Abbas pays salaries of 5,000 members of Hamas' operational force
Hamas men are being paid by Abbas rather than by PA because of the int'l economic blockade.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) gave some 5,000 members of Hamas' special "operational force" salaries this week, Palestinian sources say. The salaries came from funds the Arab League sent to Abu Mazen's office to pay the wages of 170,000 PA officials. Most members of the "operational force" belong to Hamas' military wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, led by Yussef al-Zahar, the Palestinian foreign minister's brother.
Members of the force have led some of the clashes with the PA's preventive security forces in Gaza. They are being paid by Abu Mazen, rather than by the government because of the economic blockade imposed on Hamas by the international community.
According to Palestinian sources, the European Union operates a body which, together with Abu Mazen, supervises the transfer of the payments from the Arab League. On Saturday it approved $89 million for payment of salaries going back to the month of May. However some 20 special advisers to the government were not permitted to receive payments. The operational force was nevertheless allowed to receive money because it joined the Palestinian police force six weeks ago as part of Abu Mazen's agreement with Hamas.
The Palestinian officials' protests against the government over the non-payment of salaries have intensified over the past few days. So far, Abu Mazen's office has paid NIS 1,500 to all the officials for the months of March, April and May but many officials earn more than that every month and therefore are owed now money. The salaries for June and July have not been paid at all.
The government had also worked out an arrangement with the banks in the territories not to deduct debts from the salaries, but the banks did not abide by this. When it transpired on Saturday that in the Gaza Strip some officials had had deductions made, amounting to half their salaries, they attacked the branches of the banks.
On Monday, thousands of unemployed persons held protests, calling on their government to find them work. A general strike is expected in the government offices in the territories this week to protest against the disruptions in salaries.
In other developments in the Gaza Strip, three Islamic Jihad activists were killed Tuesday in a clash with an Israel Defense Forces unit near Kisufim. The three - Sa'id Alfara, Saleh Abdel Ghafour and Bassa Shrab from Khan Yunis - were apparently on their way to carry out a suicide bombing.
In the southern Gaza Strip, a 12-year-old girl was reportedly seriously wounded by IDF fire. She was identified as Hanan Abu-Ruk. Another IDF force at the same time took action in the Sajaiyeh section of Gaza, arresting five Hamas activists who were apparently involved in digging tunnels. An arms cache was found in one of the homes. Five other Palestinians were injured in the exchanges of fire.