The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority announced Monday that it has dismantled dozens of charities run by the rival Hamas group and frozen their accounts, pressing forward with a crackdown on the Islamic militant group.
The move deepened the bitter rivalry between the Palestinian rivals since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah has systematically targeted Hamas power bases in his West Bank stronghold since the Gaza takeover.
Government spokesman Riad Malki described the 92 charity committees as a financial empire for Hamas. He said the committees were quietly shuttered two weeks ago. There was no explanation for the delay in announcing the move.
The committees are formed by prominent local and religious leaders under the supervision of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The committees collect money and distribute it to the poor, usually during religious holidays. Muslims will celebrate their holy day of Eid al-Adha in late December.
Malki said the committees were infiltrated by Hamas activists in previous years of Fatah rule. "They transformed the charity committees into financial empires to serve their political ends and activities," Malki said.
However, Malki declined to say how much cash it froze. The cash will now be passed on to 11 new committees formed by the government.
Following the Gaza takeover, Abbas expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government and installed a new pro-Western Cabinet in the West Bank. Abbas agreed last week to re-launch peace talks with Israel, while the violently anti-Israel Hamas remains entrenched in Gaza.
Abbas' government has arrested dozens of Hamas activists throughout the West Bank and three months ago closed more than 100 charity groups run by Hamas activists.
Abbas is under pressure to crush challenges by Hamas in the West Bank to secure his party's rule, and to show Israel and the West that he is able to implement any peace deal agreed to with Israel.
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