GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip, (AP) – Palestinian security forces blocked main Gaza Strip intersections on Sunday, burning tires and snarling traffic to protest the Hamas-led government’s inability to pay their salaries.
The unrest by forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party raised tensions throughout Gaza. A Fatah activist was killed earlier Sunday in a gunbattle between Fatah security branches and the rival Hamas militia.
Fatah vowed to escalate the unrest before and after the three-day Muslim holiday Eid el-Fitr, which begins Monday. Black smoke from burning tires billowed over Gaza as drivers searched for alternate routes around the coastal area.
Tensions between the two factions have been on the rise since the Islamic Hamas unseated the long-ruling Fatah in January parliamentary elections. The Hamas government, choked by crippling international sanctions, has been largely unable to pay 165,000 state workers — half of them security forces — since taking office in March.
The international community has refused to work with the Hamas government unless the Islamic group recognizes Israel, accepts past peace agreements and renounces violence, conditions Hamas rejects.
Fatah and Hamas are also at loggerheads over control of the security forces, which are mostly under Fatah’s control. Hamas formed its own 6,000-member militia several months ago, raising the stakes in a struggle that has at times spilled over into street violence.