Hamas-appointed government employees prevented Palestinian Authority employees from entering government institutions and bodies in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, the official PA news site Wafa reported. It was the latest sign that efforts to reunite the West Bank and Gaza Strip under one government are foundering.
Hamas-appointed employees barred PA Local Governance Minister Hussein al-Araj and PA Finance Ministry and Religious Endowments Ministry employees from entering Gaza’s government institutions, Wafa reported.
On Tuesday afternoon, for the first time in more than 10 years, the Ramallah-based PA ordered all of its Gaza-based employees to return to work in ministries and government bodies.
When Hamas forcibly took over Gaza in 2007, the PA instructed its some 55,000 employees there not to report for work. While most of the Gaza-based PA employees have not worked in their government positions for the past 10 and a half years, Hamas has since appointed some 40,000 employees to fill their roles.
In reconciliation talks, the fates of the two groups of employees have become a highly contested issue between Hamas and Fatah.
Fatah officials have said the PA cannot absorb all of the Hamas-appointed employees, while Hamas officials have demanded all of its employees be integrated into the PA.
On Wednesday morning, Hamas accused the PA of “causing chaos and confusion in some of Gaza’s ministries” as a result of its “irresponsible decision… to call on the [PA] employees to return to work.”
As part of a deal signed by Hamas and Fatah in Cairo in mid-October to advance reconciliation efforts, Hamas and Fatah agreed that a PA-formed administrative committee would work “to find a solution to the employees issue” by February 1.
According to PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, the two sides agreed that the PA could call up its employees in Gaza to work while the administrative committee searches for a solution to the issue.
However, according to deputy Hamas chief in Gaza Khalil al-Hayya, Hamas and Fatah agreed that the PA-formed administrative committee could only call up workers.
The dispute between Fatah and Hamas is only one indication in the past week that reconciliation efforts are not succeeding.
Last week, Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions met in Cairo to discuss reconciliation efforts. At the conclusion of the meeting, the factions issued a joint statement that called for a number of measures, including elections, but made no mention of specific agreements to move reconciliation forward.
Hamas spokesman Salah Bardaweil called the statement “meaningless” and “lackluster.”
Moreover, earlier this week, Sheikh told Palestinian television that since the mid-October agreement, Hamas had barely enabled the PA to operate in Gaza.
The senior PA official said the PA had not surpassed the 5% marker in terms of taking responsibility for Gaza.
According to the mid-October agreement, the PA is supposed to take complete responsibility for Gaza by December 1.