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Saturday, December 9, 2006

2 Palestinian guards hurt in Gaza parliament clashes

Last update - 16:46 09/12/2006

2 Palestinian guards hurt in Gaza parliament clashes

By The Associated Press

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

"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

The violent marches escalated tensions between Hamas and its political rival,
the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The clashes came as Abbas met with senior PLO officials at his West Bank
headquarters to decide whether to dismiss the Hamas government and call early
elections or let it continue, with the expectation that it would eventually be
brought down by a deepening economic crisis.

The protesters alleged that Hamas was paying its own militia, the so-called
Executive Force, while neglecting the members of the regular security forces.
Addressing Hamas legislators inside the building over a loudspeaker, one of
the protesters said: "Why are you hiding? Why are you ignoring our demands
while you are feeding and increasing your militia and distributing the money
that you smuggled from the outside."

In the West Bank city of Jenin, some 4,000 members of the security forces
staged a march to press for their salaries.

Dozens of parents carrying infants broke into a mother-and-child clinic in the
West Bank city of Hebron, which has been closed because of the health workers'
strike. The parents demanded vaccinations for their babies. Several of the
protesters burned tires outside the clinic and set large garbage bags on fire.

Later on Saturday, Palestinian union leaders said the strikers would return to
their jobs Sunday, following government assurances of more payments. Doctors
and nurses at government hospitals had been on strike since September,
attending only emergencies and providing minimal services.

Hamas, squeezed by an international aid boycott since it came to power 10
months ago, has had trouble paying salaries of 165,000 civil servants,
including about 80,000 members of the security forces, 40,000 teachers and
some 15,000 health care workers. Doctors and nurses have been on strike for

Hamas leaders have brought cash in suitcases across the Gaza-Egypt borders,
circumventing the refusal of most banks to transfer funds to Islamic militants
from abroad, for fear of violating anti-terrorism regulations.

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