Gaza’s residents commemorate fifth anniversary of international efforts to lift the siege

Gaza seige

The Israeli occupation wants the Gaza Strip to continue under siege’ Al-Khodari continued, ‘and it wants to paralyze all sides of life.

The Popular Committee against the Israeli Siege on Gaza commemorated on Thursday the fifth anniversary of the first ship that visited Gaza in 2008.

During the processions of this occasion independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Jamal al-Khodari called for opening a water passage for the Palestinians in Gaza to connect with the outside world.

“In the light of the current tight measures of the siege and the complete closure of the Rafah crossing, an international power must be formed immediately to put pressure on international and Israeli stakeholders to guarantee the lifting of the siege,” Al-Khodari said.

“The Israeli occupation wants the Gaza Strip to continue under siege,” Al-Khodari continued, “and it wants to paralyze all sides of life.”

Al-Khodari explained how much the Israeli occupation is oppressing Gazan residents. “There are ample gas fields by the Gazan coasts but the Israeli occupation prevents them using this gas and overcoming the chronic electricity shortage where they live.”

 

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(Source / 23.08.2013)

U.S. imam gets 25 years prison for Taliban support

A 78-year-old Muslim cleric in south Florida was sentenced to 25 years in prison for funneling tens of thousands of dollars to Pakistani Taliban.

An elderly Muslim cleric in South Florida has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for funneling tens of thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.

U.S. District Judge Robert Scola imposed the sentence Friday on 78-year-old Hafiz Khan, who was convicted in March of four terror support-related charges. Federal prosecutors recommended a 15-year sentence and Khan faced a maximum of 60 years.

Trial evidence showed Khan arranged to send about $50,000 over a three-year period to Pakistan. Prosecutors argued the money helped finance violent attacks against both U.S. and Pakistani targets. Khan told the judge Friday the money was for family, friends and a religious school he founded.

Khan was imam at a Miami mosque before his 2011 arrest.

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Yemen president says al-Qaeda wanted to ‘change history’

Yemen’s president said that al-Qaeda’s promise to “change history” led to the closure of Western embassies in the country.

Yemen’s president said Friday a promise to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to “change the course of history” had led to the closure of Western embassies in the country this month.

Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi, who was quoted by a source close to him, said the matter came up in a conversation he had with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House on August 1.

According to the source, U.S. intelligence services had intercepted a conversation between Zawahiri and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In it, Wuhayshi told Zawahiri he would be hearing of something “that will change the course of history,” the source quoted Hadi as saying.

On August 4 the United States shut 19 of its consulates and embassies in the Arab and Muslim countries amid what American officials said was a threat of an imminent al-Qaeda attack.

It finally reopened the embassy in Sanaa on Tuesday — two weeks after it was shut — although other missions had already reopened.

Yemen is the ancestral home of Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden and the home base of the militant faction AQAP.

Britain and France had also shut their embassies in Yemen emulating the US move but they later reopened them.

The source close to Hadi also said he had told U.S. officials he believed Al-Qaeda would not strike outside Yemen, and that their precautionary steps were “exaggerated.”

In the remarks delivered Friday to police officers, Hadi also said a bid to attack an oil terminal in Yemen had been foiled after the phone conversation between Wuhayshi and Zawahiri was intercepted.

According to Hadi, Al-Qaeda had “rigged two truck with seven tons of TNT explosives each” but that one of the vehicles was spotted by a drone in early August and taken out in eastern Yemen.

The truck was heading towards the Dhaba terminal in Hadramawt province at the time and was bombed before it reached its destination, he said.

On August 7, Yemen said it had foiled an al-Qaeda plot to storm the Canadian-run Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal and seize the nearby Hadramawt provincial capital Al-Mukalla.

Hadi said authorities were still searching for the second explosives-packed truck but had arrested members of a cell who had helped “facilitate the operation.”

He added that a wave of drone attacks over the past two weeks on suspected Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen had killed 40 militants, including some ring leaders in the Sanaa region.

Earlier Friday, the official Saba news agency carried excerpts of Hadi’s remarks but without giving details concerning the Al-Qaeda threats.

In its report, Saba quoted the president as saying he has asked Washington to provide Yemen with drones.

“I have talked with the US administration about helping us with this technology… Yemenis are clever and can understand it very quickly,” Hadi said.

The president defended the use of drones by saying they were more precise than other weapons.

“The cooperation in the field of combating terrorism is not a secret,” said Hadi referring to his country’s U.S.-backed fight against al-Qaeda militants.

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Leena Jawabreh sentenced to 1 month and 1000 shekel fine

Lina-JawabrehLeena Jawabreh was sentenced to one month in Israeli prison today and a fine of $1000 shekels for entering Palestine ’48 (Israel) without a permit. Myassar Atyani and Linan Abu Ghoulmeh will have hearings upcoming on Sunday.

To take action on their case, please see our alert: http://samidoun.ca/2013/08/action-alert-three-leading-palestinian-women-prisoners-activists-arrested-take-action/

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Lawyers, Advocates: Prison Hunger Strike Force Feeding Order Political Attack on Peaceful Protest

 

screen-shot-2011-06-19-at-1-30-37-pmStrikers Vow to Continue, Prisoners Rejoin Strike, Supporters Redouble Efforts

Oakland—As prisoners enter their 46th day of the massive California prison hunger strike, supporters continue to condemn Monday’s controversial court order that authorizes force feeding of strike participants and that disregards their medical wishes. According to lawyers just back from a visit to Pelican Bay, the order has emboldened prisoners to continue their strike, while others have decided to rejoin the strike in response to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) attack.

Attorney Anne Weills met with strikers in Pelican Bay Tuesday and Wednesday. “Although some have lost around 30 pounds and are getting significantly weaker, they are still very sharp intellectually and are still deeply united in their struggle for a life with dignity,” said Weills. “They are very much committed to their demands and are waiting for Governor Brown to send someone to Pelican Bay to negotiate about those demands.”

Weills reported that prisoners were disturbed that the Judge who signed the controversial order, along with the Prison Law Office and the Medical Receiver’s office would align themselves with the CDCR’s political repression of the peaceful protest. Strike supporters are particularly disturbed and outraged that the order against strikers’ advanced medical directives (AMD) adds legal weight to the CDCR’s sensational, and largely unsubstantiated, propaganda that all strike participation is part of a gang conspiracy. “This is an extraordinary political attack on the hunger strikers,” continued Weills. “ It is even more absurd when a spokesperson for the Medical Receiver’s office stated that among the hunger strikers who have been starving since July 8th, there are very few who have any advanced medical directives in the first place. So who is being coerced? There is not one shred of evidence that has been presented to Judge Henderson that anyone has been coerced to sign anything. Where are the declarations of such a person? Where is a declaration from a real hunger striker which states that they are being coerced? Is this a fraud being perpetrated on a federal judge, who trusts the Plata plaintiff’s attorneys? Why was there no evidentiary hearing?”

“This is a continuation of CDCR’s attacks on a nonviolent protest,” said Dolores Canales of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. “We have seen this before. This is about dehumanizing the strikers, delegitimizing their demands, and disrupting the widespread support for the protest coming from the community. But, as always, this will only cause the strikers, their loved ones, and their supports to fight harder.” Amid CDCR’s latest stunts and Gov. Brown’s continued silence, strike supporters are continuing to put pressure on California politicians, demanding action from the state’s Public Safety Committee .

It seems that the CDCR’s plans have backfired as Weills reports prisoners are rejoining the strike. “As a result of recent events and Judge Henderson’s Order, I was told yesterday that more than 50 people in the SHU at Pelican Bay are now going back on hunger strike,” said Weills. “From what I understand, that 50 may turn into 100 very fast, and that many have already been on rolling hunger strikes—going two weeks on, and then two weeks off. This will all continue until an agreement is reached.”

(Source / 23.08.2013)

The arrested development of Palestinian child ex-detainees

 

Due to his absence from school while detained at Ofer military prison, Yazan is required to repeat his class. Feeling ashamed of reintegrating with younger students, Yazan decided to leave school and work instead.

Ramallah, 22 August 2013–For a Palestinian child, waking up to thunderous banging and shouting at their front door in the middle of the cold and biting winter night is nothing short of a nightmare. In late January, it became 16-year-old Yazan’s reality when he was arrested from his home in Beit Ummar, a West Bank village near Hebron.

Night raids, arrests and detention of Palestinian children are fundamental components of the prolonged Israeli military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. As of June 30, 193 Palestinian children were in Israeli military detention, while around 500-700 kids are arrested and detained each year, according to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine).

Located near the illegal Israeli settlements Gush Etzion and Karmi Zur, Beit Ummar is often subject to night raids and incursions. During 2013, Israeli soldiers have entered Beit Ummar 35 times, arresting 17 people, including seven children, according to DCI-Palestine sources.

In early July, nearly two months following his release from detention, Yazan sits on the floral couch in his living room, reluctantly recounting the details of his arrest and experience in Israeli military detention. Biting his nails, he shares how soldiers beat, bound and blindfolded him. Yazan was accused of throwing stones, detained at Ofer military prison near Ramallah for 115 days and changed forever by the ordeal.

“I’m a lot more serious than I was before, and I feel much angrier and more frustrated,” Yazan explains reservedly. “I stay home more often than I did before my arrest, and I worry about my younger siblings when they go out. I don’t leave the house unless I have to.”

Last month, fireworks and celebrations across the West Bank promptly followed the annual release of Tawjihi results, the exam graduating high school students take during their final year. While many Palestinian families celebrated success, children caught up in the Israeli military detention system had a different experience.

Arrests and detention can adversely affect a child’s educational development. No textbooks and no formal educational or remedial classes are offered to children detained at Ofer prison, according to Yazan. Informal classes are organized by the prisoners themselves; with Arabic, English and Hebrew classes taught by adult prisoners for three hours daily.

In March, DCI-Palestine and Adalah submitted a letter to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), the Israeli government agency responsible for the operation of Israel’s prisons, urging them to stop violating the right to education of incarcerated Palestinian minors and to carry out remedial steps. IPS regulations fail to address the right to compulsory education for Palestinian child detainees, which leaves hundreds of children in detention with little, sporadic or inadequate educational instruction.

Following their release, children have difficulty successfully reintegrating into school. This fall Yazan should be enrolling in eleventh grade. However, children that miss more than 60 consecutive school days must repeat the academic year regardless of the circumstances, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Education. Due to his absence from school while detained, Yazan is required to repeat.

Feeling ashamed of reintegrating with younger students, Yazan decided to leave school and work instead. In September, he will begin vocational training in auto mechanics while continuing to participate in counseling sessions specifically for ex-child detainees at the East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation (EJ-YMCA) Program in Hebron.

In April, during the early morning, Israeli soldiers stormed a home in Halhul, north of Hebron, arresting Qusai, 15, from his bedroom. Qusai was accused of throwing stones and detained at Ofer military prison for 18 days. Upon his release from prison in May, and shortly before final exams, Qusai began attending weekly group counseling sessions at the EJ-YMCA in Hebron. The sessions helped him focus on his studies as he struggled to reintegrate into school, Qusai told DCI-Palestine.


“I’m hoping to study bio-medical engineering in the future,” says Qusia, 16, who earned an overall average of 92 percent this year despite serving three weeks in Ofer prison just before his end-of-year exams.

In July, at Qusai’s home, his mother proudly points to a framed academic certificate in the living room displaying her son’s total academic achievement score of 92 for the year. In the fall, Qusai will begin tenth grade and hopes to study bio-medical engineering in the future.

Even those children who are able to return to school face the psychological consequences of detention and its devastating effects on reintegration into their daily lives and routines.

Nightmares and sleep disturbances following trauma can result in the loss of concentration, a deterioration of the quality of learning, and difficulty focusing or planning. Excessive stress can contribute to a feeling that kids are living in unprotected and unpredictable environments, according to Khader Rasras, executive director and clinical psychologist at the Palestinian Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC).

“Fear and anxiety make children who have experienced torture and abuse in detention hyper-vigilant. They will constantly be looking over their shoulders, out the window, and around them worried that soldiers will come for them again,” explained Rasras.

Many teachers and administrators remain unaware of the specific issues that child ex-detainees are dealing with upon returning to school. Consequently, many children may feel stigmatized by their classmates and teachers, becoming preoccupied with the trauma they have experienced rather than their studies.

“The arrests and detentions of children destroy entire generations. Israeli forces continue to demoralize children generationally, destroying their futures in the process,” said Ala Abu-Ayyash, psycho-social counselor and supervisor at the EJ-YMCA Program in Hebron.

Child ex-detainees often share initial reservations about seeking psycho-social help following their release, according to Nisreen al-Saeed, a social worker at the EJ-YMCA Program who has been working with Qusai and Yazan since their release.

EJ-YMCA and Save the Children found that child ex-detainees lack the necessary psychological services and support they need to effectively address their specific issues and concerns. Moreover, few part-time school social workers provide the necessary time and help required, thus exacerbating reintegration struggles.

“The trauma of detention degrades and dehumanizes, and helping child ex-detainees reintegrate within educational and professional environments appropriate for them re-humanizes their struggles,” said al-Saeed. “That’s where we step in.”

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Gaza Salafist Leader Calls For Jihad Against Egyptian General

Protesters wear masks depicting army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as they gather for a mass protest to support the army in Tahrir Square, July 26, 2013.
 The emir of the Salafist group Jaysh al-Umma, or Army of the Islamic Nation, in Gaza, Abu Hafs al-Maqdisi, called for jihad in Egypt to save it from the rule of the so-called “New Pharaoh” — in reference to Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Maqdisi said, “We direct our message to our people in Egypt. You have to go out for jihad and lift the injustice and tyranny, and stop the bloodshed by the tyrant Sisi and his supporters. So get out and stay in the fields and public squares until Sisi — along with all his political, religious and military pillars — falls.”

Maqdisi denied any relationship between his Salafist group and the execution of 25 Egyptian soldiers who were shot dead in Sinai, saying, “There is no presence for us on the ground in Egypt or in the Sinai, and there is no coordination between us and the Salafist groups there. But we are joined together by the Islamic doctrine and the feeling of anger as we watch the blood being shed in Egypt, Syria, Chechnya, Morocco, Pakistan and in all the Muslim countries. We are required to take a stance that supports [the people whose] pure blood is being shed day and night to spread apostasy and to eradicate Islam.”

The Salafist leader accused Sisi’s regime of killing the soldiers in Sinai. “The operation happened in a location that was sensitive security-wise and that was not far from the army’s ambush, because they want to cover up the massacre that took place against prisoners [who were being transported] by a prison vehicle one day before the soldiers were killed in order to preoccupy public opinion. Perhaps they were dissident soldiers who refused to continue serving, so they were liquidated.”

Jaysh al-Umma is a militant Salafist group that belongs to the jihadist-Salafist current, which believes in armed jihad against the existing governments in the countries of the Islamic world and against external enemies. Other such groups in Gaza include: the Jaljalat, the Army of Islam, Jund Ansar Allah and the Mujahedeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, which has claimed responsibility for multiple operations launched against Israel from the Sinai.

Although Maqdisi says that his group was founded 10 years ago, studies on Salafist groups state that the first mention of the existence of Jaysh al-Umma came in mid-September 2007, when the group claimed responsibility for mortar shells targeting settlements launched from east of Khan Yunis.

The most prominent operation attributed to him, which he claimed responsibility for on April 4, 2008, was a joint operation with the Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades targeting Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter. During these years, Maqdisi was arrested and interrogated more than seven times by Hamas security services. In one of these instances, he was detained for more than eight months, after having trained militants at one of his camps in front of reporters.

Maqdisi, who was last arrested by Hamas just over a month ago during his participation in a march in support of Jerusalem, said that it was time to “break our silence in Gaza” and “call on Muslims to wage jihad and on the Egyptian people to persevere in the squares and defend the innocent blood [being shed]. It is no longer a war against one party or group, but it has become a war on Islam. We foresee that the conquest of Rome [will happen] during this century and that the banner of Islam will rise over the White House at the hands of the mujahedeen, and if not at our hands then at the hands of our children, or our children’s children.”

Maqdisi had invited Gaza’s media outlets to a press conference on Thursday, Aug. 15, during which he expressed his hopes that one of Sisi’s bodyguards would kill him. The press conference comes after Salafist groups have stayed away from the media for more than a year, due to restrictions by the Hamas government. Other Salafist groups didn’t participate in the press conference. “There is no coordination with the rest of the groups in the Gaza Strip because it was arranged in a hurry, one day after the massacre of breaking up the Rabia al-Adawiya sit-in,” he said.

The events in Egypt have sparked a range of reactions from Salafist-jihadist groups that are affiliated with al-Qaeda. On Aug. 3, al-Qaeda broadcast an audio recording by its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri where he accused the US and the Gulf of masterminding the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi.

Al-Monitor did not attend the press conference, and met Maqdisi for a one-on-one interview in a place of his choosing. He was surrounded by “the soldiers of Abu Hafs,” as they called themselves. “We don’t take permission from Hamas or wait for a permit from anyone. We take our permission only from our religion. We found the need for this conference after the massacres in Egypt. There is also the calamity of the futile negotiations with the occupation announced by [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas and the legitimization of the settlements. Since the start of the new negotiations, 4,000 housing units have been permitted,” he said.

Maqdisi filled the attendees’ cups with tea and he seemed to be a simple man, considering his words. “Last year, I spent 136 days in Hamas’ prisons. They only released me during the war because they evacuated the security sites. They returned me to prison, then they released me in December. Hamas still views the Salafists in an unfair and unjust way, robs them of their rights and prevents them from properly preparing for jihad against the enemy,” he added.

He stressed that his group stopped its military activity after the November 2012 war. “We stopped [our military activities] not because of a truce but because of legitimate interests,” he said.

Jaysh al-Umma is at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood, one of whose extensions is Hamas. But that didn’t prevent the emir Abu Hafs from calling for jihad against Sisi, saying, “Not everyone who stands against Sisi is with the Muslim Brotherhood. The dispute between the Brotherhood and Sisi was a dispute over power. But when the dispute became over Islam by the leaders of the coup, it was necessary to take a stand. The battle with the Brotherhood effectively ended on June 30, and the battle against Islam started … We used to be silent. But after Morsi was ousted and the secular forces took control, and the Muslims — not just the Brotherhood — started being excluded, we had no choice but to break the Salafist silence in Gaza and strongly condemn the targeting of all those who belong to Islam.”

He called on Egyptians to not adhere to Western slogans, which have increased the Egyptians’ humiliation. “Through the lie of democracy, the West is trying to control the lands of Islam via its agents. There are those who give [those Western agents] religious legitimacy, such as the sheikh of Al-Azhar and the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, who have taken no stance on the Muslim lands or the crusades that the West is conducting there.”

In a question to Hamas about allowing the Salafists to organize a press conference, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Al-Monitor over the phone, “There weren’t any press conferences by the Salafists in Gaza about Egypt. All what was reported in the media is not true. A press conference results in photos and videos. And that didn’t happen … But there were some statements by one Salafist that were amplified and placed out of context. We have asserted, as the Hamas movement, that Gaza neither has nor will have anything to do with what is happening in Egypt … We have emphasized, in the Hamas movement, that there is a consensus in Gaza about not interfering in Egypt. That consensus includes Salafist groups. And Hamas asserts that it doesn’t accept any Palestinian party interfering in Egyptian affairs.”

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Israeli officers torture detained Palestinian children

B’Tselem organization published on Thursday a report that includes testimonies from children detained in Israeli jails, on charges of throwing stones at soldiers, saying they were subjected to torture during their interrogation.

B’Tselem said that since November 2009, it has received testimonies from dozens of Palestinian residents of the Bethlehem and al-Khalil, most of them minors, saying that they were subjected to threats and violence, sometimes amounting to torture, during their interrogation at the police station at Gush Etzion.

The testimonies describe interrogations in which the minors were forced to confess to alleged offenses, mostly stone-throwing.

The report included the testimony of a minor, aged 14 from Husan in Bethlehem. He said “The interrogator made me go into a room. He grabbed my head and started banging it against the wall. Then he punched me, slapped me and kicked my legs. The pain was immense, and I felt like I couldn’t stand any longer.”

“Then he started swearing at me. He said filthy things about me and about my mother. He threatened to rape me, or perform sexual acts on me, if I didn’t confess to throwing stones,” the child added.

He said: “His threats really scared me, because he was very cruel and it was just the two of us in the room. I remembered what I’d seen on the news, when British and American soldiers raped and took photos of naked Iraqis.”

B’Tselem reported that until July 2013 its field researchers collected 64 testimonies from residents of eight communities in the southern West Bank who reported such incidents. “Fifty-six of them were minors at the time of their interrogation.”

(Source / 23.08.2013)

IBSA backs Kerry’s Palestine, Israel peace bid

India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) have backed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts at mediation that have led to the announcement of resumption of direct final status negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

The grouping is involved in the region by collectively sponsoring projects in Palestine such as the construction of a Multipurpose Sports Center in Ramallah and the creation of a Palestinian Youth Sports League.

In their periodical statement on West Asia, the IBSA was positive about the efforts being made to bring the two sides on the negotiating table and did not mention the construction of Israeli settlements unlike on previous occasions when it came down on Israel for fomenting violence.

“I think the fact that they take up the Palestinian issue regularly is a welcome step because most regional bodies nowadays tend to downplay the issue,” noted Strategic Analyst Qamar Agha.

The statement issued on Friday termed the announcement of talks “an encouraging development’’ that has the potential for reverting the deadlock and paralysis that have plagued the peace process in recent years. “We hope this renewed effort will lead to the full and overdue realisation of a two-state solution based on 1967 borders,’’ said the statement.

The IBSA appreciated Israel’s decision to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, “which is a gesture that contributes to the spirit of cooperation surrounding the negotiations’’ as also Mr. Kerry indicating that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are committed to reaching a comprehensive peace agreement within nine months.

“Such an agreement should culminate in the full realization of an independent Palestinian State. We call on the parties to adhere strictly to this timetable,’’ said IBSA while calling on the Security Council to exercise its functions under the UN Charter, with regard to the Palestinian Question.

But Mr. Agha was pessimistic about the talks because he felt the release of political prisoners and stoppage of all settlement construction activity should have been the preconditions.

Core issue

“They have to stop settlements and accept UN’s Resolution 242 which calls for withdrawal from all occupied territories. Jerusalem is also a core issue because Al Quds is one of the holiest places in Islam and that is why the Palestinian problem is a core issue in the Muslim world,” he reasoned.

The statement was signed by Foreign Ministers Salman Khurshid, Antonio Patriota (Brazil) and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (South Africa).

In its previous statement last year, IBSA had expressed its “strongest condemnation of the ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine and called for a stop to all construction activity”. The 2011 statement was more occupied with the Arab Spring and did not touch on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

(Source / 23.08.2013)

Gaza protests against peace talks

 

Palestinian supporters of Hamas and protest against Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on August 23, 2013, in Gaza City. Hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip protested on Friday against Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in marches organised by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian supporters of Hamas and protest against Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on August 23, 2013, in Gaza City. Hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip protested on Friday against Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in marches organised by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

AFP – Hundreds of people in the Gaza Strip protested on Friday against Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, in marches organised by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Marchers set off from mosques across the coastal strip before converging on a square in the middle of Gaza City, with protesters brandishing signs saying “No to negotiations” and slamming West Bank-based Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s “political failure.”

Hamas’s religious affairs minister Ismail Ridwan addressed the group’s arch-rival Abbas in a speech during the protests.

“All the Palestinian factions say you don’t have the right to relinquish any piece of our land, or to give up Palestinian rights,” he said.

Hamas says Abbas’s decision to return to the negotiating table with Israel is not representative of the will of the Palestinian people.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held another round of US-brokered talks on Tuesday in Jerusalem.

“Returning to talks is a blow to the jihad and to the sacrifices of our people, the blood of our martyrs and to our prisoners behind bars in Israel,” Ridwan said.

Israeli plans to build another 2,129 settlement units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, announced days before the latest talks started, angered Palestinian officials, who have said the plans threatened to bring a premature and “disastrous” end to negotiations.

(Source / 23.08.2013)