Fatah official vows more extreme measures to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza
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Fatah official vows more extreme measures to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza

Azzam al-Ahmad says PA considering cuts to funding for water and education in Strip; Hamas official calls comments a ‘declaration of war’

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Palestinian official, in his office in northern Ramallah on December 4, 2018. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)
Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Palestinian official, in his office in northern Ramallah on December 4, 2018. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

The Palestinian Authority’s withdrawal of its employees from the Rafah crossing constitutes the first of a number of measures it will take to end Hamas’s control over the Gaza Strip, Azzam al-Ahmad, a top Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah official, said late Monday.

On Sunday, PA employees pulled out of the Rafah crossing at the border between Egypt and Gaza, putting its regular operation at risk.

Egyptian authorities have not said if they will allow the sole crossing between Egypt and Gaza to remain open on a regular basis without PA employees present. On Tuesday, however, they only allowed Palestinians returning to the Strip to use the passageway.

“The withdrawal of the workers at the Rafah crossing is the beginning,” Ahmad, who holds the title of Fatah Central Committee member, told Palestine TV, the official PA channel. “There will be other measures… to annihilate the authority of division and status quo.”

Fatah officials frequently refer to Hamas as the “authority of division and status quo.”

Ahmad said that the additional measures the PA was considering include cutting funding it allocates to Gaza.

“Infrastructure… education, environment, sewage and water. All of them are on the table,” Ahmad said.

The PA allocates $96 million to Gaza on a monthly basis, according to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian children carry water bottles in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on January 4, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Abbas has said the PA previously sent $110 million to Gaza every month, but recently decreased its funding for the Strip to pressure Hamas to cede control of the territory. Since April 2017, the PA has only paid part of its employees’ salaries in the coastal enclave.

The PA’s funding for Gaza includes money for water, electricity, education, healthcare, public employees’ salaries and other areas.

In recent months, Abbas has suggested the PA will cut all payments to Gaza if Hamas does not hand over control of Gaza to it. On several occasions, he has said the PA will take no responsibility for Gaza if it does not control everything there.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel, ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from Gaza in 2007.

While Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a number of reconciliation deals to bring the West Bank and Gaza under one government, they have failed to implement them.

Ahmad on Monday also compared Gaza to a “hijacked plane,” arguing that Hamas has taken Palestinians in the coastal enclave hostage.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, angrily rejected Ahmad’s comments.

“Azzam al-Ahmad’s statements… represent a declaration of war on the people of Gaza,” Abu Zuhri tweeted. “All relevant parties must rectify the situation before it spins out of control. We will not allow this gang to suffocate and torture Gaza.”

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