Russia offers financial aid to HAMAS

17 April 2006: The financially strapped HAMAS Palestinian government has accepted financial aid from Russia with open arms, a situation that is not sitting well with the United States and to a lesser extent, the European Union. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the boycott by the West of the Palestinian government and added that Moscow is willing to provide immediate financial aid, an offer that was gratefully accepted by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. HAMAS is short of cash because Israel is withholding approximately $55 million US in monthly taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the European Union has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars in annual aid payments, and the United States and Canada have stopped government assistance.

Although Lavrov did not say how much money Russia planned to offer, the Hamas-led government is desperate for money; it is two weeks behind in salaries for Palestine’s 140,000 government employees, which lead to a riot in Gaza’s central town of Khan Younis Saturday when angry workers stormed a government building demanding their back wages.

Washington will also forbid Americans to do business with the Hamas government, according to a memo made public on Friday.