Text size

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' emergency government will pay all Palestinian Authority workers - excluding those who report directly to Hamas - their first full wages in 17 months, officials said on Monday.

In Hamas-ruled Gaza, mosque preachers struck back with a religious decree that government workers who accept the money under such conditions violate the rules of Islam.

The payments will go to nearly 140,000 Palestinian Authority workers, including tens of thousands in Gaza which Hamas seized by force on June 14.

"There will be full salaries for all civil and security sector [employees]," Riyad al-Malki, Abbas' minister of information, told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, seat of the emergency cabinet.

But some 23,000 workers hired by Hamas after it won 2006 elections will be excluded, said a senior aide to Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-led government that Abbas dismissed after the violent June takeover.

Abbas has made some limited payments to workers since Israel froze tax revenue transfers and Western powers imposed economic sanctions after Hamas's election win.

But according to Malki, full wages have not been paid by the Authority since February 2006.

Salam Fayad, the prime minister and finance minister in Abbas's Western-backed emergency government, has pledged to pay those who return to work in Gaza as long as they follow its instructions - and not those of Hamas.

Members of the Fatah-dominated security services in Gaza have also been asked by their commanders in the West Bank to stay at home as a condition for receiving their salaries.

Haniyeh aide Mohammad al-Madhoum said the exclusion of those hired by Hamas was "shameful" and urged Fayad to reconsider.

Among those who will be excluded are nearly 6,000 members of Hamas' elite Executive Force, which played a key role in the fighting in Gaza that routed troops loyal to Fatah.

Israel transferred $118 million to Fayad on Sunday, approximately 20 percent of frozen Palestinian tax revenues, senior Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said.

Israel, which collects taxes and duties for goods entering the Palestinian territories, will also automatically transfer to Fayad tens of millions of dollars per month in newly collected tax revenues, Israeli officials said.

Along with a European Union mechanism that pays nearly $30 million a month to civil servants and pensioners, Fayad should have enough money to cover the rest of the Palestinian Authority's nearly $120 million-a-month wage bill. But he may struggle to pay full arrears any time soon, officials said.