by Ari Soffer
PA 'unity government' budget 'below zero', according to a leading minister - because US, Arab states won't meet commitments.
Senior Hamas, Fatah officials celebrate unity deal in Gaza
"The government's budget is below zero, and it's starting to borrow from banks to move forward, because only less than third of donor funds that were scheduled to be received this year arrived," said Shawki Al-Ayasa, Minister of Social Affairs, Agriculture, and Prisoner's Affairs.
"The US has not provided a single penny since Jan. 1, and Europe and Arab states only provided a third of what they were scheduled to give," he lamented to the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news network
He said Gazan families who had lost their homes as Hamas and other terrorist groups clashed with Israeli forces had received just 300 shekels ($84) in aid.
Al-Ayasa claimed the agricultural sector had suffered some $450 million of damage during Operation Protective Edge, which saw Hamas and Islamic Jihad in particular embed their forces deep within the civilian infrastructure, drawing criticism over the blatant violation of international law.
He further estimated it would take around two years to rebuild Gaza, assuming construction material could be delivered at a "reasonable" rate.
PA president and head of the Fatah faction Mahmoud Abbas signed a high-profile unity deal with the Islamist Hamas movement in June, as part of a string of unilateral moves which helped torpedo talks with Israel.
The two factions have been at loggerheads ever since Hamas defeated Fatah in the 2006 Gaza elections, and then began a bloody purge of Fatah party members which triggered prolonged and deadly clashes between rival terrorist militias.
Several "unity deals" have been signed since in an attempt at reconciliation, only to collapse shortly after.
This latest attempt at reconciliation is similarly coming under increased strain, in particular after it was recently revealed that a Hamas cell in Judea and Samaria had planned a coup of its own against the rule of Mahmoud Abbas.
Another reason for growing Hamas-Fatah tension is the simmering discontent in Gaza over some 40,000 Hamas employees who have not been paid their wages for months - while Fatah party functionaries continue to receive theirs even if they hold no official government position under the Hamas regime there.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a PA official claimed the reason for the hold-up was that the PA was wary of handing foreign donors' money to Hamas, which could prompt protests and even the withdrawal of future donations given that the Islamist movement is a proscribed terrorist group in most western countries.
Abbas has also leveled harsh criticism towards Hamas over its conduct since the signing of the deal, including both the terror group's involvement in the kidnap and brutal murder of three Israeli teenagers and its stubbornness in signing a ceasefire deal with Israel.
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