Israel to punish Palestinian payments to prisoner families

AFP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 3 Jul 2018

Palestine prisoners
File photo: Palestinians hold pictures of relatives in Israeli jails during a rally marking Palestinian Prisoner Day in Nablus, on April 16.(Reuters photo)

Israel's parliament has passed a law to freeze money transferred to the Palestinian Authority over its payments to the families of Palestinians jailed for attacks on Israelis.

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

Israel 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 Authority.

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

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.

When Israeli ministers first backed the new legislation in February, the Palestinian government called it "piracy and theft" as well as a breach of international law.

Israel 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.

As of the end of April 2018, there were 5,772 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners, including 315 minors, being held in Israel Prison Service (IPS) facilities, according to BTSELEM - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Since the Right of Return protests broke out along the Gaza border on March 30, Israel has killed at least 137 Palestinians and injured thousands. 

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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