(JTA) – The United Kingdom suspended millions of dollars in aid payments to the Palestinian Authority amid claims that the money is ending up in the hands of terrorists.
Britain’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel has ordered a freeze pending an investigation, The Sun reported Friday.
Earlier this summer, lawmakers demanded action after revelations that U.K. aid supposedly paying for civil servants in Gaza was being transferred to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which offers payment to terrorists serving sentences in Israeli jails.
One Hamas bomber was alleged to have been given more than $100,000. Other stipends paid to terrorists are said to have gone to families of suicide bombers and teenagers attacking Israel.
The U.K. Department for International Development has previously admitted the PLO makes “social welfare” provisions for prisoners’ families, but ruled out the idea that U.K. cash was being diverted in this way.
The decision by the Department for International Development means that over $29 million US in cash is being withheld this year – a third of the total aid sent to the Palestinian territories. The majority goes to charities in the region.
One unnamed government source was quoted as telling The Sun: “We are not stopping the Palestinian Authority overall, just delaying it to a date when we know our money won’t be going to people who do nothing in return for it.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the reports.
“We have long been deeply concerned by the Department for International Development’s assertion that British tax money categorically does not fund terrorism and incitement,” the board’s senior vice-president, Richard Verber, said in a statement. “We welcome this move and hope that a robust and thorough investigation will be carried out.”
Simon Johnson, the chief executive of Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council, said in a separate statement that British Jews have long feared the misuse of aid to the Palestinians by the British government.
“It is vital that the Department for International Development is robust in ensuring funds are used to help those in need and not to support destruction and disruption within an already tense political climate.”