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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abbas Threatens to Quit

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatened to resign unless his Fatah party backs his tactics in talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said.

The first casualty was a meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, set for Wednesday. Abbas called off the meeting, and some officials blamed Israel's refusal to release more prisoners and others citing lack of support from fellow political leaders.

On Tuesday, Abbas threatened to resign unless his party backed his tactics in talks with Israelis, Palestinian officials said. The three largest Palestinian militant groups declared a unilateral cease-fire on June 29, but say it will collapse unless Israel releases the bulk of thousands of its Palestinian prisoners.

U.S. special envoy to the region John Wolf met Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday to press Israel to release more Palestinian prisoners and dismantle more illegal settlement outposts to bolster peace moves.

In a letter to Arafat, Abbas said he would step down unless he received clear instructions from Fatah on how to handle talks with Israel. Fatah officials said he might be pressuring members to give him greater flexibility in the talks.

The White House has decided to provide direct funding to the Palestinian Authority for social service projects, the Washington Post quoted U.S. officials as saying. The decision marks an important shift in U.S. policy designed to bolster the Palestinian prime minister and offer a counterweight to services provided by militant organizations such as Hamas.

The initial funding is relatively small -- $20 million -- but its symbolic value is much greater. In the past, aid to the Palestinians was limited to indirect channels such as the United Nations.