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Thousands of Gaza civil servants strike

THE LEVANT – About 20,000 civil servants in the Gaza Strip went on strike Tuesday to protest the Palestinian unity government’s refusal to pay military and security employees of the Islamist movement Hamas.

All ministries and other institutions run by Hamas in Gaza were shut and gated, except for schools, after the walkout by mostly administrative workers, an AFP correspondent said.

Thousands of military and security workers caught up in a row between Palestinian rival factions Hamas and Fatah in the war-ravaged territory have not been paid for several months.

Hamas hired more than 40,000 people after it seized Gaza in 2007 following deadly clashes with militants of Fatah, the party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

But after a reconciliation deal with Abbas that led to the formation of a West Bank-based national unity government in June this year, Hamas relinquished responsibility for paying salaries.

Hamas has technically handed power to the unity government but it remains in de facto control of Gaza.

Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) initially refused to pay the workers, but on Wednesday about 24,000 civilian Hamas employees received their salary from the unity government.

Roughly 16,000 more — all holding jobs in the military and security services — have still not been paid.

Fatah and Hamas have recently sought to present a united front to the international community, which has pledged $5.4 billion to help reconstruct Gaza after a devastating seven-week war with Israel.

UN peace envoy Robert Serry meanwhile announced Tuesday that the temporary reconstruction mechanism for the war-torn Palestinian territory had begun operations, under the auspices of the newly formed Palestinian unity government.

“Some 700 beneficiaries were able to purchase much needed construction material in order to start the rehabilitation of their homes after the recent devastating conflict in Gaza,” his office said.

Serry noted the urgency in providing cement and other materials to tens of thousands of damaged homes in Gaza ahead of winter.

He also called on the international donors to “honour their pledges” of money to Gaza.

Gaza has been subjected to a stringent Israeli blockade since 2006, with construction materials tightly controlled for fear militants could make use of them to forge arms or build fortifications.

In September the UN had brokered a deal that enabled the delivery of construction materials to Gaza by ensuring they will not be diverted by Hamas militants.

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