GAZA CITY (AFP) – A Hamas lawmaker said Monday that the Islamist group ruling Gaza was facing a financial “crisis” because of Egypt’s moves to seal its border and a boycott by local banks.
“The government is facing a crisis,” MP Jamal Nassar said in a statement. “The siege on the (Hamas-run) Palestinian government has been tightened recently and because of this it has been unable to bring in funds from abroad.”
Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but very limited humanitarian aid since Hamas seized power in June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
But the closures have never appeared to have much of an impact on the Hamas-run government, which pays regular salaries to more than 20,000 civil servants and as recently as February recruited hundreds of new security personnel.
Nassar said, however, that there had been a “tightening of the blockade by the Egyptian government” referring to its construction of an underground iron fence along the border to cut off smuggling tunnels.
He said the government also faced difficulties because bank branches in Gaza were adhering to an international boycott of Hamas, which is blacklisted as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.
In January, the Hamas-run government approved a 540-million-dollar (377-million-euro) budget for 2010, with just 55 million dollars coming from taxes and other local sources of revenue.
Hamas has always been tight-lipped about its financial dealings but is believed to receive support from Islamic charities, Syria and Iran.
Iran has been a staunch supporter of Hamas since the movement won Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, although Tehran says its aid does not extend to military arms and training, as Israel has alleged.