First showdown in Gaza since Palestinian unity deal over salaries for ex-Hamas civil servants

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Islamic militant group Hamas are locked in a first showdown since the formation of their unity government last week, a sign of their volatile relations.

At issue are the salaries for more than 40,000 government employees Hamas hired during its seven-year rule of Gaza. Western-backed Abbas is the conduit for foreign aid, while Hamas remains the real power on the ground in Gaza.

Last week, the new government began distributing salaries to 150,000 civil servants loyal to Abbas, but said it cannot yet pay the former Hamas employees. At the time, scuffles erupted outside cash machines in Gaza. Hamas police security forces closed banks.

A senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Haye, said Monday the banks would not reopen until a solution is found.