The Palestinian government will pay civil servants half of their salaries after Israel withheld tax money collected on its behalf, according to the Palestinian finance minister.
“The government will pay 50 per cent of the salaries,” Shukri Bishara told a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday.
He said the government has also applied a host of austerity measures, including halting the appointment of new civil servants, promotions and additional allowances.
“The government needs to borrow around $50-60 million a month from the local market to meet its obligations towards its employees and state institutions,” he said.
Last month, the Ramallah-based government refused to accept deducted tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The move came after the Israeli government decided to deduct some 502 million Israeli shekels (roughly $138 million) from the Palestinian tax money, citing that the amount was being paid by Ramallah to the families of Palestinians involved in attacks against Israeli targets.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decried by the Israeli measure, saying his government would continue to pay monthly stipends to the families of Palestinian prisoners and martyrs.
Israel collects around $175 million each month in taxes on Palestinian imports and exports on behalf of the PA, for which tax revenue represents the main source of income.
Israel is deducting $138 million of Palestinian tax revenue each month
A general view of UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Middle East at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on February 28, 2019
The United States accused the Palestinians on Friday of manufacturing a crisis by rejecting the first 2019 monthly tax transfer from Israel because it slashed a portion designated for financial support to families of militants jailed in Israel.
The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the issue at the request of Kuwait and Indonesia. US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt represented Washington at the meeting.
“It is entirely inappropriate to focus on Israel as the source of this crisis. It is the Palestinian Authority that has chosen to manufacture the current crisis,” Greenblatt told the 15-member council, according to UN diplomats in attendance.
The US mission to the United Nations declined to comment on Greenblatt’s remarks. The Palestinians have condemned the Israeli decision as “piracy.”
Israel collects customs duties on behalf of the PA under the interim agreements of the Oslo Accords – sums thought to amount to $222 million a month. On Febraury 17, the Israeli cabinet yesterday approved a bill to deduct $138 million from the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s tax revenue in a bid to stop prisoners’ stipends
Greenblatt and White House adviser Jared Kushner have been working on a plan to mediate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. UN diplomats said Greenblatt gave no details of the plan on Friday.
Palestinians have refused to discuss any peace blueprint with the United States in the wake of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.
The Palestinian decision on the tax transfer came despite increasing cash flow troubles, caused in part by US aid cuts, that could destabilise the Palestinian Authority, an interim self-government body set up following the 1993 Oslo accords between the Palestinians and Israel.
Under the interim accords, Israel collects taxes on imports into the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, an enclave under Palestinian rule since 2007, and makes monthly transfers of the proceeds to the PA.
The tax transfers make up about half of the PA’s budget, according to Palestinian Finance Ministry data.
“It’s a unilateral decision in violation of existing bilateral agreement,” Kuwait’s UN Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters after the Security Council discussion.
According to diplomats, Greenblatt said the Palestinian payments to militants’ families “creates incentives for further acts of terrorism.” The United States passed legislation last year to reduce aid to the PA unless it stopped the pay-outs.
Greenblatt called on other council members to join the United States in urging the Palestinian Authority to end the payments, diplomats said.
JORDAN VALLEY, PALESTINOW.COM— A Palestinian young man was shot dead last night by Israeli occupation forces near the city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley region, occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said in a statement.
Salameh Saleh Kaabneh was shot dead by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Jericho in mysterious circumstances, while he was attempting to pass the checkpoint.
Israeli occupation military claimed that Kaabneh attempted to ram his car into soldiers at the checkpoint.
Jewish settlers on Sunday bulldozed a vast tract of Palestinian-owned agricultural land in Jalud village, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
Local official Ghassan Daghlas said that Jalud villagers discovered in the morning that their lands were razed and spoilt by bulldozers belonging to settlers from the nearby illegal outposts of Ahiya and Esh Kodesh, adding that local farmers had already been banned from reaching their lands by Israeli soldiers.
Daghlas affirmed that the Israeli occupation army prevents farmers from cultivating their lands in the eastern plain of the village.
He said that the settlers bulldozed more than 10 dunums of Palestinian land, deployed water pipelines, planted trees for them on parts of the land, and transported a large amount of soil from the plain to their outposts.
During the past two years, the Israeli army deliberately prevented local farmers from harvesting 250 dunums of wheat on this land, which led to the devastation of all crops.
In a separate incident, a group of settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley of Tuba province and unleashed their dogs on their sheep.
Some sheep were badly hurt by the settlers’ dogs, according to local official Omar Faqha.
Israeli soldiers killed, on Sunday at dawn, a young Palestinian man, driving through a military block on Road #90 in the Jordan Valley area, near Jericho in the occupied West Bank.
Media sources said army informed the Palestinian District Coordination Office that the young man, Salama Salah Ka’abna, 22, was shot dead while bypassing a vehicle which was stopped by the soldiers, who were inspecting it.
According to Israeli sources, the soldiers were in the process of inspecting a Palestinian vehicle at the roadblock, but another speeding vehicle “drove behind it and rushed towards soldiers who ordered him the driver to stop.”
The army claims that the Palestinian driver did not heed to the soldiers’ orders to stop, before they opened fire at him a car, seriously wounding him, but he died from his wounds shortly afterwards.
In addition, the army said two other Palestinians were in the car, but managed to escape, and added that an inspection of the car showed that it was stolen.
The slain Palestinian was from Fasayel area in the Al-Auja village near Jericho.
Israeli soldiers abducted, on Saturday evening, a young Palestinian man and confiscated his motorcycle, in addition to firing concussion grenades at several cars at a sudden military roadblock, in Hebron governorate, in southern West Bank.
Media sources said the soldiers abducted Rafat Taleb Darwish, 20, after stopping him at a sudden military roadblock at the at-Tabaqa village junction, south of Hebron, and confiscated his motorcycle.
They added that the soldiers also fired many concussion grenades at Palestinian cars, while waiting to be allowed through a military roadblock at Kharsa village junction, south of Doura town, southwest of Hebron.
Eyewitnesses said the soldiers installed the sudden roadblock, before stopping and searching many cars, and fired concussion grenades at the vehicles, lined up and awaiting to be allowed through, causing damage to one car owned by a Palestinian, identified as Sanad Jom’a.
The Israeli Air Force fired, late on Saturday at night, many missiles targeting sites run by armed resistance groups in several parts of the Gaza Strip, after the army alleged that a balloon, carrying an anti-tank shell, was flown from Gaza.
Palestinian media sources said the Israeli Air Force fired a missile at Asqalan site, in northern Gaza, and shortly afterwards fired two more missiles, causing excessive damage.
They added that the army also fired missiles into Al-Waha site, the same center, which was bombarded less than 24 hours earlier, causing serious damage.
Furthermore, the Israeli Air Force fired missiles into a building, used by the Palestinian Fishermen’s Syndicate, west of Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, causing damage.
Israeli sources quoted the army stating that a “suspicious balloon which was launched from the Gaza Strip into the Sdot Negev Regional Council of settlements, was carrying an anti-tank shell.”
They added that the device did not explode, and was safely defused by police sappers.
A military parade marking the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, in the northern of Gaza Strip December 8, 2016
The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attempt at the life of Gaza-based Fatah central committee member, Ahmed Hillis. Fatah has accused Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, of standing behind the assassination try.
Hamas, however, denied involvement and pointed towards internal divisions within Fatah. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which came amid continued tensions between the two main Palestinian parties.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of the Interior said that two suspects were arrested on Saturday in connection with the failed assassination attempt. Hamas security forces also seized the car that was used by the assailants and were seeking to arrest other suspects, the group’s spokesman, Eyad al-Bazm, said.
“We won’t allow anyone to tamper with our internal front,” the Hamas spokesman added. “We will take all necessary measures to maintain stability and security in the Gaza Strip.”
The spokesman did not provide details about the identities or political affiliation of the suspects.
Fatah, on the other hand, considered the assassination an attempt to represent Hamas’ true position towards reconciliation.
“The policy of physical and moral assassination is part and parcel of the practice and behavior that Hamas has employed since its inception,” a Fatah statement said.
Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip Atef Abu Saif said that what happened to Hillis was not unusual and that Fatah movement members in Gaza constantly face threats and are frequently arrested.
He added that “those who refuse to empower the government and continue to divide and reject national unity are responsible for such crimes.” Abu Saif accused Hamas of trying to derail elections in the Gaza Strip through an assassination attempt that is the quickest key to widen the Hamas-Fatah rift.