Report: Hamas paying civil servants with former settlement lands

(JTA) — Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is giving plots of land on which Jewish settlements once stood to civil servants in lieu of the salaries it owes them.

Hamas is giving the land to some 40,000 civil servants for their work over the past two years, the Associated Press reported. The land giveaway is illustrative of Hamas’ serious financial difficulties in the decade since it took control of the coastal strip, according to the AP.

Hamas has been paying the government employees 45 percent of their salaries each month since March; prior to that it was paying them 40 percent of their salaries every 50 days, according to the AP.

Under the land giveaway, groups of four Hamas employees each share a 500-square-meter parcel of land that they can develop or sell. Sand on the property can be sold for about $100 a truckload, the news service reported. Some 13,000 Hamas employees have so far signed up to take advantage of the deal.

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The Palestinian Authority, which pays the salaries of an additional 70,000 civil servants in Gaza loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, opposes the land giveaway, saying that Hamas does not have the authority to privatize government-owned land.

Israel left 21 settlements in the Gush Katif bloc of the Gaza Strip, as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank,  in August 2005 in an operation called the Disengagement.