Gaza: PA police officer killed

Police riot after Hamas gov't says it still cannot pay most of its workers.

pa police gaza 29888ap (photo credit: AP)
pa police gaza 29888ap
(photo credit: AP)
An officer in the Palestinian security forces was killed and five others were wounded in two separate shootings in the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Palestinian sources said that gunmen shot at the officer's vehicle while it was traveling through the city. He was rushed to a hospital, where he died of his wounds. The five wounded were shot in Khan Younis, Army Radio reported. The shootings were part of a massive riot on Thursday in which several thousand police officers fired into the air and smashed windows of the Palestinian parliament building, raising fears of new unrest in Gaza after the Hamas-led government said it still cannot pay most of its workers. The continued failure to pay salaries has heightened tensions between Hamas and the security forces loyal to Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's rival Fatah movement. The two sides have been holding a "dialogue" in recent days aimed at resolving their differences. But with a June 6 deadline looming, they appear to be making little progress. The government has been unable to pay workers' salaries since taking office in March because of crushing international sanctions. Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek said Wednesday that the government has raised enough money to pay only 40,000 low-wage workers, leaving more than 100,000 workers, including many security officers, without salaries for a third straight month. Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had promised to pay all the salaries. About 3,000 police joined Thursday's demonstration outside the parliament building in Gaza, denouncing the government's inability to pay them. "We came to voice our anger, our protest and to send a message," said Nidal Rajab, a 29-year-old officer and father of three. "The government is using its hand to stab us in the back." Banners reading "90 days without salaries is more than enough" were posted on the parliament building. A group of new recruits went on a brief rampage, smashing six windows and climbing on the roof of the building before security forces pushed them away. Participants also called on Hamas to disband a private militia it recently deployed in Gaza's streets. Hamas says the militia was needed to end the chaos and violence there. Members of the Hamas force were nowhere in sight. Roughly one-third of Palestinian families depend on a government salary, and the cash crunch has taken a painful toll. Adding to the difficulties, the finance minister on Wednesday announced new austerity measures that include layoffs and an end to fuel subsidies. In the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, more than 500 children formed a human chain and called on the West to end its boycott against Hamas. "Stop the blockade," said the children, who urged the international community to "save" their childhoods. The protest was organized by an independent local charity.