Shots Fired at Palestinian Bank That Closed Accounts of Released Prisoners

YERUSHALAYIM -

A Palestinian bank in Jenin was shot at Thursday night, Haaretz reported. The bank had recently informed Palestinians who were released from Israeli prisons and their families that they would have to close the accounts where the Palestinian Authority deposits their monthly stipends.

The notices were sent after a new Israeli regulation recently implemented that states that anyone “dealing in assets” for the purpose of abetting, promoting, funding or rewarding acts of terror can be sentenced to up to seven years behind bars.

The Cairo Amman Bank’s branch in Jenin was shot at overnight Thursday, causing damage to the building. No casualties were reported. Molotov cocktails were also thrown at the bank’s branch in Beit Lechem.

Under the new Israeli rule, liability for the funds the PA transfers to prisoners and their families falls not only on the recipients, but on the banks that receive them and their employees. It also allows Israel to confiscate the stipends deposited into these accounts.

Until now, Israel has never taken action against a bank because Palestinians convicted of terror-related offences have accounts there. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett recently signed his first order confiscating money transferred by the PA to Israeli citizens in a similar situation, but that order targeted the account owners, not the banks.

A released prisoner from Beit Lechem said that he tried to withdraw money from his account at the Cairo Amman Bank after his stipend was deposited on Tuesday, but was told that he couldn’t.

“I contacted the branch,” he said. “For some reason, they asked me to find another bank and transfer my account, and said that next month I wouldn’t be able to receive the stipend at this bank. I don’t know why.”

Of the PA’s 13 banks, seven are Palestinian-owned. Five, including the Cairo Amman Bank, are Jordanian, and one is Egyptian.

In its official response to the new policy, the Palestinian Authority announced that it would establish a special committee chaired by the Palestinian Finance Authority director, and which would include representatives of the prisoners and of the banks, to study what he defined as Israeli threats to the banks and to the prisoners’ families.

“The Palestinian government is firmly rejecting Israel’s pressures and will remain loyal to its prisoners and their families, and will maintain their rights despite Israeli pressures, emphasizing that the solution lies in a comprehensive solution for all banks,” said government spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem.