Freeze on Hamas still in place despite change of Palestinian PM

Special to World
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

RAMALLAH The government of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has maintained a freeze on Hamas-aligned charities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The freeze was imposed in August by former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and maintained despite the change of government appointed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The freeze affects dozens of assets said to have been controlled by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

On Thursday, scores of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah against the freeze of Hamas assets. The demonstrators called on Qurei to release the assets during the Islamic fast month of Ramadan.

Palestinian sources said tens of millions of dollars flowed through the frozen accounts. But they did not rule out that Hamas funds were being funneled through other channels.

In August, the PA reported the freezing of 39 bank accounts of nine Islamic charities supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council states. They include the Al Mujamma Al Islami, As-Salah Association and Al Jamiya Al Islamiya.

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The Palestinian Monetary Authority has also reported freezing the assets of the Palestinian Student Friends Association, established in 1998 and which provides housing and tuition stipends. The PA also froze the bank accounts of the Islamic Charity for Zakat, which funnels money to Muslim families, and the Al Nour Charity Association, which helps the families of Palestinian detainees.

Other groups affected by the freeze include the Islamic Young Women's Association, the Social Care Committee and Al Aqsa Charity Association.

The PA move was meant to pressure Hamas to end suicide attacks against Israel. Hamas leaders have been discussing with the Egyptian government a ceasefire proposal with Israel that would include U.S. guarantees. The talks were headed by Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman and Hamas's Mussa Abu Marzouk.

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