World News

Hamas, Fatah rivalry spills into Gaza schools

GAZA (Reuters) - About half of the Gaza Strip’s teachers began a five-day strike on Sunday at the start of the school year, accusing the Hamas-run Education Ministry of job discrimination over their support for the rival Fatah faction.

A pro-Fatah teachers’ union said many of its members have been transferred from their posts in a bid by Hamas to weaken the largely secular movement’s influence. Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah last year.

Mohammad Shqair, the pro-Hamas deputy education minister in Gaza, denied the accusations and said the school transfers stemmed from “technical and administrative” considerations.

Shqair said about half of the territory’s 9,000 teachers stayed away and some schools, run on Fatah principles, did not open. There are at least 250,000 students in the Gaza Strip.

Commenting on the five-day strike declared by the pro-Fatah union, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, Taher al-Nono, said teachers who did not report to work could lose their jobs if they tried to “sabotage the education process”.

The Education Ministry, citing Israeli restrictions on the passage of goods into the Gaza Strip, said it had allowed students into class without school uniforms because of a shortage of fabric.

In the pro-Fatah al-Azhar University, Hamas security forces stormed the facility after fistfights broke out between Fatah and Hamas supporters. There were no reports of serious injuries and the two sides exchanged blame over responsibility for the clash.

Editing by Richard Williams