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Electricity official: Israeli tax seizure used to pay debt

Dec. 14, 2012 10:59 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 30, 2012 6:27 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel's finance ministry formally transferred 435 million shekels ($111 million) from Palestinian tax revenues to pay debts to an Israeli electrical company, the Palestinian company director said Thursday.

Israel announced it was withholding tax payments after Palestine won a membership upgrade at the UN on Nov. 29, and would use them to pay off long-standing debts from the Palestinian electricity companies.

Hisham al-Umari, the director of the Palestinian Jerusalem Electricity Company, said the seized funds would pay off debts from his company, others in the north and south West Bank, as well as payments from the Gaza Strip.

In all, Palestinian providers owed the Israeli supplier around 820 million shekels, of which 500 million are his company's debt, al-Umari said.

The company paid off another 15 million shekels this week, so the outstanding debts now total 370 million shekels, he continued.

He expressed frustration that no one had been charged or penalized for non-payment of their electricity bills, after the government earlier announced a crackdown on electricity charge evasion.

Meanwhile, legal proceedings between his company and the Israeli supplier are frozen, al-Umari said.

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