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Palestinians denounce Israel law to punish payments to prisoners’ families

Move threatens existence of cash-strapped Palestinian National Authority, Erekat says

Image Credit: AFP
People watch as Israeli forces fire tear gas at Palestinian demonstrators during confrontations east of Gaza City along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
Gulf News

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A top Palestinian official on Tuesday strongly denounced a new Israeli regime law that will freeze money transfers to the Palestinian National Authority to punish its payments to families of those jailed for attacks.

Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the move threatened the existence of the cash-strapped Palestinian National Authority.

The legislation was approved late on Monday and gives the Israeli occupation government powers to withhold an amount of money based on what is paid to the prisoners and their families by the PA.

Israeli regime collects around $127 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports and then transfers it to the Palestinian National Authority.

“This is a very dangerous decision that amounts to the cancellation of the Palestinian National Authority and is piracy and theft,” Erekat told AFP.

“Israel is stealing the land and money of the Palestinian people and that is a result of the decisions of President (Donald) Trump, who supports Israel.”

A sponsor of the legislation says the PNA pays around $330 million a year to prisoners and their families, amounting to seven per cent of its budget.

The US legislation that became law in March also withholds some aid to the Palestinian National Authority over the payments to prisoners’ families and the families of those killed while carrying out attacks.

The law, known as the “Taylor Force Act”, is named after a US military veteran and graduate student who was killed in a 2016 attack while he was visiting Israel.

Israeli regime says the payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for security offences or killed by Israeli forces while carrying out attacks encourages further violence.

Many Palestinians view the prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes or “martyrs” in the struggle against Israeli occupation.

The payments can be a key source of income for families, who have in many cases lost their main breadwinner.

Israel has withheld payments in the past, notably in response to the Palestinians’ 2011 admission to the UN cultural agency Unesco as a full member.

The Palestinian National Authority, which has limited sovereignty in parts of the occupied West Bank, relies heavily on outside financial aid.

It is also facing what is sees as blatant bias from Trump’s administration and froze relations with the White House after it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last year.

But while the prisoner payments have sparked outrage in Israel and elsewhere, Israeli authorities also benefit from security coordination with the Palestinian National Authority and may be reluctant to see financial cuts that significantly affect that.

Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah movement dominates the West Bank-based PNA, while his rivals Hamas control the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Israel have fought three wars since the Islamists overran Gaza more than a decade ago.

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