RAMALLAH, West Bank – Tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants will be paid in full this week for the first time since March 2006 since Israel released millions of dollars in tax funds frozen during Hamas rule, officials said Sunday.
The transfer of the funds was Israel’s first concrete gesture of support for President Mahmoud Abbas in his struggle with Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last month.
Dispensing the salaries allows the West Bank-based government to assert its legitimacy, disputed by the Hamas rulers in Gaza. Abbas appointed a new prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government after the Gaza seizure.
The salaries will bypass employees hired by Hamas, including 6,000 members of the group’s security forces. Security forces in Gaza were told they would be paid only if they stayed home and refused to work under Hamas command.
Under Hamas, the 165,000 government employees had received irregular, partial payments because of an international aid boycott imposed because of group’s refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.
The Israeli government said $119 million was transferred Sunday, and Palestinian officials confirmed they received it.