PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks during a mass wedding ceremony for 27 couples in Jenin last year..
(photo credit: ABED OMAR QUSINI/REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said on Tuesday that the PA had not been fully empowered to operate in the Gaza Strip, even though a deadline for Hamas to hand over responsibility for the territory to the PA passed on Sunday.
In mid-October, Fatah and Hamas signed a deal in Cairo to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA ’s governing authority in Gaza, but have since struggled to implement the agreement. Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.
“[Hamdallah] affirmed that the government did not assume all of its powers and responsibilities and that the process of empowering the government did not happen in accordance with the [mid-October] agreement,” the official PA news site Wafa reported, alluding to the PA prime minister’s comments at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
In contrast to Hamdallah’s remarks, Hamas on Saturday asserted in a statement that the PA had “assumed all of its responsibilities in Gaza.”
Last week, Hamdallah visited Gaza for the second time in the past two-and-a-half years, where he met with senior Hamas and Fatah officials.
In his comments on Tuesday, Hamdallah said that obstacles to restoring the PA ’s authority in Gaza include Hamas stopping the PA from collecting taxes.
“He said... stopping tax collection... will have negative implications for the financial process and the government fulfilling its financial obligations including to” Hamas-appointed employees, the Wafa report stated.
According to the mid-October agreement, the PA is supposed to pay the salaries of Hamas-appointed employees in the Strip for three months once it has been enabled to operate there.
After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, it appointed some 40,000 employees, who have since worked in the Strip’s government. The PA has never officially recognized them as legitimate employees.
On Tuesday, a majority of those employees participated in a strike to protest the PA not paying their salaries at the beginning of December, the Hamas-linked al-Rai news site reported.
Pictures posted on social media showed that some government offices were closed.
Earlier this week, Yaqoub al-Ghandour, the head of the Hamas-appointed employees union, slammed the PA for not paying their salaries, saying that this is “a redline that cannot be bartered or negotiated.”