Palestinian ministers cut visit to Gaza Strip

Palestinian ministers cut visit to Gaza Strip
Delegation ends rare trip prematurely, with one official saying it was thwarted by the "unprofessional behaviour" of Hamas.
2 min read
21 April, 2015
The trip cut short on the orders of the prime minister [AFP]

Palestinian ministers have unexpectedly cut short their rare visit to the Gaza Strip, with the secretary general of the unity government, Ali Abu-Diak, claiming Hamas had "thwarted" and "prevented" them from working.

The officials of the West Bank-based Palestinian consensus government ended their visit to Gaza Monday, a day after arriving for talks on the salaries of thousands of public employees.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the AFP news agency that the trip, which was to have lasted a week, was cut short on the orders of the prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, over the employment dispute dividing president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas, the de facto power in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas has demanded that the government cover the salaries of its 50,000 employees who have been on the books since they seized power in the tiny enclave in 2007.

"They prevented us from leaving the hotel and from going to the ministries," Diak told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"They did not allow our employees to reach us, and also harassed and checked the ID cards of anyone who tried to communicate with us," he added.

On Sunday, eight ministers and about 30 senior officials arrived in the coastal strip for talks on the issue, but on Monday Hamdallah told them their mission was over, blaming "differences of opinion with Hamas".

"The delegation was prevented from bringing its assignment to a successful conclusion," the government official quoted him as saying.

Diak stated that they would "not be extorted" and would "not tolerate unacceptable behaviour" by Hamas.

"On Sunday, there were many sound blasts, as if warning us not to leave the hotel," the official added.

"Hamas did not want the delegation to carry out its task, so the media would not see how Hamas thwarted the visit," Diak said.

"Once the delegation arrived to Gaza, Hamas official Ziyad al-Zaza met labour minister, Maamoun abu Shahla and social affairs minister, Shawqi al-Eissa. He told them that employees would not be registered, given that this was the aim behind the government’s visit to Gaza," he continued.

"We told Hamas that they should have made this clear from the start, rather than surprising us with rejection and obstacles."

However, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the West Bank delegation had been interested only in the future of the PA staff.

The ongoing disagreement between the two groups has prevented progress on all other issues, including reconstruction of Gaza after a devastating war with Israel.