Ramallah: The Islamist movement of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has rejected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s decree exempting Gazans from taxes and official fees imposed by governmental institutions and ministries.
Under the presidential decree, all Gazans will be exempted from taxes and fees introduced by official departments and all other local institutions, including licensing of vehicles and properties.
The decree, however, instructs Gazans to pay the import tax (clearance) that the consensus government receives from Israel monthly. This tax is imposed and received by the Israelis on behalf of the Palestine National Authority (PNA).
Since Hamas took over the tiny coastal strip in 2007, following a brief war during which Abbas and his Fatah movement were ousted from Gaza, the Islamist movement has been collecting taxes from Gazans, and they have been a fundamental component of the Hamas budget in Gaza.
The Palestinian Customs Department said the presidential decree heralded an end to Hamas piracy of Gaza public funds. The Palestinian Ministry of Finance would be the only authorised body to deduct or collect the taxes and fees from Gazans, and would take action against anyone collecting taxes from Gazans illegally.
Hussain Al Shaikh, who heads the Palestinian General Authority of Civil Affairs, said the tax move was aimed at easing the daily suffering of Gazans while pressurising Hamas. He said the PNA was fully aware of the tragedy and misery suffered by Gazans. He stressed that the PNA was committed to ending Hamas rule in Gaza without affecting the living conditions of Gazans.
Hamas rejected the PNA move, branding it as illegal and worthless, stressing that unless the decree is ratified by the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), it cannot become law.
Ahmad Baher, PLC Deputy Director, said that in accordance with Palestinian Basic Law, all bills must be approved by the PLC in order to be implemented in the Palestinian territories.
He said Abbas’s decree would not be executed in Gaza and there would be no discussion on the issue. He said Abbas’s politically-motivated decree was merely part of the ongoing political game by Fatah to weaken Hamas in Gaza.
Fatah and Hamas formed the Palestinian consensus government in 2014 under Rami Al Hamdallah but ever since it has not been able to take over public departments and institutions in the coastal strip. Abbas vowed to take unprecedented measures against Hamas to end the internal split between Gaza and the West Bank. Last month, the consensus government slashed the salaries of 40,000 public servants by 30 per cent in a move slammed by Hamas.