Key leftwing Egyptian activist released on bail

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In this Dec. 25, 2011 file photo, Egyptian prominent blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah, center, hugs his recently born son, Khaled, his mother Laila Soueif, and his sister Ahdaf Soueif, left, after his release, in Cairo, Egypt

CAIRO: An Egyptian court released a leading leftwing activist on trial for joining an unsanctioned and violent protest on bail Sunday, as the army-installed regime seeks to quell political unrest.
Alaa Abdel Fattah and 24 others are accused of taking part in a violent protest last November outside the senate, where a panel drafted a new constitution giving the army broader powers.
The trial for the activist, one of the leaders of the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, opened on Sunday as another court resumed the trial of Mubarak’s deposed successor Muhammad Mursi.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Continued Israeli Attacks Across West Bank

Israeli forces, Sunday, abducted two people from the West Bank and another from the Jerusalem area. Others were summoned others for interrogation, according to local and security sources.

image: Wiki Commons

Two people, ages 25 and 35, were kidnapped by Israeli forces from the city of Hebron and the nearby town of Dora, after their houses were searched and content vandalized.

Forces also handed summons to appear before the Israeli intelligence to almost a dozen people from the Hebron area, according to WAFA.

On Saturday, March 22, Israeli police took Zaaid Salame Mehamre, a shepherd from the Palestinian village of Maghayr Al-Abeed, while he was grazing his sheep on Jabel Doff (the location where the Havat Ma’on outpost used to stand before the year 2000, when it was moved to Hill 833).

The action was carried out under the accusation of “trespassing”, although no official documents on the ownership of the land were presented, according to the Alternative Information Center (AIC).

Meanwhile, the army set up a military checkpoint at the entrance to Fawwar refugee camp, stopping vehicles and checking the identity cards of the drivers.

In Jerusalem, Israeli police took into custody a worker, age 28, from the village of Husan to the west of Bethlehem, under the pretext of entering Israel without permission.

In the Jenin district, army forces stormed the village of Al-Yamoun amid the firing of stun grenades and tear gas towards residents, causing several cases of suffocation. The forces also handed eight people summons for interrogation. No arrests were reported.

Three Palestinian youth were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets fired at them by Israeli forces, during confrontations which continued for the second day in Aida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem, according to medical sources.

The sources told WAFA that forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters toward the residents, shooting and injuring three youth. Several other Palestinians suffered from tear gas suffocation.

They were transferred to hospital for treatment.

Soldiers opened fire at a journalist’s car while he was covering confrontations between forces and youth in Aida refugee camp, to the north of Bethlehem, according to the attacked journalist.

Journalist Iyad Ahmad, who works for the Associated Press, said that soldiers opened fire at his car while he was driving to the camp to cover the news, causing damage to the car.

To be noted, Israeli army recently intensified their arbitrary measures against journalists, including detention for periods of several hours and imposing restrictions on their free movement.

Israeli settlers attacked several Palestinian farmers in the village of Burin, south of Nablus, injuring one, according to a local activist.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the north of the West Bank, told WAFA that a number of settlers attacked farmers and hurled stones at them while they were working on opening an agricultural road, at the eastern part of the village.

He said that settlers surrounded one of the farmers, beat him and threw stones at him, causing him several injuries throughout his body.

He was transferred to hospital for treatment where his condition was described as moderate.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Hamas rally in Gaza takes aim at Egypt, Israel and Abbas

Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a Hamas rally marking the anniversary of the death of its leaders killed by Israel, in Gaza City March 23, 2014. REUTERS-Mohammed Salem
Supporters listen as Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas Gaza government, speaks during a Hamas rally marking the anniversary of the death of its leaders killed by Israel, in Gaza City March 23, 2014. REUTERS-Mohammed Salem
Palestinian women shout slogans during a Hamas rally marking the anniversary of the death of its leaders killed by Israel, in Gaza City March 23, 2014. REUTERS-Suhaib Salem

 Palestinian Hamas supporters take part in a Hamas rally marking the anniversary of the death of its leaders killed by Israel, in Gaza City March 23, 2014.

(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Palestinians rallied in Gaza on Sunday to show support for their Islamist Hamas government, which has long been at loggerheads with Israel but is now shunned by Egypt as well.

The military-backed government that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s ideological kin, in Cairo last year deems the Palestinian faction a security threat. An Egyptian court this month banned Hamas activities in the country, and Cairo has clamped down on smuggling tunnels across the Sinai-Gaza border.

Hamas tried in vain to mollify Egypt by insisting that its hostility was directed exclusively at Israel, but is now turning up the rhetoric.

“The punishment of the people of Gaza must end,” Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas government, told the rally in a speech interspersed with chants of “Jihad is not Terrorism” over the loudspeakers.

“Why punish Gaza? Was it because it achieved victory against the Occupier? Why punish Gaza? Was it because it took up the rifle against Israel?” Haniyeh said.

“We are living through a difficult stage and harsh challenges, but we are not terrified and we are not defeated. We have become familiar with difficulties and this stage is not the most difficult.”

Hamas has repeatedly fought Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The Islamists won a Palestinian legislative election the next year and, after a uneasy power-share with the U.S.-backed rival faction Fatah, seized control of Gaza in 2007.

OPPOSITION TO PEACE TALKS

Sunday’s rally was intended to commemorate three top Hamas leaders, including the group’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was assassinated by Israel a decade ago.

The tone of defiance appeared aimed in part at undermining Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who holds sway in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and is holding peace talks with Israel under Washington’s auspices.

“We call upon the Palestinian negotiator to quit this pointless track and not to extend negotiation,” said Haniyeh.

Though Hamas has largely held fire since its last war with Israel, in November 2012, the Israelis have been uncovering tunnels dug from Gaza to allow cross-border attacks in the next confrontation. Haniyeh said the tunnels showed his faction’s dedication to fighting Israel until its eventual destruction.

“From below ground and above ground, you, the Occupiers, will be dismissed. You have no place in the land of Palestine.”

Haniyeh described Egypt as “brother, friend and neighbor”, but another Hamas official based in the West Bank, Hassan Youssef, had harsher words.

“We say to the authors of the coup in Egypt, the criminals who support the Occupation (Israel), that the blockade will not work,” he said in a televised speech.

Cairo’s cold shoulder has exacerbated Hamas’s isolation since it quit its headquarters in Damascus in protest at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on opposition groups, a move that led Iran to cut off funding.

Palestinian officials said Hamas was now in fence-mending talks with Tehran, though their outcome remained unclear.

(The story corrects paragraph 2 to make clear that Hamas has not been declared a terrorist group in Egypt)

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Election observers pull foreign staff out of Afghanistan after hotel attack

A general view of the Serena Hotel in Kabul March 21, 2014, a day after it was attacked by gunmen. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

A general view of the Serena Hotel in Kabul March 21, 2014, a day after it was attacked by gunmen.

(Reuters) – Two major foreign election observer and support missions have pulled staff out of Afghanistan after a Taliban attack on a Kabul hotel, observers said on Sunday, in a move which could undermine confidence in the outcome of the crucial vote.

The April 5 vote is less than two weeks away and could mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Many fear a repeat of the widespread fraud that discredited the poll in 2009 when about 20 percent of votes were thrown out.

“It’s really bad news,” said Jandad Spingar, director at the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the largest Afghan monitoring group.

“Having international observers in the election is really, really important… (to) give legitimacy to the process.”

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) said it had pulled its observers from the country, while a senior European diplomat said observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been pulled out to Turkey.

The European Union’s international monitoring mission will be the only major one to remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban on Thursday attacked the heavily fortified Serena Hotel in central Kabul, where most foreign observers were staying.

“We have withdrawn our staff that were staying at the Serena, and we are assessing our election monitoring activities,” said Kathy Gest, public affairs director at NDI.

NDI observer Luis Maria Duarte was among the nine people killed and many of his colleagues were in the building when four gunmen with pistols sprayed diners at the hotel’s restaurant with bullets.

Officially, the OSCE said it had yet to make a final call on whether it would cancel its international election support mission, despite sources saying foreign staff had already left for Turkey.

“Our security experts are currently assessing the security situation in Kabul for our team, who were at the Serena the night of the attack,” spokesman Thomas Rymer said.

EU SAYS STAYS PUT

While violence and insecurity across Afghanistan was always going to confine foreign observers mostly to compounds in major cities, their presence and expertise was to serve as a vital form of reassurance to their Afghan colleagues.

The Serena Hotel had been attacked before, but has since been increasingly fortified and considered safe enough to accommodate foreign observers during the election.

It was also one of few places foreign officials were still permitted to go after the Taliban attacked a popular Lebanese restaurant killing 21 people in January.

The EU said its overall plans for its international monitoring mission had not changed. However, several of its staff were flown out of the country after the attack, according to an observer on the same flight.

“We are safe at the EU compound and for us there is no reason to change anything in our plans,” said chief EU observer Thijs Bernam.

President Hamid Karzai is barred from a third term, but his brothers are publicly backing former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul.

Critics say the campaign reflects a desire by Karzai and his family to remain in power, but the president says he will remain impartial and is looking forward to retirement.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Turkish PM Erdogan says rivals will be crushed

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd during an election rally in Antakya, in the southern border province of Hatay, March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Rif

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd during an election rally in Antakya, in the southern border province of Hatay, March 22, 2014.

(Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, rallying hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters in Istanbul, said on Sunday that political enemies accusing him of corruption would be crushed by their own immorality.

The rally on the shores of the Sea of Marmara marked the climax of weeks of campaigning for March 30 local polls that may decide his political fate. Tens of thousands more gathered outside the rally grounds and clambered over fences to get in.

Massed supporters cheered, called Erdogan’s name and waved red Turkish flags and the blue and gold emblems of the AK Party he founded in 2001 and led to power a year later vowing to root out the corruption that had dogged his rivals.

As the vote nears, audio tapes of telephone conversations have appeared on websites almost daily purporting to expose corruption around Erdogan.

The prime minister accuses the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers of manufacturing a police corruption investigation that touched on business associates, government members and Erdogan’s own family.

“Whatever threats, blackmail or slander you throw out, you will be crushed beneath the immorality of these montages,” Erdogan said from a platform flanked by banners with his portrait. “The people can see the game that is being played.”

The size of the crowd, which he put at 2 million, suggested AK Party was well placed to keep control of Istanbul. Loss of the city would be a serious personal blow for Erdogan.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the chief opposition group, would struggle to bring out anything like that number. But the CHP could claim a significant victory in taking Ankara.

“NOT LISTENING”

The ramifications of the turmoil in a country long held up by Washington as an example of a Muslim democracy that could anchor the Middle East are broad. On the economic front, the consumer confidence index fell to its lowest in four years last month, interest rates have risen and the lira has weakened.

Erdogan described the influential Hizmet network of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, in a speech on Saturday as a terrorist organization.

Turkey blocked the Twitter social networking site, a vehicle for many of the audio tapes, last week, drawing accusations from

Western governments and rights groups of an attack on democratic values. Erdogan responded at a smaller rally earlier on Sunday.

“The usual media are attacking us. What do they call it? ‘Intolerance of freedoms’,” he said. “I don’t care who it is, I’m not listening.

“This entity called Twitter, this YouTube, this Facebook, they have shaken families to their roots … I don’t understand how people of good sense could defend this Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. There are all kinds of lies there.”

There is widespread expectation of further postings intended to damage Erdogan, who denies all graft accusations.

These could emerge ahead of the local polls, where any result much below the 40 percent achieved by AK five years ago could weaken his prospects of being elected president in July.

But they could also emerge during the presidential election period itself. A poor result next week could revive concern that emerged over his hard line against protesters last summer.

FORMER ALLY GULEN

Ultimately, much could hinge on the opposition regaining the leadership and momentum it has lacked since 2002. Back then, Erdogan drew on public anger over corruption in Turkey’s old political elite and named his new party AK, an acronym for Justice and Development but also a word meaning clean or white.

Gulen is widely believed to have played a key role helping Erdogan to rein in the military that toppled four governments in 40 years, by using his influence in the police and judiciary to bring generals to trial. But the two fell out over Gulen’s influence, which Erdogan says amounts to a parallel state.

Erdogan has shut down Gulen’s network of cramming schools, a major source of income and influence for Hizmet. He has purged the police and judiciary of Gulenists and blocked a bid by Gulen to extend his influence into the intelligence service, MIT.

Gulen, who denies any scheming against Erdogan, says he has no plans to form a party of his own. The prime minister accused the CHP, the nationalist MHP and the Kurdish BDP party at the weekend of forming an “alliance of evil” to undermine him.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

PHOTOS: Settlers assault Palestinian NGO worker in northern West Bank

Settlers attacked a Palestinian NGO worker in the West Bank village of Burin on Sunday.

According to Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that provides legal assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank, the settlers attacked Munir Kadus (a Yesh Din investigator) as he was accompanying a group of Palestinians who were paving a road in the village Burin, south of Nablus. The settlers allegedly came from the direction of Givat Ronen, an outpost neighborhood of Har Bracha.

 

Settlers and Israeli soldiers seen in Burin, West Bank. (photo: Yesh Din)

 

Kadus, who sustained injuries to his arm and both ribs, was released from Rafidia Hospital in Nablus on Sunday afternoon. According to Yesh Din, the Palestinians were accompanied by a large number of soldiers, since the road work was done in accordance with the Israeli military and the Civil Administration. Despite the presence of the soldiers, the settlers were able to harass the road workers. The settlers also walked among the houses of the village, throwing stones at Palestinians.

 

Munir Kadus lays in the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus after being attacked by settlers in the village of Burin. (photo: 'i love you burin' Facebook page)

 

According to Yesh Din, the Committee for Settlers in Samaria called for Israelis to arrive at the scene and disrupt the work on its official Facebook page. The page also boasted about the villagers’ attempt at paving the road, which was also disrupted by settlers.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Jordan-Palestine ties strained by peace talks

Protesters from the Islamic Action Front and other opposition parties hold up Jordanian national flags and shout slogans during a demonstration against US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, after Friday prayers in Amman, Feb. 14, 2014

Jordanian politicians are good at using a sieve to hide the sun — even the bright sun at the height of summer. Worse, they are convinced of what they are saying, and they try to convince the people, too. They try to address the country’s most difficult problems using slogans that become legally binding without being stipulated by law, and that makes these slogans vulnerable to being replaced by new slogans at any time. Thus, the problems remain unresolved and end up exploding later. This is what is happening with Jordanian-Palestinian relations in Jordan now.

A problem that slogans cannot hide

Jordanian-Palestinian relations have been complicated since the establishment of the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921, which became a kingdom after gaining independence in 1946 and the Palestinian nakba in 1948. The root of the problem is that Palestinian refugees were forcibly moved to the other bank of the River Jordan without the ability to return and became Jordanian citizens in accordance with the Jordanian-Palestinian unity decision of 1949. The latter claimed the Palestinian territories that were not occupied in the nakba as part of Jordan, under the throne of King Abdullah I. The constitution stipulated that the nonoccupied lands were an integral part of Jordan and that their inhabitants were Jordanian citizens.

The matter became even more complicated with the June 1967 defeat, in which Jordan lost even more land, over and above those areas lost in the nakba of 1948. After the defeat, more Palestinians in the West Bank moved to Jordan (the East Bank) and became Jordanian citizens.

Then, in 1988, Jordan’s late King Hussein disengaged Jordan administratively and legally from the West Bank, a decision that violated the Jordanian constitution. Jordan justified that move by claiming that Arab pressure was exerted on Jordan to empower the Palestine Liberation Organization, which had been recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians in 1974. The Jordanian and Palestinian public criticized the decision, which they considered as conceding occupied Jordanian land that was not occupied on unity day.

Jordanian-Palestinian relations have been formed by political decisions taken by the heads of the political structures on both banks of the river. Those decisions have affected the entire structure of the two peoples, whereby any change will collapse the whole structure.

At first, the relationship was marked by sympathy for a people who had lost their land and become refugees dreaming of return. That sympathy developed into active support for a cause that was considered the primary cause of the Arabs. Moreover, the Palestinian cause became a Jordanian cause in the unity framework. But that didn’t last; in the wake of the 1967 defeat, a new terminology appeared: east Jordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin. The objective of that terminology was to consecrate the idea that there are two separate peoples and reject the two peoples melting together into one.

East Jordanians feared that the Palestinian majority would crowd them out of the country’s resources and control the Jordanian economy. Thus, east Jordanians rushed to fill the top positions in the state and said that they feared for their national identity. They revolted over losing benefits they would have had were it not for the Palestinian presence.

Racial division was thus established in Jordanian society, and that division was reinforced by the events of Black September in 1970 between the Palestinian resistance and the Jordanian army. This ended with the exit of the Palestinian resistance from Jordan forever.

The Palestinians said that they left Jordan after a massacre that targeted their presence, while the Jordanians said that they protected their country from the ambitions of armed gangs. Each party retains a painful memory of what happened and considers itself the victim.

Amid this complex relationship and the growing racial discourse, the Jordanian government did nothing to address the root of the problem in the historical context that created it. All the government did was adopt the slogan launched by the late King Hussein: “A country of immigrants and supporters.” But the slogan failed to address the problem because it consecrated the notion that there are two peoples in Jordan, with the east Jordanians having a privileged status over Jordanians of Palestinian origin.

Then the king repeated other slogans whenever the Jordanian-Palestinian relationship was tense: “Jordanians from various roots and origins” and “National unity is a red line.” The elite produced its own slogan: “We are all Jordanians for the sake of Jordan and we are all Palestinians for the sake of Palestine.” Under these slogans, it was forbidden to talk about problems in the relationship and the fears of both sides. East Jordanians who raised the slogans “Jordan is for Jordanians” and “Let’s preserve the national identity” were fought. And slogans launched by Jordanians of Palestinian origin, such as “Fair representation in state institutions” and “Those with transgressed rights,” were also fought. The latter slogan was used after a campaign of systematic exclusion, which Jordanians of Palestinian origin considered a denial of their role in building the country.

The “fire under the ashes” ended up burning the “romantic” slogans, and east Jordanians ended up clashing with Jordanians of Palestinian origin. They traded accusations. The Palestinians were accused of “selling their country,” while Jordanians were accused of being “conspirators against the cause.”

The two sides are fighting to control the majority

The Palestinians are not the only ones who were added to Jordan’s demographic makeup. Before them came the tribes that migrated from different Arab countries over the years, and earlier came the Circassians who took refuge from the Tsarist invasion of the Caucasus in the 19th century. There are also the Chechens, the Armenians and the Hijazis who came with the army of the Great Arab Revolt, which was led by King Abdullah I, the son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali. Then came the Iraqis in the wake of the occupation of Iraq in 2003. And today, there are the Syrian refugees.

In all this mosaic of Jordanian society, east Jordanians have no quarrel except with Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who make up one side in the eternal bilateral conflict for the majority.

Official Jordanian statistics show that the number of Jordanians in 1948 was 400,000; that, in the wake of the nakba, the country received 100,000 refugees; that Jordan’s population in 1967 reached 1.2 million and received 400,000 new refugees; that the population in 1990 was 4.17 million and received 300,000 refugees — the Palestinians who were living in the Gulf. The statistics ignore the fact that the latter already had Jordanian nationality and that non-Palestinian Jordanians are also diverse. The statistics make it look like Palestinians were being added to a pure east Jordanian people.

Amid the competition for the majority, the two biggest components recognize that Jordanians of Palestinian origin make up about 35% of Jordan’s 6.5 million people — a figure that has remained constant throughout the history of the relationship, with the rest being east Jordanians — without considering the other components of the social fabric.

A “Catholic marriage” and charges of treason

Efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations aimed at reaching a “final solution” to the Palestinian cause usually raise the tension in Jordanian-Palestinian relations, while that tension declines when the negotiations stall.

The negotiations harm Jordanian-Palestinian relations whenever the proposed solution doesn’t allow for the return of the refugees. Such solutions raise the fears of east Jordanians that Jordan may turn into an alternative homeland for the Palestinians, an idea promoted by the Israeli right. Some fear the formation of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation, where the Palestinian identity will predominate over the Jordanian one.

Throughout the 66 years of the Jordanian-Palestinian “Catholic marriage,” both sides have accused each other of treason. Therefore, both sides settled on being afraid all the time. Moreover, that fear will continue amid the slogans that try to address the imbalances in the relationship. The latest of these slogans is “in defense of Jordan and Palestine.” It was devised to face the growing racial discourse that accompanied the tour of US Secretary of State John Kerry in the region. Under the slogan of “harmony,” the two sides traded accusations that are sometimes whispered and sometimes said publicly, to assert their inability to reach a final resolution for the relationship.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Syria Accuses Turkey of “Flagrant Aggression” after Jet Downed

 

Turkish forcesSyria accused Ankara of “flagrant aggression” Sunday after Turkish forces shot down a warplane near the border, raising tensions as Syrian army and militants battled for control of a frontier crossing.

A Syrian military source said Turkey shot down the warplane “in a flagrant act of aggression that is evidence of (Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s support for terrorist groups”.

The aircraft “was chasing terrorist groups inside Syrian territory at Kasab”, said the source, referring to the disputed border crossing. The pilot was able to eject.

In a move expected to further exacerbate tensions, Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul praised Turkey’s military for downing the warplane. Erdogan also warned Syria against any response. “Our response will be heavy if you violate our airspace,” he warned Damascus.

The Turkish military said two Syrian MIG-23 planes approaching its airspace were warned “four times” to turn away and that it scrambled fighter jets when one refused to do so and violated Turkish airspace.

A statement said an F-16 jet fired a missile at the Syrian plane in line with “rules of engagement” adopted after a Turkish warplane was downed by the Syrian air force in June 2012, since when Ankara considers any military approach towards the border a threat.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Assad’s cousin killed in clashes

Hilal al-Assad, the head of Syria’s National Defense paramilitary forces for the northwestern province of Latakia, was killed in fierce fighting Latakia’s border town of Kasab.

A Syrian military official, who is also a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has been killed on Sunday amid clashes with rebels near the border with Turkey, state news agency SANA reported.

Hilal al-Assad, the head of Syria’s National Defense paramilitary forces for the northwestern province of Latakia, was killed in fierce fighting Latakia’s border town of Kasab.

The National Defense Force is a militia set up to support the army in its three-year battle with rebels seeking to overthrow Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was quoted by Reuters as saying that Hilal was killed along with seven of his fighters in clashes with al-Nusra Front and other Islamist miltant groups.

Syrian troops and rebels have been fighting for control of Kasab since Friday.

The battle erupted after three jihadist groups announced the launch of an offensive in Latakia, known to be a regime stronghold.

Earlier in the day, Turkey shot down a warplane near the border town, raising tensions between rival Syrian factions.

At least 80 fighters on both sides have been killed in the battle of Kasab, reported Agence France-Presse.

(Source / 23.03.2014)

Hamas commemorates anniversary of founder’s death

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters on Sunday gathered at al-Saraya Square in Gaza City to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the movement’s founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin.

Yasin’s 2004 death and that of prominent leaders Abdul-Aziz al-Rantisi and Ibrahim Maqadmah were commemorated by hundreds of supporters including Hamas-affiliated lawmakers and other faction leaders.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement that “the festival is a message to all those who count on weakening Hamas to tell them that their expectations won’t come true as Hamas’ popularity is on the rise.”

Hamas-affiliated police officers deployed heavily around al-Saraya Square to secure the celebrators.

From 8 a.m., Hamas supporters started to take to square from across the Gaza Strip. University students rallied in large numbers to the commemoration at 11 a.m.

A spokesman of Hamas-run ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said a state of alert was announced in all hospitals and medical centers.

(Source / 23.03.2014)