The Hamas movement released a statement on Monday, said that the movement, which is the de facto ruling party of the Gaza Strip, “has nothing to do” with the recent decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to drastically cut salaries for its employees in the poverty-stricken enclave.
In the statement, Hamas accused the PA and its Prime Minister by Rami Hamdallah, who previously attempted to shift blame on Hamas, of “creating this conspiracy upon direct orders from President Mahmoud Abbas.”
The statement described the salary cuts by at least 30 percent, with some reporting as much as 70 percent, as a ‘massacre’.
Hamas also described the move as “discriminatory,” saying it would “deepen the state of disagreement and the political and social chasm” between the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.
Deputy Chief of Hamas’ politburo Ismail Haniyeh also slammed the salary cuts during the inauguration of a mosque in the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, saying “we oppose salary cuts for human and moral reasons.”
Last week, Hamdallah claimed that the base salaries of PA government employees in Gaza “were not touched,” but rather that deductions were made only to monthly salary allowances or bonuses, in order to “manage financial crises suffered by the Palestinian government due to reductions in international funds.”
The decision to cut salaries has sparked angry protests in Gaza among already struggling PA employees.
“This is completely illegal and we cannot accept this,” Walid al-Awwad, a leader of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPS) said in a statement immediately following the cuts, noting that after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, the Fatah-led PA had encouraged their Gaza-based employees not to continue working in protest of the new Hamas-led government.
Some 50,000 employees who decided to continue their work under Hamas subsequently faced irregular and partial salaries from the PA, and at times no payment at all. Meanwhile, tens of the thousands of employees who refused work with Hamas continued to receive regular salary payments from the PA. The new salary cuts have reportedly affected all PA employees in Gaza.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement Saturday where he expressed his “deep concerns” over the “growing tensions” in Gaza, amid ongoing protests against the PA decision.
Mladenov said in the statement that the salary cuts — which the PA said were made as an attempt to manage a deepening financial crisis — came as an additional burden to civil servants in Gaza who struggle to survive under an already dire situation.
“Over the past decade, Palestinians in Gaza have lived through four conflicts, with no freedom, unprecedented Israeli restrictions, a dire humanitarian crisis, high unemployment, an ongoing electricity crisis, and the lack of political perspective,” he wrote.
The UN official echoed criticisms voiced in recent days that the “discriminatory” deductions only affected PA civil servants in Gaza and not those working in the occupied West Bank, as Palestinians have further expressed concern that the cuts would only continue to isolate Gazans from the rest of the Palestinian territory.
“While the Palestinian government needs to ensure its fiscal sustainability under increasingly difficult economic conditions, it is important that reforms or decisions to reduce expenditures are fairly distributed and made with consideration to the harsh conditions under which people in Gaza live,” Mladenov said.