NABLUS, (PIC)– 30-year-old Islam Hamed, a political prisoner in a Palestinian Authority (PA) security jail, continues for 58th consecutive day his open-ended hunger strike in protest at his illegal detention for five years after completing his three-year prison term.
Family sources told Quds Press on Saturday that Hamed started days ago to refrain from taking water and salt.
They affirmed that the prisoner demands his release after completing his prison term five years ago.
Hamed was arrested on September 4, 2010 by the PA intelligence apparatus in Ramallah after he was charged with carrying out a gunfire attack on an Israeli car boarded by settlers.
Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas had claimed then responsibility for the attack.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Popular committees in Palestinian refugee camps in the Gaza Strip on Sunday urged Gazans to take part in sit-ins in front of the UNRWA headquarters to protest a reduction in the refugee agency’s services in Gaza.They said in a statement that the reductions come at a “dangerous time,” alleging that “forces of evil and aggression” are trying to push Palestinian refugees from the camps, as in Yarmouk camp in Syria, and also to pressure them to immigrate to other countries.The popular committees are official entities affiliated with the PLO in Palestinian refugee camp across the occupied Palestinian territories and abroad.The statement said that UNRWA had reduced its annual employment rate, which was in turn affecting education rates as less Palestinians saw the value of a university education.They also criticized UNRWA for stopping monthly payments to Gazans whose houses were demolished during the Israeli military offensive last summer.UNWRA, which is the largest service provider for refugees in the Gaza Strip, has been struggling in recent months to secure donor funding.The agency announced in February that a lack of funding had forced them to stop a cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Palestinians to make repairs to damaged and destroyed homes.In a report on Thursday, the UN agency said that only $216 million had been pledged for its emergency shelter program, leaving “a current shortfall of $504 million.”The report said: “Due to the lack of funding, to date, 47,979 families have not received the first tranche for repair works of their shelter and 6,880 have not received the second tranche to continue the repair works.”It added that almost a year after the beginning of last summer’s conflict, “not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza.”The report said that “the Gaza Strip only exists through external funding; 80 per cent of the population are dependent on aid,” adding: “People in Gaza don’t want aid, they want dignity and freedom.”The call for protests by the popular committees came after Hamas organized a march in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday to protest UNRWA’s reduction in services.It also comes at a time when Gaza is facing growing internal unrest, with a strong of explosions set off in recent months, some by violent Salafist groups seeking to challenge Hamas’ rule over the coastal enclave.On Saturday, a Salafist group claimed responsibility for a rocket attack which brought retaliatory Israeli airstrikes against Hamas.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
Residents stand by homes destroyed in Rafah, Nov. 4, 2014
CAIRO (Ma’an) – Egyptian military forces will begin to evacuate more homes opposite to the borderlines with the Gaza Strip come July, in an ongoing expansion of the no-go area between Egypt and the Palestinian coastal enclave, Egyptian military sources said Saturday.A fertile ground for smuggling tunnels running underground between the two sides, Egypt has evacuated thousands of Palestinian homes this year due to alleged use of the tunnels for supporting a current militant insurgency in the Sinai.Several families have been notified of the evacuation plans which are expected to affect some 10,000 houses in the Safa, Imam Ali and al-Ahrash neighborhoods in Rafah city in North Sinai Peninsula, said authorities, who seek to expand the zone by 500 meters.Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in February 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 meters in rural areas.After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, however, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.Egyptian military authorities accuse Hamas of direct involvement of planning and executing attacks against Egyptian military targets, as well as intentionally threatening political stability in the region.Hamas, which denies Egyptian accusations, has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.Deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas come at a high price to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents for whom the smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007.While the tunnels are used by Hamas as a source of tax revenue and inflow of weapons, they also supply highly-demanded necessities for Gazans including food, medicine, as well as infrastructure materials including concrete and fuel.Around 1,110 houses on the Egyptian side had been demolished by the end of April to make way for the expanding buffer zone, with more than 1,000 families displaced.Both sides of the border are densely populated as the city of Rafah originally extended in both directions, a growth that was the result of the Israeli occupation of the Sinai Peninsula for more than a decade following the 1967 war.Egyptian military sources say that to eradicate the potential danger of smuggling tunnels “once and for all,” the current no-go area should reach 5,000 meters and be protected with a water canal dug alongside it.The evacuation is set to start immediately after the holy month of Ramadan, around July 20.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
The figures and the statistics regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza have never been shocking as is the case in these days; as they unveiled the miserable lives of about two million citizens which may lead to what Palestinian observers called an “explosion”.
Abdul-Sattar Qassem, a Palestinian writer and a Professor of Political Science at Birzeit University in Ramallah, told Anadolu news agency: ” The humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached an unprecedented level of deterioration, alarming numbers issued by international institutions warn of the rising unemployment rates and poverty in conjunction with the lack of any political solution in sight and the delayed reconstruction process of Gaza. We are talking about a ticking bomb of anger and despair that might explode at any moment.”
Qassem also warned: “People in Gaza feel like they have nothing to lose which may prompt them to explode and revolt against the Egyptian siege, Israel, and the different factions that rule them.”
In his visit to the blockaded enclave on Monday, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the situation in Gaza as a “powder keg” and said in a press conference held in Gaza seaport: “The conditions in Gaza are catastrophic and must not continue, Gaza is a powder keg that must not ignite.” Steinmeier said that he is working with Palestinian and Israeli officials on amending the tragic situation in Gaza as well as assuring the prevention of a new coming war with Israel.
For his part, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, warned of the repercussions of the continued dire humanitarian situation in besieged Gaza and said in a statement on Wednesday in New York on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of “The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)”: “Gaza is a powder keg, mounting frustration and anger will surely light the fuse. Action is needed now.”
The World Bank issued on May 22 a statement saying that the unemployment rate in Gaza reached 43% which is the highest rate in the world, while it rose among youths to more than 60% by the end of 2014 which is a cause for concern.
Steen Lau Jorgensen, the World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza, pointed out that poverty, unemployment rates, and the economic expectations in Gaza are very worrying, and highlighted that the continued siege and the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014 caused disastrous effects on the economy and on people’s lives.
“Gaza is on the brink of collapse,” Maher al-Tabba a Palestinian economist said, adding: “life in Gaza is worse than people can imagine, it has been turned into the biggest prison in the world,” and clarified: “Gaza is in a state of clinical death; no reconstruction, no crossings, no water, no electricity, no work, no medicine, no development, there is no life at all.” He called for necessarily pressuring Israel into lifting the unjust siege.
Israel has been imposing land and sea blockade on Gaza since the democratic elections that brought Hamas to power in January 2006.
The Israeli war on the Strip in summer 2014 led to a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) by about $460 million, and construction, agriculture, industry, and electricity sectors were affected the most, according to the World Bank statistics.
World Bank data show that the Gazans are suffering from the poor essential public services and that 80% of them receive a form of social welfare assistance and 40% are still living below the poverty line.
Muin Rajab, a professor of Economics al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that the reports and the economic indicators issued by local and international institutions warn of the gravity of the situation in besieged Gaza and called for alleviating the humanitarian situation to avoid any more deterioration.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
File photo of Hamas supporters at a rally in Gaza City
Palestinian political analysts welcomed an Egyptian court’s decision to annul a lower court’s ruling that labeled Hamas a terrorist organisation, calling it an important political step that will have positive repercussions on the Gaza Strip.
Taiseer Mheisen, a political analyst and writer for a number of Palestinian newspapers, said this was an important development that would alleviate the suffering of the Gaza Strip’s population.
“This decision will have positive effects on the issue of the Rafah crossing, which may now be open on a weekly basis,” he said.
The Rafah crossing is located on the Egypt-Gaza border, and has been almost totally shut down over the past year, causing extreme difficulty for the residents of Gaza.
Hassan Abdo, a political analyst for the non-governmental Center for Palestine Research and Studies, believes the decision may establish good relations between Egypt and Hamas.
This prediction was echoed by Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas leader, during a television interview on Saturday.
“The movement [Hamas] recently met with a high-level Egyptian official and the two sides stressed the need to improve bilateral ties,” he said
Hamdan did not disclose the identity of the Egyptian official.
Hani Habib, a political writer for the Ayyam newspaper which is issued from Ramallah in the West Bank, also believes that the Egyptian court’s decision could establish a new period of bilateral relations between Egypt and Hamas.
“Hamas is Gaza for the Egyptians, and any improvement [in relations] with it means that the humanitarian situation could see a breakthrough, especially with regard to the Rafah border crossing,” he said.
On Feb. 28, a lower Egyptian court designated Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation over claims that the group had carried out terrorist attacks in Egypt through tunnels linking the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip.
The final verdict to overturn the original decision was issued by an Egyptian appellate court Saturday
(Source / 07.06.2015)
While we often hear Palestinian prisoners in the news, little is said about the lawmakers currently sitting in Israeli prisons. Many of them have spent years in jail, often as political prisoners in administrative detention, suffering beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult conditions. Yet many of them still see a chance of living side-by-side with Israel, whether in one or two states.
Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison
An Israeli military court decided last week to continue detainingKhalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian parliament, who has been imprisoned by Israel for the past two months. Jarrar was first arrested and put in administrative detention, which in effect meant that she could be held indefinitely without being charged or seeing trial. However, in the wake of a global campaign for her release, the state decided to release her from administrative detention and put her on trial.
Jarrar is not the only member of the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), to be held by Israel. Israel is currently imprisoning 12 other Palestinians parliamentarians, who were elected in the last democratic elections to take place in the Palestinian Authority in 2006. Some are in administrative detention, which in the eyes of the international community makes them political prisoners who are being held solely due to their political and social activities.
According to statistics published by the Israel Prison Service on April 30, there are 394 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons. The very fact that Israel indefinitely holds Palestinian prisoners without charges is problematic in itself — but when we are talking about elected officials, the problem grows tenfold. Take Jarrar, for instance, who was placed under administrative detention until she was formally charged. Why? Because she belongs to an organization that she represents in the Palestinian parliament to which she was democratically elected.
Many of these political leaders have spent years in Israeli prisons, often as political prisoners in administrative detention. Some were arrested as “bargaining chips” after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas; many of them suffer from difficult health conditions that are not properly treated by the Israel Prison Service. These, after all, are the officials that have been chosen by the Palestinian people to lead them toward a life alongside Israel.
Despite dozens of arrests, beatings, interrogations and imprisonment in difficult (and often humiliating) conditions, many of them still see a chance of living side-by-side with Israel, whether in one or two states.
Here is a list of Palestinian parliament members currently being held in Israeli prisons:
Khalida Jarrar, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and a leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, poses for a photo showing an internal expulsion order given to her by Israeli soldiers who invaded her home in Ramallah in the early hours of August 20, Ramallah, West Bank, August 27, 2014. Jarrar was ordered to go to Jericho within 24 hours, but she refused to sign the paper. She is determined to stay in a protest tent in front of the Palestinian Council in Ramallah until the decision is revoked
Jarrar is a 52-year-old lawyer and a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She is one of the forces that led the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court. Before her election, she headed the Palestinian human rights organization Addameer, which works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. She also worked for UNRWA as an activist for women’s rights in Palestine.
In 1998, Israeli forbade her to leave the West Bank, despite the fact that until her current imprisonment, she had never been formally charged with a crime. After PFLP leader Ahmad Sa’adat was imprisoned, Jarrar became the organization’s third parliamentary member.
On August 2014 she was expelled from her home in al-Bireh to Jericho by Israeli soldiers. However, Jarrar refused to sign the expulsion order and returned to living in her home. In April 2015 she was arrested overnight by a large force of Israeli soldiers and was placed in administrative detention. She was eventually charged for being part of the PFLP — the party she represents in the PLC — and a military court decided to place her under house arrest. The state opposed the sentence, claiming Jarrar constitutes a “security threat.” The court then decided to keep her in prison until the end of court procedures.
Jarrar is married and has two daughters.
Duwaik is 67 years old, chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, a member of Hamas and holds a PhD in Regional and Architecture Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1992 he was expelled to Lebanon by Yitzhak Rabin, where he lived for a full year with 415 Palestinian political leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. After a year he was allowed to return home.
Duwaik is a political rather than a military leader, and has ensured to keep the two separate throughout his career. He has never taken part in operations by the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. In 2006 Duwaik was arrested during Operation Summer Rains; Duwaik claims he was brutally beaten during his interrogations. He was charged with membership in a terrorist organization, and was released after three years. In 2012 he was arrested and placed under administrative detention for half a year. According to Hamas, the arrest was intended to prevent reconciliation with its rival Fatah party. In June 2014, Duwaik was arrested once again as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper. He was sentenced last week to 12 months in prison and fined NIS 6,000.
Duwaik claims that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state in the entire territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is an unrealistic dream, and calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. In an interview with the New York Times he was quoted as saying: “My message to Israel is simple: End the occupation and there won’t be any more war.”
Duwaik is married and has seven children.
Barghouti is 57 years old, the former leader of Fatah in the West Bank, a member of the PLC since 1996 and has an MA in international relations. In 2000 he was appointed the head of the Tanzim, an armed offshoot of Fatah, and according to Israel was responsible for many terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada. He escaped several assassination attempts by the Israeli army, including a missile launched at his car, which struck his bodyguard. In June 2004 he was sentenced by an Israeli court to five consecutive life sentences and 40 years imprisonment for his role in planning terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Imprisoned PLO leader Marwan Barghouti
A year later, Barghouti established the Al-Mustaqbal (“The Future”) party, but was eventually convinced to remain part of the Fatah during the 2006 parliamentary elections.
Barghouti, who is being held in Hadarim Prison, is considered a very popular leader among the Palestinian public, and some would even claim he eclipses Mahmoud Abbas’ popularity. In November 2014 Barghouti released a statement from prison in which he called on the Palestinian Authority to cease its security coordination with Israel and called for a third intifada.
Barghouti is married and has four children.
Sa’adat is 42 years old, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist and a math teacher. Sa’adat was arrested by the Palestinian Authority in 2002 under Israeli after being accused of planning the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’ev, and was held in difficult conditions in a Palestinian prison. In 2006, Israeli soldiers kidnapped Sa’adat from the prison as part of Operation Bringing Home the Goods.
He was interrogated at length by the Shin Bet, and in 2008 was convicted by an Israeli military court of membership in a terrorist organization and involvement in Ze’ev’s assassination. He was sentenced to 30 years. In 2011 Sa’adat began a hunger strike along with hundreds of other prisoners, most of them from the PFLP, which lasted 21 days but bore no fruit.
Ahmad Sa’adat portrait by Carlos Latuff.
Sa’adat is known for his outspoken support for the Palestinian right of return, and supports a one-state solution.
He is married and has four children.
Yousef is a 60-year-old theologian, and is considered to be one of the spiritual leaders of Hamas. Since 1971, Yousef has been arrested over 14 times, and has spent a total of 17 years in Israeli prisons. When he was put in administrative detention in 2004, Yousef was nominated to represent Hamas during the elections. He tried to resist, but eventually he agreed and was elected as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He has said on multiple occasions that he would agree to a long-term ceasefire based on 1967 borders, which would allow both nations to live in peace.
Yousef is married and has nine children, one of whom is self-confessed Israeli spy Mosab Yousef (author of the book “Son of Hamas”) who became a Christian and moved to California.
Mohammad Jamal Al-Natsheh
Al-Natsheh is 57 years old and is considered to be one of the leaders of Hamas in the West Bank, and is a teacher of Shari’a. Al-Natsheh was arrested many times by Israel, starting in 1988, and has spent a total of 15 years in prison, some of which was spent in administrative detention. Al-Natsheh was expelled to Lebanon along with Aziz Duwaik and hundreds of others in 1992; he was returned by Rabin a year later. In 1998 he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority and spent a year in prison followed by three years under house arrest.
A Palestinian girl who handcuffed herself holds the picture of her jailed uncle during a protest in support of the Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, April 11, 2013
In 2002 he was arrested by Israeli forces and was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years, four of which were spent in solitary confinement, after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage. In 2006 he was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council. Four months after his release, Israeli soldiers raided his home in January 2011 and arrested him once again. This time he was placed in administrative detention.
Al-Natsheh is married and has four children.
Bader is 59 years old and is considered one of the leaders of Hamas in the West Bank. He is a teacher and a doctor of theology. He was first arrested in 1988 and put under administrative detention, before being deported to Lebanon in 1992. In January 2006 he was number 19 in Hamas’ election list, and in June of that same year he was arrested by Israel and sentenced to 42 months in prison. He was arrested again in 2013 and put in administrative detention. He spent approximately a total of 10 years in Israeli prison, eight of which were spent in administrative detention. Much of his time was spent separated from other prisoners.
Bader is married and has eight children.
Shalhab is 58 years old, a member of Hamas and a doctor of theology. He was first arrested in 1989 and put in administrative detention. Since then he has been arrested nine times for a total of 12.5 years, of which he spent time in administrative detention with no charges. In June 2014 he was arrested as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper and put under administrative detention for four months. Since then, his detention has been extend four times in a row.
Shalhab is married and has 11 children.
Rajoub is 57 years old and serves as the Religious Affairs Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Rajoub is the head of a charity organization that serves Palestinian orphans. He was first arrested in 1989 for membership in Hamas, and in 1992 was expelled to Lebanon along with other Palestinian leaders. He was arrested in 2006 as a bargaining chip after Gilad Shalit was taken hostage by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and was held by Israel until 2010. Nayef is the brother of Jibril Rajoub, who was the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Preventative Security Forces, and was even arrested by his brother’s forces for one day.
In July 2014 Rajoub was arrested as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, and since then he has been in administrative detention. He suffers from multiple health conditions, which case him great pain, and blames the Israel Prison Service for negligence and preventing him from receiving critical medical care. Rajoub has spent a total of 10 years in Israeli prisons, half of which were in administrative detention.
Al-Burini is 60 years old, a member of Hamas and a mathematics teacher. He is a member of the PLC’s educational committee as well as the human rights committee on behalf of Hamas. He was one of the leaders expelled to Lebanon in 1992 and since then has been arrested by Israel a number of times. He has spent a total of 10 years in Israeli prisons, two-and-a-half of which were spent in administrative detention. His son was arrested in 2008, which according to his lawyer was done in order to put pressure on Al-Burini.
He was arrested once again during Operation Brother’s Keeper, and has been held in administrative detention since. He believes that there cannot be peace as long as the settlements exist, and calls on the Arab world to intervene.
Raddad is 54-year-old lawyer and a member of Hamas. He was arrested by Israel in 1994 for membership in the organization and was sentenced to 50 months in prison. He was arrested once again in 2006 as a bargaining chip for Gilad Shalit, and was released after three years. In 2012 he was arrested again and released.
Raddad is an activist for the rights of prisoners’ families. In September 2014 he was convicted of taking part in a march for Palestinian prisoners and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
Muhammad Abu Tir
Abu Tir is 64 years old, number 2 in Hamas in the West Bank and is also known as “Sheikh Abu Mus’ab.” Abu Tir was first arrested in 1974 and spent 11 years in prison until he was released in one of the prisoner exchanges that took place in the 80′s. He has spent a total of 29 years in Israeli prisons, some of which were spent in administrative detention. He is known for his bright orange henna-dyed beard and his intentions to implement Sharia law in Palestine.
Mohammed Abu Tir
Abu Tir, a resident of Jerusalem, was expelled from the city a number of times, and was arrested for returning to his home against the law. In December 2014 he was sentenced to 25 months in prison and given a fine of NIS 18,000.
He is married and has seven children.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
A recently located Iron Dome battary can be seen near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon outside the Gaza Strip June 7, 2015
Israel is to reopen border crossings to and from the Gaza Strip on Monday, the military said, after closing them in the wake of a Palestinian rocket attack.
“I can confirm that they are opening,” an army spokeswoman told AFP.
Israeli warplanes struck Gaza early Sunday for the second time in three days after cross-border rocket fire by an Islamic extremist group which is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, the de facto power in the strip.
The government also ordered the closure until further notice of the Erez crossing for people and the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods.
Saturday night’s rocket attack caused no casualties.
Palestinian security sources and witnesses said latest Israeli air strike hit a training site of Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, in the northern Beit Lahiya area.
Since the end of a deadly 50-day war between Israel and Gaza militants last summer, there have been at least eight instances of rocket or mortar fire on southern Israel, the army says.
(Source / 07.06.2015)
A Cairo-organized conference of Syria’s opposition forces excludes major players. Rebels question Egypt’s motives, with some saying exclusionary politics risk further dividing a fractured opposition.
In the past few months, Syrian rebels fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad have reportedly gained ground. Strategic cities like Idlib and Jisr al-Shughur have fallen to rebel forces and opposition members say there are increasing signs the regime is weakening and could be on its way out. For members of Syria’s opposition, now more than ever is the time to unite to put the Assad regime on the back foot.
“With the progress made by the Syrian opposition, the regime finds itself finally realizing that they should come to the negotiation table,” Hisham Marwah, vice president of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, also called the Syrian Opposition Coalition, told DW.
A selective guest-list
But as members of Syria’s opposition prepare to meet in Cairo on Monday and Tuesday to discuss a roadmap to end Syria’s four-year war that has left hundreds of thousands dead, Marwah’s key opposition group, which is internationally recognized, will not attend.
“We are not invited to come,” he said.
Rebel gains inside Syria have ignited a sense of urgency to unite the country’s innumerable opposition groups and tie them to a framework that will bring political gain. But some say an effort by Egypt to play a more influential role risks pushing an already-fractured opposition further apart.
“This conference is different from all the previous ones held by the Syrian opposition. It will put together a comprehensive national charter and a joint roadmap for a negotiated settlement based on the Geneva Declaration and UN resolutions,” Haytham Manna, a leading Syrian opposition figure and one of the organizers of the conference, told Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly.
The conference, named the “National Opposition Conference for a Political Solution in Syria,” is the second meeting in Cairo this year and is hosted by the Egyptian government.
“The main objective for Egypt is to invite all the opposition leaders and independent personalities who believe in a political solution and who can bring Syria out of the current crisis,” Badr Abdelatty, a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, told DW. “We are providing help. We can intervene, but only on the request of the Syrian representatives.”
Egypt’s ulterior motives
But while Abdelatty says Egypt only seeks to bring Syrian opposition figures together, the country’s staunch opposition to Islamists groups has sowed distrust and left critics questioning Cairo’s motives.
“We need to differentiate between the negative role of the al-Sissi government and its attempt to manipulate the scene, and the Syrian activists who are involved in this initiative and do not all agree with Egypt’s controversial actions,” Hassan Hachimi, a member of the political bureau of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, told DW. “I think that Cairo’s initiative is an attempt to rehabilitate Assad, and more particularly trying to preserve the regime, which is even worse as far as revolution and opposition are concerned.”
Egypt’s current government, which came to power following the military ouster of first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, has undertaken a harsh crackdown on Islamists and remains deeply distrustful of religiously political movements throughout the region.
Cairo has said Assad should be a part of a negotiated settlement. With the majority of opposition groups opposed to a role for Assad, however, the country’s ability to play a role in ending the conflict has come into question.
“Obviously by being selective in their invitation and refusing to be inclusive, Cairo is attempting to push opposition groups apart and trying to cause further disturbance to the opposition image,” Hachimi said. “Really, the opposition is united on a vision for Syria with no Assad and no security forces.”
Organizers of the meeting denied that the gathering was sowing division. Syrian opposition member Manna told “Al-Ahram Weekly” the aim of the meeting was not “to divide the Syrian opposition or replace any of the opposition groups.”
Still, the challenge of bringing together opposition forces has highlighted the long-splintered nature of Syria’s opposition groups.
“The political opposition is as scattered, drifting, and fragmented as ever, there’s nothing new there,” said Yezid Sayigh, a senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, whose work focuses on the Syrian crisis. “No new structures have emerged. As for Cairo, it doesn’t seem like anything was done to bring in rebel groups that are not represented by anyone attending.”
Many critics expect little progress to be made in Cairo this week.
“This seems to have a little bit more to do with the Egyptian government’s attempt to present themselves as relevant and doing something useful on Syria,” said Sayigh. “We’ve seen for the past four years that political opposition structures have failed, and I don’t understand why we keep expecting something new to emerge.”
(Source / 07.06.2015)