Unpaid teachers launched the school year on Saturday with a strike that shut down most schools across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and sorely tested the embattled Hamas government's ability to survive.
Hundreds of Hamas militiamen deployed around schools in Gaza, Hamas' stronghold, unsuccessfully trying to persuade teachers and students who showed up to remain. In the West Bank, activists from the rival Fatah party stood in front of schools, urging teachers to comply with the strike call, at times shooting in the air.
Teachers embarked upon the open-ended walkout because the Hamas government - impoverished by international sanctions meant to pressure it to drop their violent campaign against Israel - hasn't paid them or 130,000 other government employees since taking office in March.
The strike was widely viewed as a tactic by Fatah, led by the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to pressure Hamas to join it in a so-called national unity government that would recognize Israel and renew peace talks.
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