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Pressure Piled on Hamas Amid Political, Financial Crisis
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Pressures have been piled on the ruling Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) as calls for forming a coalition government mounted and a grave financial crisis deteriorated amid an Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds of unpaid Palestinian governmental employees demonstrated in sit-in protests in front of their ministries in West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday.

The employees demanded the Hamas-led government to pay their salaries. Otherwise, they called on the government to resign "if it was unable to carry out its obligations."

The Palestinian government was unable to pay salaries for the 165,000 public employees since it took office in late March due to an aid cutoff by key donors.

Meanwhile, rift between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya over forming a coalition government has widened.

On Aug. 17, Abbas and Haneya agreed on forming a coalition government, however, Haneya outlined three preconditions to form the coalition on the next day, which includes the release of jailed Hamas ministers and lawmakers by Israel, ending international boycott against the Hamas government and nominating a prime minister from Hamas.

The Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat quoted unidentified Palestinian sources as saying on Wednesday that Abbas was very angry and rejected the three conditions put forward by Haneya.
Other well-informed sources said on Tuesday that Abbas favored the formation of a technocrat government instead of a coalition one to replace the current Hamas-led cabinet.

Analysts believe that there are three tasks for Abbas and Haneya at the time being and if they failed to reach an agreement on the three tasks, the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian territories will never be resolved.

"The first task is to end up with forming a national unity government, the second one is to find a solution to the kidnapped Israeli soldier and the third is to reach a ceasefire with Israel, " said Adnan Abu Salem, a Palestinian scholar who teaches political science in Gaza.
He underscored that everyone "should work in parallel until each task achieves its positive results, then if these three issues are settled, I do believe that Hamas would escape from the ongoing pressure and suffering of the Palestinian people would end."

On the financial front, as the fiscal situation was getting worse, Palestinian employees, including teachers and other civil servants as well as unemployed workers were getting angry.

"We regret to vote for Hamas in the election," a Palestinian employee complained, adding, "Hamas ran in the election under the slogan 'change and reform', but we have seen neither change nor reform."

Salim al-Khawaja asked, "Where are the huge amounts of cash that many Hamas leaders have recently smuggled into the Gaza Strip through Rafah border crossing?"

Hamas, who overwhelmingly won the January election, rejected to meet three demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians.

Key donors including the United States and the European Union have cut off direct aid since Hamas single handedly form the cabinet in late March.

Earlier, Israel has already halted monthly transfer of tax money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government while vowing no contact with the Palestinian government led by Hamas, a group which calls for Israel's destruct.

The pressures on Hamas movement have mounted since one of its armed wing, along with two other Palestinian factions, nabbed an Israeli soldier in an armed attack on June 25, which sparked Israel's comprehensive offensive against the Gaza Strip.

As part of the offensive to free the hostage and halt rocket attack, Israel has arrested eight ministers and more than two dozens lawmakers in the Hamas-led cabinet including the parliament speaker Aziz Dweik, vowing to continue targeting Hamas until militants free the soldier.

Haneya said, "Cutting financial aids to the government, and detaining speaker of the parliament, the Hamas lawmakers and the ministers would never break our determination and would never force us to surrender."

A Palestinian analyst in Gaza Ahmed Oudeh said, "This kind of financial pressure has affected neither the Hamas leaders nor the Hamas-led government's officials, but unfortunately, it hurt the Palestinian people and deepened their suffering."

He continued that "Hamas can't challenge the whole world and the highest interests of the Palestinian people. It should sooner or later recognize the peace initiatives and international legitimacy."

"There is the Arab peace initiative that Hamas should recognize, and there is also the document of national accordance issued by leaders of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails that Hamas should completely adopt," said Oudeh.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2006)

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