JERUSALEM, June 14 (Xinhua) -- Israeli officials on Wednesday denied claims by U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) agreed to freeze payments to the families of slain attackers.
"I did not see any evidence that the Palestinian Authority has stopped payments to jailed terrorists and their families," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio.
Local media cited another senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, reiterating this claim. "We're not aware of any change in the PNA's policy, and as far as we know they are still paying funds to terrorists' families," the official told Ha'aretz newspaper.
"The PNA continues to praise, incite and encourage terror through financial support," he said.
On Tuesday, Tillerson said that the PNA agreed to stop the payments for families of assailants, including suicide bombers who carried out attacks on Israelis.
"They have changed their policy, at least I have been informed they've changed that policy," Tillerson told a public hearing on the State Department's budget in front of the Senate.
Halting the payments to families of assailants, or "martyrs," is one of the preconditions that Israel demands before it would agree to renew the peace talks with the Palestinians.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration have been trying to revive the talks, which reached an impasse in 2014.
Israel's government says the money "encourages" Palestinians' actions against Israel, but the Palestinians say these are welfare payments for the prisoners and their families.
While the prisoners are widely regarded in the Palestinian society as heroes who sacrificed their lives or freedom for the liberation of their homeland, the Israeli society sees all of them as "terrorists."
About 6,500 Palestinians are currently being jailed in Israeli prisons.