GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) – Hamas seized $270,000 from a Gaza bank on Monday that had been frozen by the Palestinian government in the West Bank, sparking new feuding between the Gaza militants and their Western-backed rivals.
The seizure, which Hamas said was backed by an order from a Hamas-run court, was the latest power play by the radical Islamic group, which violently took control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007. Since then, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has governed only the West Bank. Efforts to reconcile the two sides have failed.
The funds were intended for an association called Friends of the Sick, which has run a medical center in Gaza for over a decade.
The Palestinian Authority, which used to fund the group, froze the money after the organization elected a Hamas-dominated governing board in July 2009, the group said.
“This was based on entirely political considerations that have no relationship to the association’s charitable work,” the group said in a written statement.
About 10 Hamas police officers entered the Bank of Palestine in Gaza City on Monday and demanded 1 million Israeli shekels — about $270,000 — bank employees said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Ehab Ghussein confirmed money was taken and said a court ruled the block on the funds was illegal.
Ten banks have branches in Gaza, though all of their funds are transferred from West Bank branches under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Monetary Authority.
The Monetary Authority criticized the Hamas seizure and announced it was closing Gaza’s banks on Tuesday “to protest the vicious attack that one of the banks and its employees were exposed to.”
Friends of the Sick board member Omar Farwana said Monday’s seizure was a legal reclaiming of funds from international donors.
He confirmed the group received the money taken from the bank and said he expected more seizures.
“There are two other banks in Gaza that have our money, and during the coming days we’ll get it back,” he said.