Riots broke out Thursday outside several banks across the Gaza Strip, reportedly after employees of Hamas were kept from withdrawing their salaries and in turn barred employees of the Palestinian Authority from entry.
The PA has been paying monthly salaries to nearly 70,000 public servants in Gaza despite the fact that the workers had not been allowed to serve in their positions since Hamas took over the Strip by force in 2007.
On its part, Hamas has employed 40,000 of its own civil servants to work in the PA employees’ stead.
Following the establishment of a Hamas-Fatah unity government earlier this week, Hamas’s employees were expected to begin receiving salaries from the PA itself, while the original PA employees were set to take up again their former posts. However, when the Hamas civil servants approached the banks in order to receive their salaries, they were turned away. Some Hamas employees then proceeded to block entrance to the banks in protest.
Palestinian Authority security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri claimed Hamas members were using violent methods to prevent Gaza’s PA civil servants from collecting their own paychecks.
“They are firing gunshots, beating citizens and smashing ATM machines,” Dmeiri said, according to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency.
The Palestinian Authority spokesman added that members of Hamas warned bank managers in Gaza on Thursday not to reopen their branches for business until all Hamas employees were paid.
According to the Ma’an news agency, a Hamas official confirmed that clashes had broken out outside a number of Gaza banks, but said security forces arrived at the scenes quickly to restore order.
Another added, though, that “no one can receive a salary before we receive our salaries.”