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Anger in Gaza as PA cuts civil servant salaries

Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 April, 2017

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Palestinian political parties have condemned the wage cuts, viewing the move as a deliberate policy targeting only the Gaza Strip.
A decision by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip sparked anger among the employees on Wednesday.

The PA says it has been forced into the move because its budget has been hit by falling foreign aid.

Among hundreds waiting outside a bank in Gaza City to withdraw their salaries was Jawdat Abu Ramadan, who works for a PA-run institute for the disabled and said he found his monthly pay cheque of 4,700 shekels ($1,300) had been shaved by 1,700 shekels.

After paying his bills he is left with "just 1,000 shekels" for himself and his three dependants until the end of the month, he told AFP.

The wage cuts will have an impact beyond the civil servants themselves, as their purchasing power, Abu Ramadan says, is "the backbone of the Gaza economy".

Announcing the cutback on Tuesday evening, the Palestinian Authority said it would be temporary.

Several Palestinian political parties have condemned the move, viewing it as a deliberate policy targeting only the Gaza Strip. 

"We are afraid this clear discrimination is an introduction to more measures against Gaza," a senior leader from the Palestinian National Initiative told Ma'an News Agency.

PA employees in the West Bank are unaffected by the salary cuts.

Several members of the Fatah movement in Gaza have resigned in protest at the salary cuts, while civil servants protested in Gaza City against the measures.

"It's a premeditated massacre," says Aysha Abu Maghassib, who worked for the Palestinian Authority's police.

A widowed mother of two, she says that after deductions only about 200 shekels ($54) is left from this month's wages.

Ammar Al-Njjar, 33, demanded that Abbas resign, while Nevin Abu Herbid said she saw "a crisis erupting".

Hamas called the cuts "arbitrary, inhumane and irresponsible".

Economist Omar Shaban says they could be a Fatah tactic to weaken Hamas, its bitter rival, by creating a social crisis in the strip.

The 70,000 PA employees in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip are in a bizarre position.

In 2007, Hamas seized power from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and ousted the Fatah-dominated PA.

Its staff lost their posts, but the PA kept them on its payroll nevertheless.

Hamas set up its own parallel administration with 50,000 staff, whose salaries the PA refuses to pay.

Abbas is regularly accused in the Gaza Strip of abandoning its two million Palestinians, who have been battered by three Israeli military offensives in a period of six years.

The most recent, in 2014, killed over 2,200 Palestinians, including more than 500 children.

Gaza has been under a rigorous Israeli blockade for over 10 years, and suffers one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, at 45 percent.

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