Thousands protest Palestinian Authority pay cut in Gaza

Demonstrators in Gaza City call for resignation of PM Rami Hamdallah after PA cuts salaries in enclave by 30 percent.

    Palestinian Authority employees hold up shoes during a protest against salary cuts [Reuters]
    Palestinian Authority employees hold up shoes during a protest against salary cuts [Reuters]

    Thousands of Palestinian Authority (PA) employees have demonstrated in Gaza City as protests continue against a PA decision to impose drastic salary cuts for its employees in Gaza.

    Demonstrators gathered in al-Saraya square in central Gaza City on Saturday in the largest protest since the 30 percent cut was announced, calling on PA leaders like Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Finance Minister Shukri Bishara to resign. 

    "I have many financial commitments and without my salary, I'll go to jail," Rami Abu Abdu, a father of eight, told Al Jazeera.

    "My children are dependent on my income. If the president doesn't retract the decision, we will end up in jail because we can't pay our debts," he said, referring to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

    Other protesters chanted: "Leave! Leave! Oh, Hamdallah!, Leave! Leave! Oh, Bishara!"

    The Ramallah-based PA government says it was forced to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the besieged Gaza Strip because of Israel's blockade and a drop in foreign aid.

    Its employees in the occupied West Bank faced no cuts.

    PA employees at Saturday's rally called on Abbas to form a unity government and treat residents in Gaza as a priority. 

    Tashon al-Astal told Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency that the slashing salaries would worsen Gaza's already strangled economy. 

    "This is another siege added to the one already imposed by the Israeli occupation," he said. 

    A cut in salaries is likely to do serious harm to scores of families in the besieged coastal enclave, which has some of the highest levels of unemployment rates in the world. 

    Protests began earlier this week after PA employees in Gaza received their salaries for the month of March with a 30 percent cut.

    Hamas, the hardline movement that runs the Gaza Strip, has been at loggerheads with Abbas's Fatah party since the former seized the Strip in a near civil war in 2007.

    Fatah runs the West Bank, the other part of the occupied Palestinian territories separated from Gaza by Israeli territory.

    After Hamas seized power, around 70,000 PA employees in Gaza say they lost their posts, but they were kept on its payroll nevertheless.

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

    In 2014, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a unity government that was meant to resolve their dispute, but it has remained ineffective, with no real control in either territory.

    Local elections due to take place have also been suspended in the Gaza Strip after infighting between Fatah and Hamas, though they are expected to take place next month in the West Bank.

    Israel has maintained a crippling blockade on Gaza for a decade, severely damaging the enclave's economy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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