The Guardian
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Palestinian ministers visit Gaza over employee dispute


palestine mapA delegation of Palestinian ministers and senior officials from the West Bank-based national consensus government arrived in Gaza on Sunday in a bid to tackle a thorny dispute over employees.

The delegation arrived a day after two small bombs exploded in Gaza City, causing no injuries and only slight damage in a development, highlighting growing security problems in the tiny coastal enclave.

“Some 40 government officials, among them eight ministers, crossed the Beit Hanun terminal to enter the Gaza Strip,” a senior official at the border told AFP, referring to the Erez crossing.

Central to the visit is the question of government employees which has been a major point of dispute between the Fatah faction of president Mahmud Abbas, which is based in the West Bank, and the rival Islamist Hamas movement, whose power base is in Gaza.

Since 2014, when the two factions tried to bury the hatchet after years of bitter and bloody rivalry, Hamas has demanded that the government regulate the salaries of its 50,000 employees who have been on the books since the Islamists seized power in the tiny enclave in 2007.

They took over from 70,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority who were forced out of their positions but have still been receiving their salaries.

But the consensus government has pledged to return the 70,000 former employees to their positions, saying that the Hamas workers would only be hired “according to need”.

Since the consensus government took office in June 2014, only around half of the Hamas employees — all of them civil servants — have received any money: a one-off payment of $1,200 (1,100 euros) at the end of October.

The rest, who are employed in security, have not received any salary payments in almost 11 months.

“The registration of those employees who were working before 2007 will begin on Monday and finish on May 7,” said government spokesman Ihab Bseiso.

In response, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the government should “halt its policy of discrimination” regarding employees hired by the Islamist movement.

In a statement from Ramallah, prime minister Rami Hamdallah said the other “priority” of the visit was the reconstruction of Gaza which was devastated by a 50-day war with Israel last summer that cost the lives of some 2,200 Palestinians and damaged or destroyed 160,000 homes.

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