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Palestinians Hope for Outside Donations Amid Money Crisis

The new Hamas-led Palestinian government has turned to the Internet and television ads for donations from average people, amid an increasing cash crisis that threatens the government's ability to function at the most basic level. The crisis has been brought on by cuts in assistance from Western donor countries.

Hamas launched a somewhat unusual fundraising drive this week via Web sites and advertisements on Arab television stations asking donors to send money to an account at a bank in Cairo to help the Palestinian people.

Speaking on Palestinian radio, Planning Minister Samir Abu Aisha explained the effort.

He said the fund drive is not expected to be a main source of income, but rather a symbolic gesture, one of sharing among Arabs to show their support for the Palestinian people.

The fundraising effort is being sponsored by the Cairo-based Arab League during an increasing cash crisis in the new Hamas-led Palestinian government.

Shortly after its election victory in January, Hamas was openly shunned by its most important Western donors, who consider it a terrorist organization.

Money was cut off. Israel stopped the transfer of tax and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government, and the United States and Europe said they would stop millions of dollars in direct aid to a Hamas government. They have, however, promised to continue funding direct humanitarian programs for Palestinians.

Initially Hamas said it would make up the difference by appealing to Arab and Muslim nations. But despite supportive rhetoric, Palestinian officials say most Arab countries have not come through on their pledges.

Palestinian authorities acknowledge they are millions of dollars short in covering the payroll for civil servants and March paychecks are overdue.

Planning Minister Samir Abu Aisha says he hopes to have some good news in the days to come.

The minister says talks have been under way with countries that have large Muslim populations, including Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia for some immediate relief to the cash crisis.