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Masked gunmen steal $500,000 from Gaza post office in rare robbery

The Gaza Strip has endured back-to-back wars and uprisings in recent years, but criminal violence has been relatively rare.

That changed Monday. Police Col. Ayoub Abu Shaar says masked robbers broke into a post office in Gaza City, shot and wounded a guard and made off with $500,000.

The Islamic militant Hamas, which rules Gaza, distributes the salaries of 40,000 government employees through post offices. Salary payments for March are to begin Wednesday, meaning post offices currently hold large sums of cash.

Hamas says it made streets safe after seizing Gaza in 2007. But it is also struggling with a cash crisis because of a tightened border blockade by Egypt.

Since December, Hamas only paid partial government salaries and the ripple effect of growing personal debt is felt across Gaza.