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Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon announced yesterday that he would act to transfer money to Palestinian poultry farmers hurt by the avian flu outbreak.

The money will come from tax revenues Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, but which it has been refusing to transfer to the Hamas government.

The PA destroyed 300,000 birds, but the farmers have yet to receive any money for them.

The minister's concern is not altruistic: Simhon is worried that if Palestinian farmers do not receive payment, they will ignore future veterinary orders to destroy sick birds, and lead to further outbreaks of the disease.

"The Palestinians are already threatening to protect the birds with Kalashnikovs," said Simhon.

He said it was worth transferring NIS 10 million to ensure Palestinian cooperation.

The Agriculture Ministry will require that a third party supervise the transfer of funds to ensure the money reaches the farmers.

The World Bank announced a few weeks ago that it would compensate the farmers, but it has yet to provide any money. 

At present there are no known cases of bird flu in Israel or the Palestinian areas.