts to pay as well as school transport for my children," she said.

Gaza's 24,000 civil servants received wages of $1,200 on Wednesday, but the remaining approximately 16,000 military and security personnel were not paid.

The Palestinian Authority, which the PLO dominates, initially refused to pay the workers in June because they were appointed after Hamas took over Gaza, and therefore were not registered as its employees.

The wage dispute has been one of the many sticking points in the so-called "unity pact," with the money issue not only causing discord between the two parties but also sparking outrage among ordinary Gazans. 

Tensions in the wage war began with the PA-Hamas unity deal in April, after which Hamas's 40,000 employees in Gaza still were not paid backlogged wages by the new unity government even as the PA's 70,000 employees in Gaza continue to be paid.

The rage boiled over into violence, with Hamas eventually shutting down all the banks in Gaza for roughly a week, until in June a financial bail-out from Qatar temporarily stemmed the crisis; however, Hamas's launching a terror war on Israel early in July apparently put off the salary payments even further.