Palestine: Hamas Arrests Sderot Rocket Launchers

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of SderotRamallah- Asharq Al-Awsat Hamas arrested members responsible for the rocket fired on Thursday that struck a building in Sderot, Palestinian sources told i24NEWS Sunday.

The detainees were said to be residents of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip and members of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Both Hamas’ internal security agency and Hamas’ al-Qassam military wing are investigating the possibility that the order for the launch came from outside of Gaza.

Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is a small armed group that has members from Gaza and is financed by Hamas.

The arrest came hours after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov that Hamas was investigating the rocket fire.

Haniyeh asserted to Mladenov that Hamas was committed to the understandings reached as part of the ceasefire with Israel, stressing that the movement wanted the ceasefire to remain in place.

The arrest of the rocket launchers is intended to send a message that the movement actually wants the situation to remain stable despite recent tensions. Israel responded to the missiles with raids on Gaza.

Tension in the Strip has risen with Hamas accusing Israel of delaying the implementation of the ceasefire, followed by the incendiary balloons launched from Gaza which Israel responded by imposing a naval embargo on Gaza.

Hamas said that demonstrations would see escalations if Israel continued to stall the implementation of the understandings brokered between both parties and sponsored by Egypt, UN, and Qatar. 

Israeli media said Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi was informed by the Israeli government he should not arrive in Gaza for the transfer of money. However, Mladenov promised Haniyeh that the Qatari envoy would enter the Gaza Strip with a monthly cash delivery, and conveyed that Israel was interested in maintaining calm in the south. 

Israel’s Channel 13 said the Qatari mission would arrive in Gaza with a new shipment of cash. 

The total amount of the grant is expected to reach $25 million, of which $10 million will be transferred to Israel to purchase fuel to the power plant in Gaza City, according to Yedioth Ahrenot.

The remaining $10 million will be distributed to needy families, with each family receiving $100. In addition, $5 million will be donated in cash to the United Nations’ cash-for-work projects, where Gazans are temporarily employed and paid.

This week, an Egyptian security delegation is supposed to arrive in order to contain any possible escalation. Cairo had drawn up an agreement last month for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

The agreement includes expanding the fishing zone to 12 miles, improving electricity networks and supplies, facilitating export and import operations, and resuming transfers of funds to the Strip.

According to the agreement, if this stage is successful, another stage will be discussed to include a prisoner exchange deal and infrastructure projects.  (Source / 17.06.2019) 

Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian volunteer paramedic Sajed Mezher was killed by Israeli troops, during his funeral in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Kifah Zboun, Asharq al-Awsat Head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, recently met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to persuade him to agree to accept tax money collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources said that Argaman tried during the meeting to convince Abbas to accept the funds after the deduction of amounts paid to families of martyrs and prisoners. He informed the PM that the amount Israel intends to decduct is far less than the salaries.

But Abbas refused to give up any “dime” and asked that Israel deal with these funds as Palestinian funds that no one has the right to dispose of them.

“Any deduction from these funds is a theft,” Abbas said.

After his meeting, the Israeli Minister reported to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that Abbas firmly and categorically refused the proposal and called for a political decision to resolve this crisis.

Argaman said that the Authority is suffering from a severe financial crisis, which led to the reduction in salaries of a large number of employees, including tens of thousands of members of the Palestinian security services.

Military analyst Amos Harel indicated that Abbas believes he is facing a triple attack from the United States, Israel and Hamas. Washington has almost completely curtailed economic aid to the Palestinians.

The United States is now offering “economic peace” without resolving the issue of Jerusalem and borders, and trying to impose a permanent separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The military estimates that Abbas considers that Israel is economically affected by the prisoner crisis, but continues to build the settlements, rejects the political dialogue and seeks the opportunity to annex parts of the West Bank after the failure of the deal of the century.

Hamas is building a state in the Gaza Strip with a “silent US-Israeli approval.” It is also believed that a number of Arab leaders in the region support Trump’s plan.

Israeli security services top officials agree that the Authority will begin its economic collapse within two or three months.

In related news, Abbas stressed that “we reject the US peace plan,” better known as the “deal of the century,” in a meeting with the leaders of the Fatah Youth Movement.

He announced that Palestine will not participate in the US-sponsored economic workshop to be held in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25. 

“Jerusalem and Palestine are not for sale,” asserted Abbas, adding that “the Palestinian leadership is sticking to the stable legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state.

Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection to receive the partial funds of the tax revenue dues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA from the Palestinian trade. (Source / 17.06.2019) 

Hamas Chief Vows to Investigate Rocket Launch

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures as he delivers a speech in Gaza City Gaza – Asharq Al-Awsat Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told the United Nations envoy for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov that he did not know who in Gaza was responsible for this week’s rocket fire at Israel, sources reported.

Haniyeh said the movement was investigating to know who carried out the attacks, asserting that “no faction fired toward Israel” in the past week.

“We’re conducting an investigation to find out who fired,” Haniyeh told Mladenov at the meeting in Gaza, adding that all Gaza-based factions had denied firing at Israel.

Haniyeh stressed that Hamas does not want the ceasefire deal reached with Israel to collapse.

Recent developments came at a time Hamas and other factions threatened to escalate the situation if Israel did not honor the agreements. 

Israeli war jets raided Gaza Strip hours after a rocket launched from Gaza slammed into a religious school, causing damage but no injuries.

The Israeli military said in a statement that fighter jets and other aircraft attacked “several terror targets, including terror infrastructure in military compounds.”

On Thursday morning, the Iron Dome system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza and Israeli jets shelled an underground Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip. Tension in Gaza has risen as Israel imposed a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

An army spokesman said that in the wake of the firing of incendiary balloons from Gaza, Israel imposed naval blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Over the past few days, many balloons were launched from the Strip towards the settlements in a clear shift in Hamas’ policy. Hamas said that demonstrations would see escalations if Israel continued to stall the implementation of the understandings brokered between both parties and sponsored by Egypt, UN, and Qatar. 

Israeli media said Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi was informed by the Israeli government he should not arrive in Gaza for the transfer of money. However, Mladenov promised Haniyeh that the Qatari envoy would enter the Gaza Strip with a monthly cash delivery, and conveyed that Israel was interested in maintaining calm in the south.

Top Israeli army generals were expected to push for a much stronger response to rocket fire and arson balloons from the Gaza Strip after the attacks, according to Israeli media.

Citing a senior military source, a televised report said Israel was “on the verge of a serious military campaign,” and said the army was considering ending its policy of warning occupants of buildings ahead of airstrikes, even if it causes casualties.

“Everything is hanging by a very thin thread and the situation could change dramatically,” a veteran military source told Channel Two.

However, political analysts noted that it was unlikely that the government would authorize a major military campaign ahead of the elections set for September.

Tensions with Gaza have been steadily rising in recent weeks, with Israel blocking Gazan fishermen from access to the sea in response to multiple incendiary balloons being launched over the border. On Friday, the Israeli army deployed a battery system close to Gaza after a rocket was launched.

This week, an Egyptian security delegation is supposed to arrive in order to contain any possible escalation. Cairo had drawn up an agreement last month for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

The agreement include expanding the fishing zone to 12 miles, improving electricity networks and supplies, facilitating export and import operations and resuming transfers of funds to the Strip. In exchange, Hamas pledged to halt rocket fire and keep border protests under control and far from the separation fence. (Source / 16.06.2019) 

Israel Punishes Gazans After Fire Balloons, Cuts Fishing Limit

Several thousand Gazans depend on fishing for their livelihoods but often changing Israeli restrictions have led to prolonged layoffs that mean many live below the poverty line

Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.

The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.

“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.

“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel,” it added.

Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.

The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.

But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.

Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 ceasefire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.

The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.

Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.

(Source / 23.05.2019)

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)