Hamas has announced that it plans to allocate property in the Gaza Strip that was abandoned in 2005 by Israel to the organization’s officials and activists, as compensation for not having received salaries from the Palestinian government in Ramallah for over a year.
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The announcement, on Saturday, sparked an angry response from the Palestinian authority.
Such a move is liable to scuttle the PA's efforts to resume reconciliation talks with Hamas, which the PA believes are important in light of the diplomatic and security issues that have emerged since the latest wave of violence began in early October.
After Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007, it appointed more than 40,000 clerks and other officials to various positions. Ever since the Hamas-Fatah unity government was created in the summer of 2014, the issue of who would pay these functionaries remained in dispute, with the government in Ramallah refusing to pay them because they were appointed illegally, and insisting that Hamas should do so.
It is estimated that the employees are owed some $500 million in wages.
Last Saturday, Ziad al-Zaza, who served as finance minister in the Hamas government, announced that the Gaza administration planned to allocate government-owned land in northern and southern Gaza to these individuals to compensate them. Zaza added that some 1,200 dunams (300 acres) would be set aside for this purpose, without specifying the criteria to be used for the allocations.
Zaza’s announcement generated angry responses not just from PA officials in Ramallah, but also among the Palestinian public as expressed on the social networks. Fatah and the Popular Front described the move as a land grab by Hamas, claiming that these lands are public property that belongs to the government and the Palestinian people, and thus Hamas had no right to treat them as private property.
At the same time, several PA officials argued that the announcement was merely an effort to exert pressure on the Ramallah government. They noted that the Gaza employees would never receive authentic, official documents that would give them ownership rights over the lands.