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Palestinian Authority civil servants begin a two-day strike today, demanding higher wages from the Salam Fayyad-led government in Ramallah.

In addition to demands for wage increases, the civil servants are opposed to Fayyad's policy of making the provision of basic services conditional on the payment of debts to the electric and water companies as well as to the municipalities.

On Monday, all teachers in public schools went on strike for a day, and they intend to strike for two days next week.

Health Ministry employees announced that they will also go on strike today.

The civil servants are asking for pay increases that will cover the sharp rise in the cost of living. They also want better compensation for travel expenses.

Travel expenses, to and from work, have increased for many civil servants because the roadblocks make their journeys longer, but also because of the increase in fuel prices.

For example, a teacher from Nablus with 18-years experience, who earns NIS 2,000 per month, said yesterday that since 1999 the travel stipend has stood at NIS 140 per month, even though her real travel costs are closer to a monthly NIS 300.

But most of the people are now concentrating their fury at the decision to demand that they pay their utilities bills.

Many civil servants accumulated large debts during 2006 and 2007 due to government failures to pay their salaries in full.

The cumulative debt per year on utilities is estimated at $500 million.