Trump tells Israel peace means compromise; U.S. envoy under fire

An Israeli flag is seen near the Dome of the Rock, located in Jerusalem's Old City on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount December 6, 2017.

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump told Israel on Friday that it too would need to make “significant compromises” for peace with the Palestinians, even as they accused one of his Middle East envoys of bogging down diplomacy with what they see as pro-Israel bias.

The Palestinians were outraged by Trump’s Dec. 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, a move overturning decades of U.S. reticence on the city’s status, and say they are looking at additional world powers as potential mediators.

In an interview with an Israeli newspaper that was excerpted ahead of its full publication on Sunday, Trump described his Jerusalem move as a “high point” of his first year in office.

The language of Trump’s announcement did not rule out a presence in Jerusalem for the Palestinians, who want the eastern part of the city – captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally – as their own capital.

“I wanted to make clear that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Regarding specific borders, I will grant my support to what the two sides agree between themselves,” he told the conservative Israel Hayom daily, in remarks published in Hebrew.

“I think that both sides will have to make significant compromises in order for achieving a peace deal to be possible,” Trump added, without elaborating.

The interview coincided with fresh strains between the Palestinians and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, following the killing by a Palestinian of a Jewish settler.

After the settler was stabbed to death on Monday, Friedman tweeted that he had previously donated an ambulance to the slain man’s community and that he was praying for the next-of-kin, adding: “Palestinian ‘leaders’ have praised the killer.”

That drew a rebuke from the Palestinian administration.

“The American ambassador’s statements make us wonder about his relationship with the occupation,” Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement. “Is he representing America or Israel?”

“Friedman’s recommendations and advice, which do not aim to achieve a just peace on the basis of international legitimacy, are what led to this crisis in American-Palestinian relations,” Abu Rdainah said.

Friedman, among the top Trump advisers who promoted the Jerusalem move, is a former contributor to settler causes.

In addition to East Jerusalem, Palestinians want the occupied West Bank for a future state and see Israel’s Jewish settlements there as a major obstacle. Israel disputes this.

Most world powers deem the settlements illegal, but the Trump administration has taken a softer tack.

A liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, published a column criticizing Friedman’s stance and dubbing the settlement he had supported as “a mountain of curses” – a play on its Hebrew name, Har Bracha, which means “Mount Blessing”.

The ambassador took the unusual step of firing back at the daily in another tweet on Friday: “Four young children are sitting shiva (Jewish mourning rite) for their murdered father …. Have they (Haaretz) no decency?”

Haaretz’s publisher, Amos Shocken, responded over the platform with a critique that echoed Palestinian complaints.

“As long as the policy of Israel that your Government and yourself support is obstructing (the) peace process … there will be more Shivas,” Shocken tweeted.

(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean)

Taliban active in 70 percent of Afghanistan, BBC study finds

Afghan security forces take position on a roof of a building the site of a blast and gunfire between Taliban and Afghan forces in PD 6 in Kabul, Afghanistan March 1, 2017.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Taliban are openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, fully controlling 4 percent of the country and demonstrating an open physical presence in another 66 percent, according to a BBC study published on Tuesday.

The BBC estimate, which it said was based on conversations with more than 1,200 individual sources in all districts of the South Asian country, was significantly higher than the most recent assessment by the NATO-led coalition.

The coalition said on Tuesday that the Taliban contested or controlled only 44 percent of Afghan districts as of October 2017.

Afghanistan has been reeling over the past nine days from a renewed spate of violence that is adding scrutiny to the latest, more aggressive U.S.-backed strategy to bolster Afghan forces battling the Taliban in a 16-year-old war.

A bomb hidden in an ambulance struck the city center and killed more than 100 people, just over a week after an attack on the Hotel Intercontinental, also in Kabul, which left more than 20 people dead, including four U.S. citizens.

The BBC counted 399 districts in Afghanistan, but the NATO-led force counted 407. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

The BBC study said the Afghan government controlled 122 districts, or about 30 percent of the country. Still, it noted, that did not mean that they were free from Taliban attacks.

“Kabul and other major cities, for example, suffered major attacks – launched from adjacent areas, or by sleeper cells – during the research period, as well as before and after,” the report said.

Asked about the BBC’s study, the Pentagon did not comment directly, but pointed to the latest figures by the NATO-led coalition asserting that about 56 percent of Afghanistan’s territory was under Afghan government control or influence.

Captain Thomas Gresback, a spokesman for the coalition in Kabul, said the BBC estimate overstated the militants’ “influence impact”.

“This is a criminal network, not a government in waiting,” Gresback said in an emailed statement.

“What really matters is not the number of districts held, but population controlled. RS assesses that around 12 percent of the population is actually under full Taliban control,” he said, referring to the Resolute Support mission.

The study by Britain’s public broadcaster quoted a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani playing down the findings.

The BBC study also said Islamic State had a presence in 30 districts, but noted it did not fully control any of them.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, addional reporting by Robert Birsel in KABUL; Editing by G Crosse and Nick Macfie)

Senior Yemen Qaeda leader calls for knife and car attacks on Jews

Defying warnings of new conflict, Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital

DUBAI (Reuters) – A senior leader of al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has called for knife and car attacks on Jews in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the U.S. SITE monitoring group said on Tuesday.

Citing a video recording by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malahem media foundation, SITE said that Khaled Batarfi, believed to be the number two man in AQAP after Qassim al-Raymi, also warned that no Muslim had the right to cede any part of Jerusalem.

“The Muslims inside the occupied land must kill every Jew, by running him over, or stabbing him, or by using against him any weapon, or by burning their homes,” Batarfi said in the 18-minute-long recording entitled “Our duty towards our Jerusalem”, according to SITE.

“Every Muslim must know that the Americans and the disbeliever West, and on top of them Britain and France, are the original reason behind the existence of the Jews in Palestine.”

Trump enraged Muslims last month when he announced that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said he intends to transfer the U.S. embassy there.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a regional visit, said on Monday that the U.S. Embassy will be moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv before the end of 2019.

Batarfi was one of some 150 jailed AQAP members who were freed when the militant group, regarded by the United States as one of the deadliest branches of the network founded by Osama bin Laden, captured the Yemeni port city of Mukalla in 2015, where he was held.

Yemeni forces, baked by a Saudi-led coalition have since recaptured Mukalla and driven AQAP out, but Batarfi, who has since assumed a senior position in the group, remains at large.

AQAP has plotted to down U.S. airliners and claimed responsibility for 2015 attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. AQAP also has boasted of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and the Pentagon estimates it has between about 2,000 and 3,000 fighters.

Batarfi said Muslims in Western countries, including the United States, were obliged to target the interests of Jews and the Americans.

“They must be eager to prepare themselves as much as possible, and to carry out jihadi operations against them,” he added, according to SITE.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, including the walled Old City with its holy sites, as the capital of their own future state. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it in 1967 in a move not internationally recognized, regards all of the city as its “eternal and indivisible capital”.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi)

U.N. says Syrian forces killed 85 civilians in besieged zone

A Syria Civil Defence member carries a wounded child in the besieged town of Hamoria, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria Janauary 6, 2018.

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian government forces and their allies have killed at least 85 civilians since Dec. 31 in stepped-up attacks against the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, the U.N. human rights chief said on Wednesday.

Conditions in the enclave, the last major rebel-held zone near Damascus and where at least 390,000 civilians have been besieged for four years, amount to a humanitarian catastrophe, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.

“Residential areas are being hit day and night by strikes from the ground and from the air, forcing civilians to hide in basements,” he said in a statement.

Zeid said warring parties were obliged by law to distinguish between civilians and lawful military targets, and reports from Eastern Ghouta suggested of the attackers were flouting those principles, “raising concerns that war crimes may have been committed.”

Among the dead civilians were 21 women and 30 children, Zeid said.

Backed by Russian strikes, Syrian government forces have escalated military operations against Eastern Ghouta in recent months. Russia rejects accusations that its jets have been targeting civilians.

Zeid said failure to evacuate urgent medical cases from the enclave was also against international humanitarian law.

Armed opposition groups holed up in Eastern Ghouta had also continued to fire rockets into residential areas of Damascus, which he said caused terror among the population.

A rocket landed near a bakery in Old Damascus on Jan. 4, killing a woman and injuring 13 other civilians, he said.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and John Stonestreet)

New York to install 1,500 more sidewalk barriers after vehicle attacks

Additional bollards are seen on sidewalks and plazas to protect pedestrians in Times Square, New York City, New York, U.S., January 2, 2018.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City will install more than 1,500 new barrier posts on sidewalks and plazas to protect pedestrians from vehicles after at least two instances last year of drivers killing people after mounting the curb, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday.

The thin, cylindrical, waist-height metal bollards are intended to be a more attractive alternative to the hulking concrete blocks the New York Police Department had deposited in busier areas around the city following the vehicle attacks, de Blasio said.

“We understand what’s happening around the world and we even saw some tragedies here,” the mayor said at a Times Square announcement in front of a line of the posts. Similar bollards were installed in Times Square in 2016.

There has been a spate of attacks on pedestrians in European and U.S. cities by people using cars or trucks, a tactic that the Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use. In July 2016, a driver used a truck to kill 86 people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Similar carnage unfolded at a Christmas market in Berlin a few months later.

De Blasio spoke within sight of the place where an intoxicated man in May steered a car along sidewalks for three city blocks, killing a young woman and injuring at least 22 people.

Last November, a man was charged with murder and providing support to Islamic State after he plowed down people on a Manhattan bike lane the previous month, killing eight.

“We know we have to do even more to keep people safe,” de Blasio said on Tuesday. The city will spend an additional $50 million on installing the new bollards in busy, high-profile areas and other efforts to protect public spaces, the mayor said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Iranian protesters attack police stations, raise stakes in unrest

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in west London, Britain December 31, 2017.

By Michael Georgy

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian protesters attacked police stations late into the night on Monday, news agency and social media reports said, as security forces struggled to contain the boldest challenge to the clerical leadership since unrest in 2009.

Videos on social media showed an intense clash in the central town of Qahderijan between security forces and protesters who were trying to occupy a police station, which was partially set ablaze. There were unconfirmed reports of several casualties among demonstrators.

In the western city of Kermanshah, protesters set fire to a traffic police post, but no one was hurt in the incident, Mehr news agency said.

Demonstrations continued for a fifth day. Some 13 people were reported killed on Sunday in the worst wave of unrest since crowds took to the streets in 2009 to condemn the re-election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The protests have put pressure on the clerical leaders in power since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. President Hassan Rouhani made a televised call for calm on Sunday, saying Iranians had the right to criticize but must not cause unrest.

In the central city of Najafabad, a demonstrator opened fire on police with a hunting rifle, killing one and wounding three others, state television said.

Earlier, state TV said armed demonstrators on Sunday had tried to seize police and military bases but were stopped by “strong resistance from security forces.” It gave no further details and there was no independent confirmation.

State TV had reported that 10 people were killed in protests on Sunday. On Monday, that death toll rose when the deputy governor of the western Hamadan Province, Saeed Shahrokhi, told ISNA news agency that another three protesters were killed on Sunday in the city of Tuyserkan.

“NO TOLERANCE”

Hundreds have been arrested, according to officials and social media. Online video showed police in the capital Tehran firing water cannon to disperse demonstrators, in footage said to have been filmed on Sunday.

Protests against economic hardships and alleged corruption erupted in Iran’s second city of Mashhad on Thursday and escalated across the country into calls for the religious establishment to step down.

Some of the anger was directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, breaking a taboo surrounding the man who has been supreme leader of Iran since 1989.

Video posted on social media showed crowds of people walking through the streets, some chanting “Death to the dictator!” Reuters was not immediately able to verify the footage. The Fars news agency reported “scattered groups” of protesters in Tehran on Monday and said a ringleader had been arrested.

“The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public property, violate public order and create unrest in society,” Rouhani said in his address on Sunday.

Unsigned statements on social media urged Iranians to continue to demonstrate in 50 towns and cities.

The government said it was temporarily restricting access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram. There were reports that internet mobile access was blocked in some areas.

TRUMP, NETANYAHU VOICE SUPPORT

Iran is a major OPEC oil producer and regional power deeply involved in Syria and Iraq as part of a battle for influence with rival Saudi Arabia. Many Iranians resent those foreign interventions, and want their leaders to create jobs at home, where youth unemployment reached 28.8 percent last year.

Among reported fatalities, two people were shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh on Sunday and several others were injured, ILNA news agency quoted a member of parliament as saying.

“I do not know whether yesterday’s shooting was done by rally participants or the police and this issue is being investigated,” Hedayatollah Khademi was quoted as saying.

Regional governor Mostafa Samali told Fars that only one person was killed in an incident unrelated to the protests, and the suspected shooter had been arrested.

Almost nine years since the “Green movement” reformist protests were crushed by the state, Iran’s adversaries voiced their support for the resurgence of anti-government sentiment.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “brave Iranians” taking to streets to protest a regime that “wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate”.

“I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged “all sides (to) refrain from violent actions”.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Robin Pomeroy and David Gregorio)

U.S., Afghan forces strike opium factories to curb Taliban funds

U.S. Army General John Nicholson, Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan November 20, 2017.

By Girish Gupta

KABUL (Reuters) – U.S. and Afghan forces have launched joint attacks on Taliban opium factories to try to curb the insurgent group’s economic lifeline, officials from both countries said on Monday.

U.S. Army General John Nicholson showed videos at a press conference of targeted aerial strikes against what he described as Taliban drug factories.

“Last night we conducted strikes in northern Helmand to hit the Taliban where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” said Nicholson, flanked by Afghan Army Lieutenant General Mohammad Sharif Yaftali.

The southern province of Helmand suffers heavy fighting and is the single-largest producer of opium.

Opium production in Afghanistan reached record highs this year, up 87 percent on last year, the United Nations said last week.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said output of opium made from poppy seeds in Afghanistan, the world’s main source of heroin, stands at around 9,000 metric tons this year.

UNODC has warned in the past that Kabul’s weakening grip on security was contributing to a collapse in eradication efforts.

 

NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING

Nearly half of Afghan opium is processed, or refined into morphine or heroin, before it is trafficked out of the country, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

“We’re determined to tackle criminal economy and narcotics trafficking with full force,” said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Twitter.

Nicholson said the attacks were part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s new policy toward Afghanistan as he boosts troop numbers.

The four-star general showed one video of an F-22 fighter jet dropping 250-pound bombs on two buildings, emphasizing that a nearby third building was left unscathed.

U.S. troops have long been accused of causing unnecessary collateral damage and civilian deaths. The United States says it takes every precaution to avoid civilian casualties.

The United Nations said at least 10 civilians may have been killed by a strike in Kunduz earlier this month, contradicting a U.S. investigation that found no civilian deaths.

 

(Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by James Mackenzie)

 

Finnish stabbings treated as terror, suspect ‘targeted women’: police

Finnish stabbings treated as terror, suspect 'targeted women': police

By Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell

HELSINKI/TURKU, Finland (Reuters) – Finnish police said on Saturday that an 18-year-old Moroccan man arrested after knife attacks that killed two people in the city of Turku appeared to have specifically targeted women and that the spree was being treated as terrorism-related.

The suspect arrested on Friday after being shot in the leg by police had arrived in Finland last year, they said, adding they later arrested four other Moroccan men over possible links to him.

“Due to information received during the night, the Turku stabbings are now being investigated as murders with terrorist intent,” Crista Granroth from the National Bureau of Investigation told a news conference.

While the identity of the victims has not been disclosed by authorities, police said the attacker appeared to have targeted women during the stabbing spree in downtown Turku, a city of just under 200,000 people in southwest Finland.

“It seems that the suspect chose women as his targets, because the men who were wounded were injured when they tried to help, or prevent the attacks,” Granroth said.

Both of those killed in the attack were women, as well as six of the eight wounded, she added. The two who died were Finns and an Italian and two Swedish citizens were among the injured.

Finnish broadcaster MTV, citing an unnamed source, said the main suspect had been denied asylum in Finland. The police said only that he been “part of the asylum process”.

SCREAMING

“First thing we heard was a young woman, screaming like crazy. I thought it’s just kids having fun … but then people started to move around and I saw a man with a knife in his hand, stabbing a woman,” said Laura Laine, who was sitting in a cafe during one of the attacks.

“Then a person ran towards us shouting ‘He has a knife’, and everybody from the terrace ran inside. Next, a woman came in to the cafe. She was crying hysterically, down on her knees, saying someone’s neck has been slashed open.”

Four of the wounded were still in hospital, three of them in intensive care, while the other injured persons would be sent home on Saturday, the hospital said.

Local media said the police raided an apartment in the eastern Turku suburb of Varissuo, which is home to a large immigrant population, and located about seven kilometers from the market square where the attacks took place.

Flags were at half mast on Saturday across Finland, whose Security Intelligence Service (SIS) raised the terrorism threat level in June to ‘elevated’ from ‘low’, saying it had become aware of terrorism-related plans.

Leaders of Turku’s Iraqi and Syrian community condemned the attacks and said they would hold a rally of solidarity in the city’s main square, but canceled the plan due to security concerns.

An anti-immigration group was planning a demonstration in Helsinki.

“Terrorists want to pit people against each other. We will not let this happen. Finnish society will not be defeated by fear or hatred,” Interior Minister Paula Risikko said on Twitter.

On Thursday, a suspected Islamist militant drove a van into crowds in Barcelona in Spain, killing 13 people and wounding scores of others.

Finnish police said they were looking into any possible links between the Finnish stabbings and the attack in Spain and that they had issued an international arrest warrant for a sixth Moroccan national.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; Writing by Jussi Rosendahl and Niklas Pollard; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Andrew Bolton)

Iran top judge demands U.S. release assets, jailed Iranians

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage during the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015.

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s top judge called on the United States on Monday to release Iranians held in U.S. jails and billions of dollars in Iranian assets, days after Washington urged Tehran to free three U.S. citizens.

The statement by Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani capped a week of heightened rhetoric over the jailing and disappearance of Americans in Iran and new U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“We tell them: ‘You should immediately release Iranian citizens held in American prisons in violation of international rules and based on baseless charges’,” Larijani said in remarks carried by state television.

“You have seized the property of the Islamic Republic of Iran in violation of all rules and in a form of open piracy, and these should be released.”

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump urged Tehran to return Robert Levinson, an American former law enforcement officer who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago, and release businessman Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, jailed on espionage charges.

Trump said Iran would face “new and serious consequences” if the three men were not released. U.S. authorities imposed new economic sanctions on Iran on Tuesday over its ballistic missile program.

Earlier this month, Iran said another U.S. citizen, Xiyue Wang, a graduate student from Princeton University, had been sentenced to 10 years in jail for spying.

According to former prisoners, families of current ones and diplomats, Iran sometimes holds on to detainees for use for prisoner exchanges with Western countries. Tehran has denied this.

In a swap deal in 2016, Iranians held or charged in the United States, mostly for sanctions violations, were released in return for Americans imprisoned in Iran.

Also that year, Iran filed an International Court of Justice complaint to recover $2 billion in frozen assets that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled must be turned over to American families of people killed in bombings and other attacks blamed on Iran.

 

 

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; editing by John Stonestreet)

 

Despite Tillerson reassurance, Palestinians not stopping ‘martyr’ payments

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH (Reuters) – Palestinian officials say there are no plans to stop payments to families of Palestinians killed or wounded carrying out attacks against Israelis, contradicting comments by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson told a Senate hearing on Tuesday he had received reassurances from President Mahmoud Abbas that the Palestinian Authority would end the practice of paying a monthly stipend to the families of suicide bombers and other attackers, commonly referred to by Palestinians as martyrs.

The issue of compensation has become a sticking point in efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Israeli officials citing it as one reason they do not regard Abbas as a “partner for peace”.

“They have changed their policy,” Tillerson said, referring to the Palestinians. “At least I have been informed they’ve changed that policy and their intent is to cease payments.”

But Palestinian officials said they were not aware of any change and that it was unlikely a policy that has been a cornerstone of social support for decades would be altered.

“There have been talks about making the payments in a different way, but not ending them,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on discussions held with the Americans.

“They could perhaps be labeled differently,” he said, suggesting the description “martyr” could be dropped, but he added: “They are not going to be stopped.”

The Palestinian Authority makes a variety of social security payments, mostly to families, for those convicted and imprisoned by Israel for fighting against the occupation and those killed in violence, whether they were carrying out suicide attacks, shot while throwing stones or in other circumstances.

Amounts vary depending on whether the person killed was married or had children. Those wounded also receive aid.

In total, some 35,000 families receive support from a dedicated fund established in the 1960s, including those living outside the Palestinian territories. Some estimates suggest the fund distributes as much as $100 million a year.

At the same time, there are 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 500 detained without charge, in some cases for years. All of them, including around 300 children and 50 women, receive monthly support from the Palestinian Authority.

For Abbas, ending such payments would be politically fraught. Surveys show he is highly unpopular and that would only likely worsen if support were stopped. It would probably strengthen his rival in the Islamist group Hamas.

However, Abbas has taken some steps to stop payments in recent weeks, following meetings he held with President Donald Trump in Washington at the start of May and later the same month when the president visited the region.

Some 277 Palestinians released from Israeli jails under a prisoner-swap agreement and transported to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is in charge, had their monthly stipends stopped, they told Reuters this month.

Yet that decision seemed more about cutting funds that may help Hamas in Gaza rather than responding to U.S. or Israeli demands to end payments to those who have carried out attacks.

Israeli officials said they had seen no evidence that the Palestinian Authority was stopping support.

“Israel is unaware of any change in the policy of the Palestinians, who continue to make payments to the families of terrorists,” an official said, describing the payments a form of incitement to carry out violence.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Luke Baker and Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Tom Heneghan)