Fatah officers rally in Gaza to demand pay

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GAZA, Sep 26 (Reuters) - Hundreds of security men from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement held a rally in Gaza today to demand the government he set up in the occupied West Bank pay their salaries.

It was the first such protest organised in the Gaza Strip by local Fatah leaders and other factions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since Hamas Islamists violently took over the territory in June.

The West Bank-based government that Abbas established under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad dropped 13,000 of the faction's loyalists in the Gaza Strip -- including the security men who held the protest -- from the payroll after the Hamas takeover.

Fayyad's administration said their salaries were frozen because the Fatah loyalists were among at least 30,000 workers which it contends were employed illegally in 2005 and 2006 by a Hamas-led government at the time.

''Fayyad, where is the money? Your people are hungry,'' chanted the protesters, many of whom brought their children to the rally.

One of the demonstrators, security officer Karim Mresh, said: ''Those who had entrenched themselves inside the security headquarters and defended them (against Hamas fighters) should not be 'rewarded' by being deprived of salaries.'' Last week, Abbas accepted the resignation of several Fatah leaders appointed to reorganise the group in Gaza Strip. Some of the leaders said their decision stemmed partially from Fayyad's failure to pay salaries to the Fatah security men.

REUTERS JK PM1705

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