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Back to school in West Bank as teachers suspend three-week strike

Among promises in deal to end strike, Mahmoud Abbas offers teachers at 10 percent pay rise, but they must wait until September
More than one million Palestinian pupils were affected by the protests (AFP)

Teachers at public schools in the West Bank were back at work on Sunday after suspending a three-week strike that challenged the Palestinian Authority.

An education ministry spokesman told AFP that "100 percent of classes have resumed" after teachers agreed to return to work following a pledge from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to improve conditions.

Facing mounting pressure from teachers and parents, Abbas on Saturday promised teachers a 10 percent pay rise, a management review and the implementation of a 2013 work agreement.

"The strike was suspended in response to the appeal of President Mahmoud Abbas," one of the strike organisers told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that teachers were ready to go back on strike if the authorities do not meet their commitments.

Abbas's promised changes will only take effect from September, but he asked the teachers to return to work on Sunday, the first day of the working week.

There were large demonstrations in support of the teachers, who say they are underpaid in comparison with other government employees. More than one million Palestinian children were believed to be impacted by protests in recent weeks.

The PA, which spends nearly half of its budget on wages for its 180,000 civil servants, is facing a chronic economic crisis.

The monthly wage bill of nearly $150mn is 16 percent of gross domestic product, one of the highest ratios in the world.

Critics have pointed out that more money is spent on security forces, including an estimated 70,000 employees who work in six different security agencies, while health and education ministries receive less funding.