Hamas Awaits Results of Egyptian-Led Negotiations With Israel

Illustrative image of Palestinian protesters evacuating a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, March 30, 2018

As Hamas waits for the handing over of Israeli implementation roadmaps for the latest Egyptian-sponsored understandings reached with Tel Aviv, three Palestinians were killed and more than 300 were wounded by Israeli fire near the Gaza Strip border.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official said that an Egyptian security delegation, headed by General Ahmed Abdel Khaliq, and that is conducting shuttle diplomacy between Gaza and Tel Aviv, will receive on Sunday an Israeli roadmap for implementing the understandings. Hamas officials say that Israel is offering a package of economic incentives in exchange for calm along the volatile border.

Hamas-Israeli understandings mainly focus on expanding area of sea fishing, lift the ban on dozens of “dual-use” products, establish industrial zones and infrastructure projects, and transfer funds without delay into the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed four Palestinian protesters as demonstrations take place on the Gaza border, the health ministry has said.

Israeli soldiers had killed the four Palestinians and injured 316 others, including 14 who suffered life-threatening wounds, during protests across the perimeter fence, in the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip.

Most demonstrators kept their distance from the border, though small crowds of activists approached the fence and threw stones and explosives toward Israeli troops on the other side. The forces fired tear gas and opened fire against protesters.

The Egyptian delegation had asked Hamas to maintain a peaceful “march of return” and restraint its protesters as to prevent Israeli withdrawal from the ongoing talks.

Hamas had pledged to keep the crowds at a safe distance from the fence to avoid inflaming the political atmosphere during negotiations of a possible easing of the blockade.

(Source / 31.03.2019) 

Netanyahu: Allowing Fund Transfer to Gaza Prevents Establishment of Palestinian State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that allowing Qatari funds to be transferred into Gaza was part of a broader strategy to keep Hamas and the Palestinian Authority divided, preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu explained that, in the past, the PA transferred the millions of dollars to Hamas in Gaza, a source in Monday’s Likud faction told the Jerusalem Post.

He argued that it was better for Israel to serve as the pipeline to ensure the funds don’t end up in the hands of terrorists.

“Now that we are supervising, we know it’s going to humanitarian causes,” the source said quoting Netanyahu.

“Whoever is against a Palestinian state should be with” transferring the funds to Gaza because maintaining a separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu further noted.

Netanyahu’s comments followed Qatar’s announcement on Monday of sending the fourth batch of its funds to poor families in Gaza.

A total of 55,000 families in the Strip receive $100 payment each.

The aid is part of a $150 million Qatari grant, some of which was used in the past to pay salaries to Hamas employees before the dispute.

Head of Qatar’s National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza Strip Mohammad al-Amadi arrived in the strip on Sunday to oversee the distribution of $5.5 million to Gaza’s poorest families.

He arrived one day before UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.

They both oversee specific aspects of stabilizing calm in the Gaza Strip. While Egypt has been working on establishing a ceasefire in Gaza for weeks now.

An Egyptian security delegation visited Gaza and Israel several times last week in order to establish a new agreement between the two sides.

Hamas demanded Qatari funds be transferred as salaries as well as expanding the fishing area and allowing entry of certain prohibited items to Gaza.

(Source / 12.03.2019)

Assassination Attempt Widens Fatah-Hamas Rift

A military parade marking the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, in the northern of Gaza Strip December 8, 2016

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attempt at the life of Gaza-based Fatah central committee member, Ahmed Hillis. Fatah has accused Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, of standing behind the assassination try.

Hamas, however, denied involvement and pointed towards internal divisions within Fatah. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which came amid continued tensions between the two main Palestinian parties.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of the Interior said that two suspects were arrested on Saturday in connection with the failed assassination attempt. Hamas security forces also seized the car that was used by the assailants and were seeking to arrest other suspects, the group’s spokesman, Eyad al-Bazm, said.

“We won’t allow anyone to tamper with our internal front,” the Hamas spokesman added. “We will take all necessary measures to maintain stability and security in the Gaza Strip.”

The spokesman did not provide details about the identities or political affiliation of the suspects.

Fatah, on the other hand, considered the assassination an attempt to represent Hamas’ true position towards reconciliation.

“The policy of physical and moral assassination is part and parcel of the practice and behavior that Hamas has employed since its inception,” a Fatah statement said.

Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip Atef Abu Saif said that what happened to Hillis was not unusual and that Fatah movement members in Gaza constantly face threats and are frequently arrested.

He added that “those who refuse to empower the government and continue to divide and reject national unity are responsible for such crimes.” Abu Saif accused Hamas of trying to derail elections in the Gaza Strip through an assassination attempt that is the quickest key to widen the Hamas-Fatah rift.

(Source / 10.03.2019)

PA President Asserts His Country’s Support to Iraq in Its War on Terrorism

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and his Iraqi counterpart Burham Saleh

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas offered Palestine’s “expertise and companies” to help Iraq with its postwar reconstruction and war on terrorism. This came during his meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Burham Saleh in the presidential palace in Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

President Abbas arrived in Baghdad Sunday on an official visit, where he met several Iraqi officials.

The PA president said Palestinians were “ready to contribute to rebuilding Iraq,” which has suffered major material losses in armed conflicts over the past 17 years.

President Abbas also met with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi in Baghdad where they discussed the latest political developments in the Palestinian cause, particularly the Israeli violations against Jerusalem and its Muslim and Christian holy sites, including al-Aqsa mosque.

They further discussed issues of mutual interest and bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to promote them in all fields to serve the common interests.

For his part, the Iraqi president affirmed that the Palestinian case will remain the central issue, and “we will continue to defend the rights of the Palestinian people.”

He stressed that Iraq’s strong presence in the region enables it to help achieving the demands of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian president congratulated Iraq on its success in liberating the cities from ISIS control, reiterating the solidarity of the Palestinian people with their Iraqi brothers in confronting terrorism.

Abbas visited Iraq officially for the first time in 2009, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003. Baghdad hosts thousands of Palestinian refugees who live in residential compounds in the center of the capital.

After the Saddam regime fell, and during the outbreak of sectarian war in 2006, Palestinians were persecuted, prompting some of them to leave Baghdad and settle in camps on the Iraqi-Jordanian border.

(Source / 05.03.2019)

UN Says Israel Committed War Crimes While Responding to Gaza Protests, Israel Rejects Report

Israeli jeep fires tear-gas during clashes after Friday protests near the border between Israel and Gaza Strip

United Nations investigators said on Thursday Israeli security forces may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 at weekly protests in Gaza last year, Reuters reported.

The independent panel said it had confidential information about those it believes to be responsible for the killings, including snipers and commanders.

“The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities,” it said in its report.

For its part, Israel rejected what the report stated, as acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz described it “another hostile, mendacious and slanted report against the State of Israel … No one can deny Israel the right of self-defense and the obligation to defend its citizens and borders from violent attacks.”

According to Reuters, the panel, led by Argentine legal expert Santiago Canton, said individual members of the Israeli security forces killed and gravely injured civilians who were “neither directly participating in hostilities nor posing an imminent threat”.

“Some of these violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity and must be immediately investigated by Israel,” Canton said.

Thirty-five children, two journalists and three “clearly-marked” paramedics were among those killed by Israeli forces, in violation of international humanitarian law, it said.

In the ongoing border protests dubbed ‘The Great March of Return’, Gazans are calling for the right to return to lands from which their ancestors fled or were forced to flee.

(Source / 28.02.2019)

Palestinian Official Threatens Hamas With Tough Decisions

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City February 22, 2019

A member of Fatah Central Committee, Hussein Sheikh, lashed out at Hamas, threatening to adopt “decisions and actions regarding the future of the movement in the Palestinian arena.”

“The Hamas movement continues to cross all the red lines and goes far in its alignment with the conspirators, and this will prompt us to make decisions and actions on the future of its presence in the Palestinian arena,” Sheikh, minister of civil affairs and a close associate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, wrote on his Twitter page.

“We will define a position on which to build a new strategy in dealing with the movement and its existence,” he added.

Sheikh’s tweet came a day before the launching of a campaign by Hamas that will involve demonstrations calling for Abbas’ departure.

While the Fatah official did not elaborate on the nature of the decisions to be taken, observers noted that the Palestinian Authority was discussing many possible legal and judicial measures related to the future of the Hamas-led Gaza Strip.

On a different note, Palestinians gathered in Gaza on Saturday for the funeral of a Palestinian boy killed by Israeli forces during protests the day before, as reported by Reuters.

Gaza’s health ministry said a 15-year-old boy died after being shot by Israeli gunfire. Israeli troops also wounded around 40 others at a protest attended by thousands on the Gaza Strip border on Friday, Reuters said, quoting Gaza health officials.

(Source / 24.02.2019)

Arab League Slams Israeli ‘Piracy’ of Palestinian Tax Funds

Arab foreign ministers meet during a regular session to discuss latest developments in Middle Eastern affairs, in Cairo, Egypt September 12, 2017

The Arab League has decried as “piracy” an Israeli decision to freeze millions of dollars in tax fees it collected on behalf of Palestine.

“This decision is a continuation of the Israeli piracy and theft of the Palestinian people’s funds and resources,” the Cairo-based league said in a statement released on Monday.

The body of Arab nations has called on United Nations agencies to “face this new Israeli aggression,” describing the freeze as “a clear violation and flagrant breach of international commitments.”

The Israeli government on Sunday announced it was deducting NIS 502 million ($138 million) from the funds that would normally be channeled to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel says it is imposing the ban in protest at the authority paying money to families of Palestinians that have carried out attacks on Israelis.

The Palestinians argue it is not Israel’s money, it collects the taxes on Palestinian imports and exports on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel collects around $175 million every month in taxes on Palestinian imports and exports on behalf the PA.

Tax revenue represents the PA’s main source of income.

The PA says the payments are a form of welfare to the families who have lost their main breadwinner.

(Source / 19.02.2019)

Russia-Hosted Palestinian Dialogue Will Not Conflict with Egypt’s Role

Palestinian factions hold dialogue talks in Moscow

The three-day intra-Palestinian meeting kicked off on Monday in Moscow and will last through Wednesday.

Twelve delegations attended the meeting, nine of which represent Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) factions, in addition to delegations from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements. The pro-Syrian regime’s al-Saiqa was also surprisingly present, especially after reports said it will not take part in the talks.

Monday’s dialogue session was opened with a welcome speech on behalf of Russia by Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Vitaly Naumkin, who was tasked by the Russian Foreign Ministry to manage the talks.

He explained that Moscow seeks to play a positive role in bridging the divide between the Palestinian factions, stressing that his country does not intend to interfere in Palestinian affairs. It instead aims at providing a platform where all parties are free to discuss pending issues.

His statements seemed aimed at easing fears that Moscow is seeking to play a role parallel to Egyptian efforts to push forward Palestinian reconciliation.

This was confirmed by all the participating delegations, who pointed out that “the Palestinian dialogue in Moscow is an integral part of the Egyptian role, not a substitute for it.”

Head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)’s delegation Fahd Suleiman told Asharq Al-Awsat that the main purpose of the meeting is to dispel the hostile atmosphere and break the deadlock among various factions, especially Fatah and Hamas, especially since the last meeting in this regard was held in November 2017.

Suleiman stressed that holding the dialogue is in itself “a positive step,” noting that that all factions agreed to issue a joint document, the “Moscow Declaration”.

The statement outlines common issues of agreement and will help Russia bolster its involvement in political activity related to developments in the Palestinian file.

He also said that it requests Russia to “inform the international community, including the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of the outcomes of the Palestinian meeting in Moscow.”

In addition, Suleiman stressed that the Russian role does not conflict with Egypt’s.

He said Russia will be able to play a more active role on the political level, while Cairo will go beyond that and focus on active mechanisms to implement agreements.

(Source / 12.02.2019)

Abbas: No One Can Represent Us or Speak on Our Behalf

Abbas with his Austrian counterpart after their meeting in Ramallah on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said no one can represent the Palestinians in negotiating their country’s cause and peace-making.

He stressed that the only way to move forward in a political process is through holding an international conference for peace in the Middle East.

In a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen in Ramallah, Abbas said it is necessary to hold an international conference and establish a multilateral mechanism to move forward in the peace route.

He also affirmed that Palestinians will not agree to participate in an international conference that is not based on international legitimacy.

Abbas’s remarks refer to the upcoming US-Polish conference in Warsaw, which is scheduled to convene later this month to discuss issues related to Syria, Yemen, Iran, terrorism, cybersecurity and missiles’ development.

Palestinian officials have called on Arab countries to boycott the conference because they say it is being held under the pretext of promoting normalization with Israel.

Abbas said that Palestinians have not authorized anyone to negotiate on their behalf.

“We have the first and last word on the Palestinian cause,” he stressed. “No one can represent us or speak on our behalf.”

At the press conference, Abbas said he was working to form a new PA government and prepare for long-overdue parliamentary elections. However, he did not say when the elections would take place.

“We hope everyone cooperates with us to hold the elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem,” he said.

The US is no longer qualified alone to act as a mediator because of its bias in favor of Israel and because of its decisions regarding Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and settlements, PA President noted.

“The European Union can play an important role [in the peace process], alongside members of the United Nations Security Council,” he added.

The Austrian President, for his part, said his country and the EU continue to support the two-state solution.

“The EU has given much for building institutions in Palestine,” he noted. “We will continue to do so.”

Austria and the rest of the EU countries are unhappy with the US administration’s decision to cut American funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), Van der Bellen noted.

(Source / 06.02.2019)

Dozens of Israeli Ministers, MPs Pledge to Settle 2 Million People in West Bank

General view shows houses in Shvut Rachel, a West Bank Jewish settlement near Ramallah October 6, 2016

Dozens of senior Israeli ministers and Knesset members from various right-wing parties signed a declaration pledging to settle 2 million Israelis in the occupied West Bank.

The declaration was formed by “Nahal” settling movement, which held over the past two weeks several protests in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home, demanding that the government establish basic guidelines for settlements in the West Bank and annul any declarations of a two-state solution.

The commitment was signed Tuesday, the eve of the Likud party primaries to elect the party’s candidates for the Knesset.

The document states that the government will immediately begin implementing the settlement plan initiated by former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in the early 1990s.

The declaration states: “I pledge to be loyal to the land of Israel, not to give up the land of our grandparents and parents.”

“I also commit myself to work towards the plan of settling 2 million Jews in the West Bank in accordance with the plan of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.”

It added: “I pledge to work to abolish the declarations of a two-state solution and replace it with an official statement: The Land of Israel – One State for One People!”

Likud party chair of Raanana, Rachel Ben Ari, said she was surprised by the rapid response of ministers to the commitment against the two-state solution and the implementation of Shamir’s plan.

Senior officials who signed the declaration include Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, ministers Israel Katz, Yariv Levin, Ze’ev Elkin, Gilad Erdan, Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, Miri Regev and Tzachi Hanegbi.

The number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank today amounts to 450,000 and 300,000 in occupied East Jerusalem.

(Source / 06.02.2019)