More than a week after a new unity government was presented in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has still not regained control over the Gaza Strip, the Fatah official heading reconciliation talks with Hamas said on Tuesday.
“The legitimate [Palestinian] Authority has not yet begun working in Gaza,” said Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of Fatah’s parliamentary bloc, during a press conference in Ramallah. “When the handing over is finalized, the unity government will take responsibility. So far, the government has not taken Gaza. Only fools believe that Gaza can be given at the touch of a button.”
Ahmad was criticizing Hamas security, which had blocked access to Gaza’s banks for a week, protesting the PA’s refusal to pay the May salaries of over 40,000 civil servants employed by Hamas over the past seven years. Hamas had argued that disgruntled civil servants were the ones attacking the banks and its security men were merely sent to impose law and order, a claim Ahmad dismissed as “tragicomic.”
“They [Hamas] used to tell us that security in Gaza is better than in the West Bank. What kind of security can’t protect banks?” he wondered.
On Wednesday the crisis was resolved, as Hamas security stood down from the bank entrances and permitted the reactivation of ATM machines. Qatar is expected to pay the salaries while a joint Fatah-Hamas commission devises a new payment mechanism within four months. Ahmad said he had explicitly suggested to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh that he call Qatar and ask for help.
“He [Haniyeh] told me he asked [Qatari ruler] Sheikh Tamim for $5 million for the social reconciliation committee. I laughed and told him: ‘The reconciliation committee needs $200 million-$300 million. Why did you ask for only five million?’”