Palestinian Authority Forces 6,000 Gazan Employees Into Early Retirement

West Bank leadership says it will lift all sanctions on Strip if Hamas rulers step aside there and let it govern

A PA employee holds a sign that reads "Salary is a red line. Hamdallah (Palestinian PM), leave" during a protest against deductions on their salaries, in Gaza City April 8, 2017.
MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

The Palestinian government in Ramallah decided on Tuesday to dismiss 6,145 Palestinian Authority employees in the Gaza Strip by putting them on early retirement.

The PA government spokesman, Yusuf al-Mahmoud, said this was another step taken by the Palestinian government regarding the Gaza Strip, adding that they are temporary and depend on Hamas giving up its rule in Gaza and allowing the PA to take over.

According to Mahmoud, the opening for an end to the crisis would come by instituting the plan PA President Mahmoud Abbas presented to end the division in government between the West Bank and Gaza, and for Hamas to disband the administrative committee by which it rules the Strip, allowing the government in Ramallah to take over and prepare the way for general elections for president and parliament.

The PA has some 55,000 officials and employees in the Gaza Strip, including security forces. Most have not been working since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip a decade ago, but they have continued to receive salaries from the PA. Hamas filled the vacuum with its own officials, including security forces – a total of about 45,000 employees, whose salaries the PA refuses to pay.

About three months ago, after Yahya Sinwar became head of Hamas in Gaza, the organization established a committee to administer the territory, a move perceived by the PA in Ramallah as a shadow government. It was decided to reduce PA funding in Gaza on the claim that if Hamas wants to govern, it will have to bear the costs.

The measures included cutting the pay of PA employees in Gaza by a third, suspending payments to prisoners, reducing payments for electricity that Israel provides, and restricting funding for medical treatments for Gazan residents in Israeli and West Bank hospitals.

The PA pledged Tuesday to lift all the sanctions if Hamas allows it to govern.

The PA claims Hamas is charging hundreds of millions of shekels in taxes each year that go to Hamas instead of to the PA, which sends about 450 million shekels ($127.9 million) a month to the Strip.

Hamas rejected the PA claims and countered that the PA, in cooperation with Israel, is trying to overpower it because it is the main opposition to the occupation. Hamas also said it is willing to cooperate with the PA on equal terms.

Hamas has been in more intensive talks with Egypt in recent weeks to promote a plan to ease pressure off the Strip’s 1.8 million residents. One result has been the arrival of diesel fuel to the power station at the Rafa crossing, and a continuation of the talks toward security cooperation with Egypt at the Gaza Strip’s southern border.

Hamas responded that the measures taken against officials in Gaza, along with the forced early retirement of thousands of people who have nothing to do with the Palestinian rift, was inhuman.