Abbas 'at war' with Palestinian Prisoners Club, reports say
NICHOLAS KAMM (AFP)
Payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners may be affected after Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas reportedly froze the budget of the government-linked office in an effort to simultaneously harm a political rival and curry favor with the Trump administration.
The Palestinian Prisoner's Club -- which described itself as a non-government agency but is funded by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which Abbas' Fatah controls -- said it had not received any official notification that their budget has been trimmed.
However the Palestinian Quds news agency and Qatari-based New Arab outlets quoted sources as saying that Abbas has embarked on a "war" against the Club over its support for the hunger strike over their strong support for the hunger strike of Palestinian prisoner and leadership rival Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences on murder charges.
Since Donald Trump entered the White House, the US has exerted pressure on the Palestinian leadership to cease payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, a request that has been rebuked because it would be politically toxic for the already unpopular Fatah.
A source told the New Arab that "the measures against the Club fall under the cessation of incitement against the Israeli occupation. It is a goodwill gesture to the American administration that the Palestinian Authority continues to eradicate incitement against the occupying state [Israel] as required."
The outlet reported that the budget freeze was imposed last week, after a negative report from the Financial and Administrative Control Bureau about its financial performance.
A June meeting between Abbas and Trump's Middle East peace negotiator and son-in-law Jared Kushner was reportedly "tense and unsuccessful" in part because the US delegation demanded the stopping of payments and the Palestinian leader dismissed it as an "internal issue".
In a June speech to a conference in Israel, read out by an adviser on his behalf, Abbas said that "political prisoners are in effect the victims of the occupation, not the creators of the occupation".
"Payments to support families are a social responsibility to look after innocent people effected by the incarceration or killing of their love ones," he said.
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