KUWAIT (Reuters) – Palestinian authorities are aiming to securitize an initial $200 million of some $1.3 billion worth of government debt by the first quarter of 2013 to help reduce state borrowing from local banks, a top banker said on Sunday.
“The Ministry of Finance is much more ready for securitizing the old debt rather than creating new debt, because we are not even rated,” Palestinian Monetary Authority Governor Jihad al-Wazir said ahead of a Monday meeting of Arab central bankers in Kuwait.
“This will be only to the primary market, only to the banks, not to the public and not to overseas public,” he told reporters.
The Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA), which oversees operations in both the West Bank – where the Palestinian Authority is based – and the Gaza Strip controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, will manage the securitization on behalf of the Finance Ministry.
“What is important about this is that it will transfer some of the existing debt that is direct borrowing from the government into securities which are tradable between the banks,” Wazir said.
“It will add to stability, it will generate an interbank market and additionally as an incentive it will be used as daily collateral in our payment system.”
The securitization would likely see the PMA convert a chunk of outstanding Palestinian debt into bonds or other tradeable securities that would then be sold to local banks, in order to cut its direct borrowing requirements.
The Palestinians, a stateless people, do not have their own currency and the Israeli shekel is used for most day-to-day cash transactions.
The PMA, which has reserves of $1 billion, regulates banks operating in the Palestinian territories, occupied by Israel in a 1967 war.
The government budget deficit was likely to be around $1.3 billion this year, up from a $950 million gap projected in the budget, Wazir also said, adding $1.36 billion was a red line for state borrowing from banks.
“The difference is likely to come from donors. There are a number of talks with Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf,” he said.
“Also maybe through the World Bank, maybe through the World Bank trust fund. The situation is still in a crisis mode.”
In September, the United Nations UNCTAD agency issued a gloomy outlook for the Palestinian economy, arguing that tougher Israeli policies and settlement expansion were pushing the occupied territories and Gaza deeper into poverty.
The situation had been aggravated in 2011 by a sharp drop in foreign aid, which for years provided a vital support, dimming any hope for an upswing even in the longer term, it said.
Wazir said the economy was doing “Ok” under the circumstances with inflation-adjusted gross domestic product seen growing around 5 percent this year, down from over 6 percent in 2011.
“If the Israelis lift restrictions we can grow by 14-15 percent annually for a number of years,” he said.
President Abbas condemned settler violence in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly.
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Settlers attacked Palestinian demonstrators in the Hebron town of Yatta on Saturday, a local committee official said.
Ratib al-Jubour, coordinator of local Hebron committees, told Ma’an that settlers threw rocks at Palestinians and international activists who had rallied to protest the confiscation of land in al-Hamra and al-Kharrouba.
Israeli forces were deployed in the area but did not intervene, al-Jubour said.
Fadel Jibreel Rabae, 46, and Muhammad Ali Shawahin, 19, were injured in the attack, he added.
President Abbas condemned settler violence in a speech to the UN on Thursday.
“The escalation of settler attacks should not surprise anyone, for it is the inherent byproduct of the continuation of occupation and a government policy that deliberately fosters the settlements and settlers and deems their satisfaction to be an absolute priority,” Abbas told the General Assembly.
Muammar Qaddafi was killed on Oct. 20, 2011 in an assault on his hometown of Sirte after he was cornered in a sewage pipe waving a golden gun.
A new report has begun to spread its wings with claims that a French secret serviceman, acting on the express orders of Nicolas Sarkozy, was responsible for the killing of former Libyan dictator Colonel Qaddafi.
Qaddafi was killed on Oct. 20, 2011 in an assault on his hometown of Sirte after he was cornered in a sewage pipe waving a golden gun.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra, has reported, citing diplomatic sources in the Libya capital Tripoli, that a foreign assassin killed Qaddafi, and that the assassin was likely to have been French.
According to well-placed sources in Libya, a Frenchman infiltrated a violent mob which was mutilating the captured Qaddafi last year and proceeded to shoot him in the head.
In a sinister twist, a 22-year-old young man who was among those who ambushed Qaddafi and who frequently brandished the former strongman’s golden gun died in Paris last Monday.
Ben Omran Shaaban was said to have been beaten up by Qaddafi loyalists in July, before being shot twice. He was flown to France for treatment, but died of his injuries in hospital.
Former interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, told an Egyptian television that “it was a foreign agent who mixed with the revolutionary brigades to kill Qaddafi.”
The apparent motivation for the murder was to stop Qaddafi from revealing information on his relationship with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was said to have received millions of dollars from the former Libyan leader to finance his French election campaign of 2007.
The alleged incident, if true, would cause a stir inside and outside France.
ABU DHABI (Reuters) — An Islamist militant group fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria said in a video posted online on Sunday it had captured five Yemeni army officers sent by their government to help quell the Syrian uprising.
The video by Al Nusra Front showed clips of five men in civilian clothes asking the Yemeni government to stop supporting the Assad regime. The authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.
One of the men identified himself as Mohammed Abdo Hezam al-Meleiky and said the Yemeni government had sent him and his colleagues to Damascus to help Assad’s forces in the civil war raging across the country.
“I ask the Yemeni government to cut all logistical and military ties because Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a regime that is killing its people and that is what we saw with our own eyes when we came here,” he said in the online video.
The men’s identity cards were shown in the online video, along with pictures of them in military uniform.
The Al Nursa Front has previously claimed attacks on Syrian government targets, including suicide attacks on the Syrian army staff building last week.
A Yemeni rights group said the five men were army officers studying at a military academy in Aleppo who went missing in August after fighting between rebels seeking to oust Assad and his opponents spread to the city in northern Syria.
The Hood group said five Yemeni families on Sept. 4 had reported their sons had disappeared while heading from Aleppo to Damascus on their way home after completing their studies.
The five men it named included Meleiky. A sixth Yemeni, a doctor, went missing after he was stopped by Syrian authorities at Damascus airport on Aug. 13, it said.
“Hood had asked the foreign minister to exert all the efforts of the Yemeni government with the Syrian government and neighboring governments to ensure the return of these citizens home,” the group said in a statement sent to Reuters.
The 18-month-old uprising against Assad began as peaceful protests but has descended into a civil war. More than 30,000 people have been killed, say activists.
Syria’s government says it is fighting Islamist hardliners and thousands of Arab and foreign fighters have entered the country from Turkey.
Lisa Nandy calls for the government to take action over G4S’ participation in illegal imprisonment
The Israel/Egypt border.
Since 1967, more than 730,000 Palestinian men, women and children are estimated to have been imprisoned by Israeli military courts. The majority of such prisoners are held in detention facilities inside Israel, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of these prisoners into Israel.
The practical consequence of this violation is that many prisoners, including children, receive either limited or no family visits, due to freedom of movement restrictions. In the case of children, this lack of adequate family contact also violates their rights under article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
According to Israeli Prison Service figures released in June of this year, 85 per cent of Palestinian prisoners, including children, were detained inside Israel. Of 4,706 prisoners, 285 were held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.
The UK government has confirmed that Israel’s policy of detaining Palestinians is contrary to Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that they have raised this with the Israeli government and will continue to do so. In a recent letter to me, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt MP stated that the FCO is lobbying Israeli authorities for a number of improvements, including a reduction in the number of arrests that occur at night, an end to shackling and the introduction of audio-visual recording of interrogations.
Such diplomatic pressure is important – but what of the British companies that keep Israel’s prisons running? According to corporate accountability campaigners, the security giant G4S, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority in 2007 to provide services to a number of prisons and detention facilities. Some of these are known to house prisoners transferred from the West Bank.
What’s more, the company has installed a central command room in Ofer Prison in the occupied West Bank, which houses a centre where prisoners are tried under military law. Ofer Prison is located in what the Israeli military refers to as the “Seam Zone”, which means access for visiting families is highly restricted.
G4S have said that it will exit from all the contracts it holds in the West Bank at the earliest opportunity the contract terms allow. They also say that they have not violated any international laws, which on this specific issue may be correct, given that the Geneva Conventions apply only to Governments that have ratified their terms. Despite these limitations, the UK government can still act – yet it refuses to.
Alastair Burt told me that, despite being aware of G4S’s involvement in Israeli prisons, the Foreign Office has not discussed the issue with the company and believes that the “provision of services in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is a matter for G4S.”
Last June the UK Government co-sponsored a UN resolution that places duties on states to protect against corporate abuse of human rights. The commitment is meaningless if the government refuses to take action in a clear-cut case such as this.
Companies that have been involved in grievous human rights abuse continue to be listed on the London Stock Exchange, seriously damaging the reputation of British business abroad and making it more difficult to compete for those businesses which are trying to uphold high ethical business and trade standards. Such abuse by any corporation is not merely a matter for the company, but for everyone who supports and believes in the basic concept of human rights.
Lisa Nandy is Labour MP for Wigan and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Corporate Responsibility
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 26, 2012
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the popular Arab movements promoting change in the oppressive leadership structures in the Middle East represent medievalism.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Thursday, he said the recent demonstrations in the region were indicative of “medieval forces of radical Islam.”
“The medieval forces of radical Islam…seek supremacy over all Muslims…they want to extinguish freedom,” he was quoted as saying. “They want to end the modern world.”
The comments came amid ongoing popular protests in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Jordan in pursuit of equality and civil liberties.
Netanyahu also asserted that the Palestinians had to recognize the “one and only” Israel.
Earlier in the day, the acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief, Mahmoud Abbas addressed the General Assembly, condemning Israel’s “catastrophic” settlement expansion in the Tel Aviv-occupied West Bank and its campaign of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians.
“Developments over the past year have confirmed what we have persistently drawn attention to and warned of the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country, Palestine,” Abbas said.
He told the UN gathering that Israel’s aggressive and extremist policies simply stoke anger among Palestinians and were killing hopes for the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A Palestinian teenager was found dead near the Israeli settlement of Bet Arye on Sunday, Palestinian Authority police said.
Salih al-Ali, 16, was found by local villagers near the Ramallah-area settlement, witnesses told Ma’an. Israeli forces took the victim inside the settlement where his family were called to identify the body, locals said.
Earlier reports by police said that al-Ali was found with gunshot wounds to the head. Investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of death.
An Israeli soldier leads a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinain man after he was arrested at an Israeli checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah on 17 September 2012.
Scores of political detainees held in Israeli jails are released only to then be arrested by the Palestinian Authority, who is living up to its reputation of being Israel’s hired police force.
Thirty-year-old Alaa Sadeq from Qalqiliya spent nine and a half years in Israeli prisons before being released on 5 June 2012. Sadeq was charged with belonging to the political faction Hamas, as well as being active in the resistance against the Israeli occupation. Following his release, Sadeq began adapting to life outside of prison. His sister Mirvat tells of how he was busy getting his house ready for marriage. Sadeq got married on September 14. Four days later, he was hauled off and taken to the Qalqiliya detention facility.
Srour was among the 60 Palestinians arrested by the Palestinian Authority preventative security forces throughout the occupied West Bank on September 18th, in the PA’s biggest arrest rampage yet. The following day the PA arrested dozens more in Salfit, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Qalqiliya, bringing the total number of political detainees to 114.
The arrested included a large number of Hamas supporters, nonaffiliated youth activists, university students, journalists, writers, and up to 35 ex-prisoners (in addition to some of their family members) who were freed in last year’s prisoners’ exchange deal which saw the release of 1027 Palestinian prisoners and one captured Israeli soldier.The PA arrested Adel Shawarweh from Bethlehem, who spent 13 years in Israeli prisons before his release through last year’s exchange deal. Legal researcher and former prisoner Fuad Khaffash of the Ahrar Center for Prisoners is also among the high profile names to be re-arrested by the PA. Most of the ex-prisoners had participated in the last mass 28 day hunger strike which began on April 17 and ended on May 14, with some losing up to 25 kilograms of their bodyweight in the process.
Political arrests by the PA of Palestinians in the West Bank are not a new phenomenon. In a study conducted by the prisoners’ rights group Addameer in 2009/2010, chapter two states that “Since the formation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, the PA security forces have arrested hundreds of Palestinians, not just from the rival faction of Hamas but many other members and cadres of the factions who oppose the approach of a political settlement.”
The same study defines political arrests as “the arbitrary arrest of anyone based on their political affiliation…the arrest or seizure of the freedom of any person against the backdrop of his partisan political affiliation or belief, or opinion, or opposition to or criticism of the existing political system or because of his sympathy with those who oppose this system.”
“Political and arbitrary arrests in the West Bank and Gaza have considerably lessened since the 2007 Fatah-Hamas division,” says director of Independent Human Rights Commission Farid al-Atrash, “but it is still present, unfortunately due to the lack of accountability and failure to hold others up to the law. The Palestinian law explicitly forbids the arrest of someone based on their political affiliation and ideology.”
Spokesperson of the security forces Adnan Dmeiri denied the fact that the recent wave of PA arrests carried any political dimensions.
“The recent arrests came on the basis of applying issues of law enforcement related to possession of arms that could provoke chaos in the West Bank,” he said on Thursday to Maan News Agency. Dmeiri went on to blame Hamas for “disturbing the Palestinian civil peace” by allying itself with “instigators of chaos.”
Fuad Khaffash and Anees Harb, from Nablus and Salfit respectively, have announced their open ended hunger strike in protest against their political detention. This isn’t the first time political detainees have used hunger strikes to secure their release from the eight PA detention facilities in the West Bank; earlier this summer, a small group of students who were all either supporters of Hamas or Islamic Jihad from Hebron University went on hunger strike in solidarity with their peers behind PA bars.Mohammad Abu Jneid, a student at Hebron University in the West Bank, was arrested by the PA in 2010 and sentenced to one year in prison. His detention was inexplicably renewed for another year, despite numerous calls for his release by various rights organizations. Abu Jneid protested by hunger striking for 25 days.
Fellow students Mohammad Sabarneh and Alaa al-Zaqaziq, who were imprisoned earlier this year, went on a hunger strike that lasted for 41 days and 48 days respectively protesting their detention and the targeting of students affiliated to Hamas by the PA.
Two days after the student elections took place in the spring semester at the same university, the PA preventative security forces began to pursue and arrest students affiliated with the Hamas student party, the Islamic bloc.
Human rights officer Hamed Qawasme conveyed that the students saw these arrests as based on their union work and activism and not, as the PA security forces alleged, based on security reasons.
“The security forces claimed that it had arrested the students based on criminal charges, such as the possession of guns, and not on political bases,” Qawasme said, yet he did not deny that Hamas students are systematically harassed and targeted by the PA.
In late June 2012, the Islamic bloc students staged a sit in, and a week later on July 2, six students embarked on a 21 day hunger strike, protesting political arrests and in solidarity with three of their peers mentioned above imprisoned by the PA who had already initiated their own hunger strike.
Maram Salem, a journalist for the Hebron-based Alam radio, relayed that the PA’s arrests of members of rival factions are not uncommon. “Political arrests are widespread throughout the West Bank,” she said. “A lot of the students affiliated with Hamas receive overt or veiled threats and always get summoned for interrogation by the PA and are kept under surveillance by agents of the PA.”
When the Hebron governor Kamel Hmeid ignored the students’ demands for the release of all students detained by the PA, the students then appealed to the PA Interior Minister, who signed and gave them a written obligation that the PA preventative security forces would not arrest or pursue students over their political activities on campus. The students broke their hunger strike, with one requiring immediate hospitalization as a result of kidney problems sustained during the strike.
A few days later, the student representative for the hunger strikers Rami Rajoub, who was previously detained by the PA, was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces on July 26 the night after he sat down for his last exam. Unfortunately, this basis of security coordination, where the PA arrests then releases a Palestinian only for Israel to arrest him shortly afterwards and vice versa, is also a common occurrence.
“The PA uses the excuse of arresting and holding Palestinians in their prisons based on ‘protecting’ the arrested from getting detained by Israel,” Hamed Qawasme clarified. “Families have responded by saying that they’d rather have their sons in Israeli prisons than PA ones, and some prisoners have even signed a paper contesting that they’ll take their chances regarding their potential arrests by Israel, and for the PA to just release them.”As for Alaa Sadeq, his lawyer has filed an appeal for his immediate release on bail. Sadeq’s family will hear what will become of him next Thursday after his court session was postponed twice, and have expressed their anger at the PA security forces.
“This isn’t the first time he has been arrested since his release in June,” says his sister Mirvat. “Two weeks after he was released from Israeli prison he was arrested and interrogated by the PA on his ‘activism within Israeli prison’ for two days.”
Addameer has called for the PA to immediately release all of its political detainees, and for a stop to the practice of political arrests and their denying responsibility for these arrests, in addition to ending political repression and suppression of speech, which according to the statement, “undermines our freedoms and collective and individual dignity.”
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — In a boost to Gaza’s Hamas government, the Gulf state of Qatar said on Sunday it opened the first diplomatic office in the isolated territory since the Islamic military group took power five years ago.
Qatari officials said the office is not a formal embassy. Instead, it will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in aid projects Qatar is funding.
Nonetheless, it is headed by an ambassador and marks a key stamp of legitimacy for Hamas, whose takeover of Gaza in 2007 has never been internationally recognized.
Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, who lives in the West Bank, is seen internationally as the Palestinian leader.
Abbas has long had rocky relations with Qatar, whose Al-Jazeera satellite channel is often critical of the Palestinian leader. Qatar often frequently hosts Hamas leaders.