Palestinians inspect the damage inside the office of Palestine TV, in Gaza City January 4, 2019.
(photo credit: AHMED ZAKOT / REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority has decided to stop paying salaries to hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including many Fatah members, sources said on Friday.
Palestinians see the move in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s punitive measures against Hamas and his critics in Fatah. These measures were taken last year in response to Hamas’s refusal to hand over full control of the Gaza Strip to Abbas’s Ramallah-based government.
Then, Abbas also decided to halt payment of salaries and social welfare to thousands of Palestinians.
Abbas and senior PA officials recently warned that they would impose severe sanctions on the Gaza Strip unless Hamas agreed to relinquish security and civilian control over the coastal enclave.
Abbas, who is currently visiting Cairo, told Egyptian journalists and writers on Friday night that he was considering halting the monthly PA funds that are earmarked for the Gaza Strip and which, he said, were estimated at $96 million.
On Friday, the Gaza-based offices of Palestine TV, the PA’s official station, were vandalized, apparently by angry Palestinians who lost their salaries. Some Palestinians said the attackers were disgruntled Fatah activists. Fatah leaders, however, have held Hamas responsible for the vandalism.
“Palestine TV belongs to the Palestinian people and not to one faction or movement,” said PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who also urged Hamas to apologize for the assault. “Those who carried out this cowardly act can’t be Palestinians. Hamas must reveal the identities of these cowards.”
One Palestinian source told The Jerusalem Post that the latest PA move will affect 169 Palestinians believed to be affiliated with deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, an outspoken political opponent and critic of Abbas.
A former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip, Dahlan moved to the United Arab Emirates in 2011 after falling out with Abbas and his two sons. Dahlan, who hails from the southern Gaza Strip, is an elected member of the Palestinian parliament – the Palestinian Legislative Council – and previously served as a security minister in a PA government that was headed by Abbas.
Abbas has accused Dahlan of financial corruption and murder, and has had him expelled from Fatah. The decision to punish Dahlan’s supporters came after Fatah leaders in the West Bank accused him of collaboration with Hamas.
Last week, Hamas banned Abbas loyalists from holding a major rally in the Gaza Strip to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the launching of the first Fatah terror attack against Israel. Despite the ban, Hamas allowed Dahlan loyalists to hold their own rally, triggering claims that the two sides were working together to undermine Abbas’s authority.
Hamas detained dozens of Fatah members ahead of the planned rally. Fatah claimed that at least 500 of its men were taken into custody by Hamas. Hamas, however, said that its security forces had summoned only 38 Fatah activists for questioning.
Another source said that dozens of former Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prison have also been told that they will no longer be receiving their salaries from the PA. Most of the former prisoners are affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but were nevertheless on the payroll of the PA, the source explained.
The decision to suspend the payment of salaries to residents of the Gaza Strip drew sharp criticism from Palestinians living there. Some said that Abbas was seeking to punish Palestinians who are supportive of Dahlan, while others strongly condemned the move as “political blackmail” on the part of the PA president.
“The Palestinian Authority has suspended the payments to hundreds of Fatah men in the Gaza Strip,” said Aref Abu Jarad, a representative of the public sector employees. “This is an act of piracy. It’s inhumane.”
A statement issued by a pro-Dahlan group called The Reformist Trend in Fatah denounced the decision as an “infamous crime.” The decision, the group said, was aimed at “starving our people in the Gaza Strip and robbing them of their rights. Halting the salaries is an act of terrorism.”
In another sign of mounting tensions between the two sides, Fatah announced that it has decided to close all its offices in the Gaza Strip in protest against Hamas “threats” and “harassment.”
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