GAZA/RAMALLAH, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The main banks in the Gaza Strip closed down on Thursday after angry employees who belonged to the former Hamas-ruled government protested for not receiving monthly salaries promised by the unity government.
Around 50,000 Hamas civil and security employees used to receive salaries paid by the former Hamas government which ruled the Gaza Strip from June 2007, said Hamas officials, until an interim unity government was formed last week in an agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party.
According to a unity agreement reached between Hamas and Fatah on April 23, the unity government has to pay the monthly salaries of both the employees of Fatah and Hamas. However, officials in the new government said Hamas employees will be paid only after the cases of each employee are studied.
Ihab Bseiso, spokesman of the Palestinian government in Ramallah, said that a high-level committee has been formed to study each case aside of all the employees. However, studying each case separately would take more than two months, according to Hamas employees.
"There will be no discrimination among all employees either they are from the Gaza Strip or from the West Bank. Our national unity government is deeply studying the case and it will resolve this problem as soon as possible," said Bseiso, adding "I believe that this crisis will be resolved soon."
Witnesses said that angry Hamas employees attacked Fatah employees who stood in long lines outside the banks in the Gaza Strip to get their salaries cashed from the A.T.M machines placed outside the banks, which resulted in the closure of banks, in case chaos escalated.
Meanwhile, Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman in Gaza told Xinhua that Hamas movement can never accept discrimination between the employees, adding "Hamas movement respects the unity agreement and it only wants fair treatment and seeks justice in dealing with the employees."
"The unity government is fully responsible towards everyone because internal division is over and it is the government of the Palestinian people and not the government of a faction in expense of the other," said Abu Zuhri.
Rami Hamdallah, the Prime Minister of the unity government had earlier called on more than 70,000 civil servants and security and police officers to gradually get back to work after they refrained from working in the aftermath of Hamas violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
Right after Hamas violent takeover of the enclave, President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the government headed by Hamas leader Ismail Haneya. But Haneya and his government refused Abbas decree and kept ruling the Gaza Strip with 50,000 employees.
Bassam Zakarneh, chairman of civil employees union told Xinhua that his union refused the principle of not paying Hamas employees equally with Fatah employees, adding "this should be the fruits of ending more than seven years of internal division and forming a unity government."
The Hamas-run employees union held the unity government responsible for not paying Hamas employees their monthly salaries for May. The union said in a press statement that it is the right of every employee in Gaza no matter what his political affiliation is, to get his or her salaries paid.