In a move that could lead to the collapse of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement, the Palestinian “national consensus” government on Tuesday ordered Palestinian Authority civil servants in the Gaza Strip to return to their workplaces.

Some 70,000 PA civil servants were left jobless after Hamas seized full control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. However, the employees continued to receive their salaries from the PA to keep them from joining the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. Hamas replaced the employees with its own civil servants, numbering about 50,000.

The new Palestinian government, headed by Rami Hamdallah, has refused to pay salaries to the Hamas civil servants – sparking a crisis that is now threatening to end the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal signed in Gaza City in April.

The Palestinian government’s decision to reinstate the PA civil servants came as a surprise to Hamas, whose leaders and spokesmen rushed to denounce the decision as a breach of the reconciliation pact.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that article No. 5 of the reconciliation accord stated that a special committee would be set up to discuss the PA employees’ return to their former jobs.

He said Hamas was surprised to hear the government’s decision before the committee had even met.

Abu Zuhri accused the Hamdallah government of succumbing to Fatah’s dictates, adding that this government had started to lose its credibility.

Another senior Hamas official, Salah Bardaweel, denounced the decision to reinstate the PA civil servants, calling the move “politically motivated.”

Bardaweel accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction of “settling scores with Hamas and the Gaza Strip with the backing of the Zionist occupier.” He, too, accused the new government of violating the reconciliation deal.

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