Posts Tagged ‘Israelis’

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians requires “the fundamental acceptance of the Jewish State” — Must stop “rewarding those who engage in terrorism”

April 21, 2017

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Palestinian Authority leader Abbas and Israel’s Netanyahu in 2010. AP photo by Charles Dharapak

Fox News

The spokesman for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Fox News’ “Hannity” Thursday that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians requires “the fundamental acceptance of the Jewish State.”

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Sean Hannity at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, where Palestinian terrorists shot and killed four Israelis and murdered 16 others last year.

CATCH SEAN HANNITY’S INTERVIEW WITH ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU FRIDAY AT 10 P.M. ON FOX NEWS CHANNEL

“They ordered brownies. They were dressed in suits. They tried to blend in,” Keyes said of the attackers, “and they stood up and they murdered four people in cold blood.”

Keyes noted that “every time we’ve had a real partner for peace, Israel has actually worked out peace deals which have lasted decades, [as] in the case of Egypt and Jordan.”

“Look, everyone in this region deserves to live in peace,” Keyes added, “and there’s nobody who would want peace more than the Israeli people and the Israeli Prime Minister.”

Hannity also toured the market with Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, who decried Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for “rewarding those who engage in terrorism.”

“The real stumbling block for making peace,” Gold said, “is the culture of hatred that the Palestinian Authority has built.”

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/21/netanyahu-spokesman-mideast-peace-requires-acceptance-israel.html

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Trump to speak with Palestinian president Abbas

March 10, 2017

AFP

© AFP | US President Donald Trump (L) is to speak by telephone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas for the first time on March 10, 2017
WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump will on Friday speak by telephone with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the White House said.The midday (1700 GMT) phone call will be the first between the two leaders.

Trump received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in mid-February.

At that meeting, Trump said he was not bound to the two-state solution for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, distancing himself from a position held by his predecessors for years.

He said he would back whichever solution — one-state or two — that the two sides agreed on.

The peace process has been deadlocked since April 2014 following the collapse of indirect negotiations led by then secretary of state John Kerry.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, on Tuesday met for the first time with the Palestinian envoy to the world body, Riyad Mansour.

After the talks, Haley tweeted that the Palestinians should “meet with Israel in direct negotiations rather than looking to the UN to deliver results that can only be achieved through the two parties.”

As Netanyahu faces police questioning, rivals look ‘post-Bibi’

March 6, 2017

Reuters

By Luke Baker | JERUSALEM

Police are expected to question Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a fourth time on Monday in a corruption investigation that has prompted political rivals to start looking to a “post-Bibi” Israel.

Israeli TV and newspapers, citing unnamed sources, said Netanyahu would be questioned later in the day. A police spokeswoman declined to confirm the reports, saying only that if Netanyahu were interviewed, a statement would be released.

A spokesman for the prime minister, who has denied wrongdoing, did not respond to a request for comment.

Netanyahu, 67, is a suspect in two cases, one involving the receipt of gifts from businessmen and the other related to conversations he held with an Israeli newspaper publisher about limiting competition in the news sector in exchange for more positive coverage.

No charges have been brought against Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009.

Police chief Roni Elsheich told reporters: “We will finish soon, we are in the final stages.” Once the investigation is complete, police will decide whether to drop the case or recommend the attorney general bring charges.

As speculation bubbles, politicians from across the spectrum have begun maneuvering, believing early elections will probably have to be called if Netanyahu is indicted.

Such a move would most likely lead to his resignation – in 1993 the Supreme Court set a precedent for ministers to step down if they are charged with corruption.

It is possible someone from his Likud party could replace Netanyahu without a new vote, but most observers think it unlikely, predicting an election would have to be called for September or November, depending on developments.

The opposition Labor party will hold primaries in July, former defense minister Moshe Yaalon has launched his own party and Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet intelligence agency and a senior member of Likud, said on Saturday he would consider running for the party leadership.

“I am here to lead and will undoubtedly run for Likud leadership and the premiership,” Dichter was quoted as saying, comments his spokesman said were not a challenge to Netanyahu and referred to future primaries.

SHAKE UP?

To analysts, the rumblings are clear and foreshadow change after 20 years of Netanyahu dominating the landscape.

“Active politicians and those on the benches waiting to enter, all of them have concluded that early elections are coming because of the investigation,” Menachem Klein, a politics professor at Bar-Ilan University, told Reuters.

“They are starting to prepare themselves.”

Opinion polls show Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, as the strongest candidate for prime minister if Netanyahu goes, but there are a host of others nipping at his heels. Other polls show “Bibi” remains the most popular politician despite the investigation.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has visited Britain, the United States and Australia. Trips are planned to Russia, China and India. Some critics suggest the travel is a way of delaying questioning. Others say it is about appearing statesman-like.

“His junkets to far-flung places and visits with the leaders of world powers are intended to persuade Israelis that he’s the be-all and end-all,” columnist Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz. “The deeper the investigations, the more he’ll be in the air.”

One commentator drew comparisons to former U.S. President Richard Nixon, who in the two months before he resigned over the Watergate scandal in 1974 visited Austria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Belgium and Russia.

Netanyahu’s opponents name a number of party rivals bidding to replace him, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Culture Minister Miri Regev and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz. Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home is seen as someone who could switch to Likud to try to lead.

Klein warns against letting speculation run wild. In Israel, the political context can shift rapidly – for example if there is a conflict with Hamas in Gaza – and that can alter thinking: “These are questions that shape voters’ decision making and can make a huge difference.”

(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Israel: Netanyahu’s coalition calls for a declaration of Israeli sovereignty over all or part of the occupied territory; Encounters pushback from the U.S.

March 6, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Some 2.6 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967
JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday that the United States has warned that annexing the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with President Donald Trump’s administration.

Lieberman sought to push back against those in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition calling for a declaration of Israeli sovereignty over all or part of the occupied territory.

He said annexation would provoke a crisis with Washington and result in steep costs for the Israeli government since it would be required to provide services to Palestinians in the West Bank.

“We have received a very clear, direct message from the United States stating that the application of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would provoke an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Lieberman said before a parliamentary committee.

Some 2.6 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967.

The latest call for annexation came on Sunday, when lawmaker Miki Zohar from Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a television interview that “the two-state solution is dead”.

Zohar advocated a single state, but said that Palestinians in the West Bank should not be allowed to vote in Israeli parliamentary elections.

Others have made similar calls, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett who heads the religious nationalist Jewish Home party.

Bennett advocates annexing most of the West Bank, and has said he hopes support from Trump’s presidency will spell the end of the idea of a Palestinian state.

In his comments on Monday, Lieberman also laid out an economic argument against annexation, saying Israel immediately “will be required to spend 20 billion shekels ($5.4 billion, 5.1 billion euros)” on various social services.

The defence minister, who heads the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party, advocates a two-state solution based on territorial and population exchanges.

Netanyahu says he still supports a two-state solution, though he has also pushed for settlement expansion in the West Bank.

He has found himself seeking to hold together his governing coalition — seen as the most right-wing in Israeli history — while managing international relations, including with the United States.

The US is Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion in defence aid annually.

Some Israeli politicians have pushed for the immediate annexation of Maale Adumim, an Israeli settlement of some 37,000 people in a strategic location east of Jerusalem.

However, a bill to annex the settlement has been postponed by the cabinet to an unclear date.

Palestinian killed in West Bank firefight: Israeli army

March 6, 2017

AFP

© -/AFP/File | An Israeli soldier stands guard in a monitoring cabin near the West Bank city of Ramallah
JERUSALEM (AFP) – A Palestinian was killed Sunday night in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Israeli army said.

The man, who was wanted and whose name was not given, opened fire at soldiers who came to arrest him at his home, where two weapons were later found, an army spokeswoman said.

Two Palestinians were wounded by gunfire in subsequent clashes with Israeli troops, Palestinian hospital sources said.

Since a wave of violence broke out in October 2015, 254 Palestinians, 40 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, one Eritrean and one Sudanese have been killed, according to an AFP count.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities, with others killed during protests, in clashes or air raids on Gaza.

The Israeli army routinely carries out forays and arrests in Ramallah although it is in principle entirely under the control of the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians urge boycott of Israeli military courts

February 26, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Issa Qaraqe (C), head of the Palestinian Authority’s commission for detainees said Palestinians must “take the difficult decision of rebellion and boycott”
RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Palestinian officials on Sunday called for a boycott of Israeli military courts after a Palestinian freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange was rearrested and sent back to prison for life.Speaking in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Prisoners Club head Qadura Fares called on detainees’ families and Palestinian organisations to stop taking part in military trials and to refuse to pay convicts’ fines, which he said amounted to $6 million in 2016.

Palestinians captured by Israeli security forces are generally brought before the army courts, where defence lawyers say they are often not notified of the charges against their clients or allowed to meet them before the trial.

“Palestinian movements and prisoners’ families must choose boycott,” Fares told a press conference.

“One must take the difficult decision of rebellion and boycott” of the courts, Issa Qaraqe, head of the Palestinian Authority’s commission for detainees, added.

He noted that the same military court system on Tuesday sentenced an Israeli soldier to 18 months in prison for the manslaughter of a Palestinian he shot dead as the man lay wounded on the ground.

The United Nations said the sentence was an “unacceptable” punishment for “an apparent extra-judicial killing”.

“Such courts must be boycotted,” Qaraqe said on Sunday.

In contrast, he said, was the case of Palestinian Nael Barghouthi, sentenced to life imprisonment by Israel in 1978 for what the Israeli army said was “a series of security offences, including murder”.

He was among more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners freed by Israel in 2011 in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured five years earlier by Palestinian militants and held in the Gaza Strip.

“After his release, Barghouti renewed his involvement in terrorist activity, violating his terms of release,” the army told AFP on Sunday.

He was rearrested and on Wednesday a military court reinstated his original sentence of life plus 18 years.

According to a report by the Palestinian Authority and the Prisoners Club, 85 of the Palestinians freed in the 2011 swap have since been rearrested by Israel with 65 sent back to prison for life.

Hong Kong police chiefs rush to repair damage over remarks comparing jailed officers to Jews persecuted by Nazis

February 26, 2017

Force will meet German and Israeli consulates offended by sergeant’s Holocaust reference at rally

By Christy Leung and Elizabeth Cheung
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 11:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 10:39pm

Hong Kong police chiefs are scrambling to contain the international fallout after two foreign diplomatic missions in the city objected to local officers being compared with Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The controversy arose during a mass rally on Wednesday night by tens of thousands of serving and former officers and their supporters against the jailing of seven colleagues for assaulting an Occupy activist in 2014. An officer went on stage to declare that police were being victimised like those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

The German consulate issued a statement on Friday saying the comparison was “utterly inappropriate”. It echoed a statement by the Israeli consulate on Thursday, calling the reference “inappropriate and regretful” and demanding no further comparisons be made to the Holocaust.

A police source familiar with the matter said the force had decided to arrange meetings with the two consulates, hoping to explain the situation and clear up any misunderstanding.

“We need to stress to them that the comment does not represent the force and we disagree with the comment as well,” the source said. “We have to explain to them the whole situation before the matter gets any worse.”

Another senior police source described the situation as “out of control” and worried that the controversy was embarrassing the force and hurting its image on the international stage.

“The consulates could make a formal complaint to the SAR government,” he said. “This would be very serious and damaging if it happens. It would become a diplomatic issue that the force cannot handle.”

The source also noted that the officer responsible could have breached police discipline regulations, which ban conduct that could bring public service into disrepute or affect order and discipline.

A police spokesman said the force had received complaints related to the rally but refused to reveal details. “We will handle the complaints fairly in accordance to the mechanism,” he said.

Police morale has taken a beating with the sentencing of the seven officers to two-year jail terms for beating up activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the height of the Occupy protests.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and founding president of the Junior Police Officers’ Association, said she and honorary president Edward Leong Chi-hung had set up a fund to accept public donations in support of the seven officers.

Video footage taken at the gathering of some 33,000 people on Wednesday in Mong Kok shows an officer, identified as a station sergeant from the elite Special Tactical Squad, on stage working the crowd. “It’s like we’re now in the second world war. We are Jews facing the persecution of the Nazis, aren’t we?” he says. The crowd yells “yes” in response.

Meanwhile two police unions have written to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, urging him to criminalise insulting behaviour against public servants.

“Any insult to them means an insult to the rule of law and public order in the city,” a union member said.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2073699/not-appropriate-compare-convicted-hong-kong-police-officers

Alan Dershowitz: Trump Will Find An Israeli Leader he Can Admire and Trust in Netanyahu

February 14, 2017

Prime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon be welcomed to the White House by newly elected President Donald Trump. What can we expect from this initial meeting between two strong willed national leaders?
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By Alan Dershowitz

I know them both– Netanyahu better than Trump– and I believe they will get along well. They are both no nonsense pragmatists who understand the relationship between economic development and political progress. We all know of Trumps business background and focus on jobs and trade. Less well known is Netanyahu’s business background. Like trump, Netanyahu went to business school and began his career as a business man, working for Boston Consulting Group. When he entered politics, he helped transform Israel from an agrarian based economy into “start-up nation,” which has become a technological superpower with a strong economy. He is the Alexander Hamilton of Israel, to David Ben Gurion’s Jefferson. Trump has to admire that.
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Trump will also admire Netanyahu’s strong nationalism and love of country. He has made Israel great, militarily, technologically and economically. He may soon become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, surpassing the legendary Ben Gurion.

Each leader would like to be the one who succeeds in bringing a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So many others – people of good will and considerable effort – have been unable to achieve this goal. There is no certainty that Trump and Netanyahu can succeed when so many others have come close but have never been able to close the deal. Both are respected for their deal-making capabilities – Trump in business, Netanyahu in domestic politics.

But there are considerable barriers to achieving a peaceful resolution. Netanyahu and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, each have domestic constituencies that would oppose the compromise necessary to achieve a two state solution. Some of Netanyahu’s right wing coalition partners oppose a two state solution in which Israel would turn over most of the West Bank to establish a Palestinian state. And many West Bank Palestinians – not to mention Hamas in Gaza – oppose recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. They also demand the “return” of four million Palestinian refugees to Israel, despite the reality that there are probably only a hundred thousand or so actual refugees who themselves left Israel in 1948, many voluntarily.

It must be remembered that Israel has twice in recent times offered the Palestinians a State on 95 percent of the West Bank. In 2000-2001 then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then President Bill Clinton made a generous offer. Yasser Arafat, who was being advised by Jimmy Carter, rejected it and started a violent Intifada in which more than 4000 people were killed. Then in 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made an even more generous offer, to which Mahmoud Abbas did not respond. And in 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally ended the military occupation and settlements in the Gaza strip only to be greeted with thousands of rocket attacks and terror tunnels from Hamas.

Much has changed since these Israeli offers and actions. The current Israel government is not likely to offer more than what was rejected by the Palestinians. So the pressure must now be placed on the Palestinian leadership to make good faith counter offers. That pressure can only come from the United States. This is so because the rest of the International community – the United Nations, the European Union, the Courts in the Hague, the BDS Movement – all disincentivise the Palestinians from making compromises by falsely telling them they can get a state without negotiating with Israel.

President Trump must make it crystal clear that unless the Palestinians negotiate a reasonable solution with Israel, they will never have a state. President Obama did not send that message with clarity, especially when he ordered his United Nations Representative to allow a one-sided anti-Israel Resolution to be passed by the Security Council.

President Trump must reassure Prime Minister Netanyahu that he will apply pressure – perhaps through our Sunni allies – on the Palestinian authority, and not only on Israel, as the Obama Administration did. History shows that American administrations that really have Israel’s back – not to stab, but to support – are more likely to persuade Israel to offer compromises.

So I hope that Benjamin Netanyahu will emerge from the White House meeting with the confidence in American support to stand up to those in his cabinet who oppose the two state solution and who want to expand settlement activity. And I hope the Palestinian leadership will understand that they have no option other than to accept the Netanyahu offer to negotiate anywhere, anytime, and with no preconditions. Perhaps then we will finally see a reasonable resolution to the age-old conflict.

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George Soros: Donald Trump is a “would-be dictator” who will fail — Theresa May will not last because Brexit cannot work

January 21, 2017

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George Soros. Getty Images

AFP and The Associated Press

Billionaire George Soros on Thursday delivered a scathing assessment of US President Donald Trump, calling him a “would-be-dictator” who is “going to fail.”

Ahead of Trump’s inauguration in Washington, Soros said the president was “gearing up for a trade war” that would have “a very far reaching effect in Europe and other parts of the world.”

The “would-be-dictator… didn’t expect to win, he was surprised,” the Hungarian-born financier told an audience of business leaders and journalists at a hotel in Davos, where the World Economic Forum is being held.

“I personally have confidence that he’s going to fail … because his ideas that guide him are inherently self-contradictory,” Soros said, adding that members of Trump’s Cabinet are each fighting for different interests.

Soros, who was a supporter of Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton during last year’s campaign, lost nearly US$1 billion as a consequence of the rally prompted by Trump’s surprise election victory, press reports said.

With the inauguration scheduled for shortly after press time last night, hundreds of thousands of people were expected to fill the US capital.

While the majority were there to celebrate, some protesters said their plan was to do their best to disrupt the day.

A coalition calling itself DisruptJ20, after the date of the inauguration, said people participating in its actions were to attempt to shut down or cause delays at security checkpoints going into the ceremony.

They intended to block checkpoints and perhaps risk arrest.

“Our goals are to have massive protests and to shut down the inauguration if at all possible, and if not possible — if we can’t shut the inauguration down — then make it as difficult as possible for Trump to act as if he has a mandate,” organizer David Thurston told reporters last week.

On Thursday night, protesters and supporters of Trump clashed outside a pro-Trump event in Washington called the “DeploraBall.”

Police used chemical spray on some protesters in an effort to control the crowd.

The demonstrations are not expected to end when Trump takes up residence in the White House.

A massive Women’s March on Washington was planned for today.

Organizers estimated 200,000 people would attend the event.

District of Columbia Homeland Security Director Christopher Geldart said 1,800 buses have registered to park in the city today, which would mean nearly 100,000 people coming in just by bus.

Additional reporting by AP

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The 86-year-old Mr Soros also said Trump was an “imposter and con-man” who was “gearing up for a trade war” which would have far-reaching consequences on the rest of the world.

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trump-protests-palestinian.jpg
Palestinian demonstrators take part in a protest against a promise by Donald Trump to re-locate the US embassy to Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Nablus on 19 January Reuters

“I personally am convinced that (Trump) is going to fail,” Mr Soros said, in an interview with Bloomberg Television at the Swiss town.

“Not because of people like me who would like him to fail, but because the ideas that guide him are inherently self-contradictory.”

Mr Soros, who donated $1m (£810,000) in June 2015 to Priorities USA Action which supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign, also said Mr Trump “didn’t expect to win, he was surprised”.

“In my opinion it is unlikely that Prime Minister May is actually going to remain in power. Already she has a very divided cabinet, a very small majority in Parliament. And I think she will not last,” said Mr Soros, who was nicknamed The Man Who Broke the Bank of England because of his $10bn (£8.1bn) short sale of sterling in 1992.

“At the moment the people in the UK are in denial.

“The current economic situation is not as bad as was predicted and they live in hope. But as the currency depreciates, and inflation will be the driving force, this will lead to declining living standards.

“This is going to take some time, but when it does happen they’ll realise that they are earning less than before because wages won’t rise as fast as the cost of living.

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China's President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: AP

China’s President Xi Jinping after his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Picture: AP

“The divorce is going to take a very long time. It’s much harder to divorce than to get married, so I think the desire for rapprochement will develop, and in theory or maybe even in practice you could have a situation in 2019 or 2020 when Britain will leave the EU, because it does have to take place, but they could leave on a Friday but join over the weekend and have the new arrangement in place on Monday morning.”

Theresa May has already hailed the UK as a foreign investment hub at Davos, despite HSBC’s plan to move 1,000 jobs to Paris.

It followed US Vice President Joe Biden’s stinging attack at the forum on the world’s richest one per cent, and Chinese President Xi Jinping warning against isolationist trade wars.

See more:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/george-soros-donald-trump-fail-theresa-may-brexit-last-three-days-davos-billionaire-investor-a7536586.html

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John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last 'a year, two years'

John Kerry was applauded at the World Economic Forum in Davos as he appeared to say the Trump administration would only last ‘a year, two years’ — AFP photo

Hamas halts electricity protests, but anger remains — Palestinians Struggle for Power

January 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Mike Smith | Palestinians protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on January 12, 2017

JABALIA (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The 25-year-old nicknamed Guevara because of his admiration for the Latin American revolutionary had returned to his home in Gaza after days of hiding, but was not giving up.He had avoided home after a warning that Hamas security forces were looking for him due to his role as an organiser of recent protests over severe electricity shortages.

In a mock army jacket and with a Che Guevara-like beard, Mohammed Al-Taluli was being greeted by dozens of supporters from his neighbourhood of Jabalia, a crowded, overgrown refugee camp north of Gaza City.

“We are going to continue asking for our humanitarian demands,” he said while seated at a plastic table in a room in his home he called his office.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, has managed to end a recent series of protests over the electricity crisis with a security crackdown and aid from Qatar used to purchase more fuel.

But frustration in places like Jabalia remains, and there are once again warnings that deteriorating conditions in the Palestinian enclave of two million people may be leading to a larger eruption of anger.

Gazans face electricity shortages all year, but the problem is exacerbated in winter and mid-summer, when power usage spikes.

The Hamas authorities in the coastal enclave usually provide electricity in eight-hour intervals, but supply was reduced to four hours this month.

– ‘No security solution’ –

Protests began modestly, with dozens of people holding candles, before culminating on January 12 with thousands marching in Jabalia towards the electricity company.

Hamas security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, carried out arrests and hit an AFP photographer who required stitches to his face.

Further protests were prevented by a show of force by Hamas security.

Perhaps sensing the urgency, Hamas sought help, including from Turkey and Qatar, which agreed to donate $12 million for fuel purchases.

On Monday, Hamas said it was returning to eight-hour electricity — and was releasing all those arrested in connection with the protests.

A Gaza government spokesman argued that Jabalia protesters were attacking security forces and public buildings, but also said that Hamas was responding to demands by working to improve electricity supply.

“There is no security solution,” Salama Maroof told AFP.

Che Guevara admirer Taluli felt safe enough to return home after the announcement that those arrested would be released, but for him and others, the electricity shortages are only one in a series of frustrations.

Many young people feel trapped between Hamas’s strict rule and Israel’s blockade of the enclave, which has been in place for about a decade and prevents them from leaving.

Egypt’s border with Gaza has also remained largely closed, and unemployment is around 42 percent.

Three wars since 2008 between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have left behind death and destruction, not to mention psychological scars.

Even those with longtime businesses have suffered.

“I need electricity for more than eight hours to complete my work for the customers,” said 29-year-old Mohamed Abu Sharaf, whose family has had a print shop in Gaza City for 40 years.

As he spoke, the electricity cut again.

– ‘Strong message’ –

The reasons for the electricity shortages are multi-layered, with the first simply a lack of capacity.

Gaza has one power plant that runs on diesel fuel and which has been previously bombed by Israel.

It also imports electricity from Israel and Egypt, but it is not nearly enough.

Ageing power lines and theft add to the problem, with Gaza losing up to 20 percent of electricity that makes its way onto the grid, Maroof said.

The recent shortages were complicated by a dispute with the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank and dominated by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Fatah and Hamas remain divided despite repeated attempts at reconciliation.

The Palestinian Authority handles fuel purchases from Israel since the Israeli authorities do not deal directly with Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organisation.

The PA then requires Hamas to reimburse it for bills and taxes, but Gaza’s electricity company faces cash shortages because many customers do not pay.

Maroof said the company should collect some $13 million per month, but only manages around $6 million.

He blamed it on poverty and simple reluctance to pay, while calling the PA’s taxes excessive.

Many Gaza residents are well aware of the complications, but have become fed up.

Those who know the situation well say Hamas must be seen as responding to their frustrations.

“This is for them a strong message that you can’t count on your stick or your gun to undermine the people and to silence the people,” Ahmed Yousef, a senior Hamas member and former government official, told AFP.

by Mike Smith
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