Gaza banks protest after gunmen break in


GAZA CITY – Banks in the Gaza Strip closed on Thursday for a day of protest after gunmen allegedly protected by Hamas police twice robbed one bank of tens of thousands of dollars. Officials at the Palestine Monetary Authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah said armed men forced their way into a branch of the Palestine Investment Bank in Gaza City on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) and the day before, a group of armed men wearing military clothing and protected by police stormed the investment bank and took a total of $350,000 from the bank’s reserves,” said Mohamed Manasira, deputy director of the oversight department at the authority.
Manasira said $100,000 was taken from the bank in the first incident on Tuesday and another $250,000 on Wednesday. Hamas officials said they were looking into the alleged incidents, but had no immediate comment.
In a statement, the Monetary Authority condemned the “seizure by force of arms of amounts of cash under the pretext of cashing cheques… in a way that is against all laws and norms of banking.” It announced “the suspension of banking in all branches of banks operating in the Gaza Strip on Thursday… as an expression of resentment, denunciation and condemnation for these deplorable attacks.”
The closure is the second time that banks in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have shut down to protest the seizure of funds by gunmen allegedly linked to the Islamist group. In June 2010, banks closed after Hamas police reportedly seized $16,000 in a raid carried out following a Hamas court order to release funds that had been frozen by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
The monetary authority, the Palestinian central bank, refuses to have any dealings with the Islamist Hamas movement, in part because it is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.