Hamas has begun handing out plots of land to 40,000 civil servants to compensate them for the millions of dollars in salaries it owes them for the past two years.
The land giveaway is the latest sign that Hamas is struggling financially after almost a decade of uncontested power in the Palestinian territory.
Gazans complained about lack of jobs, constant electricity shortages and a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt that has confined the territory’s 1.9 million people to the Strip, with the World Bank claiming that unemployment in Gaza is 38 percent.
GAZA Cash poor Hamas is giving plots of land from former Israeli Gaza settlements to some 40,000 civil servants in lieu of unpaid salaries.
— Children of Peace (@ChildrenofPeace) July 30, 2016
Since 2014, Hamas has struggled financially due to Egypt’s clampdown on smuggling tunnels beneath Gaza’s border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Hamas had earned millions of dollars from taxes on smuggled consumer goods, including subsidized Egyptian fuel.
Later in 2014, Hamas and its rival, the Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmoud Abbas, agreed to form a unity government for both Gaza and the West Bank, as the PA had lost Gaza to a Hamas takeover in 2007.
But the deal stalled, partly because Mr Abbas refused to add the 40,000 employees hired by Hamas since 2007 to the payroll of his Palestinian Authority.
— UNDPPalestinian (@UNDPPalestinian) July 28, 2016
Consequently, Hamas resorted to paying its loyalists 40 percent of their salaries at 50-day intervals.
Since March, after Hamas collected additional taxes, these civil servants have been receiving 45 percent of their salaries on a monthly basis.
The land giveaway allows groups of four employees to share a 500-square-metre plot which they can either build on or sell.
Senior Hamas official, Salah Al Bardawil, said the land giveaway was a temporary fix, “not yet a strategic one” that would solve the group’s financial problems for good.
If they stop it'll have to be met w/
Concessions to Hamas (along side the PA) Giving Hamas the victory while Israel loses domestic support.
— Ahmed (@AlshehmaniA) August 18, 2014
Regarding the land-for-money program PA spokesman, Jamal Dajani, said: “No one has the authority to issue decisions to privatize government-owned land in the public interest, except for president Abbas.”
He further dismissed Hamas’ claims that Mr Abbas has neglected Gaza.
(The National, PC)