The Palestinian Authority decided on Tuesday to replace its Prisoners Affairs Ministry with a commission that would report directly to the PLO and to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office.

Former PA prisoners affairs minister Issa Qaraqi is set to head the new body, which is called the Higher National Commission for Prisoners and Detainees Affairs.

The decision to abolish the ministry was announced by the PA government following its weekly meeting in Ramallah.

Following the formation of the Palestinian national consensus government a few months ago, PA officials said that the ministry would be canceled – a move that drew sharp criticism from Hamas and families of prisoners held in Israeli jails.

The officials said that the decision was taken at the request of Israel and Western donor countries, whose representatives made it clear that they were not prepared to fund the prisoners and their families.

Palestinian law allows every Palestinian inmate in an Israeli prison to receive a monthly salary.

Last year, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah issued a decree amending the law so it would include a series of additional benefits offered to the prisoners upon their release.

The decision to abolish the ministry and turn it into a PLO-associated commission is seen as an attempt by Abbas to appease Israel and the Western donors. As of now, the prisoners will receive their monthly salaries from the PLO, which is not funded by international donors and operates independently from the PA government. The PA is an organ of the PLO.

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