Israel fears that the economic crisis in Gaza could erode the cease-fire that ended the war with Hamas over the summer and lead to conflicts along the border, according to defense officials.
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Still, Israel has received messages from Hamas that despite Gaza’s financial woes, the organization does not seek another military conflict after the July-August war. Its forces are reportedly working to prevent more-extremist groups from firing rockets into the Negev.
Palestinian economic problems have intensified due to the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’ difficulties paying their employees in the West Bank and Gaza respectively.
The delay in payments to PA employees, including tens of thousands of security personnel in the West Bank, stems from Israel’s decision to halt the transfer of tax revenues collected for the PA. This comes as punishment for the authority’s recent application to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Delays in paying Hamas employees stem from the infighting between Hamas and the PA, which has also hampered efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze the transfer of tax money was made despite defense officials’ warnings that the move could harm security coordination and increase unrest in the West Bank. Government officials said the PA was contributing to the deteriorating relations and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was intentionally provoking Israel.
Hamas says the PA is sabotaging efforts to rebuild Gaza; it cites a refusal to station security personnel at border crossings with Egypt that would allow for increased traffic.
Two weeks ago, Hamas built an office near the Erez crossing, the only point allowing traffic to the West Bank through Israel. Hamas men were stationed near a post staffed by PA personnel that has been the site for all Israeli dealings with Gaza since the Hamas takeover in June 2007.
PA personnel reportedly left the facility after Hamas employees showed up. After a few days of arguing over the issue, PA representatives returned to the crossing, which has been functioning normally.
Failure to pay salaries to Hamas people in Gaza has already caused violent protests during which demonstrators blew up ATMs and damaged bank branches, apparently in an effort to prevent salaries from reaching PA personnel there.