Cash-strapped members of the Palestinian security forces launched an angry protest Saturday against the new government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. But despite growing internal and economic instability sparked by international sanctions, Hamas remains defiant to demands to moderate its policies.
Disgruntled Palestinian policemen stormed a government building and blocked roads in the Gaza Strip, demanding that the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority pay their salaries. In its first major crisis since taking power last month, Hamas has not been able to pay the salaries of 140,000 government employees, which are two weeks overdue.
This has led to mounting frustration among poor Palestinians who live from paycheck to paycheck. The protesting policemen said if the Hamas government cannot pay salaries, it should resign.
Hamas is broke because the United States and European Union have cut off nearly a billion dollars in annual aid to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. and EU consider Hamas a terrorist organization, and the new Palestinian government has rejected their demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Palestinian analyst Bassam Eid says Hamas is facing a dilemma. It is committed to the destruction of Israel through jihad or holy war, but it is coming to realize that its radical Islamic agenda will not put food on the table.
"And Hamas must have to know that the Palestinian economy is based on the support that we are receiving from the international community," he said.
So Eid says after just two weeks in power, the Palestinian territories are facing financial collapse.
"If the international community already decided to impose a kind of a boycott, that means that the Palestinians already remain without any kind of economy," he added.
Palestinian officials accuse the U.S. and Europe of waging economic war against Hamas, but they say that will not force the government to make political concessions.