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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 April 2006, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Gaza police stage violent protest
Armed Palestinian policemen in Khan Younis
Officers say their wages are two weeks late
Police in Gaza have held a violent protest at the new Hamas government's failure to pay their wages.

Up to 50 masked officers blocked roads and stormed a government office, firing their weapons in the air from the roof.

They said they were suffering severe financial problems and demanded their wages, now two weeks late.

The new administration is facing a financial crisis as foreign donors cut off aid after Hamas refused to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Russian pledge

"We warn this is only a first step," Abu Mohammed, a leader of the protesters in the central town of Khan Younis, the focus of the demonstration, told news agency Reuters.

We don't have enough to pay salaries
Omar Abdel-Razek
Palestinian finance minister

Palestinian Finance Minister Omar Abdel-Razek of Hamas blamed the cash crisis on the decision to cut international aid.

"They all know that the account is empty ... and we don't have enough to pay salaries," he told al-Jazeera television station.

Hamas claims it inherited an administration with more than $1.3bn (740m) in government debt.

The US and EU have cut off aid after Hamas took power on 30 March over the militant group's political stance.

The US Treasury has also banned American citizens from doing business with the Hamas-led authority.

Meanwhile, Iran has urged the Muslim world to help fund the cash-strapped authority.

Russia has promised to provide emergency financial aid - although it was not immediately clear how much.

Many of the protesters belonged to President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, Hamas's political rival, say reports.

Our correspondent in Gaza says Hamas may suspect the police protest also had a political edge.

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