Gaza: Hamas announces it will pay civil servants

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip will begin paying thousands of civil servants cut from the payroll of its rival Fatah, officials said, further entrenching the divisions between the two Palestinian territories. Hamas's payment of the salaries would further cement its rule over impoverished Gaza, where unemployment is about 40 percent and most of the 1.4 million people receive foreign food handouts. The money will go to thousands of members of Hamas's Executive Force, a Hamas militia that polices Gaza, and those civil servants who refused an order from Fayyad not to cooperate with the Islamic group. During a year of Hamas rule, following the group's election victory in January 2006, civil servants were only paid sporadically because of an international aid boycott, prompting a further downturn in the battered Palestinian economy.