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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel to Halt Tax Payments to Hamas

JERUSALEM -- Israel said on Tuesday it expected to suspend monthly tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, a severe financial blow to the cash-strapped government a week after Hamas' shock election victory.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the automatic tax payments to the authority would probably stop until the completion of a policy review ordered by interim Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Olmert says Israel will boycott any government that includes Hamas, whose charter calls for the Jewish state's destruction.

Palestinian Economy Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot decried what he called "an irresponsible and grave decision" and said it would have "negative economic and social consequences for the Palestinians."

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri accused Israel of "trying to steal Palestinian money."

Israel collects customs revenue on behalf of the Palestinians and hands it over to the governing Palestinian Authority each month.

The next payment was due on Wednesday, and was expected to total about $55 million. The salaries of about 140,000 Palestinian employees depend to a large extent on the customs revenue, though Hamas may be able to find alternative sources of funding in the Arab world.

Brushing aside Israel's call to isolate Hamas, Jordan's ambassador to the Palestinian Authority congratulated the militant group on its election victory and said Amman "will continue to support the Palestinian people regardless of who is in government."

Regev said he could not say how long the Israeli review of the tax payments would take, but "pending final decision, it is most likely that automatic transfers will not continue."

Israel's position was "in sync" with the international consensus, he said.

But the quartet of major powers trying to broker Middle East peace said on Monday that international donors would continue to aid the caretaker government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, at least until Hamas formed a new administration.

The quartet -- Russia, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations -- said Hamas must reject violence and recognize Israel or risk losing aid in future.

Hamas has rejected as "blackmail" the quartet's demands.

Hamas beat the long-dominant Fatah party in last Wednesday's parliamentary election.

Fatah leaders have so far rejected joining any coalition with Hamas, whose anti-corruption platform, charity network and strong resistance to Israel since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000 propelled it to victory.

Hundreds of people holed up Tuesday at a Jewish settlement outpost in the West Bank, laying barbed wire and cement blocks as they vowed to prevent its evacuation, The Associated Press reported.

The army and police have deployed 7,000 forces, expecting violence during the dismantling of Amona, military officials said.