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Hamas holds meeting with political factions in Gaza to discuss burgeoning political crisis

April 12, 2017 6:24 P.M. (Updated: April 12, 2017 8:36 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Several Palestinian political parties held a meeting in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in the coastal enclave and to prepare for the upcoming arrival of a delegation from the Palestinian Authority's (PA) ruling Fatah party to Gaza, as tensions between the Hamas and Fatah movements remained high following drastic pay cuts to PA employees' salaries in Gaza. 

Hamas politburo member in Gaza Salah al-Bardwil told Ma’an that Hamas leaders met with "several Palestinian factions in order to inform them of past meetings between Fatah and Hamas," though it remained clear exactly how many parties were in attendance. 

Al-Bardwil said that Hamas "preferred that all national factions participate in any meetings with the Fatah delegation from Ramallah that is expected to visit the besieged Gaza Strip in the next few days in an attempt to resolve the political crisis."

He added that the administrative committee formed in the besieged enclave tasked with administering the Gaza Strip, a move which has been strongly condemned by the PA, was a temporary solution aimed at coordinating between ministries in the absence of the PA.

He added that the committee was not formed to replace the PA government, saying that if the Palestinian unity government began operating in Gaza, the committee would be shut down.

Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad leader Khalid al-Batsh said that the meeting had “positive outcomes” regarding ending the political crisis in the Palestinian territory and for the future of reconciliation.

He said that during the meeting, he called upon Fatah and Hamas to conduct national meetings, with the participation of all national factions, instead of building reconciliation between only Hamas and Fatah. "This is the only way to end the political conflict," al-Batsh added.

Drastic pay cuts to the salaries of PA employees last weekend deepened an already decade-long political conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as PA civil servants received their March salaries to find that they had been cut by at least 30 percent. The move sparked protests in the enclave as employees accused the PA of targeting Gaza-based employees, highlighting that cuts were not made to civil servants in the occupied West Bank. 

Since Hamas’ rise to power in Gaza in 2007, the PA paid their employees to refuse working with the Hamas government and to essentially stay home in protest. These employees had continued to receive regular payments from the PA until last week.

However, some 50,000 employees who decided to continue their work under Hamas subsequently faced irregular and partial salaries from the PA, and at times no payment at all, plunging most into an ongoing economic crisis since 2007.

On Monday, Hamas accused the PA and its Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who previously attempted to shift blame on Hamas, of "creating this conspiracy upon direct orders from President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas also described the move as "discriminatory,” saying it would “deepen the state of disagreement and the political and social chasm" between the West Bank and Gaza.

During a press conference on Friday, Hamdallah claimed that the base salaries of PA government employees in Gaza “were not touched,” but rather that deductions were made only to monthly salary allowances or bonuses, in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds.”

At the same time. Hamdallah criticized Hamas, saying that Hamas “keeps its income for itself, while the PA has spent more than 17 billion dollars in the Gaza Strip during the last 10 years.”

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement Saturday in which he expressed his “deep concerns” over the “growing tensions” in Gaza. Mladenov said in the statement that the salary cuts came as an additional burden to civil servants in Gaza who struggle to survive under an already dire situation.

The UN official echoed criticisms voiced in recent days that the "discriminatory" deductions only affected PA civil servants in Gaza and not those working in the occupied West Bank, as Palestinians have further expressed concern that the cuts would only continue to isolate Gazans from the rest of the Palestinian territory.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliations, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.
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