GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) – The Hamas government announced Tuesday that it will not permit thousands of striking teachers to return to their jobs, further heightening tensions with its political rivals in the West Bank.
The strike was called Aug. 24 by the West Bank-based teachers’ union. It was seen, in part, as an attempt to disrupt life in Gaza and weaken Hamas, which seized control by force in 2007 and defeated troops loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Most of Gaza’s 10,000 public school teachers are still paid by the Abbas government.
Despite the strike, Hamas kept schools running and hired some 2,200 new teachers and administrators.
Deputy Education Minister Yousef Ibrahim of Hamas said in a statement Tuesday that striking teachers will not be allowed to return to work. He also said legal action would be taken against those on strike, but did not explain further.
In the West Bank, union chief Bassam Zakarneh said Tuesday’s decision “reflects the real face of this government, the face of oppression and using force.”
On Monday, the union decided to extend the strike for another week. Zakarneh said the striking teachers will continue to receive their salaries from the West Bank government.
Relations between the two governments have grown increasingly acrimonious. Egypt is trying to broker a new round of power-sharing talks that is to begin later this month in Cairo.