Egypt Reassures Abbas… Hamas- Israel Truce in ‘Final Stretch’

A truck carrying goods arrives at Kerem Shalom crossing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 15, 2018

Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal based on 2014 Agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions, said reliable sources to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. This arrangement would pave the way towards a subsequent prisoner exchange deal and huge projects in Gaza.

Palestinian sources affirmed that there is an initial approval from Israel and Hamas, but Egypt hopes to conclude a reconciliation agreement before or parallel with the truce.

The sources added that truce talks sent a negative message because they were held during the meetings of the Palestinian Central Council, they went a long way without referring to President Abbas, and they disregarded the Palestine Liberation Organization as being the core of the deal.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior member of the Hamas, said that talks with Israel on a long-term ceasefire deal were in “the final stretch.” He added that the talks with the factions, Egypt and the UN have made a significant stride in rehabilitating the understandings of 2014.

An Egyptian source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo in May, and he proposed a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas. Yaakov Amidror, National Security Adviser of Israel, said that this can’t be called a truce but an agreement through a third party…

“Hamas needs the truce as the person needs air,” he added.

“That’s the only way,” Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Thursday when asked if a broad arrangement depended on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.

“Nothing will be done to enable (Gaza’s) significant rehabilitation and the improvement of infrastructure and ports and other such fantasies, unless they release the bodies and the two Israeli captives,” he told Israel radio.

Extensive meetings will be resumed on Saturday between the Palestinian factions and the intelligence body leadership to discuss topics such as the truce and reconciliation.

(Source / 18.08.2018)

UN Chief Proposes Options for Improved Palestinian Protection

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaks to the media after a meeting with Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado at the Presidential house in San Jose, Costa Rica July 16, 2018

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from the deployment of UN-mandated armed forces or unarmed observers, to expanding UN assistance.

The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.

Guterres outlined four options, but he did not make a specific recommendation. He noted that all options would need the cooperation of both parties, a sustained cessation of hostilities and additional resources to ensure they were viable. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.

“The combination of prolonged military occupation, constant security threats, weak political institutions, and a deadlocked peace process provides for a protection challenge that is highly complex politically, legally and practically,” he wrote.

In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:

– Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.

– Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”

– Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.

– Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.

A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.

A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.

In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.

In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.

Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”

“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”

On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.

Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”

UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must be strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”

UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.

The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.

UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.

The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.

(Source / 18.08.2018)

Abbas Stresses Full Reconciliation with One Legitimate Weapon

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs a Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, August 22, 2015

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he would only accept full reconciliation in accordance with the 2017 agreement.

“We seek the success of the reconciliation, but based on one law, one government and one legitimate weapon, without the presence of militias,” Abbas said at the opening of the 29th session of the central committee on Wednesday. “There is no state in Gaza nor a state without Gaza,” he stressed.

Abbas accused Hamas of rejecting reconciliation. “In principle, Hamas does not have intentions for reconciliation … Some consider the issue to be solely humanitarian , as if the suffering of the people in Gaza started has just started,” he said.

In his speech, Abbas expressed support to the popular resistance and called for confronting Israel’s plans to displace Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Khan al-Ahmar region. “We must win in Khan Al-Ahmar and we will not allow them to pass their plans,” he said.

The meeting of the central committee is the first since the Palestinian National Council specified the committee’s powers in May.

Palestinian officials said that the outcome of the session would mainly include decisions on defining the relation with occupation forces, adding that the central committee would decide on the gradual withdrawal from all agreements signed with the occupation, including civil affairs and joint security and economic arrangements.

The Palestinian national council had announced that the agreements of Oslo, Cairo and Washington were no longer valid, stressing that the main objective was the independence of the state of Palestine, which requires transition from state governance to the consolidation of sovereignty.

The Popular and Democratic fronts, which belong to the PLO, boycotted the session, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The factions accused Abbas of monopolizing decision-making.

(Source / 16.08.2018)

Palestinian Central Council Considers Transition From Authority to State

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during the Palestinian National Council meeting in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank April 30, 2018

President of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) Salim Zanoun said Tuesday that invitations were sent out to all members of the Central Council to attend a session scheduled for mid-August in Ramallah.

Zanoun noted that the upcoming session would be held under the name of “the session of Martyr Razan al-Najjar” (a paramedic killed by Israel on the Gaza border), and would call for transferring the Palestinian Authority to a state.

In remarks to local media, he noted that invitations were also sent out to 10 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council affiliated with Hamas movement and that he was waiting for a positive response.

The session of the central council, scheduled for August 15, is expected to begin, with a comprehensive speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Member of the PLO executive committee Mohammed Majdalani said that the outcome of the session would mainly include decisions on defining the relationship with the occupation forces.

“The Central Committee will decide on the gradual withdrawal from all agreements signed with the occupation, including civil affairs and joint security arrangements, and the third track, in relation to the economic field at both the commercial and financial levels,” he said.

The meeting of the central committee is the first since the Palestinian National Council specified its powers in May.

The national council had announced that the agreements of Oslo, Cairo and Washington were no longer valid, stressing that the main current objective was the independence of the state of Palestine, entailing the transition from self-governance to the consolidation of sovereignty through a state.

Majdalani stressed that a report on the results of the dialogue with Hamas would be presented during the session, with the aim to determine the steps that would follow the handover of ministries in Gaza to the government of national accord.

(Source / 08.08.2018)

‘Hamas’ Seeks ‘Progressive’ Deal for Calm in Gaza

Hamas officials Husam Badran (C) and Khalil al-Hayya (2nd-R) attend a meeting with Palestinian factions in Gaza City on August 5, 2018

The “Hamas” leadership is working on a “progressive” agreement with Israel on ending marches organized at the border with the Gaza Strip and on the cessation of hostilities between Israel and the movement, including incendiary balloons in exchange for lifting the latest economic blockade imposed on the enclave.

At a meeting with representatives of the Palestinian Arab organizations in Gaza, “Hamas” leaders informed Palestinian factions about the latest discussions on the deal without offering any other explanations.

Informed Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks are under way on an agreement between “Hamas” and Israel to first open the Karam Abu Salem commercial border crossing and to expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast in return for halting all attacks on the border.

The second part of the agreement includes the exchange of prisoners and captives.

Husam Badran, a member of the “Hamas” politburo, offered Sunday assurances that the movement would not agree to establish a state in Gaza and would not reach any political arrangement without Palestinian national consensus.

However, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Fatah Movement accused “Hamas” of working “individually” on implementing the “shady” agreement.

Senior PLO official Ahmed Majdalani said any agreement with Israel should not be limited to “Hamas.”

The movement does not have the authority to strike any deal with Israel, he said.

Fatah criticized “Hamas” for being involved in “shameful negotiations” with Israel, saying the deal aims “to separate Gaza from the homeland and establish a small state which would be the graveyard for our national project.”

However, the Israeli TV channel 10 quoted sources on Sunday as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Army believe there are no chances for a true agreement with “Hamas.”

(Source / 06.08.2018)

Israeli Court Postpones Final Decision on the Fate of Khan al-Ahmar

A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag during a rally in support of Khan al-Ahmar residents in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, in the occupied West Bank August 1, 2018

The Israeli High Court on Wednesday decided to postpone the final decision on the evacuation of the Palestinian population from the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, southeast of Jerusalem after residents rejected a proposal to relocate them.

The inhabitants decided to continue protesting against the decision to deport them and demolish their homes.

The court had upheld its previous decision last May to displace the evacuated residents of the area, claiming that they built their homes without a permit, in violation of the Israeli laws.

During the five-hour court session, the judges criticized the position of the Israeli government, which does not provide the residents with a suitable humanitarian alternative to their housing.

The judges then proposed that the residents agree to leave the area provided that the government offers them a suitable alternative. The judges also confirmed their adherence to their previous decision to demolish the village and displace its inhabitants.

However, the defense team rejected the deportation and stressed commitment to the residents’ right to their land, homes and school, and the attorneys presented detailed plans on the means to legitimize the buildings in Khan al-Ahmar.

According to the Jordanian Planning and Building Law in force in the West Bank, it is possible to submit detailed and structural plans for the construction of houses.

The defense attorneys asserted that this area was an occupied land that falls under the Jordanian law. But even under the internal laws used by the civil administration of the occupation authorities, the demolition orders can be frozen until detailed plans are decided upon.

As expected, the Israeli prosecution rejected the proposal and insisted on implementing the court’s decision to evacuate the Palestinians, as it is currently preparing a major settlement project in the area.

Consequently, the court postponed the ruling and gave the defense staff and the prosecutor’s office five days to submit written submissions on the appeal, after which the judges would decide to issue a final decision or hold a new session.

Some 200 Bedouins face the threat of being deported from their land, while hundreds of students from nearby communities have been prevented from enrolling in the school built in the village years ago.

(Source / 02.08.2018)

Miladinov Suggests New Ideas on Gaza, Israel and Hamas’s Sticking to Their Terms

UN Envoy for the peace process in the Middle East Nikolai Miladinov

UN Envoy for the peace process in the Middle East Nikolai Miladinov continues his efforts to maintain a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza Strip in order to prevent further deterioration of the security situation, pushing Tel Aviv to carry out a military operation against the Strip.

Miladinov held a series of meetings during the past few days with Israeli officials and others from Hamas’s leadership, including Head of Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh.

He will also hold meetings in the coming few days to carry out consultations on some ideas that could be developed by several parties, including the UN, Egypt.

Miladinov is exerting extra efforts to maintain this ceasefire for years, and not only for a short period of time, Palestinian sources with knowledge of the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat.

They added that the UN envoy is also supporting Egypt’s efforts to reach a conciliation through different solutions, including the support of the UN and other international parties for projects in Gaza.

According to sources, should Miladinov’s efforts to maintain the ceasefire and stop tensions along the border fail, they could be the last.

They stressed that provocative acts might lead to a fierce, wide-ranging battle despite the unwillingness of both parties.

In his two consecutive visits to Gaza in one day for the first time in years, Miladinov has brought different ideas to both Hamas and Israel of which the Palestinian Authority and Egypt were aware, sources said.

They pointed out that Miladinov’s ideas include maintaining cease-fire through a complete cessation of firing of incendiary bombs towards Israeli towns in exchange for cessation of Israeli shelling along the borders and at the sea towards fishermen, reopening of Karm Abu Salem crossing, aka Kerem Shalom, and return the fishing zone to the ranges previously in place.

(Source / 29.07.2018)

Gaza Truce Largely Holds, Balloons Not Included in Deal

Smoke rises following an Israeli strike on a building in Gaza City July 14, 2018

A ceasefire announced by Hamas largely held Saturday after a wave of deadly air strikes across the Gaza Strip sparked by the death of an Israeli soldier shot along the volatile border.

Israel did not confirm the deal announced by Gaza’s rulers, which went into effect around midnight Friday reducing fears of a wider conflict.

Israel’s government and army rarely acknowledge ceasefires with Hamas, but a military spokeswoman said civilian life should return to normal in areas next to Gaza.

The Israeli army also said a tank struck a Hamas observation point east of Gaza City on Saturday morning, saying it was retaliation for an attempted border infiltration in northern Gaza.

There were no reports of injuries in that strike and there was no major Israeli bombing campaign overnight or mortar fire from Gaza toward Israel.

“With Egyptian and UN efforts, we reached (an agreement) to return to the previous state of calm between the (Israeli) occupation and the Palestinian factions,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement early Saturday.

A senior Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the deal involved “the cessation of all forms of military escalation” including Israeli air strikes and Hamas mortars and rockets.

The source said that balloons and kites attached with incendiary devices, which Palestinians have been floating over the border for months to spark fires inside Israel, were not included in the agreement.

Israeli politicians have been calling for a fierce response to the kites and balloons, which have caused damage amounting to millions of shekels (hundreds of thousands of dollars).

Israel’s army and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to confirm a truce was reached.

“All we can say is that there have been no incidents or Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip since the last wave of airstrikes on Friday night,” a military spokeswoman told AFP.

On Friday, three Hamas militants were killed as air raids sent fireballs exploding into the sky over Gaza, while Israel said rockets had been fired back at its territory. A fourth Palestinian was shot dead in protests near the border.

The United Nations urged all sides to step “back from the brink” of war after months of increasing tensions.

The soldier, shot dead along the border in southern Gaza, was the first to be killed in and around the Palestinian enclave since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

(Source / 21.07.2018)