Palestinian PM says banks will continue serving prisoners’ families despite Israeli threats
11 May 2020

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Friday said the authority had agreed with Palestinian banks in the West Bank that despite Israeli threats to impose sanctions on institutions serving people accused of terrorism, the accounts of slain terror operatives and Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons will be unfrozen early next week.

“There will be a unified stance by all parties regarding the Israeli threat against the banks that provide their services to the families of the prisoners and martyrs,” Shtayyeh said.

The Palestinians describe all those killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “martyrs,” including terrorists killed during attacks on civilians or military forces.

Shtayyeh said families of prisoners could reactivate their accounts starting Sunday, after being frozen out of them several days ago by concerned banks.

He rejected “the Israeli threats to banks regarding the allocations for prisoners and martyrs, and we will not submit to them, and we will find solutions that preserve their rights, protect banks from the oppression of the occupation, and any legal procedures.”

Shtayyeh has formed a committee to “to study the Israeli threats against banks that provide services to families of prisoners and martyrs.”

The Hamas terror group, meanwhile, condemned banks’ acquiescence to the Israeli threats, which it said was “a clear response to the dictates of the Israeli occupation, and a serious deviation from values and a moral path.”

It said prisoners were “symbols of the Palestinian people, who spent their years in defense of freedom, dignity, and stolen rights.”

Palestinian officials said Friday that Israel was forcing financial institutions in the West Bank to close accounts held by the families of prisoners in Israeli jails to prevent the Palestinian Authority from providing stipends to them.

Israel has long objected to the Palestinian Authority’s payments to the families of prisoners and those killed in attacks, saying it rewards terrorism. The Palestinians view the payments as a social safety net for those living under decades of military occupation.

Protesters shattered the windows of several bank branches and set fires outside some of them late Thursday and early Friday as word of the new regulations spread.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian prisoners’ association, said relatives of current and former prisoners had told him they were forced to close their accounts because of a new Israeli military decree penalizing banks for facilitating the payments.

The father of one prisoner told The Associated Press he tried to use an ATM on Thursday but the request was declined. He said the bank told him to withdraw his funds and close the account because of the new Israeli regulations.

A bank manager said the Coordinator Of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, warned banks of the move months ago, saying it would go into effect on May 3. He said the banks were complying because they fear legal action or Israeli raids. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from angry clients. Other bank managers declined to comment, citing similar concerns.

The Israeli Defense Ministry and COGAT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fares said the families of around 12,000 current and former prisoners receive monthly allowances from the PA. Prisoners who have served more than five years get around $700 a month until they find employment, and families receive aid according to how many children they have, he said.

He said the new regulation was a “blatant violation” of Palestinian sovereignty, since the banks are located in areas governed by the PA. The Israeli military regularly carries out arrest raids and other operations in those areas.

Read more at The Times of Israel

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