Thursday, March 03, 2011

Gaza banks close because of Hamas robberies

From Ma'an:
The Palestinian Monetary Authority announced Thursday that all banks in Gaza would close on Thursday, following the perpetration of a robbery by unknown gunmen who stole cash from the Palestine Investment Bank in Gaza City.

PMA officials did not report the amount of cash taken from the bank, but said the financial institutions would remain closed until the funds were returned.

A statement from the body condemned the robbery, saying the use of weapons against the people of Gaza was unacceptable. The PMA "resents, denounces and condemns the attack," the statement said.
While it is unclear who robbed the bank, it seems strange that the banks would close from an ordinary armed robbery. More likely the bank suspects that the robbers were none other than Hamas, as Ma'an explains has happened before:
[Last summer] the Palestine Islamic Bank in Gaza City reported three incidents of cash being "withdrawn by force" by Gaza government officials, and in June suspended operations in protest over the actions.
Palestine Press Agency adds that Hamas has also taken over the Palestinian Investment Fund's offices and cash, and that other tenants of the same building were forced to leave. The Fund was meant to be an independent institution to help out businesses in Gaza.

This is only the latest takeover by Hamas of previously private Gaza institutions. These takeovers are one major reason why a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah are increasingly unlikely, as Hamas' control of Gaza is cemented.

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post via Reuters fills in the blanks, and Ma'an is shown once again to dance around the truth so as not to upset Hamas (h/t T34):
Banks in Gaza closed on Thursday in protest against Hamas's seizure of $250,000 in cash in a dispute with the Palestinian Authority.

A banking official said Hamas police went to the Palestine Investment Bank on Wednesday and demanded the money from the account of the PA-backed Palestine Investment Fund, which Hamas alleged had been illegally transferring money out of Gaza.

"(Hamas police) said unless they were given the money, they would take it by force," the official told Reuters. He said the police left with bags of cash filled with Israeli shekels worth $250,000 after several hours of discussion.

"All banks closed their doors today to protest against Hamas's assault on the Palestine Investment Bank," said the official, who declined to be identified.

A West Bank official for the Palestinian Monetary Authority, which oversees banking in Gaza and the West Bank, said the Hamas police had committed "armed robbery." In a statement, the monetary authority demanded the return of the cash.