The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is considering either forcing another group of Palestinian Authority employees working in the health and education sectors in the Gaza Strip into early retirement or slashing social welfare payments allocated to the territory as a continuation of its measures to pressure Hamas to cede control of the Strip, Ahmad Majdalani, a close confidante of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said on Wednesday. Over the past four months, the Palestinian leadership, headed by Abbas, has cut a number of budgets allocated to Gaza by decreasing electricity supplied to the Strip, slashing Gazan PA employees’ salaries and forcing some of them into early retirement, and reducing payments for medical-related costs there.Majdalani said Hamas has to choose between “dissolving its administrative committee and empowering the [PA] government to take responsibility in its place or bearing full responsibility for Gaza.”“It is not logical that Hamas has a government in Gaza and we fund that government,” Majdalani said. Hamas has controlled Gaza since 2007 when it overthrew the Fatah-dominated PA in the Strip in a violent coup. In 2014, Hamas and Fatah agreed to establish a PA consensus government with a mandate in the West Bank and Gaza. However, Hamas formally abrogated its commitments to the PA consensus government in March when it formed its administrative committee to run affairs in the Strip. Majdalani’s comments came a day after Abbas told a meeting of Fatah leaders and cadres in Ramallah that “we are serious in continuing these measures in the case [Hamas] continues to not respond affirmatively to our calls to achieve national unity.” Majdalani did not specify how many employees the Palestinian leadership is considering forcing into early retirement or how much in welfare payments it is thinking about cutting. The Palestinian leadership sent 6,145 PA employees in Gaza into early retirement on July 4. PA Social Development Ministry spokesman Mohammed Hanini said the PA provides assistance of NIS 130 million to 144,000 families in Gaza every three months. He said that each family receives between NIS 750-1,800 depending on its financial situation. A senior Hamas official admonished Abbas for considering the new punitive measures. “These measures are a big mistake,” the Hamas official told The Jerusalem Post in a phone call. “Abbas is not doing the right thing and should think about how he can bring the Palestinian people together in reconciliation.”Other Hamas leaders have taken an even more critical perspective of Abbas in the past several weeks, including some accusing the PA president of besieging Gaza. “Mahmoud Abbas and [PA] Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah continue to insist on their role in completing the siege of our people in Gaza and crushing them through many ways and means,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement in May. In the past two weeks, Abbas and Hamdallah met separately with Hamas leaders and lawmakers in Ramallah. Neither meeting, according to reports, led to any major breakthrough.