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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 June 2006, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Palestinian workers get salaries
Man holding banknotes
Many families had sold their valuables to buy food
Some Palestinian government workers have started withdrawing their salaries for the first time in three months.

Officials said money had been paid into the accounts of the 40,000 lowest-paid staff - those who earn 1,500 shekels ($325; 174) a month or less.

The finance minister said the other 125,000 staff would have to wait.

The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has faced a financial crunch since Western donors cut off funding, accusing Hamas of being a terrorist group.

Witnesses said some of the 40,000 workers had already been able to take their money out of Bank of Palestine cash machines in Gaza.

The announcement that the money was available came shortly after four Palestinian armed groups said they would target banks if they failed to transfer salaries to government employees.

Relief

"I did not believe that the salary would ever be paid again. I don't believe it even now," said policeman Mohammed al-Qilani, after withdrawing his cash, reports Reuters news agency.

BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston says civil servants normally support a quarter of the Palestinian population and the sudden halting of their pay plunged this whole battered economy into turmoil.

Many families have been selling off their valuables to buy food.

But these payments are going only to the poorest quarter of the workforce - and even those employees will only receive one month's pay although they are owed for three.

Our correspondent says this round of small payments will come as a relief to some of the hardest-hit families, but the wider picture here is one of a profound and deepening economic crisis.




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Palestinian government workers finally draw their pay



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