A senior Hamas official said on Saturday that the Palestinian consensus government had agreed to cover the salaries of all employees of the former Hamas government in Gaza without “discrimination.”
The statements came only hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said earlier Saturday that an unnamed international body was willing to pay the salaries of civil servants in Gaza who were employed by the former Hamas-run government in the Strip, potentially removing one of the major stumbling blocks to national unity.
Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar told Ma’an that according to the new agreement signed on Thursday, all public sector employee hired by the Hamas-run government in Gaza after June 2007 would be recognized as employees of the national consensus government regardless of the nature of their work.
The agreement, he added, does not differentiate between civil service employees and military employees, and thus they all “should receive monthly salaries from the Palestinian Authority without discrimination.”
He added that security service employees had maintained security in the Gaza Strip since 2007 and for that reason they should not be treated differently.
Representatives of Hamas and Fatah met on Thursday in Cairo in an effort to fully implement a reconciliation agreement signed in April enabling the work of the Palestinian national consensus government, which emerged from the agreement but has thus far been unable to function on the ground in the Gaza Strip.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the government’s work has been the issue of public sector employee salaries. Since the political division between Hamas and Fatah began in 2007, Hamas ran a separate government in the Gaza Strip with its own civil service of around 45,000.
During this time, however, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority has continued paying its employees in the Gaza Strip, despite the fact that the PA was no longer operative. Since the unity agreement was signed, it has been unclear who will pay the employees of the former Hamas government, and although Qatar stepped in for a few months, until now both Hamas and Fatah have blamed each other.
Zahhar said that it was agreed on Thursday to appoint a special committee to be tasked with studying the nature of work of each employee and to determine their position on the career ladder.
Hamas ‘Welcomes’ Reconstruction Plans
Zahhar also addressed the reconstruction of Gaza in his comments to Ma’an, saying that Hamas welcomes any mechanism to help ship construction materials to Gaza and adding that the recent agreement with Fatah would open the door to the rebuilding of the battered coastal enclave.
He said that the recent reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah would lay the grounds for Gaza reconstruction without delay and would also help work out a solution to the problem of Gaza’s only exit to the world, the Rafah crossing into Egypt.
He also said that Hamas welcomes any plan to ensure construction materials reach Gaza, as long as it does “doesn’t harm the dignity of the Palestinian people.”
Zahhar’s statements come amid increasing anger at the slow pace of reconstruction, as more than 100,000 Palestinians remain homeless in the wake of Israel’s most violent assault on the Gaza Strip in memory.
Due to the seven-year old Israeli blockade, very little construction material has thus far entered, while Egypt’s enforcement of the siege from its side as well has prevented much of the needed rebuilding.
Zahhar stressed, however, that the movement was working with United Nations and Fatah to solve the crisis.
Hamas officials, he said, met in Cairo with United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry before meeting with representatives of Fatah.
“Bring construction material into Gaza the way you see appropriate, because it is important to rebuild the houses demolished by the occupation,” Zahhar said.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)