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PLO admits closure of terrorists' bank accounts

Headline: “Palestinian banks close the prisoners’ accounts for fear of being targeted by the occupation”

“Mahmoud Hammash, a resident of the Deheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, which is in the southern West Bank, was released from the Israeli occupation’s prison in 2018 after 14 years of imprisonment (PMW was unable to determine the nature of his crimes –Ed.). Since his release, he has been receiving the salary from the PA to which he is eligible as a former prisoner, in accordance with the [PA] Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners, through a bank that is active in the Palestinian territories.

But on Tuesday [May 5, 2020], at the time of the payment of the salary, Mahmoud was surprised by a letter informing about the cancellation of his ATM card and urging him to close his account at the bank, because soon an Israeli army order banning cooperation with the prisoners’ salaries would come into effect (refers to the application of much of Israel's Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank, including rendering banks liable to punishment for facilitating PA terror salaries -Ed.)…

Hammash is considering contacting another bank, but fears that the pressures will reach all the banks. He has demanded that the PA and the [PA] Monetary Authority stand against the occupation’s policy…

Many families have talked about a similar process that was not implemented only against released prisoners, but also included salaries of prisoners who are still imprisoned in the occupation’s prison. This is what happened to the family of prisoner Khaled Nawawreh (Nawawreh is serving a sentence of 25 years in prison, but PMW was unable to determine the nature of his crimes –Ed.) from Bethlehem who has been imprisoned since 2003. On Wednesday they contacted [the bank] to withdraw the salary, and the bank conditioned this on closing the account before withdrawing the money…

Despite the many complaints, Palestinian [PA] Monetary Authority Governor Azzam Al-Shawa… said that as of now ‘The banks have not closed accounts’ …

In contrast to these statements, Director of [PLO] Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Qadri Abu Bakr confirmed to [the UK Arab news website] Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that two of the banks that are active in Palestine have decided to close the prisoners’ accounts, because they fear the Israeli army order that was signed on Feb. 9 [2020] and will take effect on May 9 [2020].

Abu Bakr added: ‘The banks are afraid of dealing with the money of the prisoners and released prisoners, and are afraid that proceedings will be taken against them, including lawsuits by settlers.’

Abu Bakr noted that a meeting was held with the banks, the Monetary Authority, and the [PA] Ministry of Finance, and that an additional meeting will be held with the prisoners’ institutions in order to search for an opening. He anticipated that the issue would end at the start of next week, because they are discussing a number of proposals to extricate the bank (sic., banks) from the crisis and protect the prisoners’ salaries, in order to reach an appropriate and safe solution…

Qadri Abu Bakr noted that the goal of these measures is to define the Palestinian struggle as a crime and eliminate the Palestinian cause…

It should be noted that [the Israeli news website] Arutz Sheva revealed last month… that former Head of the Military Prosecution for the West Bank and Palestinian Media Watch Director [of Legal Strategies] Maurice Hirsch sent the Palestinian banks a letter warning them about being arrested and put on trial.”

Israeli army legislation which applies parts of Israel's 2016 Anti-Terror Law to the West Bank (taking effect on May 9, 2020). The law prohibits numerous terror related offenses, including terror funding/rewarding and holds heads of terror organizations responsible for murder committed by members of the organization. The law criminalizes the provision of funds for or the payment of rewards for the commission of terrorist offenses, such as the salaries the PA pays to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners. The provision also applies to any person or body - such as a bank - that facilitates such funding or rewarding of terror offenses. Based on this last provision, PMW sent letters in April 2020 to the heads of banks in the PA areas warning them that they must freeze the accounts of terrorists and their proxies and transfer them to the Israeli army or face legal consequences.