Can senior Hamas figure resolve Gaza’s electricity crisis?

Palestinians walk along a road during a power cut in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, Jan. 11, 2017

Ghazi Hamad, the former deputy foreign minister in the Hamas government, was appointed director of the Energy Authority in the Gaza Strip on March 1. In his new position, he has been entrusted with the most important mission in the Gaza Strip: to find magic solutions to alleviate the shortages of electricity, fuel and gas. On Jan. 12, Gazans protested over the electricity shortage and cast the blame on Hamas. The demonstrations were dispersed by force, but the movement’s leaders understood that their regime could be in danger if they do not solve the energy shortage crisis.

It appears that Hamad will not be able to fully resolve the energy shortages that have plagued the Gaza Strip for more than a decade. However, even Israel’s civil administration staff understands that Hamad is the right person for the job.

The electricity problem in Gaza is also of supreme concern to the Israeli security system. For instance, in the Feb. 28 report about the 2014 Gaza war, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira issued a “warning ticket” to the Israeli government for ignoring past and present alerts of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories regarding the humanitarian crisis looming over Gaza. Head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevy also joined the list of cautioners when he said that a humanitarian crisis in Gaza was inevitable unless appropriate steps would be taken immediately. These remarks were part of a security overview that Halevy delivered at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on March 1.

Indeed, the first step needed to avert such a crisis is to implement swift, effective solutions to the severe electrical shortage that has closed down most of Gaza’s manufacturing sector. Many owners of businesses, large and small — who miraculously succeeded in surviving all the crises, restrictions and wars since the blockade was imposed in 2007 — are now in real danger of bankruptcy. And if they fall, nothing will be able to halt the Gaza Strip’s economic collapse. As a result, a solution to the electricity crisis has become a supreme Israeli interest as well.

“This is a real paradox,” a senior Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “Gaza never enjoyed a regular electrical supply, there were always shortages. But as far as Israel was concerned, and even the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip during [Palestinian President] Mahmoud Abbas’ days, the situation was tolerable. Then, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to bomb the only power station in Gaza after the abduction of soldier Gilad Shalit [in June 2006]. Even though the power station was fixed later, it never returned to its former level of productivity.”

According to the source, the Palestinians and Israel are still paying the price for Olmert’s mistake to this day, as the former prime minister had arrogantly refused to listen to the warnings of the entire defense system and of his own Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Thus, Hamad’s appointment is good news for Israel’s security apparatus. While Israel avoids direct contact with the Hamas regime in Gaza, it maintains indirect communication with it via various channels, mainly civilian ones. And Hamad does maintain indirect contacts with Israeli sources that he cultivated over the years — though he will never admit to this publicly. Hamad played a large role in advancing the deal for the release of soldier Gilad Shalit (2011), when he agreed to open a direct negotiating channel with his colleague, Israeli Gershon Baskin.

Hamad is largely held to be one of Hamas’ most pragmatic leaders. He holds a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine and is former editor-in-chief of the weekly Hamas newspaper Al-Resalah. When Hamas won the 2006 elections, Hamad was appointed spokesman for then-Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. When Hamas’ military wing suspected that Hamad and senior Hamas official Ahmed Yousef had been in contact with Israeli representatives in the civil administration for cooperation on the issue of the border crossings, both men were dismissed from their positions. Subsequently, they spent years in Hamas’ political wilderness.

Hamad demonstrated great courage when he criticized the organization’s military wing and its views. In a scathing article that was published in Al-Ayyam newspaper in October 2006, Hamad accused Hamas’ people of hooliganism, because every time the Palestinians agreed to a cease-fire with Israel — during which time the border crossings were opened — one of the Hamas military wing people would shoot a Qassam rocket into Israel, causing the passages to be closed down once again. In the article, despite the life-and-death power held by the movement’s weapon bearers, Hamad called to uproot the roots of the violence.

Now, Hamad is tasked with a most sensitive and important issue for the Hamas movement: the energy crisis. His very appointment seems to imply that Gaza’s new leader, Yahya Sinwar, thinks that Hamad is the right person for the job because of the web of connections the latter has with European and Israeli parties. (Hamad had served as Hamas’ deputy foreign minister and chairman of the Crossings Authority.) Therefore, Hamad has the tools to resolve the electricity crisis. Hamad’s success would be twofold: success for Hamas and success for Israel.

Hamad’s first step would be restoration of the normal functioning of the Gaza power station and the regular supply of fuel. Meanwhile, these are funded mainly by contributions from Qatar and a smaller contribution from Turkey.

According to data provided by the United Nations, the Gaza power station now supplies 60 megawatts of electricity, only half of its capacity prior to the Israel Defense Forces’ bombardment in 2006. Today, Israel supplies most of Gaza’s electrical consumption (120 megawatts) over power lines. Egypt supplies only 28 megawatts for the southern section of the Gaza strip. To alleviate the electrical shortage quickly, Hamad will have to upgrade the Gaza power station and repair all electrical lines from Israel that need routine maintenance. The only way to successfully carry out these two projects is for Hamad to work in cooperation with the Israeli civil administration, and with the financial assistance of the European Union and Gulf emirate countries, which are expected to donate funds for repairing the neglected infrastructures.

“Ghazi Hamad can deliver the goods,” said the Israeli security source. He added optimistically, “The cow wants to nurse more than the calf wants to suckle.” He probably is referring to Israel, which views the restoration of the electrical system in the Gaza Strip as a supreme security interest of its own.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Israeli forces detain 3 Palestinians after crossing Gaza border


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Friday detained three Palestinian youths after they “illegally” crossed the border fence from the northern Gaza Strip.Hebrew-language media reported that the three were able to cross the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip and were detained by Israeli forces deployed near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.The detainees were transferred for interrogation to the Israeli intelligence.Neither an Israeli intelligence nor Israeli border police spokesperson was immediately available for comment.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Report: Hostilities force Palestinian families out of Yarmouk Basin


The action group for Palestinians of Syria revealed that dozens of Palestinian and Syrian families sheltered in Yarmouk Basin, in Deraa’s western outskirts, fled the area for fear of being killed in the simmering hostilities between ISIS militias and the opposition outfits.

ISIS-affiliated Khaled Ibn al-Walid brigade held sway over Yarmouk Basin territories, including Tseil, Jileen, Sahem, and Tel al-Jomou’, following clashes rocking the area over the past ten days.

Most of those displaced from the area have sought refuge in Yarmouk River while others fled to al-Muzeireeb, Zizoun, and Amouriya. Other families have been stranded in ISIS-led areas.

At the same time, a number of Palestinian families have been taking cover at local schools and mosques after they had gone homeless.

Over recent months, hundreds of displaced Palestinians have been sheltered in the Syrian-Libyan dairy farm, near Jilin town, having no other place to run to. Palestinians taking refuge in southern Syria have been enduring abject living conditions.

The situation has gone downhill due to the sharp decline in relief aids. Located some 25 kilometers way from northwestern Deraa city center, Jileen Camp is home to 500 families, mostly displaced from northern 1948 Occupied Palestine (Green Line), the occupied West Bank, and the blockaded Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Tseil town, northwest of Deraa, provides provisional housing to some 120 Palestinian families.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Tunisia warned of collapse of state due to growing corruption

Tunisian security forces [file photo]

Tunisian security forces [file photo]

The resident of Tunisia’s National Anti-Corruption Authority, Chawki Tabib, warned on Thursday of the collapse of the state because of rampant corruption, smuggling and a parallel economy. He made his comments during a press conference in the capital, Tunis.

The country loses four growth points per year, Tabib pointed out, as well as 800 million dinars ($347.9 million) as a result of the smuggling of subsidised food, leading to growing foreign debt. An annual loss of 2 billion dinars ($1.8 billion) is directly due to corruption and the lack of adequate governance mechanisms in public transactions. The authority reviewed 8,029 corruption files in 2016 and referred 152 of them to the judiciary.

Read: Decline in Tunisian torture cases but abuses still prevalent

The Tunisian parliament last week passed a 36-article law, which criminalises any retribution against whistle-blowers about such offences, including the taking of disciplinary measures against civil servants.

“The real gain is to uncover corruption lobbies who benefit from the former regime,” the secretary of the Arab Anti-Corruption Organisation, Ayyad Lummi, told Anadolu.

Transparency International ranked Tunisia 75 globally on its corruption index for the year 2016, recording a slight improvement compared to 2015.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Kidney transplant center to be opened in Gaza


Dr. Abdul Qader Hammad, the head of the British medical delegation specialized in kidney transplants, said that the Gaza Strip will soon witness the opening of the best Arab specialist center in the field of kidney transplant.

In a press statement on Thursday, Hammad pointed to a sustainable project, which has been under study for years to end the suffering of the kidney failure patients in Gaza, saying that modern equipment similar to those of the developed countries had arrived in the Gaza Strip recently.

He added that the next step will be training a number of local technical crews at Royal Liverpool Hospital in the United Kingdom on using and running the new equipment.

He emphasized that kidney transplant operations in Gaza are almost normal now thanks to the high skills the Palestinian physicians and surgeons have acquired from their counterparts in the delegation.

The head of the medical delegation stated that all the 13 kidney transplants that were carried out in the past period achieved high rates of success up to 92% which are comparable to the world’s highest rates in this field.

He noted that what distinguishes kidney transplant operations in the Gaza Strip is that they are performed following the best surgical methods in the world where the kidney is transferred from the body of the donor using the endoscope, and this is the safest way in terms of medical complications.

The medical delegation, headed by Dr. Abdul Qader Hammad, the head of the organ transplant unit at Royal Liverpool Hospital, conducted on Wednesday the second successful kidney transplant in partnership with Palestinian doctors.

Hammad is expected to carry out 4 kidney transplants during his visit to Gaza in cooperation with Palestinian surgeons and local nursing and anesthesia crews.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Morocco’s PJD restricts government to parties in previous coalition

Morocco's Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane delivers a speech in Rabat, Morocco on 20 February 2017 [Jalal Morchidi - Anadolu Agency]

Morocco’s Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane delivers a speech in Rabat, Morocco on 20 February 2017

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) has backed the approach adopted by its leader, Abdelilah Benkirane — the designated Head of Government — to restrict the membership of the new government to the parties which formed the previous coalition.

“The appointed head of government is the sole individual authorised to form the government and determine the parties that will form the government majority,” said the PJD’s General Secretariat late on Thursday. The party supports this fully, it added.

Read: Morocco withdraws unilaterally from areas disputed with Polisario Front

The parties involved are the majority Justice and Development Party (Islamist), the National Rally of Independents’ Party (right-wing), the Popular Movement (right-wing), and the Party of Progress and Socialism (left-wing).

The PJD also stressed that the current phase requires political responsibility and clarity. “It also needs an emphasis on the need to hasten the formation of the government and this must not be at the expense of the credibility of political and partisan life and the gains accumulated by Morocco in terms of constitutional and political reforms.”

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Palestinian denied access to medical treatment by Israel

Saifuldeen Badr, 22, was shocked when the Israeli occupation denied him entry to have an operation. He was informed that he is a high security risk.

The Israeli excuses are used to arbitrarily manipulate the situation of sick individuals who need treatment outside of Gaza, especially those who are suffering a serious deterioration of their health.

Saifuldeen was in a car accident last month that led to his leg being shattered, as well as injuries to his ligaments and veins, requiring surgical intervention and medical equipment that can only be found outside of Gaza.

However, due to Israel denying him entry and the closure of the Rafah crossing, his situation gets worse by the day.

Read: Israel’s inherent cruelty doomed a sick Palestinian teen to die

He told MEMO that he is suffering from deterioration in his health, as the cells in his leg have started to die due to the fact that blood is not reaching the area. He said that two of his toes were amputated and it is only getting worse.

The doctors have told him that he has very bad circulation in his leg and therefore the dead parts need to be amputated from time to time, meaning that his leg is being cut off piecemeal.

His father says that they have filed a request to the Israeli authorities and contacted human rights organisations to interfere in the matter, however they were surprised that Israel considers him a serious security risk. This is even though he has no political affiliations.

His father believes that this excuse is not legitimate and can only be seen as an Israeli policy of exploitation and torture of ill individuals in the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Hariri: Assad Regime Committing War Crimes in Dara’a as Local Councils Reiterate Support for HNC

Head of the opposition High Negotiations Committee’s (HNC) delegation to Geneva talks Nasr al-Hariri said that regime forces and the Iranian-backed militias continue to commit the most heinous war crimes against civilians in Dara’a province.

Hariri was speaking during a teleconference between members of the HNC delegation and representatives of local councils and activists in Dara’a. The conferees discussed the situation in the province which has been subjected to intensified brutal attacks by the Assad regime forces and the Iranian-backed militias.

Hariri told the conferees that the HNC’s delegation discussed the issue of political transition with the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. He noted that the Assad regime is seeking to sabotage negotiations because it is the primary beneficiary of the continuing chaos and with the aim of continuing with its massacres and war crimes, especially the besiegement and the starvation of the civilian population.

Representatives of the local councils and activists in Dara’a highlighted the tragic situation being suffered by the civilian population in the province as a result of constant bombardment and continued attacks by regime forces and their allied foreign militias. They pointed out that the neighborhood of Manshiyaa is still being subjected to ferocious, systematic bombardment by regime forces.

The representatives and activists reiterated their full support for the HNC delegation and its demands for achieving full political transition in accordance with the international resolutions, including UN Security Council resolutions 2118 and 2254.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 03.03.2017)

PA forces arrest two students


The PA security forces arrested late Thursday two Palestinian university students for their political affiliation.

Umaamah Media Center affirmed that the PA Preventive Security Service in Ramallah detained late yesterday the former head of Bir Zeit University student council Saif Islam Douglas who was earlier arrested more than once in PA and Israeli jails.

The university student Mahmoud Muna was also arrested yesterday after PA forces violently suppressed a student march at Beit El checkpoint.

Islamic bloc coordinator Yasser Abu Rumaila was brutally attacked during the march.

Meanwhile, four university students continue to be arbitrarily detained by PA forces over their political affiliation.

(Source / 03.03.2017)

Israeli forces detain Palestinians, including women and children, in Qalqiliya-area village


QALAILIYA (Ma’an) –Israeli forces detained a group of Palestinians, including women and children, on Friday while they were on their lands in the village of Azzun in the northern West Bank district of Qalqiliya.

Hassan Shibita, the media coordinator of the village, told Ma’an that Israeli forces had detained Samir Mahmoud Shibita, Omar Muen Hussein, six children, and a number of other Palestinians.
Shibita identified the four children as Muhammad Arif Dahbour, Thaer Safa Abed, Anas Zahran Shibita, and Mustafa Yassir Shibita.
He added that later in the day another group of farmers, including women, were detained in the village, noting that Israeli soldiers took the cellphones of the detainees and bystanders and deleted photos of the detention process.
Shibita said that the two groups detained by Israeli forces have yet to be released.
Local sources told Ma’an that there were no clashes at the time of the detentions, adding that Israeli forces were attempting to provoke the Palestinians in the village.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli detention as of January, 353 of whom were women and children.
(Source / 03.03.2017)