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Israel Cuts Funds to Hamas-Led Government

Morning Edition: February 20, 2006

Israel Cuts Funds to Hamas-Led Government

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

As we mentioned earlier, Israel has moved to isolate the new Palestinian government headed by Hamas. The group's charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. Hamas became the majority party in the Palestinian Parliament after its election victory last month.

Yesterday Israel's interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Palestinian government has become a quote "terrorist authority" with Hamas in control.

NPR's Linda Gradstein joins us from Jerusalem. Hello.

LINDA GRADSTEIN reporting:

Hello, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Linda, Israel is going through with its threat to cut off millions of dollars from the Palestinian authority. Tell us about that.

GRADSTEIN: Israel, every month, collects tax and customs revenues on behalf of the Palestinian authority, and then transfers that money to the Palestinian authority. The Israeli decision means that about $50 to $60 million dollars every month that Israel collects will no longer be transferred to the Palestinian authority.

Now, it's caused some tensions with the international community, which had said that it would not cut off money to the Palestinian authority until a new government was actually formed.

The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, is today meeting with Hamas leaders and will ask them to form the new government, and that's expected to happen sometime in the next five weeks.

MONTAGNE: What effect will this have on the Palestinian authority and on ordinary Palestinians? This is quite a bit of the funds that go to running the state.

GRADSTEIN: Exactly. I mean, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinian authority is now facing what he called a real financial crisis, and said that he was working to try to end the Israeli sanctions.

It means that there will be a shortfall every month of about $110 million dollars, a lot of which goes to pay the salaries of the workers of the Palestinian authorities. It's something like 140,000 workers, including about 58,000 security forces. This will make the situation for the Palestinian authority very difficult. It will mean a lot of people don't get their salaries. And some people have warned that it cold really lead to families, Palestinian families, not having enough money to get through the month.

MONTAGNE: And was been the reaction of Hamas to the Israeli decision?

GRADSTEIN: Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is the Prime Minister designate, dismissed it. He said quote, he said, "These Israeli measures won't frighten our people in the new cabinet."

He said that the Palestinians are capable of dealing with these future challenges as they have in the past and Palestinians won't succumb. He also said that Palestinians are looking for other sources of funding in the Arab world and in Iran.

MONTAGNE: And just finally, there was also some violence over the weekend?

GRADSTEIN: Yes, there's been an upsurge in violence this weekend.

Israel has been operating in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and Palestinian officials say nine Palestinians were wounded in exchanges of fire. Palestinian media say that one of them was a female doctor who reportedly suffered a head injury while tending to patients.

This morning a local leader of the Islamic Jihad was killed in a gun battle with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus. Another Palestinian militant was also killed over the weekend in two separate Israeli military operations. Four Palestinians were killed. Israel says that they were all gunmen. Palestinian officials and witnesses said two of them were stone throwers.

MONTAGNE: Linda, thanks very much.

GRADSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Linda Gradstein speaking from Jerusalem.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.


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