WEST BANK – The Saudi Arabian government paid more than $5,000 each to families of suicide bombers and other Palestinians killed in the terror campaign against Israel, according to documents obtained by Fox News.
The documents, discovered by Israeli intelligence officers, contain a list of 102 deceased Palestinians whose families have each been paid 20,000 Saudi riyals — the equivalent of $5,340 — by the Saudi Interior Ministry.
The names on the list were of suicide bombers and Palestinian commanders who had been killed in attacks against Israeli targets. It included the names of some of the highest-profile bombers who have been killed in recent attacks, among them children and women.
The documents, if genuine, contradict the Saudi government’s consistent claim that it does not directly pay suicide bombers’ families. The Saudis have repeatedly insisted the money they send the Palestinians goes to rebuilding areas damaged or destroyed by Israeli forces operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli troops found the Saudi Interior Ministry documents when they raided Palestinian offices as part of their ongoing operations in the West Bank.
A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy, who was traveling with Crown Prince Abdullah in Texas following his meeting Thursday with President Bush, said he could not comment on the documents because he had not seen them.
But he repeated claims the Saudis "don’t pay suicide bombers." He criticized what he said was Israel’s attempt to link fundraising for Palestinians to suicide bombers, calling it "a disgrace."
The spokesman also said the story about the documents was Israel's way of trying to undermine the Bush-Abdullah talks.
Bush administration officials did not dispute the report, but noted the Saudis had said repeatedly they did not give money to the bombers’ families.
"The Saudis have assured us that they don’t want the money going to support violence," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Friday. He added that the Saudis had promised the funds would only go to "legitimate charities" in the Palestinian areas.
Earlier in the week, U.S. officials seemed more skeptical. Secretary of State Colin Powell told a Senate panel on Wednesday there were indications some of the $100 million collected in a Saudi telethon may have gone to elements of the Islamic military Hamas organization.
"There are troubling aspects as to how that telethon money would be distributed," Powell said. He said he would raise the telethon issue with Saudi officials.