Palestinian president called on Cuban dictator to release American hostage

In an apparent effort to persuade House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to release American grant money to Palestine, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, attempted to urge Cuban dictator Raul Castro to release Alan Gross, the American aid worker being held hostage by the Castro regime for more than two and a half years. The attempt to secure Gross’ release was obviously unsuccessful.

Juan Tamayo in the Miami Herald:

Palestinian president urged Raúl Castro to free Alan Gross

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Cuba to free jailed U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross in hopes of persuading Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtninen to release a $147 million grant to the Palestinian government, according to a news report.

Ros-Lehtinen did later remove her hold on the funds, but an aide said the decision had nothing to do with any contact between Abbas and the Cuban regime.

Abbas’ intervention on behalf of the Jewish-American man came to light in a report Sunday by Ma’an, an independent Palestinian news service. It was based on leaked emails between Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin and Palestinian officials.

Baskin, who was reportedly involved in last year’s swap of one captured Israeli soldier for 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, described Gross as a Cuban “hostage” and suggested Abbas should telephone Cuban ruler Raúl Castro and urge him to free Gross.

Baskin told Ma’an that he hoped that if the phone call was successful, Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and a staunch Israel supporter, would lift her block on a $147 million U.S. grant to the Palestinian Authority. Ros-Lehtinen and other Congress members were blocking the grant to show their opposition to the Palestinians’ application for a U.N. seat last year.

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