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Palestinian Police Storm Parliament Over Unpaid Wages


There have been violent protests in the Gaza Strip and West Bank against the Palestinian government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is the latest episode in a deepening power struggle between rival Palestinian factions.

About 2,000 Palestinian policemen, some firing in the air, stormed into the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City in protest over unpaid salaries.

The cash-strapped Hamas government has not fully paid the salaries of 165,000 government employees since it took power eight months ago. That includes 80,000 police, most of whom belong to the rival and more moderate Fatah faction. Fatah accuses Hamas of paying its own private militia, while neglecting members of the regular security forces.

Hamas is broke in the wake of international sanctions, imposed because of its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says Hamas is losing support.

"Hamas now is losing a lot of credit in the Palestinian street, because many people were disappointed that Hamas came with a lot of promises," he said. "They claimed that they will help the Palestinians going out of [to go out of] their economic crisis, but they helped mainly themselves."

Hamas is trying to bypass Western sanctions through donations from the Arab world, and, especially, Iran. Iran has already paid $120 million to the Hamas government, and officials say they expect a pledge of an addition $30 million a month.

But Abu Nasser says that does not solve the problem.

"The Iranian money that came didn't help all Palestinians," he added. "It helped mainly the Hamas-affiliated activists, and these are tiny minorities of the Palestinian society."

Palestinian police also held protest marches in the West Bank town of Jenin. And in Hebron, dozens of parents broke into a clinic closed down by a health workers' strike, demanding vaccinations for their babies.

Hamas officials accused moderate Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas of orchestrating the protests in a bid to topple the elected government.

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