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Hamdallah: PA to rehire Gaza civil servants who were forced into retirement

Aug. 26, 2017 5:39 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2017 2:46 P.M.)
HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has announced that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will rehire more than 6,000 civil servants in the Gaza Strip who were forced into retirement last month, which came amid a number of devastating policies seeking to pressure Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, to relinquish control over the small coastal enclave and reconcile with the PA.

During the inauguration of new wards at Hebron's public hospital on Saturday, Hamdallah said that "the government decided with approval from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to allow employees of the ministries of health and education from the Gaza Strip, who were pensioned, to return to their work and serve our brothers in the Gaza Strip."

He did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision to reverse the controversial policy, which the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) previously said had no legal justification, violated Palestinian civil law and international human rights law, and represented "the Palestinian government’s abandonment of its legal obligations towards the Gaza Strip.”

PCHR said retiring the thousands of Gaza-based civil servants would “aggravate the already deteriorated economic and social situations in Gaza,” owing to Israel’s decade-long siege on the small Palestinian territory.

The rights group argued the decision promoted discrimination between civil servants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and noted that PA employees in Gaza were already experiencing poverty from various pay cuts implemented following Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007.

PA spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud did say back in July that the decision -- as well as "previous procedures and any possible future procedures in this regard" -- were temporary moves seeking to pressure Hamas to hand over control over the small coastal enclave to the PA.

However, the “temporary” policies have had devastating impacts on everyday life for Gaza’s residents.

Other measures implemented by the PA have included halting medical referrals so patients in Gaza can receive medical treatment abroad while also cutting funding to Gaza's medical sector, cutting salaries to its Gaza-based employees by up to 30 percent, discontinuing payments to some 277 former political prisoners of Israel, and dramatically reducing funding for Israeli fuel for the coastal enclave.

Abbas recently repeated threats that further repressive measures would be taken should Hamas not unconditionally abide by the PA’s demands to resolve the decade-long intra-Palestinian conflict.

The United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities (OCHA) said Thursday that $2.5 million of the UN’s Humanitarian Fund was being donated to the besieged Gaza Strip in order to meet urgent needs in the territory.

Head of the UN agency Robert Piper underscored the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where residents have continued into their fourth month of a “serious energy crisis,” which has been reduced to barely covering 25 percent of needs in Palestinian households, and hospitals have resorted to relying on generators around the clock.

UK-based NGO Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) also released a statement on Thursday, relaying data from the Ministry of Health in Gaza that 40 percent of essential medicine and 34 percent of medical disposables had less than a month’s supply left.

MAP warned that the Gaza Strip had reached its “lowest ebb outside of periods of military attack” and that the situation should be considered a “humanitarian emergency.”

The group pointed out that Gaza’s water treatment and desalination plants can “only operate minimal services” owing to the electricity crisis, and that 73 percent of Gaza’s shoreline “is now dangerously polluted,” which has already led to the death of five-year-old Muhammad Ahmed Salim al-Sayes last month after he fell ill from the contamination after swimming.

MAP reported that patients in Gaza have encountered “unprecedented barriers to accessing life-saving treatment outside of Gaza,” as they are faced with increased restrictions by both Israel and the PA.

At least 25 Palestinians in Gaza have died so far owing to Israeli and PA restrictions on accessing life-saving treatment in Israel, occupied East Jerusalem, or abroad, according to MAP.

MAP also emphasized that Israel, as the occupying power in the Palestinian territory, “has an international legal obligation to ensure humanitarian assistance to the population under its control, including access to medical care.”

In 2012, the UN warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current trends were not altered. However, a new report released last month by the UN said that “life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” and that for the majority of Gaza's residents, the territory may already be unlivable.
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