Israel to resume aid payments to Palestine

Israel on Wednesday accepted a decision by major Middle East peace brokers to resume aid payments to the Palestinian Authority -- a move that could ease the intense economic pressure on the Hamas-led government.

The Authority relies hugely on foreign aid to pay public sector salaries and run health and welfare services, and the powers decided reluctantly on Tuesday that there was no other way to stave off a possible collapse into anarchy.

It was not clear whether they would find a way to channel funds through the overall Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, without having them administered by Hamas -- an Islamic militant group officially sworn to Israel's destruction.

But Israel, which had pushed hard and successfully for financial assistance to the Palestinians to be severed after the Hamas-led administration took power in March, took the view that this would be possible.

"As far as we are concerned, the Quartet's decision to give further humanitarian support to the Palestinian Authority, bypassing the Hamas government, is definitely okay," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Army Radio.

Russia, the European Union and the United Nations had all put pressure on the United States, which has taken the toughest stand against Hamas, to agree to ease the boycott.

The powers agreed that aid payments would be resumed for a three-month trial period, through a "transparent" mechanism that has yet to be worked out.

It is expected that salaries to the Palestinian Authority's 165,000 employees, unpaid since March, will be paid. The monthly wage bill totals around $150 million, reports Reuters.


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