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Hamas to Begin Paying Overdue Salaries

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which heads the Palestinian Authority, plans to begin paying overdue salaries to government employees next week. But it is nowhere near enough to cover what Hamas owes after just nine weeks in power.

The Hamas-led government says that, on Monday, it will begin paying some salaries to civil servants that are three months overdue. But only about a quarter of the 165,000 Palestinian Authority employees will get one month's pay. The rest will get partial payment later.

Hamas has been hit hard by international sanctions that have left the new government broke. But the group continues to reject U.S. and European conditions for restoring nearly $1 billion in annual aid - namely, renouncing violence and recognizing Israel.

The financial crisis has fanned growing discontent. In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 2,000 civil servants protested the unpaid salaries. They included some 400 armed police officers, some of whom fired in the air.

But many Palestinians blame the international community for the situation, rather than Hamas. Palestinian analyst Bassam Eid says the sanctions harm ordinary Palestinians, and, therefore, it is collective punishment.

"The international community must have to know that the Palestinian society is over 3.5 million people, and the Palestinian society is not only the Hamas organization or the Hamas government."

Palestinian officials and western diplomats have warned that economic collapse in the West Bank and Gaza could lead to a humanitarian crisis and spark a new wave of violence and terror.

So, the international community is seeking a way to funnel aid to the Palestinian people, while bypassing the Hamas government. But that will take a while, and, in the meantime, a growing number of Palestinians are wondering where they will find the money for their next meal.