The Palestinian Authority has paid salaries to its West Bank employees this month, but not those in the Gaza Strip, officials said Monday, amid an ongoing split with the strip’s Islamist rulers, terror group Hamas.
It was not immediately clear why the salaries had not been paid and if the delay was temporary, but it comes as relations between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas are at rock bottom. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been vowing to step up sanctions against Hamas.
“Salaries were paid into banks in the West Bank and not in Gaza,” Arif Abu Jarad, head of the union representing PA employees in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.
“There is a state of anger among staff in the strip,” he added, saying they were having emergency meetings against this “terrible crime.”
A source in the finance ministry in Ramallah, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the salaries had been paid in the West Bank, but not Gaza.
He refused to give more details on the decision.
Employees in Gaza waited in vain for salaries at banks, an AFP photographer said.
The PA has kept paying its tens of thousands of employees in Gaza, despite most not going to work since Hamas seized control of the territory from the PA in a 2007 near civil war.
Analysts say cutting the salaries would seek to increase discontent in the Gaza Strip, putting more pressure on Hamas.
Multiple reconciliation attempts between the two factions have failed, most recently an Egyptian-brokered deal signed in October.
Last month, Abbas accused Hamas of planning a failed assassination attempt on his prime minister, during a rare visit to Gaza.
Last year, Abbas imposed a series of measures against the Gaza Strip that included suspending Palestinian Authority payments to Israel for electricity supplies to the coastal enclave. Abbas also cut off salaries to thousands of Gaza’s civil servants and forced many others into early retirement.
But recent protests along the Gaza border that have led to deadly clashes with Israeli forces have led to expressions of support for Gazans from Abbas. Last Friday, in the second week of a series of events set to culminate on May 15, about 20,000 Palestinians demonstrated along the Gaza border. Israel has described it as a riot orchestrated by Hamas, while Palestinians say it was supposed to be a peaceful protest.
On Friday, the Palestinian UN ambassador told reporters in New York that nine Gazans were killed and over 1,000 injured by Israeli fire at the border protests. The IDF, which did not confirm the figures, said it thwarted multiple efforts to breach the border fence — and that it used live fire to do so in some instances — as well as attempts to activate bombs against the troops under the cover of smoke.
Israel alleged that Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since 2008, sought to use the protests as cover to carry out violence.
Hugh Lovatt, Israel and Palestine fellow with the European Council of Foreign Relations think-tank, said the halt to payments, if confirmed, would represent Abbas “doubling down” on threats.
“This comes against the backdrop of increasing attempts by Abbas to impose sanctions on Hamas and Gazans,” he told AFP.
“I see this as one more step.”