Fayad gov't pays Hamas salaries due to 'computer error'

Operatives who fought against Fatah forces in Gaza get money as result of "computer error"; Hamas officials see as "goodwill gesture."

gaza aid 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza aid 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The government of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad paid salaries to Hamas militiamen on Tuesday who fought against the Fatah-controlled PA security forces in the Gaza Strip in June, sources close to Hamas have confirmed. This is the first time that Fayad's Fatah-controlled government has paid salaries to members of Hamas's paramilitary Executive Force. The money was transferred to Fayad's government by Israel from tax revenues belonging to the PA. Although Fayad's aides said on Wednesday the salary payments were the result of a "computer error," some Hamas officials saw the move as a "goodwill gesture" on the part of Fayad and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Representatives of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council also received their salaries from Fayad's government on Tuesday. Abbas outlawed the Executive Force earlier this year. It was established by former PA interior minister Said Siam of Hamas in 2006 after Abbas took away his authority over the PA security forces. The Hamas sources said at least half of the force's 6,500 members received their salaries from the Fayad government. The money was transferred to the accounts of the Hamas members in various banks in the Gaza Strip. Saber Khalifeh, a spokesman for the Executive Force, said it was the first time the PA had paid the men in 12 months. "We were surprised to see that the Ramallah government had paid salaries to our security forces," he said. "We regard this step as recognition of the Executive Force on the part of the Fayad government." Khalifeh said the remaining members of the force were expected to receive their salaries from the rival government of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the coming days. He said they earned between NIS 2,800 and NIS 3,500 a month. The payments come amid reports of a possible rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas. Representatives of the two parties revealed on Tuesday that they were holding secret talks aimed at ending their dispute and forming a new national unity government. PA officials said one of Abbas's top aides, Jibril Rajoub, was involved in the meetings with Hamas leaders. Rajoub visited Cairo last week for talks with Egyptian officials on ways of resolving the Fatah-Hamas dispute. Abbas, who met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday, said talks with Hamas would be possible only after the Islamist movement relinquished its "destructive" control over the Gaza Strip. "What Hamas did was destructive," Abbas told reporters after talks with Mubarak in Alexandria. "Hamas helped all the enemies of the Palestinian people and those who don't want a Palestinian state. If Hamas wants any dialogue, it must reverse all that it did in the Gaza Strip." Sources close to Abbas said Mubarak advised the PA chairman to make an effort to resolve the crisis with Hamas. They said Mubarak told Abbas that Egypt was planning to renew its contacts with Hamas. Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal urged Yemen on Wednesday to mediate between Hamas and Fatah. Mashaal accused "Israel and other international organizations" of "seeking to deepen the rift between the two groups." Mashaal spoke upon his arrival in Sanaa, where he was set to meet with Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The EU's ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, on Wednesday diplomatically dodged the question of whether the EU thought Hamas-Fatah negotiations would be constructive, telling a press briefing this was an "internal" Palestinian matter. He stressed, however, that the EU recognizes and deals with only one Palestinian government, that of Abbas and Fayad. Cibrian-Uzal reiterated that Hamas would have to fulfill the international community's three requirements - recognizing Israel, renouncing terrorism and accepting previous agreements - before the EU would deal with it. "EU policy is very clear," he said. "The EU believes unity is a good thing," and that there is only a single Palestinian Authority and there needs to be only one Palestinian state. Cibrian-Uzal deflected the question of whether the EU was in favor of Fatah-Hamas negotiations, saying: "I have no comment, this is an internal Palestinian matter. We have not and do not interfere." He said Abbas had told the Europeans what he told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during their meeting on Sunday: that for the time being he did not see the conditions ripe for negotiations with Hamas. Herb Keinon contributed to this report.