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Official: Israel continues to withhold PA tax revenues

Feb. 18, 2013 10:13 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2013 2:19 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel continues to withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority, an official said Monday, as unions in the West Bank organize strike action this week over unpaid salaries.

Ahmad al-Hilou, director of customs taxes and VAT, told Ma'an that Israel was supposed to transfer December tax revenues to the PA last Thursday, "but the money is still withheld due to a political decision."

A PA delegation will meet with Israeli officials on Feb. 28 to discuss transferring January tax revenues, al-Hilou said.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects some $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, money the PA needs to pay public sector salaries.

It began withholding the funds as punishment for the UN's acceptance of Palestine as a non-member state in November.

All schools in the West Bank were closed on Sunday as teachers went on general strike to protest the late payment of salaries.

Strike action in schools is likely to continue this week, and health workers announced that they would go on full strike this week, offering only emergency services in hospitals and medical centers.

Full salaries for public sector workers have not been paid in almost five months and government initiatives to increase revenue by collecting years worth of electricity and water bills from the public have been hampered by street protests.

Israel has previously frozen payments to the PA during times of heightened security and diplomatic tensions, provoking strong international criticism, such as when the UN cultural body UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership in 2011.
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