Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the reinstatement of the monthly allowance to prisoners released from Israeli jails in the 2011 exchange for abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
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Three months ago, the Palestinian Authority stopped monthly payments to the 277 prisoners released in the Shalit deal. Forty-seven of those prisoners were rearrested by Israel; the rest are living in the West Bank. The PA is reportedly considering reinstating allowances to some 210 other prisoners who are living in the Gaza Strip or abroad.
The suspension of the monthly allowance was one step Abbas took against the Hamas government in Gaza; others included cutting payments for electricity and reducing salaries even to PA employees in the Strip. Abbas has said he would restrict funds to Gaza as long as Hamas ruled the enclave after seizing power a decade ago.
On Monday, protesters told reporters about the plan at an ad-hoc press conference at a protest tent in Ramallah, which had been set up a few weeks ago by released prisoners. According to the protesters, the parties understand that political disputes must remain separate from the rights of released prisoners and their families.
Over the past two and a half weeks, the protesters have staged a partial hunger strike and remain at the tent for most of the day in an attempt to increase awareness of their situation.
A meeting was also held Monday between Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and a delegation of Hamas representatives from the dormant Palestinian parliament. The officials reportedly discussed ways of achieving reconciliation. Hamdallah demanded that the committee that Hamas established to govern Gaza be disbanded.
The cessation of payments for the released prisoners came as a surprise; the Palestinian finance and prisoner affairs ministries said they had nothing to do with it. The move was thought to be a direct order from Abbas.
Prisoner groups linked to Fatah opposed the measure and were among those trying to change the order. Some Palestinian observers said they expected Abbas now to cut allowances to Fatah prisoners accused of very serious crimes, in keeping with a demand by Israel and the United States.