The Palestinian Authority (PA) is set to pay civil servants employed by Hamas in Gaza, on Wednesday, following an extended salary crisis which came upon the forming of the new Palestinian unity government, this past April.According to Ma’an News Agency, senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq stated that an agreement had been reached between Hamas and PA officials on Sunday.
In June, the PA’s Gaza-based staff received their wages but Hamas went without, causing a dispute between the two factions.
Abu Marzouq states that PA salaries cost around $200 million, each month, $120 million of which is garnered by Israel, in taxes collected on behalf of the occupied Palestinian territory.
After Hamas civil servants failed to receive their salaries, gunmen attacked banks in Gaza, forcing Hamas to close them for six days. Qatar intervened, declaring that it would contribute a total of $60 million. The Qatari payments were soon disrupted by the recent Israeli military offensive on Gaza which broke out on July 8.
PA minister Shawqi al-Ayasa said the West Bank-Gaza unity government is working on a ‘deteriorating’ budget after not receiving money from donors as scheduled.
‘The government’s budget is below zero, and it’s starting to borrow from banks to move forward, because only less than third of donor funds that were scheduled to be received this year arrived,’ he told Ma’an via television interview.
Gaza’s agricultural sector has reportedly suffered an estimated loss of $450 million as a result of the recent Israeli military offensive. As early as July 6, the damages were calculated to be in the realm of $2.5 million.
The reconstruction of Gaza would take two years if construction material were to enter the Strip at a ‘reasonable rate’, according to al-Ayasa.
See related: Oxfam: Lifting of Gaza Blockade Crucial to Recovery
He said that 300 shekels ($84) of aid money was given to each family who lost their home as result of the offensive.
‘The US has not provided a single penny since Jan. 1, and Europe and Arab states only provided a third of what they were scheduled to give,’ al-Ayasa further stated.
Shawqi Al-Ayasa is also the unity government’s Minister of Social Affairs, Agriculture, and Prisoner’s Affairs.
For extensive coverage on the topic of Gaza salaries, search IMEMC: ‘salaries’.
Palestinian sources also revealed, on Sunday, that truce negotiations would begin within 48 hours at the latest, according to the Palestinian News Network (PNN).
A Palestinian delegation of more members was scheduled to arrive to Cairo, Sunday, to begin negotiations. Head of the delegation, Azzam al-Ahad, was reportedly waiting in Jordan and in communication with Abu Marzouk, who is visiting Gaza at the moment.
Information regarding these negotiations has, so far, not been confirmed by Israeli sources.
Regarding the Gaza ceasefire deal, Mr. Abu Marzouq said that politics need to be addressed before reconstruction can take place, also noting that an international conference to raise funds for Gaza would be held in Cairo, in September.
The unity government will be in charge of the reconstruction process.
He additionally stated that the issue of the Rafah crossing was not discussed during ceasefire negotiations, and that Egypt wishes for a third party, possibly PA forces, to take control of the terminal, which Hamas welcomes.
The PNN further reports that, according to Palestinian sources, US Secretary of State John Kerry has discussed with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the possibility of resuming negotiations.
During a phone conversation, Kerry reportedly told Netanyahu that in order to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, the Israeli government would have to show good faith, including the release of a fourth group of prisoners.
These prisoners should have been released in April, but Israel reneged on the decision. No positive response was reported to have been given by Netanyahu.
Furthermore, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, accompanied by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat and intelligence chief Major General Majid Faraj, is scheduled to meet Kerry this week, with the aim of presenting to him a 3-stage plan regarding the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
According to a State Department official, Washington has reportedly urged the Israeli government to reverse a recent decision to confiscate 4,000 acres of land near Bethlehem, and asked them not to go ahead with it, in light of efforts to achieve a two-state solution.