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May 11, 2020 3:38 pm

Palestinian Banks Targeted With Violence After Closing Accounts of Terrorists

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A demonstration in the West Bank city of Hebron, Feb. 19, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mussa Qawasma / File.

A series of violent incidents occurred in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the last few days as Palestinians have reacted with fury to the closure of bank accounts held by terrorists imprisoned in Israel and their families, the Israeli news site Walla reported.

The bank accounts were closed due to an Israeli order that the banks themselves would be considered collaborators with terrorism if the accounts — which are regularly replenished by the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of its so-called “pay-for-slay” policy — were left open.

Demonstrations took place outside the banks, including by the branch of the large Cairo Amman Bank in Gaza. In the West Bank, shots were fired at the bank’s branch in Jenin and Molotov cocktails thrown at another branch in Jericho. The Bank of Jordan was also targeted with gunfire, as were several others.

Over the past month, the banks have sent letters to prisoners and their families, including of those already released, saying they should close their accounts before the Israeli order went into force on May 9.

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Some banks have gone so far as to refuse to transfer PA payments into the accounts in question.

The “pay-for-slay” policy, which critics charge amounts to a PA incentive to commit acts of terrorism, has been under increasing pressure in recent years. Accounts held by Hamas and Islamic Jihad members have been closed in the past, as well as those held by prominent terror leaders such as Marwan Barghouti. In February, Israel withheld $140 million of PA tax revenue — the precise amount the PA spends on prisoner payments.

On May 7, the PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered the formation of a special committee on the issue to seek ways to combat the new Israeli orders.

Shtayyeh claimed that an agreement with the banks had been reached that would unfreeze the accounts as of Sunday.

“We will not surrender to Israel’s threats to the banks regarding prisoner and shaheed (martyr) allowances,” he said. “We will find solutions to protect banks from Israel’s brutality.”

The Palestinian minister of civil affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, said, “The decision to close the prisoners’ accounts at the banks violates the dignity of every Palestinian. We are talking about capitulation to Israel’s demands.”

“We will defend our prisoners and their rights and protect their dignity,” he added. “They are our source of pride.”

The message was the same from Hamas, whose spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the group “strongly condemns the closure of Palestinian prisoners’ accounts and withholding allowances.”

“This is a clear surrender to Israel’s dictates,” he said, “and a deviation from the … moral path toward our people. The banks are supposed to help our people live with dignity, not ruin their future.”

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