The Palestinian Authority, headed by Yasser Arafat, is paying members of a Palestinian militant organisation which has been responsible for carrying out suicide attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians, a BBC investigation has found.
A total of up to $50,000 a month is being sent to members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an armed group that emerged shortly after the outbreak of the current Palestinian intifada, a BBC Correspondent programme reveals.
A former minister in the government led by ex-Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) says that the money is an attempt to wean the gunmen away from suicide bombings. He says the policy of paying the money was not instigated by Mr Arafat but has been carried out with his knowledge and agreement.
Despite the payments, the al-Aqsa group has not declared a formal ceasefire and Mr Arafat has not asked the group to stop the suicide bombings, according to an al-Aqsa leader interviewed by the programme. The Palestinian leader has publicly condemned recent Palestinian suicide bombings.