The unity government founded between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas on Monday is hitting early snags, as brawls broke out in Gaza on Thursday over the payment of employees of the two groups, reports Israel National News.
In addition, the reconciliation has not stopped the security forces of the two parties from arresting each other’s supporters in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. PA security forces have arrested six Hamas supporters in the West Bank and summoned six others to interrogation. Hamas arrested senior Fatah official Arafat Abu Shabab as he entered Gaza.
The brawls over employee payments have their roots in the violent takeover of Gaza in 2007. Though Hamas then cracked down on Gaza-based Fatah officials, the PA has continued paying roughly 70,000 Fatah-aligned employees in Gaza since that time.
On Thursday, thousands of Hamas employees, who have not been paid for the last several weeks, lined up at bank ATMs in Gaza, hoping to now withdraw their back-logged salaries thanks to the unity government.
While PA employees were able to withdraw their salaries, the Hamas workers remained without payment. Fistfights broke out between the two groups of employees, with Hamas riot police breaking them up and closing the banks, reportedly to prevent more violence.
“Thugs and gangsters of Hamas are preventing civil servants from withdrawing their salaries. They are firing gunshots, beating citizens and smashing ATM machines,” PA security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told the Arab Ma’an News Agency.
The incident could have negative consequences for the unity agreement with Fatah according to Dmeiri, who said he was waiting for Hamas leadership to denounce the scuffles.
One PA employee in Gaza told the Arab news agency that he was waiting at an Arab Bank ATM when Hamas police arrived in jeeps and started threatening PA workers. One Hamas officer told him that “no one can receive a salary before we receive our salaries.”
Meanwhile, Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, announced Tuesday that it has no intention of being incorporated into the PA security forces as part of the unity agreement, calling the issue “non-negotiable.”
Israel has warned that international funds transferred to the PA will end up paying Hamas and funding terror. The US, EU and Israel all consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Nevertheless, the US immediately announced that it would work with the unity government, maintaining that Hamas is not technically part of the new PA, and the EU soon followed suit.