Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has halted salary payments to scores of security men loyal to a rival Palestinian politician, deepening disarray within their U.S.-backed Fatah faction, officials said on Thursday.
They said Abbas’s move appeared aimed at weakening Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza strongman who lives in Dubai but is widely expected to return to the Palestinian territories to challenge the PA president and Fatah chairman.
That could spell a bitter and uncertain confrontation, given Fatah’s statutory limbo since Islamist Hamas, once its partner in the Palestinian Authority government, turned into a foe in 2007 and seized control of Gaza during a brief civil war.
Fatah, which holds sway in parts of Yehudah and Shomron, is due to hold a leadership election this year, but that has yet to be scheduled. The schism with Hamas makes new national ballots nearly impossible, extending the term of Abbas, who was elected president in 2005.
Fatah official Sufian Abu Zayda said salaries had been suspended for 98 security men who had worked under Dahlan in Gaza before the Hamas takeover. Some of them have since moved to Egypt and to Yehudah and Shomron.
“We knew a month ago about the intention to suspend the salaries. By the time banks closed yesterday it was clear that nearly 100 people, 100 families, had lost their income,” Abu Zayda told Reuters.
Dahlan could not immediately be reached for comment.