Posts Tagged ‘Gaza Strip’

Saudi Arabia supports any action against Iranian aggression

October 20, 2017

Khaled Manzlawiy
NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia announced its full support for any action or sanction that can limit Iranian aggression and intervention in the regions’ countries.

The Kingdom expressed regret that Iran has used the economic returns from the lifting of sanctions after compliance with the nuclear deal, to destabilize the region, develop its ballistic missiles and support terrorism in the region, including Hezbollah, Houthi militias in Yemen and armed militias in Syria.

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This was announced by the deputy head of the Saudi permanent representative to the UN, Khaled Manzlawiy, as a reply to the report of the special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, at the UN session held on Wednesday.
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Manzlawiy said: “I reaffirm the Kingdom’s concern to cooperate with the UN and offer all information that can be helpful to the rapporteurs. We have taken note of the report of the special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights and we would like to make some comments.”
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Concerning Gaza Strip, Manzlawi stressed the Kingdom’s firm and unwavering position, condemning all forms of Israeli occupation of Palestine and Arab territories.
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“Concerning the US sanctions against Iran, I confirm the Kingdom’s full support to any action or sanction that may help decrease Iranian aggression and intervention in the region, and reduce the spread of weapons of mass destruction in our region and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, Iran has abused the economic returns after sanctions were lifted. Instead of using it to achieve development, Iran used it to continue destabilizing the region and support terrorist organizations. We stress the urgent need to find a solution to the international threat of Iranian policies.”
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On the Qatari issue, Manzlawiy said: “We urge Qatar to cooperate in eradicating the scourge of extremism and terrorism instead of supporting and financing it, abide by the Riyadh agreement of 2013-2014 and stop destabilizing the security of the neighboring countries. Qatar’s attempt to internationalize the crisis will not help find a solution, but will complicate things more. Qatar should know that such policies are rejected. We hope that Qatar will do the right thing and listen to the international community.”
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Manzlawiy said: “The Kingdom welcomes the US initiative to lift the economic sanctions that were imposed on Sudan, and we hope that this will boost the country’s development and prosperity.”
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“Regarding the Yemeni crisis, the Kingdom grants its full support to the solution of the UN envoy to Yemen that requires the formation of two committees (administrative-financial and technical) to supervise Hodeidah Port, transfer the profits to the government, and ensure that Houthi militias do not use it to smuggle and transport weapons and arms,” said Manzlawiy.
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US says Palestinian unity govt must recognise Israel, disarm Hamas

October 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Mike Smith | Fighters of the armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas march in the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis on July 20, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – A top aide to US President Donald Trump said Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognise Israel and disarm Hamas, Washington’s first detailed response to a landmark reconciliation deal signed last week.A Hamas official immediately rejected the comments as “blatant interference” in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the Islamist group planned to comply with any of the demands.

Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions.

“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognise the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties — including to disarm terrorists — and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

The US conditions were roughly in line with principles previously set out by the Quartet for Middle East peace — the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” Greenblatt said.

The statement was also similar to the Israeli government’s response this week in which it vowed not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group agrees to a list of demands.

The demands included recognising Israel and renouncing violence, but also returning the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, among other conditions.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim condemned Greenblatt’s statement and accused the United States of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions.

“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” Naim told AFP.

“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago.”

– Gaza humanitarian crisis –

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.

The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation has recognised Israel, but Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade.

Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.

Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since seizing it in a near civil war in 2007 with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, following a dispute over elections won by the Islamist movement.

The Palestinian Authority, currently dominated by Fatah, is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by December 1 under the deal.

Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for November 21.

Previous attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change will occur on the ground.

A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’s refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.

Diplomats say it would be possible to form a unity government that they could deal with that does not officially include Hamas.

A previous attempt at a unity government in 2014 was made up of technocrats deemed acceptable by the international community, though that bid fell apart.

Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage.

Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, which has worsened the power cuts.

Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened.

In return, Cairo has pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah.

Greenblatt said “all parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there.”

In a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, UN assistant secretary general Miroslav Jenca welcomed the reconciliation deal and spoke of the urgency of addressing the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

by Mike Smith

Syria, Lebanon will be ‘one front’ if war erupts against Israel: minister

October 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Israeli soldiers take part in a military exercise simulating conflict with Lebanese movement Hezbollah, in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights, near the Syrian border on September 5, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Lebanon and Syria would constitute “one front” against his country if a new war were to break out.

Hezbollah and Israel fought a devastating conflict in 2006, and the Lebanese Shiite group is currently backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war.

Both countries border Israel to its north.

 Image result for Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, photos

“In the next war in the north of the country, Lebanon will not be the only front,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman  said in a speech to soldiers.

“There is now only one front in the north composed of Lebanon, Syria, Hezbollah, the Bashar al-Assad regime and all those who help his regime.”

Lieberman added that the Lebanese army had lost “its independence by becoming an integral part of Hezbollah, which gives it its orders.”

Israeli leaders frequently warn Lebanon that the country’s army and civilian infrastructure would be overwhelmingly targeted if Hezbollah attacks from civilian areas.

Hezbollah is also supported by Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy which backs Assad in Syria as well.

Israel’s military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short- and medium-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred long-range missiles, with the medium-range missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

Lieberman evoked the possibility of a simultaneous conflict in the north and in the south with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“The battle will take place on the northern and southern fronts,” he said.

“There is no longer war on one front. It’s our basic assumption and it is what our military is preparing for.”

Since 2008, Israel has fought three wars with Hamas, which also receives support from Iran.

Israel has sought to avoid becoming involved in the Syrian civil war, but acknowledges carrying out dozens of air strikes there to stop what it says are advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah.

Palestinian cabinet meets in Gaza in latest move toward reconciliation with Hamas

October 3, 2017

AFP

 

© MOHAMMED ABED/AFP | Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives to attend a cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017.

Video by Alex JENNINGS

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-03

The Palestinian cabinet met in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since 2014 in a further step towards the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority (PA) retaking control of the territory.

In an opening speech, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah renewed his pledge to end a decade-long split between the Islamist Hamas movement that controls Gaza and his West Bank-based government.

“We are here to turn the page on division, restore the national project to its correct direction and establish the (Palestinian) state,” he said.

The session took place at the official Gaza residence of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the cabinet office, hung with portraits of Abbas and historic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

“THERE WAS LUNCH, A GROUP HUG; IT LOOKS SERIOUS” – FRANCE 24 CORRESPONDENT IRRIS MAKLER.

‘Carefully optimistic’

It was the first meeting of the cabinet in Gaza since November 2014, although Hamdallah visited a year later without his ministers.

Hamas ousted the PA from Gaza after bloody street fighting in 2007, but finally agreed last month to its return, under pressure from the territory’s powerful neighbour Egypt.

>> Hamas offers to return control of Gaza to Palestinian Authority

A visiting Egyptian official told AFP that his country’s intelligence chief, Khaled Fawzi, was expected to meet Hamas leader Ismail Haniya in Gaza later on Thursday.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said on Monday that he was “carefully optimistic” about the reconciliation talks.

“If the region stays engaged, if Egypt’s role continues and if the political parties themselves continue to show the willingness they are currently showing to work with us on this process, then it can succeed,” he told AFP.

(AFP)

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ANALYSIS: Palestinians Meet to Reconcile — But Can Hamas and Fatah Make an Agreement and Stick To It?

October 3, 2017
BY BEN LYNFIELD
The Jerusalem Post
OCTOBER 3, 2017 04:52

It is hard to see any way the PA can govern the Strip in a sustained way while Hamas retains the military power it refuses to relinquish.

Analysis: Despite fanfare, Hamas and Fatah will be hard to reconcile

PEOPLE WATCH as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visits the Shejaiya neighborhood in Gaza City yesterday. (photo credit:REUTERS)

As a crowd of hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving flags, and a Hamas police honor guard greeted Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah Monday upon his arrival in Gaza, a question hovered in the air: Is this Palestinian reconciliation effort different from all other reconciliation efforts? In the decade since Hamas seized control of Gaza, all unity bids have failed, with neither Hamas nor Fatah ultimately willing to give up a de facto monopoly on power in their respective areas.

This time, there are a bevy of optimistic voices on both sides insisting it will work. Hamas spokesman Fawzy Barhoum told the Maan news agency that he was confident about the success of reconciliation, citing “unprecedented Palestinian will by all parties.” He said Hamas will push for the success of bilateral talks with Fatah under Egyptian supervision next week in Cairo that will follow up the thus far only symbolic restart of the PA government in Gaza.

Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who supports PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said: “There is a good chance it will work. We have to make it a success.”

“Hamas and Fatah are serious,” said Palestinian Legislative Council deputy speaker Hasan Khreisheh, an independent. “Hamas needs Egypt and needs to open the borders, while the authority wants to show America and Israel that they represent all Palestinian people, whether in Gaza or the West Bank. Both sides have an interest. This marriage is a necessity and I think they will do it.”

Indeed, there are reasons to believe the shidduch could work this time, although there are also perhaps more compelling reasons to believe the couple is still incompatible and that the marriage, if it takes place, will be short lived.

On the plus side is that an increasingly isolated Hamas cannot afford to alienate the Egyptian mediators pushing hard for this to work. Abbas also is reluctant to be blamed by Cairo for the failure of the bid.

Also militating in favor of an agreement is that unity is deeply desired by Palestinian public opinion, especially Gazans weary from war, severe economic distress and Egyptian and Israeli partial blockades. “The time has come to work for ending the suffering of Gaza and its people and we are preparing a series of steps for this.” Hamdallah said yesterday.

Neither Hamas nor Abbas want to be blamed for letting the public down or be seen as prioritizing narrow selfish interests over the national interest.

Hamas’s weak position is another factor that makes reconciliation appear to be more in reach than the past. The plans for resumption of the PA role in Gaza – and Hamdallah’s visit – were made possible when Hamas decided to scrap an administrative committee it named to govern Gaza six months ago. At the same time, the movement said it would welcome the PA back in the Strip.

Analysts say the Hamas shift came about because of factors including hard-hitting economic steps imposed by Abbas, such as cutting electricity payments to Israel, which caused blackouts, and the slashing of salaries of civil servants. But they also say the weakening and isolation of Hamas’s main financial backer, Qatar – after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain imposed an economic boycott over its alleged support for terrorism – also played a key role.

At the same time, Abbas could be interested in making the reconciliation work to strengthen his hand in possible US-led peace diplomacy.

But, tellingly, he has not lifted the sanctions on the Strip. If he does not do that to coincide with Tuesday’s PA cabinet meeting in Gaza, it will be an indication he is still skeptical about the reconciliation.

And skepticism is appropriate, since besides agreeing to talk, the two sides have not really done anything yet. In particular, they have not made concessions on the thorniest issues. One of these is the fate of 43,000 Hamas-appointed government employees in Gaza. A 2014 reconciliation agreement foundered over this, with Fatah saying they should be sacked and Hamas insisting on their integration into the PA administration.

An even greater challenge is security. Abbas and the PA want full security control of Gaza and to avoid having a Hezbollah-like situation in the Strip, while Hamas is adamant that its Izzedin al-Qassam brigades be left intact so that it can combat Israel. Hamas deputy political chief Musa Abu Marzouk was quoted in media reports recently as saying Hamas will not agree to discuss a change in the brigades’ status with Fatah. “We are talking about weapons whose purpose is to defend the Palestinian people and as long as the Palestinian people is under occupation this weaponry will continue to be ready for every scenario.”

And Hamas leader Yihya Sinwar boasted over the weekend of the brigades’ ability to barrage Tel Aviv with many rockets in a short period of time.

Ashraf Ajrami, a former PA minister said it is possible, however, that in order to allow the reconciliation to proceed, Abbas will agree that the Qassam brigades keep their weapons for now, as long as they do not interfere in the working of the PA government or take actions that could cause war with Israel.

That would entail a seemingly unlikely turn for Abbas from his long-held insistence that there only be one set of weapons for one authority. In practice, it is hard to see any way the PA can govern the Strip in a sustained way while Hamas retains the military power it refuses to relinquish.

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Hezbollah Leader Warns Israel as Shiites Mark Ashoura — Warns Israel not to underestimate Hezbollah’s capabilities

October 1, 2017

BEIRUT — The leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has marked the Shiite religious holiday of Ashoura with a speech warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against pushing the region into war.

Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Sunday that Netanyahu is working with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to undermine the Iran nuclear deal and start a regional war. He warned Israel not to underestimate Hezbollah’s capabilities.

Shiites across the region are marking the holiday with prayers and marches and, in some cities, self-flagellation.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, eyeglasses and hat

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

Ashoura commemorates the day the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein, was killed by a rival Muslim faction in Karbala, present day Iraq, in 680 A.D. Hussein and his descendants are seen by Shiites as the rightful heirs to the prophet.

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Hezbollah Says Israel Pushing Region to War

October 1, 2017

BEIRUT — Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday that the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was pushing the region to war in Syria, Lebanon and in the Gaza Strip.

In a speech to followers, the leader of the Iran-backed group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said the Israeli government did not have “a correct assessment of where this war will lead if they ignite it”, and did not know how it would end.

Image result for Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, photos

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

He was speaking on the occasion of Ashura, when Shi’ites commemorate the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, the Imam Hussein, at Kerbala in 680.

(Reporting by Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Hamas Chief Says Iran Again Funding Operations

August 28, 2017

Yehiyeh Sinwar

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Hamas’ new leader in the Gaza Strip said Monday his group has repaired relations with Iran after a five-year rift and is using its newfound financial and military aid to gear up for new hostilities with Israel.

The announcement by Yehiyeh Sinwar came as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting Israel. At a meeting with the U.N. chief, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained about what he called rising anti-Israel activity by Iran and its allies in the region.

Iran was once the top backer of Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction. But Hamas broke with Iran in 2012 after the group refused to support Iran’s close ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Syrian civil war.

During a four-hour meeting with journalists, Sinwar said those ties have been restored and are stronger than ever.

“Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent,” Sinwar said. He added that the Islamic Republic is “the largest backer financially and militarily” to Hamas’ military wing.

It was the first time that Sinwar has met reporters since he was elected in February. The 55-year-old Sinwar, who spent two decades in Israeli prison after being convicted of masterminding the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers, has close ties with Hamas’ militant wing and takes a hard line toward Israel.

Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, and Israel has recently expressed concern that Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are seeking a permanent military presence in Syria near the Israeli border. Both Hezbollah fighters and Iran have backed Assad’s forces in the Syrian war.

In his meeting with Guterres, Netanyahu alleged Iran is building sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce “precision-guided missiles” to be used against Israel.

“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment, and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as warfronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel,” Netanyahu said. “This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the U.N. should not accept.”

Israel has also accused the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, of failing to prevent Hezbollah from smuggling huge quantities of weapons into southern Lebanon in violation of a 2006 cease-fire. UNIFIL’s mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month and Israel is pressing for the force to have an increased presence to better monitor and prevent the alleged Hezbollah arms buildup.

UNIFIL’s commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Beary, told The Associated Press last week that he has no evidence that weapons are being illegally transferred and stockpiled in the Hezbollah-dominated south. But Guterres promised Netanyahu that he will do everything in my capacity” to ensure UNIFIL fulfills its obligations.

“I understand the security concerns of Israel and I repeat that the idea or the intention or the will to destroy the state of Israel is something totally unacceptable from my perspective,” he said.

Responding to Israeli claims that the U.N. is biased, Guterres stressed his commitment to “treating all states equally.” He said those who call for Israel’s destruction peddle in a “form of modern anti-Semitism” — though he also said he doesn’t always agree with the country’s policies.

Guterres heads to the West Bank on Tuesday and is scheduled to visit Gaza on Wednesday. The U.N. maintains major operations in Gaza, running schools and health clinics and delivering humanitarian aid. Guterres is not scheduled to speak to Hamas.

Late Monday, Guterres met with Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, commander of COGAT, the defense body that is responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs.

Mordechai blamed Hamas for the poor conditions in Gaza, saying the group tries to exploit civilians and aid programs. He also said Hamas’ refusal to return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, along with two Israeli civilians it is holding, hinders Israeli efforts to assist Gaza.

“The terror organization Hamas does not hesitate at all and repeatedly exploits the Gaza residents by attempting to take advantage of Israel’s assistance, despite the severe civil hardships in the strip,” Mordechai said.

Guterres later met with the families of the dead soldiers and captive Israeli civilians.

In his briefing with reporters, Sinwar would not say how much aid Iran provides his group. Before the 2012 breakup, Iran provided an estimated $50 million a month to Hamas.

Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces in 2007. Since then, it has fought three wars with Israel. Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks. It is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

Sinwar stressed that the Iranian aid is for “rebuilding and accumulating” Hamas’ military powers for a larger fight against Israel that is meant to “liberate Palestine.”

“Thousands of people work every day to make rockets, (dig) tunnels and train frogmen,” he said. “The relationship with Iran is in this context.”

But the shadowy leader said his movement does not intend to start a fourth war with Israel, instead preferring to remedy dire living conditions in the impoverished coastal enclave.

Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover a decade ago. Trying to pressure Hamas and regain control, Abbas has asked Israel to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza, and he has slashed the salaries of thousands of his former government employees there.

The result is that Gaza suffers acute power outages of up to 16 hours a day, unemployment of nearly 50 percent and widespread poverty.

Sinwar has turned to Egypt, which has begun to ease the blockade as it seeks Hamas’ help in controlling their border. The Egyptian military has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the Sinai desert, near Gaza.

Relations with Cairo “have improved dramatically,” Sinwar said. Egypt has recently sent fuel to ease the power crisis in response to Hamas’ building of a buffer zone along the border.

“We will knock on all the doors, except that of the (Israeli) occupation, to resolve the problems,” he said.

Sinwar was among more than 1,000 Palestinians released by Israel in 2011 in exchange for an Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit, whom Hamas kidnapped in 2006.

Sinwar said there would be no new talks over a prisoner swap until Israel frees 54 prisoners released in the Schalit swap that have been re-arrested.

“We are ready to start negotiations through a mediator, but only when the table is cleaned. Freed prisoners must feel they are immune.”

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Federman reported from Jerusalem.

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© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File / by Ali Choukeir | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 30, 2017 shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah

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Hamas guard killed in rare suicide attack in Gaza Strip

August 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Adel Zaanoun | Islamist group Hamas has run Gaza for a decade but has been criticised by more radical Salafist groups in the Palestinian enclave

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – A suicide bomber killed a Hamas guard in southern Gaza on Thursday, officials said, in what was seen as a rare Islamist attack against the Palestinian group that has run the impoverished enclave for a decade.

The incident occurred at around 1:00 am near the Gaza Strip’s lone crossing with Egypt along the Sinai Peninsula, where radical Islamists are waging an insurgency against Egyptian forces.

It would be the first time a suicide attack has targeted Hamas forces in Gaza, security sources said.

“Early this morning security forces stopped two people approaching the southern border (with Egypt),” a Hamas interior ministry spokesman said in a statement.

“One of them blew himself up,” it added.

Interior ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum later referred to it as a suicide attack.

Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said field commander Nidal al-Jaafari, 28, was killed in the attack.

Qassam posted a series of photos of Jaafari in military fatigues carrying different weapons.

The group blamed “fundamentalist jihadists” for the attack, but further details on their backgrounds and motivations were still being investigated.

Security sources said the attack took place a few hundred metres from the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

The two men approached a small security position there and five guards tried to stop them before one blew himself up, they said.

The second man was moderately wounded, while the four other guards were also wounded, including one seriously, security sources said.

Eyewitnesses said hundreds of security forces deployed along the border after the explosion.

Islamist group Hamas has run Gaza for a decade but has been regularly criticised by more radical Salafist groups in the strip.

There have been threats of retaliation in recent months over arrests, according to security sources in Gaza.

– Blockaded enclave –

Hamas has recently boosted its forces along the border with Egypt as it seeks to improve relations with Cairo.

Radical Islamists are also fighting Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Gaza. There was no indication there was any link.

Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing mostly closed in recent years, though it opened it on Monday for four days to allow Muslims to travel to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage, as well as for some humanitarian cases.

Bozum said the crossing would be open on Thursday as planned.

Egypt and Israel are the only countries bordering Gaza.

Israel has maintained a decade-long blockade on the strip it says is necessary to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas has occasionally sought to crack down on Salafist groups inside the Gaza Strip with arrests.

Such Salafist groups have in recent months claimed responsiblity for rocket fire into Israel, sometimes saying it was in revenge for Hamas’s arrests.

Some security sources questioned whether Thursday’s explosion was a new phase of the Salafists’ campaign.

The groups claim thousands of supporters in the Palestinian enclave of some two million people, while Hamas estimates there are dozens.

by Adel Zaanoun

Palestinian woman stabs, wounds Israeli in Jerusalem

August 12, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Israeli border police stand guard outside the flashpoint Damascus Gate to Jerusalem’s Old City on June 18, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – A Palestinian woman stabbed and wounded an Israeli man near an east Jerusalem flashpoint on Saturday, before she was arrested, police said.

They said in an English-language statement that the incident occurred next to the Old City’s Damascus Gate, site of repeated past attacks.

It said that a “female Arab terrorist” stabbed the man, injuring him lightly.

The woman, a Jerusalem resident aged about 30, was arrested at the scene, police added.

The Old City is located in east Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

The July 14 killing there of two policemen by three Arab Israeli gunmen led to spiralling unrest after Israel responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, used as a staging point for the attack.

For nearly two weeks, worshippers refused to submit to the checks and staged mass prayers in surrounding streets.

Ensuing protests left six Palestinians dead.

The crisis abated when Israel removed the detectors but tension remains high.

A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has killed 293 Palestinians or Arab Israelis, 47 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP toll.

Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks.

Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.