Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh shrugged off the US and European Union freeze in aid money to the Palestinian Authority Friday, saying, "The Palestinian people will not give up their government no matter how many sacrifices we have to make. We are prepared to eat thyme, salt and olives," in a speech after Friday prayers in Gaza.
After the election of the Hamas party as a majority of the Palestinian Parliament in January, Western nations suspended financial aid over Hamas’ refusal to renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to abide by peace agreements signed by the previous Palestinian government.
Thousands of Palestinians joined Hamas-organized rallies in Palestinian towns throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on Friday to show their support for the government.
The Palestinians and United Nations officials have warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip due to the cash crisis and the closure of crossing points.
After a week-long closure, Israeli forces opened the commercial crossing Kerem Shalom in southern Gaza on Friday for a few hours to allow trucks carrying essential food and medicine, as well as fuel, on Friday. All of the Palestinian areas are under Israeli military occupation, and the commercial crossings into and out of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip are completely controlled by Israel.
Israel has also seized Palestinian tax money worth $50 million a month, a move which is illegal under international law. That tax money makes up a large portion of the budget of the Palestinian Authority – which employs 20% of the Palestinian people.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar embarked Friday on a fund-raising tour of Arab nations, appealing to those nations to make up the shortfall in funding.
Zahar’s two-week trip will include stops in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.
The trip "is part of opening new windows and doors for the government, specially to get political and financial support," said Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the new Palestinian cabinet. "It is an attempt to break the international isolation."