Report: PA halts payments to 250 Hamas-linked prisoners freed by Israel

Israel has repeatedly demanded the Palestinian leadership cease making such payments and "rewarding terrorism."

Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem April 17, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Palestinians take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem April 17, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)
Hamas-linked media reported on Monday that the Palestinian Authority had stopped paying salaries to some 250 Palestinian security prisoners released from Israeli jails due to their affiliation with the Gaza-based terrorist group.
The report by Hamas organ al-Risalah allegedly cited a PA source who said the former prisoners facing stipend cuts from the Palestinian Authority were residents of the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and all associated with Hamas.
In line with the move, reportedly spurred by the internal Palestinian feud, the PA also stopped providing funds to five Palestinians currently serving time in Israeli prisons.
In response to the reported development, Hamas spokesperson Abd al Rahman Shahid said the Islamist movement's body responsible for overseeing prisoners would review all the suspended salaries.
"The failure to transfer salaries is a national and moral crime, and cannot be overlooked," he charged.
Israel has long accused the Palestinian leadership of incitement by praising violent attackers. The government in Jerusalem has repeatedly requested the Palestinian Authority cease making payments to prisoners and their families as a pertinent gesture for resuming diplomatic negotiations.
In April, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if the Palestinians truly desire peace with Israel, they must first “come clean” and put an end to “rewarding terrorism.”
During an interview with Fox News television host Sean Hannity, Netanyahu claimed that the Palestinian Authority, lead by Mahmoud Abbas, has spent much of the financial aid they receive on paying terrorists and their families at the expense of the American taxpayer.
A spokesperson for the Trump administration said in early May that the US president expressed concern over the policy of paying terrorists and their families a monthly income dolled out by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Sean Spicer added that Trump told his Palestinian counterpart, who arrived at the White House on May 3 for the first meeting between the two, that the Palestinian Authority must also cease incitement broadcasted on Palestinian television.
However, shortly after the meeting, the Palestinian Authority rejected Trump's request, saying such a demand would severely damage any prospects of Middle East peace negotiations.
Nabil Shaath, a senior foreign policy adviser to Abbas, said that anyone who expects the Palestinian leadership to halt payments to Palestinian prisoners serving sentences in Israeli security prisons must be "mad."
Since the mid-1990s, the United States has donated more than $5 billion "in bilateral economic and non-lethal security assistance to the Palestinians," with $327.6 million coming in aid last year, according to the US Congressional Research Service, a public policy research arm of the United States Congress.
It is unclear how much of that aid has been used to make payments to terrorists, but according to the official daily newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, Al-Hayat al-Jadida, over 4,500 Palestinian prisoners receive a monthly salary between NIS 2,400  ($652) to NIS 12,000 ($3260) since 2011.
Daniel J. Roth and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.