Checks stop coming for Palestinians on Saddam's payroll

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

GAZA CITY Palestinian agents for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein have run out of money.

Palestinian sources said thousands of Palestinians working for the Saddam regime have not been paid salaries for March, Middle East Newsline reported. The sources said they include Palestinians who helped organize pro-Saddam demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

"A lot of people are not going to have money to pay their bills this month," a Palestinian source said.

Until the halt in funding, Iraq was pumping more than $1.5 million a month to agents and supporters in the Palestinian Authority areas, the sources said. The money had been relayed to the Arab Liberation Front and to families of Palestinians killed or injured in the insurgency war against Israel.

The Baghdad-based ALF was responsible for the distribution of the Iraqi funds as well as activities in support of the Saddam regime. The ALF has offices in every Arab-populated city in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The sources said Iraq had relayed more than $35.5 million to the Palestinians since 2001. Over the last six months, they said, Baghdad was believed to have allocated more than $2 million a month to the Palestinians. Over the weekend, the ALF acknowledged a halt in Iraqi funding. Ibrahim Zaanin, the group's spokesman, said the fall of the Saddam regime would affect numerous poor families as well as those who lost their loved ones in the war against Israel.

The spokesman said the last payment relayed by Iraq was on March 21, the day after the war started. He said the Iraqi allocation of $30,000 went to three Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip who lost their sons in the war against Israel.

Zaanin said his group would continue to support Palestinians. He said the money would come sources other than Iraq. He would not elaborate. The decline in funds from Iraq comes as Palestinian insurgents have launched a series of attacks on Israeli civilian and military targets. Israeli sources said authorities have also foiled several Palestinian suicide bombings.

On Tuesday, two Israelis were killed and several others injured when a Hamas gunman burst into the Karni terminal at the edge of the Gaza Strip and began firing his semi-automatic weapon. In the West Bank, an Israeli officer was killed in a military operation in the northern city of Nablus.

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