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Hamas demands full rights for its public employees hired since national split

Oct. 9, 2017 2:19 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2017 12:41 P.M.)
Hamas rally in Gaza (File)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas movement is hopeful that the issue of public employees in the Gaza Strip will will be resolved positively in upcoming reconciliation talks with its rival faction Fatah that are scheduled to be held in Cairo on Tuesday, head of the employees’ syndicate in Gaza, Yaqoub al-Ghandour, told Ma’an in an interview on Sunday.

After Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of the Gaza Strip to pave the way for reconciliation with Fatah, which heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), the future of between 40,000 and 50,000 civil servants that have been hired by Hamas since the faction took over Gaza in 2007 emerged as one of the main issues facing the National Reconciliation Government.

The employees took over from 70,000 PA employees who were forced out of their positions but have still been receiving their salaries -- albeit erratically.

Ramallah ultimately cut those salaries in April by up to 30 percent -- one of the first of a number of punitive measures taken against Gazans aiming to pressure Hamas to give up control of the besieged coastal enclave. In July, the PA further pushed more than 6,00 civil servants into early retirement amid the increasingly bitter feud.

Unconfirmed reports have said that some Fatah leaders discussed the party's ability to take on only some 8,000 employees from the Gaza Strip, but Hamas insists that the issue should be solved in a way that maintains all of the 40,000 employees’ full rights.

Al-Ghandour told Ma'an that "there would not be any difficulties" merging the Hamas-hired employees with those employed by the PA that receive their salaries from Ramallah, provided that achieving reconciliation is based on "good intentions."

He added that the syndicate has concluded its vision regarding the solution for the issue, the first principle being to provide employees of Hamas with job security and not eliminating or laying off any of the 40,000 workers.

The syndicate chief noted that these employees have not received their full salaries in years, and instead have been receiving payments that are no more than 50 percent of their salaries. Increasing their required payments will become the responsibility of the incoming National Consensus Government, he said.

Hamas has demanded that the National Consensus Government regulate the salaries since the government formed in 2014 -- despite it failing to function as Hamas continued to hold onto power. The unity government previously pledged to return the 70,000 former employees to their positions, saying that the Hamas workers would only be hired "according to need."

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 Gaza Strip.

In addition to resolving the issue of public employees, Hamas and Fatah plan to pave the way for legislative elections for the unity government that would rule both the occupied West Bank and Gaza. The issue of administering Gaza's border crossings and the territory's dire electricity crisis will also have to b resolved.

However, the main obstacle facing the unity government is the future of Hamas' military wing. The movement has insisted that its weapons are not up for discussion, based on Hamas' identity as a military resistance movement against Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has meanwhile said multiple times that he would not accept the "Hezbollah model" in place in Lebanon, and that “there should only be one authority, one weapon, one law, and one political program" for both regions of the occupied territory.
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