Abbas halts salaries of Hamas lawmakers in the West Bank
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has cut the salaries of thirty-seven Hamas lawmakers in the West Bank as part of a series of punitive measures designed to pressure his political rival to cede control of the Gaza Strip.
The PA Ministry of Finance notified members of Hamas' Change and Reform bloc in the occupied West Bank that they would no longer be paid their salaries, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmed Bahar told Safa news site.
The PLC was elected in 2006 in elections which Hamas won, but has not convened since 2007 when Hamas-Fatah fighting in Gaza divided the Palestinian national movement between the West Bank and Gaza.
Bahar said the move, believed to be a punitive measure against Hamas, was a "declaration of war" against the Palestinian parliament.
The PLC has not passed any legislation since 2007, while at least thirteen members are currently imprisoned by Israel.
Ayman Daraghma, a member of Hamas' Change and Reform bloc in the northern West Bank district of Tubas, said the MPs have sent a letter of to the Ministry of Finance demanding an explanation.
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"A ministry official told me unofficially that the PA had decided to stop paying salaries," he told Ma'an News Agency, with the ministry providing no further explanation.
PLC second deputy speaker Hassan Khreisha, who is not unaffiliated with either Fatah or Hamas, told Ma'an that the lawmakers were not officially notified of the decision to withhold their June salary.
It is unclear how long the salaries will be withheld.
Among those who have had their wages halted is Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament and Abbas's temporary successor under Palestinian law if the president is no longer able to discharge his duties.
Dweik has been arrested at least three times by Israeli forces, including following his election as PLC speaker in 2006. He was detained in 2014 without charge or trial and released a year later.
President Abbas's presidential term expired in 2009, but the 82-year-old has remained in office ever since, with no elections held.
The decision to cut Hamas salaries follows a raft of measures targeting Hamas and the Gaza Strip.
Last week, the PA forced 6,000 employees in Gaza into early retirement, while Abbas slashed civil servant salaries in the besieged enclave earlier in April.
The Fatah-led PA has also cut electricity payments to Gaza, plunging the territory into darkness, while medical services to the enclave's two million residents have also been drastically reduced.