09/05/2006, 00.00
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Policemen join strikers, shoot in the air and smash windows of Palestinian parliament

Public servants are protesting in Gaza and the West Bank; they have not been paid for six months. The strike is widening the gap between the Hamas government and President Abbas's Fatah party.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thousands of Palestinian policemen joined a public servants strike that has been going for the past six months over unpaid salaries. The policemen broke into the Palestinian Authority Parliament compound in Gaza today smashing windows and shooting into the air.

Fingers are pointed at the Hamas government whose election victory raised hopes for a batter economy but instead which lost the Palestinians US and European financial aid. Both the United States and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group. Israel, which shares that view, has also stopped transferring tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

Cash transfers from some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia allowed Hamas to pay 170,000 public servants for a while but not enough to go on. And so came the strike.

Schools and public services have shut down; businesses have closed in solidarity and now policemen have joined in.

According to Hamas, by authorising the strike, PNA President Mahmoud Abbas is inciting protests against the government in order to force its hands and accept a government of national unity with Fatah or even go to fresh polls.

"This is a legitimate protest by the security forces because their members haven't received full salaries for the past six months," said one official prior to the protest. "They asked for permission to demonstrate and President Abbas, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Palestinian security forces, approved the request," he added.

And so, thousands of policemen, mostly Fatah members, stormed parliament hailing their chief, Mahmoud Abbas (widely known by his honorific epithet Abu Mazen).

But yesterday, Hamas's Interior Minister Said Siam expressed deep concern over the policemen's intention to demonstrate against the government, saying the move could lead to armed confrontations. "This is a free service to the enemies of the Palestinians," he said, warning that such protests would only increase tensions between Hamas and Fatah. Instead, he called on Abbas to cancel the demonstrations immediately.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also lashed out at those who are using the strike to undermine his government and warned that it could aggravate the tense social situation and threaten national unity.

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See also
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades make death threats against Hamas ministers
Gaza, new ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah
Palestinians in favour of prisoners' document in referendum
Intra-Palestinian tensions rising, PNA President Abbas orders 'Hamas' police disbanded
Haniyeh resigns to pave the way for a national unity government


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