PA minister panned for blaming Hamas for floods

Recent heavy rains in the Gaza Strip have caused flooding.

Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest in Ramallah last month. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Palestinian demonstrators attend an anti-Palestinian Authority protest in Ramallah last month.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

A Palestinian Authority minister who held Hamas responsible for the recent flooding brought by heavy rainfall in the Gaza Strip has faced sharp criticism from the Islamist movement and several Palestinian factions and political activists who accused him of parroting Israeli “propaganda.”

PA Minister for Local Government Majdi al-Saleh on Monday accused Hamas of diverting funds earmarked for infrastructure projects to the building of tunnels.

“Hamas bears responsibility for the tragedy that took place in the Gaza Strip in the past two days,” Saleh told the PA’s official Voice of Palestine radio station, referring to the floods that hit several areas of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. “The de facto [Hamas] government must pay to the municipalities and fund their projects instead of spending the money on other channels, which are often underground.”

His accusation came on the eve of “reconciliation” talks in Algeria between Hamas and the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction. The talks, which will be attended by four other factions, aim to end the dispute between Hamas and Fatah and achieve “national reconciliation.”

Saleh’s accusation echoed the sentiments of several Palestinians in the Gaza Strip who also blamed Hamas for preferring to invest millions of dollars in its network of tunnels along the border with Israel and Egypt rather than building and improving the infrastructure.

A rally takes place in the Gaza Strip last month marking the 34th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. Israel is likely to wage a multifaceted war against Iran’s terrorist proxies this year. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90)A rally takes place in the Gaza Strip last month marking the 34th anniversary of the founding of Hamas. Israel is likely to wage a multifaceted war against Iran’s terrorist proxies this year. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90)

Some Hamas-affiliated officials had accused Israel of opening dams that led to the floods in the Gaza Strip – a charge that has been dismissed and ridiculed by many Palestinians on social-media platforms. Others said Israeli-imposed restrictions on the entry of funds and construction material were responsible for the bad infrastructure.

“Despite all the money raised and taxes collected, there are no infrastructure projects, and the Gaza Strip is flooded after 30 minutes of rain,” one Palestinian posted.

Critics of the PA said the accusations against Hamas were similar to those made by Israel over the past few years, namely that the Islamist movement gives priority to building tunnels and manufacturing weapons while ignoring the needs of the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Several Hamas-affiliated websites launched a scathing attack on Saleh, accusing him of serving as the new spokesman for the IDF and being a “Zionist” agent.

In response to Saleh’s allegations, Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou said: “[These] irresponsible statements are devoid of national and humanitarian sense and serve only the narrative of the occupation.”

It would have been better had Saleh assumed his responsibilities toward the Gaza Strip and its residents instead of endorsing Israel’s talking points, he said.

“The Gaza Strip lives under an unjust siege and is still suffering from the effects of the recent war [with Israel] and the sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority,” Qanou said, adding that Saleh should apologize.

Hani Khalil, a senior Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine official, denounced Saleh’s remarks as “irresponsible” and said he should not have “exonerated” Israel from its responsibilities toward the Gaza Strip.

The latest tensions are likely to have a negative impact on the intra-Palestinian “reconciliation” discussions that will be launched in Algeria this week. The discussions are being held at the invitation of Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune.

On Monday, senior Hamas officials Khalil al-Hayya and Hussam Badran arrived in Algiers, the Algerian capital, to attend the talks. The Fatah delegation, which arrived earlier this week, is headed by Azzam al-Ahmed.

Representatives of various Palestinian factions on Tuesday said they did not expect the Algeria talks to achieve real progress toward ending the Hamas-Fatah rivalry.