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Qatar to pay former Hamas civil servant salaries

A Palestinian employee paid by the Palestinian Authority gestures as he holds money after withdrawing cash from an ATM machine outside a bank, in Gaza City June 11, 2014.REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

RAMALLAH, Palestine: Qatar is stepping in to help the new Palestinian unity government pay former employees of Islamist movement Hamas’ disbanded Gaza government, an official said Friday.

The Gulf state said it would contribute a total of $60 million (44 million euros) while the Palestinian Authority grapples with a pay row, the first challenge for a government formed to try to end years of Palestinian rivalry.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah “received a phone call from the Qatari Prime Minister (Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani), who told him $20 million would be transferred each month for three months to pay Gaza employees,” government spokesman Ihab Bseiso said.

The money would go to the West Bank-based PA, Bseiso said, and a “special fund” would be set up to pay wages while the government discussed how to resolve the issue.

The row started when the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their salaries but their Hamas counterparts did not. This prompted Hamas to demand last week that employees from its disbanded Gaza government be taken onto the PA payroll.

Hamas disbanded its Gaza government under a reconciliation deal signed in April with the West Bank-based Palestine Liberation Organization, which dominates the PA.

The PA has so far refused to pay Hamas’ 50,000 civil servants, who are not registered as its employees because they were appointed after the Islamist movement ousted bitter rivals Fatah – which dominates the PLO – from Gaza in 2007.

Former Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh, who resigned after the unity government was formed last week, phoned Qatar’s emir on June 5, when the dispute arose, to ask for his help in supporting the new government.

The emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani, then “promised to help,” particularly with paying the salaries of employees, Hamas said.

Hamas’ exiled chief Khaled Meshaal has been headquartered in Doha for more than two years after leaving his base in Damascus because of the conflict in Syria.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 14, 2014, on page 4.

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