PA employees in Gaza go unpaid

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority has paid salaries to its West Bank employees this month but not those in Gaza, officials said Monday, amid an ongoing split with the strip's Islamist rulers Hamas.

It was not immediately clear why the salaries had not been paid and if the delay was temporary, but it comes as relations between the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and Hamas are at rock bottom.

Last month, PA president Mahmud Abbas accused Hamas of planning a failed assassination attempt on his prime minister, who was on a rare visit to Gaza.

But protests since along the Gaza border that have led to clashes in which Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians have led to expressions of support for Gazans from Abbas.

"Salaries were paid into banks in the West Bank and not in Gaza," Arif Abu Jarad, head of the union representing PA employees in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.

"There is a state of anger among staff in the strip," he added, saying they were having emergency meetings against this "terrible crime".

A source in the finance ministry in Ramallah, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the salaries had been paid in the West Bank but not Gaza.

He refused to give more details on the decision.

Employees in Gaza waited in vain for salaries at banks, an AFP photographer said.

The PA has kept paying its tens of thousands of employees in Gaza despite most not going to work since Hamas seized control of the territory from the PA in a 2007 near civil war.

Analysts say cutting the salaries would seek to increase discontent in the Gaza Strip, putting more pressure on Hamas.

Multiple reconciliation attempts between the two factions have failed, most recently an Egyptian-brokered deal signed in October.

Hugh Lovatt, Israel and Palestine fellow with the European Council of Foreign Relations think-tank, said the halt to payments, if confirmed, would represent Abbas "doubling down" on threats.

"This comes against the backdrop of increasing attempts by Abbas to impose sanctions on Hamas and Gazans," he told AFP.

"I see this as one more step." — AFP