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Hamas to pay officals' salaries with former Israeli settlement land

Gush Katif
Gadi Kabalo
PA President Mahmoud Abbas calls the decision dangerous, illegal, and politially unfair.

The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip announced on Sunday that it will compesate its officials' partially paid salaries by distributing land from former Israeli settlements evacuated during Israel's unilateral disengagement from the strip in 2005.

Around 40,000 Hamas officials earn only partial salaries, equivalent to approximately $260 for 50 days of work.

With little economy to speak of, a result of both Israel's blockade and Egypt's crackdown on smuggling tunnels between Sinai and the coastal enclave, the terror group who rule the coastal enclave has struggled to pay its workers.

Both Israel and Egypt defend their measures as nececessary to counter terrorist activities stemming from the Strip.

The plots of land to be distributed have remained unused since Israel evacuated the Strip in 2005. The land makes up approximately 15 percent of the land area of the Gaza Strip. Since most of the land in Gaza is privately registered, the former Israeli settlements were chosen to be distributed as alternative compensation to partially-paid officials. 

The move was announced by the Hamas government's treasury minister, Ziad a-Zaza. The announcement shocked and angered many residents of the Strip, who called the decision corrupt, describing it as political discrimination, and saying only those closest with the terror group's top ranking officials would benefit.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the decision was dangerous, illegal, and politially unfair. Abbas's Fatah movement was expelled from the Gaza Strip by Hamas in a violent overthrow in 2007.

According to an offical statement from Fatah, the unprecendented move demonstrates that Hamas does not recognize the unity government formed last April. Land has never before been given away in lieu of salaries in the Gaza Strip nor in the West Bank, and especially not based political affiliation.

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