Last updated: 20 April, 2015

Palestinian ministers end Gaza visit over employee row

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

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the trip, which was to have lasted a week, was cut short on the orders of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah over a thorny employment dispute dividing president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement and the militant Islamic Hamas, the de facto power in the Gaza Strip.

Since 2014, when the two rivals tried to bury the hatchet after years of bitter and bloody rivalry, Hamas has demanded that the government cover 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 (PA) who were forced out of their positions but have still been receiving their salaries.

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

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 succesful conclusion,” the government official quoted him as saying.

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

The government, he said, “must assume its responsibilities towards all employees without discrimination.”