GAZA, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Two Palestinian parliamentary guards were wounded when demonstrators and parliamentary security guards exchanged fire at the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City on Saturday, a lawmaker and medical staff said.
Some 1,400 uniformed police and other security officers demonstrating over the non payment of their salaries stormed into the parliament compound while some fired into the air as slogans were chanted from loudspeakers.
Hospital staff said the condition of the parliamentary guards, who were protecting lawmaker Ahmed Bahar of the governing Hamas Islamist group, was not serious. “We view very gravely the attack against the Palestinian Legislative Council, whose aim is to create tension in Palestinian areas,” Bahar said at a news conference.
A similar demonstration in the town of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, which attracted more than 3,000 participants, passed quietly, witnesses said.
At a clinic in the town of Hebron in the southern West Bank, scores of women carrying their babies demanded that striking medical staff vaccinate their young. They said they had been waiting for months to receive the vaccinations.
Palestinian government employees have received either very little or no pay since Hamas swept to power in parliamentary elections last January.
Western donor nations to the Palestinian Authority have been withholding aid after Hamas rejected their demands that it recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept previous interim peace deals.
Protesters chanted: “We will not go to Damascus and Tehran for our salaries.”
They were referring to a visit by Hamas officials including Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to Damascus and Tehran this week.
Some demonstrators said Syria and Iran have emboldened Hamas to toughen its stance against forming a unity government with the rival Fatah movement which they hope would see the boycott lifted. Talks have been deadlocked for weeks.
Haniyeh said in Tehran on Friday Palestinians would never bow to the pressure of the Western donor nations to recognise Israel and that they would keep fighting with the help of Iran.
The protesting security men are largely seen as loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and tensions have been fuelled by the rivalry between them which has seen around 25 people killed during the past year. “We will not beg for our salaries from anyone, it is our right and the right of our women and children. If they (Hamas)
are unable to get the boycott lifted and pay our salaries, they should step aside,” an officer named Abu Mohammad said.
Iran has sent $120 million to the Palestinian Authority this year to help ease the plight of the financially stricken government.
Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas, said the group stands by the demands of the demonstrators but that both parties should stand united to see the boycott lifted instead of “creating internal divisions which serve nobody.”
Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, a Fatah spokesman, said his movement stood behind the “fair” payment demands of the employees and security men. “People have the right to protest to demand their salaries, but we reject any violation to the law by any party. People can express their rights and should do so without attacking public institutions,” he said.