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PA Prime Minister Hamdallah receives cool welcome in Gaza

The second visit by the PA premier to Gaza was met with lukewarm response from Hamas officials and protesters
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during his first visit to Gaza City on 9 October, 2014 (AFP)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday through the Israeli-manned Erez checkpoint for a three day visit to discuss the employee crisis and the halted reconstruction process.

Much of Gaza’s infrastructure was destroyed in the 51-day Israeli offensive in the past summer, as the billions of dollars subsequently pledged for reconstruction by the international community failed to appear.

Hamdallah announced that the PA has allocated $800 mn for Gaza’s reconstruction, and stressed that he is committed to the unity government.

“We have come here today to strengthen national reconciliation and to restart dialogue with all Palestinian factions,” Hamdallah said at a news conference in Gaza city. “I come bearing a message from the Palestinian leadership, which won’t accept the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.”

However, he received a cool reception from dozens of protesters who were at the news conference, and began chanting “Leave, Leave Hamdallah!” Some held up posters that read “No welcome for those who besieged Gaza”- an accusation that the PA was complicit in Israel’s blockade of the territory.

Children also held up shoes in protest to Hamdallah’s visit. The prime minister is due to meet with a Fateh delegation and with officials from Hamas, including Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamdallah asserted that his visit was directed at starting a new chapter of Palestinian reconciliation between rival factions Fateh and Hamas. He also announced that the Palestinian Authority is working with Arab and international parties to solve the problems of Gaza’s civil servants.

Thousands of civil servants have not received their monthly salaries since the formation of Hamdallah’s government in June 2014.

“I have come with the aim of resolving all pending issues, including the problem of Gaza’s civil servants,” he told reporters, adding that Gaza’s civil servants will receive their full salaries once Palestinian Authority-appointed civil servants-who were expelled when Hamas took over Gaza in 2007-returned to the strip.

Hamas later responded by saying that Hamdallah did not present any viable solutions regarding this issue.

In a released statement, Hamas said that Hamdallah had shown that his government discriminates between Gaza’s civil servants and those in the West Bank.

“We reject all preconditions laid out by Hamdallah,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in the statement. “The unity government has failed, so far, to be a government for all Palestinians,” he added.

This is Hamdallah’s second visit to the coastal enclave since a unity government was signed between Fateh and Hamas in April last year. His Ramallah-based government has yet to assume political control of the Gaza Strip.

The division between Palestine's two largest parties Fatah and Hamas began in 2006, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections.

The following year clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

Several attempts at national reconciliation in the years that followed ended in failure, including two agreements in 2012, in Cairo and subsequently in Doha, neither of which were implemented.