Israel advances bill cutting Palestinian funding over ‘terror’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C), Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (R), and Chief of Staff Lt. General Gadi Eizenkot meet in Tel Aviv, Israel. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Israel advances bill cutting Palestinian funding over ‘terror’

JERUSALEM: Ministers Sunday greenlighted a bill allowing Israel to withhold tax monies it collects for the Palestinian Authority by the same amount as stipends that the PA pays to jailed militants.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose ministry drafted the bill, welcomed the vote in a ministerial committee, the first step toward sending it to parliament to be passed into law.
“Soon there will be an end to this theater of absurd,” he wrote in Hebrew on Twitter, adding that the money confiscated would be used “to prevent terror and compensate victims.”
Israel annually collects around $127 million in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports monthly and then transfers it to the PA.
It has withheld payment in the past, notably in response to Palestinian admission in 2011 to the UN cultural agency UNESCO as a full member.
The Israeli move comes as the US Senate considers a bill approved by the House of Representatives to withhold aid to the PA if it does not stop the controversial practice of so-called martyr payments to families of Palestinians convicted of terrorist attacks.
Republican and Democratic US lawmakers alike have warned that the payments incentivise violence and serve as a sticking point in the Middle East peace process.
According to the Israeli bill, Lieberman will present an annual report detailing payments to “terror activists” and their families granted by the Palestinian Authority,” his office said.
“Based on the report, the sum will be deducted from payments handed from Israel to the Palestinian Authority.”
The bill will now face a series of parliamentary debates and votes before being finalized.
The Palestinian government slammed the move, calling it “piracy and theft” as well as a breach of international law, official news agency WAFA said.
The American legislation, called the Taylor Force Act, is named after a US military veteran and graduate student, age 28, who was killed in a 2016 attack while he was visiting Israel. The attacker, a Palestinian, was killed by police.


Libya recovers five bodies, picks up 185 migrants

A total of 900 migrants have been intercepted or rescued by the Libyan navy since Wednesday. (AFP/File)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Libya recovers five bodies, picks up 185 migrants

  • The bodies were recovered from an inflatable boat packed with migrants that got into trouble
  • Two coast guard patrols carried out different operations on Friday, picking up 91 migrants in one group and 94 in the second

Tripoli: Libyan coast guards have recovered the bodies of five migrants and picked up 185 survivors off its western coast, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The migrants, who were rescued about 24 km off the town of Qarabulli, were trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in two boats, the Libyan navy said Saturday. Those who lost their lives were from Sudan, Nigeria, Chad and Egypt.

The bodies were recovered from an inflatable boat packed with migrants that got into trouble, the coast guard spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.

A day earlier, three children and nine women were among 94 migrants rescued on Friday when their inflatable dinghy sank 12 nautical miles from Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli.

“The migrants are from different sub-Saharan countries including three children and nine women,” he said.

Two coast guard patrols carried out different operations on Friday, picking up 91 migrants in one group and 94 in the second, Qassem said.

A total of 900 migrants have been intercepted or rescued by the Libyan navy since Wednesday as departures pick up due to favorable weather.

Usually in such cases the migrants are taken to detention centers pending repatriation.

Libya’s western coast is the main departure point for migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe, although the number of crossings has sharply dropped since last July due to a more active coast guard presence with support from the EU.

Libya descended into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.

Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued.

Earlier this month, Italy’s anti-immigrant interior minister, Matteo Salvini, vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe haven.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try on Sunday to persuade other EU leaders to agree on a common policy on migrants, although her chances of winning support from all 28 member states are deemed slim.