ICC Warns PA Terror Stipends Could Be War Crime

YERUSHALAYIM (AP) -

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has warned that Palestinian Authority stipends to attackers and their families could constitute a war crime.

Palestinian officials expressed “great concern.” Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki said the prosecutor’s office’s report was “based on misleading narratives of a political nature … rather than an objective and accurate description of the relevant facts.”

The Palestinians have long brought allegations to international bodies such as the ICC of what they consider Israeli crimes. President Mahmoud Abbas’s government appeared to have been caught off guard by the language of the criticism found in the report.

The Palestinians have long paid stipends to the families of people killed or imprisoned as a result of fighting with Israel. The Palestinians say these payments are a national duty to families affected by decades of violence. But Israel argues the fund encourages violence by paying the families of attackers, a “reward for terrorism.”

Earlier this year, Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax revenues it collected on behalf of the PA equal to the sum of the Palestinian stipends.

Abbas has repeatedly said he will not halt the payments, which totaled approximately $330 million — around 7% of the Palestinian Authority’s $5 billion budget — in 2018.

The report, released in the Hague last Thursday, highlighted possible crimes by both Israel and the Palestinians that are under investigation, including Israel’s use of sometimes deadly force against protesters along the Israel-Gaza border fence, and Palestinian rocket fire and use of human shields in Gaza.