Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has closed 92 charities linked to Hamas, officials announced , as part of an intensifying West Bank crackdown on the Islamic group.
Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in June, Abbas has moved systematically against the group in the West Bank.
On Monday, Abbas' information minister, Riad Malki, said the government in the West Bank dissolved 92 Hamas-linked charity committees.
The committees were formed by prominent local and religious leaders under the supervision of the Religious Affairs Ministry. The committees collect money and distribute it to the poor, usually during religious holidays. They were ordered closed two weeks ago, but the announcement was made Monday.
Malki said the committees were infiltrated by Hamas activists in previous years of Fatah rule. "They transformed the charity committees into financial empires to serve their political ends and activities," he said.
One of the committees closed by Abbas, in the West Bank city of Nablus, said it provided aid to 3,200 families and 3,000 orphans, at a cost of 150,000 Jordanian dinars ($212,000) to 200,000 Jordanian dinars a month.
The head of the committee, Abdel-Rahim Hanbali, said most of the money came from local donations.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the closure of the charities would lead to hunger in the West Bank. "It's an attempt to weaken Hamas, but the Palestinian citizen will pay the price, because they benefit from these committees."
Hamas' network of charities, schools and clinics was a key factor in the rising popularity of the movement and contributed to its victory over Fatah in 2006 legislative polls. At the same time, Fatah was weakened by widespread official corruption and mismanagement.
As part of the renewed US-led peace efforts, Abbas has been pushing for Israeli confidence-building measures.
Israel is still holding more than 9,000 prisoners, and their release is a central Palestinian demand. About 770 have been freed since July, far short of Palestinian expectations.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Aralık 2007, 10:09