Prodding Hamas, Abbas fires 6,145 PA employees in Gaza
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Prodding Hamas, Abbas fires 6,145 PA employees in Gaza

Ramallah spokesperson says measure part of ‘national strategy' to force terror group to cede control of Strip

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures after delivering a speech on the second day of the 7th Fatah Congress in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 30, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures after delivering a speech on the second day of the 7th Fatah Congress in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 30, 2016. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday “sent into early retirement” 6,145 employees in the Gaza Strip, declaring the move part of a strategy to force the Hamas terror group to cede control of the Palestinian enclave.

“This measure, previous measures, and any other measures that may be taken in this framework, are temporary, and are connected to Hamas abandoning [Palestinian] division,” the spokesperson for the government in Ramalllah, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said in a statement to the official PA news site Wafa.

Since April, the PA has been carrying out a series of tough measures aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the coastal enclave, which it took over in a violent conflict with Fatah in 2007. The measures have included reducing the flow of electricity by 35 percent, and slashing government salaries and medical aid provided to the Strip.

Mahmoud said the firing of the employees was part of the “national strategy to end the division and implement President Mahmoud Abbas’s vision to dissolve the so-called Administrative Committee” and allow the Palestinian government to assume its responsibilities in the Strip and prepare for general elections.

Palestinian Authority employees chant slogans and wave placards during a demonstration against the decision by the PA to reduce their salaries in Gaza City on April 8, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinian Authority employees chant slogans and wave placards during a demonstration against the decision by the PA to reduce their salaries in Gaza City on April 8, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Hamas formed the Administrative Committee in March in order to widen its governance in the Strip.

The PA government spokesperson added that Hamas collects “hundreds of millions of shekels monthly, which it does not return to the government treasury, while at the same time, the PA allocates more than NIS 450 million per month” to Gaza.

In early April, Abbas reduced by one-third the salaries of tens of thousands of employees of the pre-Hamas government in Gaza who had been paid for the last decade on condition that they stay home.

In a statement Tuesday, Hamas lashed out at the decision to fire the employees, calling it “immoral, inhuman and having nothing to do with the division.”

The terror group asserted the measure was part of a plan by Abbas to “purge the Palestinian issue in line with the Zionist-American project.”

The ongoing salary payments had been intended to ensure loyalty to Abbas, but inadvertently also propped up Hamas by injecting cash into Gaza’s fragile economy.

The announcement of the decision to fire thousands of employees comes amid developments in Gaza that point to a new government being formed between Hamas and Abbas’s rival in the Fatah party, Mohammad Dahlan.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Mohammad Dahlan, left, leave a news conference in Egypt, in February 2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Mohammad Dahlan, left, leave a news conference in Egypt, in February 2007. (AP/Amr Nabil)

Dahlan is a former Fatah leader and strongman in Gaza, who was expelled from the Palestinian territories by Abbas in 2011. He was also once considered persona non grata by Hamas and ousted in the coup that put the Islamist terror group in power in the Strip 10 years ago.

But according to Hamas leader Ahmad Yusuf, following meetings between Dahlan, Hamas leaders and Egyptian intelligence in early June, a reconciliation deal is in the works.

Yusuf, who spoke to the Jordanian daily al-Ghad on Monday, said the deal between Dahlan and Hamas would see the establishment of a new “management committee” of Gaza.

Yusuf added that Samir Mashrawi — considered Dahlan’s right-hand man — is expected to return to the enclave in the coming days.

Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.

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