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Hamas MPs meet, slam Abbas in sign of Palestinian rifts

AFP , Wednesday 14 Jan 2015
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Hamas MPs in Gaza held an exclusive meeting on Wednesday apparently defying the Palestinian Authority and criticised president Mahmud Abbas, in a further sign of a failing unity pact.

They were meeting for the first time since the April unity deal, which ostensibly put an end to years of infighting between Gaza rulers Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party.

Even months after Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PLO -- which in turn dominates the PA -- appointed a mutually-agreed central government, disputes that emerged shortly after the deal appear to be worsening.

"Neither the president nor anyone else can forbid parliament from meeting," Hamas MP Salah al-Bardaweel said in a symbolic statement.

Hamas holds 78 of the Palestinian parliament's 132 seats, and 25 of its MPs live in the Gaza Strip.

Another 20 non-Hamas MPs live in Gaza, but did not attend the meeting.

Last year's reconciliation pact was meant to pave the way for Palestinian general elections by the end of 2014, and to hand over control of Gaza in the interim from Hamas to the unity government, which took oath early June.

But there have been no sign of elections or a real transfer of power, despite Hamas' stated willingness to relinquish its authority.

Senior Hamas leader Mahmud Zahar, also present, said the new government was a "failure".

"We send a clear message: either the government must take up its responsibilities or resign," he said.

Zahar blamed Abbas specifically for failing to get a resolution passed at the UN Security Council last month that called for Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories.

A bloody 50-day summer war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel delayed implementation of the Palestinian unity deal.

But even before that, cracks had emerged.

Hamas immediately demanded the new government pay the salaries of the 50,000 civil servants Hamas recruited after its takeover of Gaza in 2007, who took the jobs of 70,000 Fatah employees.

Partial payments of $1,200 each were made to 24,000 Hamas civil servants in late October. But the other 26,000, who work in security functions, have received nothing.

Hundreds of Hamas employees began a sit-in in front of the headquarters of the unity government in Gaza on Tuesday, vowing to stay until their salaries are paid.

Hamas MP Yahya Mussa said at Wednesday's meeting that "Abbas and his government are committing a crime against Gaza workers."

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