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Unpaid Palestinian Civil Servants Protest Against Hamas Government

Labor unrest is growing in the Gaza Strip, where cash-strapped Palestinians are venting their anger at the government, led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Hamas has rejected international conditions for the restoration of vital aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Thousands of Palestinian civil servants and policemen took to the streets of Gaza, demanding their salaries, which are six months overdue.

Protesters blocked roads, burned tires and attacked the car of a Hamas Cabinet minister, breaking the windows.

The Hamas-led government has not been able to pay the salaries of 165,000 government employees, since it took power six months ago. Hamas has been crippled by international sanctions because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

The protests erupted after the government began paying partial salaries of $350 from money donated by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But government employees complained that, in some cases, the money did not arrive, and, in others, they were left with nothing after Palestinian banks deducted commissions and interest on existing loans.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says the salaries of government workers form the backbone of the economy in Gaza and the West Bank.

"So, therefore, we are talking about a huge majority without a real income," he said. "The situation in the Palestinian territories is very difficult, especially the living conditions."

In a bid to end the devastating sanctions, Hamas has agreed to form a national unity government with the more moderate Fatah party, led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. But talks between the two parties broke down after Hamas refused to recognize Israel, a key international condition for the lifting of sanctions.