Palestinian civil servants, who have not been paid since the end of February, have begun to receive their back salary checks, a bank official told reporters Sunday.

"Our bank has started to transfer the salaries of civil servants who earn less than 1,500 shekels (330 dollars) a month by automatic transfer," said a senior source at the Palestinian national bank.

The automatic transfers began after the bank closed for business on Sunday afternoon, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Another senior official confirmed the transfers, saying that some civil servants had already come to withdraw their money via ATM machines.

The sources were speaking shortly after the armed wing of Hamas and three other groups threatened Palestinian banks unless they transferred back salary payments to the increasingly cash-strapped civil servants.

"The national banks were created to serve the interests of the Palestinian people. If their mission has changed and they become an instrument of the siege we will treat them as those who besiege the Palestinians," the groups said Sunday.

"We will not remain silent in face of those who starve our children," the joint statement added.

Palestinian Authority had vowed on Saturday that civil servants would finally receive their salaries early next week amid growing discontent after months without pay and successive delays.

It was the fourth time in a week that the Hamas-led government, grappling with a financial crisis after Western countries cut off direct aid, had promised the government’s 160,000 civil servants imminent paychecks.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya has himself blamed US pressure for the banks’ failure to transfer money for Palestinian salaries.

He said last Tuesday that around 40,000 of the workforce would be paid in full in coming days if they earned less than 330 dollars a month, while the rest would receive loans from the government.

Government employees have not been paid for months, affecting the livelihoods of around one million people — a quarter of those living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The European Union and United States suspended direct aid after Hamas took office in March citing the Islamists’ refusal to renounce violence, recognise
Israel or abide by previous peace agreements.

Israel has also suspended the payment of customs duties, worth around 60 million dollars a month, to the Palestinian Authority on goods that transit through its territory.