Posts Tagged ‘Mahmud Abbas’

Palestinian court extends detention of rights activist

September 7, 2017


© AFP | Rights activist Issa Amro is lead by Palestinian security forces from a court in the West Bank city of Hebron on September 7, 2017

HEBRON (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – A Palestinian court extended for four days Thursday the detention of a prominent rights activist who criticised president Mahmud Abbas’s administration, his lawyer said.Issa Amro was detained on Monday by Palestinian security forces in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on accusations of causing strife, among other charges, rights activists say.

A closed court in Hebron Thursday extended his detention for four more days, Amro’s lawyer Muhannad Karaja said after the session.

“We are surprised by this decision. We were expecting he would be freed today because Issa is a well-known activist,” Karaja told AFP.

Media, diplomats and supporters of Amro were turned away at the court, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

Amro is the founder of Youth Against Settlements, a campaign group in the tense city of Hebron where Jewish settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves in the centre.

He was detained after criticising the Palestinian Authority’s arrest of a journalist from Hebron on social media at the weekend.

Palestinian officials have not publicly commented on Amro’s detention and attempts to reach the police were unsuccessful.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both criticised the arrest.

“It is outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online. Criticising the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East.

She said Amro’s detention was the “latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”

Separate to the Palestinian arrest, Amro is currently on trial by Israel on a range of charges dating back to 2010.

He has rejected all the charges, saying they are politically motivated to prevent his peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation.


Jordan king makes rare West Bank visit to meet Palestinian president

August 7, 2017

King Abdullah II has flown to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Abbas for the first time in five years. The trip is being viewed as a message to Israel, particularly over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid shared tensions with Israel.

Abdullah received a red carpet welcome in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority. He was greeted by Abbas before the two national anthems were played.

The two leaders meet fairly frequently in the Jordanian capital of Amman and other regional capitals, but it was Abdullah’s first visit to Ramallah since December 2012.

The king’s trip had to be coordinated with Israeli authorities who control all entrance and exit points to the West Bank, including the 150 kilometer (93 mile) border with Jordan and the airspace above it.

Jordan's King Abdullah II is hugged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas King Abdullah II received a red carpet welcome and a hug from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

Signal to Israel

Abdullah’s visit comes amid rising Jordanian-Israeli tensions and is seen as a message to Tel Aviv that the Jordanian monarch is aligning with Palestinians on key issues – particularly concerning a contested Jerusalem holy site.

A crisis erupted last month at the Al Aqsa mosque compound when Israel installed metal detectors at Muslim entrances following the killing of two Israeli policemen.

The compound, which sits on a plateau in the Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam and is also revered by the Jews who call it Temple Mount.

Read more: Opinion – Tension escalates on the Temple Mount

The security changes led to several days of protests and clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers.

Tensions peaked on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot and killed two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy in Amman. Israeli officials say one of the men attacked the security guard with a screwdriver while the other was accidentally shot.

The crisis finally eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the metal detectors be taken down after consultations with Jordan.

Read more: Why Israel censored reporting on the Jordan embassy shooting

Jordan has been the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites since the 1920s. The role is also a key component of Abdullah’s legitimacy.

Abbas and Abdullah are also likely to discuss a US-led effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which have been on hold for the past three years.

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Jerusalem, Amman and Ramallah, but there are few signs of interest in restarting negotiations.

rs/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Jordanian king in rare visit to Palestinian president

August 7, 2017


© AFP/File / by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine | Israeli security forces stand guard in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem on July 27, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II began a rare visit to the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday, amid shared tensions with Israel over a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

In his first visit to Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah in five years, Abdullah was welcomed on a red carpet near his helicopter by the Palestinian leader before the two national anthems were played.

The two men did not address the media but shook hands with senior Palestinian officials.

The visit came less than two weeks after the end of a standoff at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem where Israel had imposed new security measures, including metal detectors, following an attack that killed two policemen.

Jordan, which is the custodian of the site, reacted angrily to the new measures, while Palestinians responded with days of protests.

The tensions were exacerbated on July 23 when an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians at the Israeli embassy compound in the capital Amman.

One of the two men attacked the Israeli with a screwdriver, while the other was apparently shot dead by accident, according to Israeli officials.

The crisis eased on July 27 when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the removal of the metal detectors, while he has also promised to investigate the embassy incident.

Abdullah’s visit was seen by analysts as providing support to Abbas, who has been isolated by Israel over his response to the Al-Aqsa row.

The mosque compound is in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

The 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan recognises Amman’s special status as official custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Muslim sites.

About half of Jordan’s 9.5 million citizens are of Palestinian origin.


Netanyahu’s removal of the metal detectors was seen by Palestinians as a victory.

At Abbas’s headquarters a large banner was erected with a picture of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound with the slogan “Jerusalem is victorious.”

“It appears that King Abdullah wants to show through his visit that he stands with the Palestinian people in the battle for Jerusalem,” Palestinian political analyst Abdel Majid Sweilem told AFP.

In a statement on the official state news agency Petra, the king was quoted as saying that without Jordanian “custodianship and the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, the holy sites would have been lost many years ago.”

In the middle of the crisis over the metal detectors, Abbas suspended security coordination with Israel, and it has remained suspended despite their removal.

As such 82-year-old Abbas cannot leave the West Bank as Israel controls the border crossings.

“This visit sends a message from his majesty that he is willing to contribute to removing president Abbas’s isolation following his decision to stop the security coordination with Israel,” Samir Awad, politics professor at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank, told AFP.

In January US President Donald Trump came to power promising to push Israelis and Palestinians towards a peace deal, raising brief hopes among Palestinians that his unconventional approach could achieve results.

But they have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as his negotiating team’s one-sided approach.

Trump’s team have yet to publicly commit themselves to the two-state solution, the idea of an independent Palestinian state next to Israel that has been the basis of decades of international consensus.

Leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat has strongly criticised the “silence” of the US administration over Israeli settlement growth and its lack of support for the two-state solution.

The Jordanian ruler seemed to echo those remarks, calling for intensive US effort to help bridge the gap between the sides, according to Petra.

by Shatha Yaish and Hossam Ezzedine

Muslims heed calls to avoid holy site over Israeli security measures

July 17, 2017


© AFP / by Majeda El-Batsh | Palestinians chant slogans outside the Lions Gate, a main entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, due to newly implemented security measures by Israeli authorities, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 17, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Muslims heeded calls Monday not to enter a Jerusalem holy site and protested outside after Israeli authorities installed metal detectors at entrances to the ultra-sensitive compound following an attack that killed two policemen.The compound was largely empty on Monday apart from tourists and Jewish visitors, with Muslims again praying and protesting outside the site instead of entering through the metal detectors.

The Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, includes the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Several hundred people could be seen praying outside two different entrances to the site around midday on Monday.

There were protests after the prayer, with crowds shouting: “Aqsa mosque, we sacrifice our souls and our blood.” Police later sought to move them back.

“We will not break the solidarity of the people,” said Jamal Abdallah, a Palestinian who now lives in the US state of Arizona and was planning to visit Al-Aqsa, but changed his mind when he was told of the situation.

Israel installed the metal detectors after Friday’s attack near the holy site that saw three Arab Israelis open fire on Israeli police.

They then fled to the compound, where they were shot dead by security forces.

It was among the most serious incidents in Jerusalem in recent years and heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

Israel took the highly unusual decision of closing the compound for Friday prayers, triggering anger from Muslims and Jordan, the holy site’s custodian.

The site remained closed on Saturday, while parts of Jerusalem’s Old City were also under lockdown.

Israeli authorities said the closure was necessary to carry out security checks, adding that the assailants had come from within the holy site to commit the attack.

They began reopening it on Sunday, but with metal detectors in place, while security cameras were also being installed in the area.

Al-Aqsa officials have refused to enter and have called on worshippers to do the same.

Palestinians view the new measures as Israel asserting further control over the site.

Crowds chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) as they gathered near the Lions Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday.

On Sunday night, skirmishes broke out between Israeli police and worshippers outside the entrance, with the Red Crescent reporting 17 people wounded.

With tensions high, two mosques in the northern Israeli Arab town of Maghar were targeted overnight, one with a stun grenade and another by gunshots. No serious damage was reported.

One of the two policemen killed in the attack lived in Maghar. Both of the officers were from the Druze minority, Arabs who belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

– Netanyahu order –

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the decision to install the metal detectors and cameras following a meeting with security officials on Saturday.

He also spoke by phone with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Saturday night before leaving on a trip to France and Hungary.

Abdullah condemned the attack, but also called on Netanyahu to reopen the Al-Aqsa compound and stressed the need to “avoid any escalation at the site”.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas conveyed a similar message to Netanyahu when the two spoke by phone on Friday in the wake of the attack.

Proposals to change security measures at the compound have sparked controversy in the past.

A plan developed in 2015 between Israel and Jordan to install cameras at the site itself fell apart amid disagreement over how they would be operated.

The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It is located in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community.

It is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the most sacred for Jews.

Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

by Majeda El-Batsh


Opinion: The EU Must Keep Building Palestine

June 29, 2017

A recent op-ed suggested the EU is wasting money on wishful thinking for a two-state solution. But Europe’s role in building institutions is vital to Palestinian stability, whatever the eventual outcome

Johan Schaar
Jun 29, 2017 10:22 AM

‘EU aid is safeguarding stability in Palestine, even if a Palestinian state is in doubt’: A Palestinian woman carries supplies donated by the EU in the northern Gaza Strip. April 16, 2006 AP


In a recent op-ed in Haaretz (Is Europe More Desperate for a Palestinian State Than the Palestinians?) Björn Brenner argues that, “blinded by idealism”, the EU, like no other actor, is wed to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, a solution that has no chance of coming into fruition and that Palestinians themselves no longer want.

He declared that the EU is therefore wasting European taxpayers’ money when continuing to invest in the institutions of a future Palestinian state, aid that won’t deliver the new state and is ineffective in improving the lives of Palestinians. Instead, the EU should talk to Hamas, broker reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and cease institution-building support in favour of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Few would disagree that prospects for the two states are bleak, but Brenner’s account of facts is incomplete and his recipe for a new EU policy is curious.

© AFP / by Sarah Benhaida | Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas makes a statement with US President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017

He hints at the large elephant in the room, the Israeli occupation, without calling it out when he describes an increasingly weaker Palestine on “scattered pieces of land”. In Brenner’s universe, no cause needs to be identified for the current situation, which – mysteriously – “is the way it is”.

First the facts. The EU is not alone in its support for the two states. This is still the position of the international community, most recently expressed in Security Council Resolution 2334 on 23 December, 2016, which reiterated “its vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”


And Palestinian public opinion? The most recent poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) of March this year, finds that one third supports and two thirds oppose the one-state solution. Almost half support the two-state solution, but 60% believe that it is no longer viable. There is a strong linkage between believing in its viability and supporting it: most of those who think that there will be two states, support it.

The main reason why Palestinians doubt the viability of a future Palestinian state is the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. And the Security Council agrees when it states that the establishment of settlements, “without legal validity and a flagrant violation under international law”, is a “major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace””. There is a reason for “the way it is”, and why Palestinians think as they do.

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‘The EU shores up Palestinian institutions, while Israeli settlements undermine the Palestinian future’: A Palestinian woman protests against Jewish settlements in Hebron. March 26, 2017 MUSSA ISSA QAWASMA/REUTERS

As Brenner points out, many Palestinians currently view the Palestinian Authority as a burden and are highly critical of how it works. But paradoxically, as shown in earlier PCPSR polls, they also see it as a national achievement, one of the few resulting from the Oslo accords.

So, is it futile for the EU to support building Palestinian institutions if the two-state solution is in doubt? On the contrary. Over the past decades of global climate change, state fragility and conflict we have learnt that what builds a society’s resilience is its institutions. Education, health, social protection, financial services, gender equality, conflict resolution and justice all depend on the presence of institutions at the national and local levels, that include civil society and the private sector.

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If the PA is dismantled and its responsibilities taken over by a reformed PLO, the presence of these institutions will be as important as they are today, to provide stability to Palestinian society. And these are functions that can never be provided by life-saving and protection-oriented humanitarian actors, as we have also learned. Preparedness for several possible scenarios with a long-term focus on functioning institutions is what is required from the EU and other donors in Palestine.

Finally, Brenner asks about the outcome of “feasibility assessments” of aid programs in Brussels. They are indeed undertaken on a regular basis both as evaluations of ongoing support and in preparing for new decisions, in Brussels as well as in other donor capitals. But their conclusion is not Brenner’s.

A major evaluation of the EU aid program in 2014 found that much has been achieved in terms of “sustaining welfare for Palestinians, preventing fiscal and economic collapse, compensating for occupation losses, fostering stability and security, and building up capacity”. But it has not been able to remove the main obstacle to Palestinian development, the Israeli occupation, with its movement restrictions, strangling of the Palestinian economy and allocation of resources for settlements.

It is only through a clear-sighted and credible use of EU and other political means that the two-state solution can be achieved, not something to be expected from aid programs. Other recent evaluations of Danish and Dutch aid have reached the same conclusion, as have the World Bank, IMF and the UN.

It is curious how a scholar on Palestinian-Israeli political affairs like Björn Brenner can discuss policy options for resolving the conflict while ignoring the large elephant that everybody else can see.
Johan Schaar is the former head of Swedish aid to Palestine in the Consulate General of Sweden in Jerusalem.

Johan Schaar

Gaza restarts power station as Egypt fuel eases crisis

June 22, 2017
© AFP | Security forces stand guard as Egyptian trucks carrying fuel enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017
GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The Gaza Strip’s sole power station has been fired up again, the energy authority in the Palestinian enclave said Thursday, after fuel supplies from Egypt helped to ease an energy crisis.

The announcement came after Egypt delivered a million litres of fuel to the station on Wednesday, three days after Israel began cutting electricity supplies to Gaza.

The energy authority said two of the four generators at the power station had resumed operations and residents would now receive around six hours of mains power a day — up from as little as two earlier in the week.

The power plant, damaged by successive wars, was shut down in April after running out of fuel following a row between Gaza rulers Hamas and the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority over taxes.

Islamists Hamas seized control of Gaza from president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple attempts at reconciliation have failed.

However, the Palestinian Authority had continued to pay Israel for some electricity delivered to Gaza until this month, with Abbas indicating they would no longer do so — — prompting the Israeli reductions.

Israel had been supplying 120 megawatts of electricity to Gaza a month, making up about a quarter of the territory’s needs, but announced it would cease to do so this week.

Hamas official Basem Naim said the electricity supplied by the power plant was just enough to balance out the reduction.

He told AFP the Egyptian delivery was an “important step,” obtained after a meeting between Egyptian leaders, Hamas and Abbas’ great rival Mohammed Dahlan — in exile in the United Arab Emirates after a dispute with Abbas.

“We must now find a definitive solution to the electricity crisis because its impact is catastrophic,” said Naim.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday accused Abbas of seeking to spark a fresh conflict by increasing human suffering in Gaza.

He said Abbas’ “intention is actually to continue cuts and in a few months to stop paying for fuel, medicines, salaries and many other things.”

“In my opinion the strategy is to hurt Hamas and also to drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel.”

Palestinian prisoners in Israel jails end hunger strike

May 27, 2017


© AFP/File | Palestinian women hold portraits of relatives imprisoned in Israeli jails during a protest in front of the Red Cross offices in east Jerusalem, on May 25, 2017


Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17 have ended their protest, Palestinian and Israeli sources said on Saturday.

Palestinian Prisoners Club chief Qaddura Fares said an agreement had been reached between the strikers and Israeli authorities on improving their conditions.

An Israel Prisons Service spokeswoman confirmed the hunger strike was over.

Israeli authorities conceded to one of the prisoners’ main demands — that they should have two family visits a month instead of the one they were entitled to before the strike, the spokeswoman said.

The resolution of the strike came hours before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A number of the strikers had been in sharply declining health.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had urged US counterpart Donald Trump to raise the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to the region earlier this week.

Demonstrations in support of the prisoners had been held across the occupied West Bank leading to repeated bloody clashes with Israeli security forces.

© AFP/File / by Hossam Ezzedine | The leader of hundreds of Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli jails, Marwan Barghouti, who has received his first Red Cross visit since the strike began, flashes the victory sign after a court hearing in 2003

Abbas says ready to meet Israel PM as part of Trump peace efforts — Day after Netanyahu trashes new Hamas doctrine

May 9, 2017


© AFP / by Sarah Benhaida | Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas makes a statement with US President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday Donald Trump was expected to visit the Palestinian territories “soon” and that he was ready to meet Israel’s prime minister as part of the US president’s peace efforts.

Trump is expected in Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip and the Palestinian president said “we are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem” in the occupied West Bank, with speculation it will occur on May 23.

“We told him that we were ready to collaborate with him and meet the Israeli PM (Benjamin Netanyahu) under his auspices to build peace,” Abbas told reporters during talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Abbas met Trump in Washington last week for their first face-to-face talks.

Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centres of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

The stop in Israel is expected on May 22, though it has not been officially confirmed.

A senior Trump aide last week did not rule out the possibility of a presidential visit to the West Bank, but said that it was likely to be contingent on security and Abbas taking concrete steps toward peace.

Trump has been seeking ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.

– Embassy move –

Abbas said Tuesday that “we told him again of our commitment to a peace based on justice, with international resolutions and the two-state solution as references.”

Trump has however sent mixed signals over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He backed away from the US commitment to the two-state solution — Israel and an independent Palestinian state side-by-side — when he met Netanyahu in February.

He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the occupied West Bank.

Trump also vowed during his campaign to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.

At the same time, he has urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

One of Trump’s top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.

by Sarah Benhaida



Hamas seen facing long path to end isolation despite new policy

May 2, 2017


© AFP / by Joe Dyke with Sakher Abou El Oun in Gaza City | Exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal unveils the Islamist movement’s new policy document in the Qatari capital, Doha on May 1, 2017

The Islamist movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, unveiled a new policy document on Monday night ahead of a first face-to-face meeting between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose Fatah party remains at loggerheads with Hamas.

Some analysts see the move as an attempt by Hamas to ease tension with regional allies and assuage hostilities with global powers.

Speculation has also mounted over who will succeed 82-year-old Abbas, whose Fatah movement is based in the occupied West Bank, as Palestinian president.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group by Israel, the United States and the European Union, while it has strained relations with many Arab states.

Some diplomats said while the announcement was potentially positive, they would need more to convince them the party had really changed its approach.

“It is a piece of paper. We will see if there is a real shift or if it is window dressing,” one Western diplomat said.

While still attacking Israel, the document accepts for the first time pre-1967 armistice lines as a matter of “national consensus” — in what many interpreted as implicitly accepting the existence of Israel.

Hamas officials however said that it did not amount to a recognition of Israel as demanded by the international community.

The document also says its struggle is not against Jews because of their religion but against Israel as an occupier, with Hamas officials stressing it was a shift.

One Hamas leader, Ahmed Yusef, told AFP the updated charter was “more moderate, more measured and would help protect us against accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and breaches of international law.”

However the Islamist movement will still not negotiate directly with Israel and the original hardline 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, in a move some analysts see as a way of maintaining the backing of hardliners.

Israel rejected the document, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman accusing Hamas of “attempting to fool the world.”

Israel has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008 and maintains a crippling blockade on Gaza.

On Tuesday, there were a number of Hamas-organised protests against the decade-long blockade, with a few thousand protesters taking to the streets in different cities.

– Muted response –

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political analyst in Gaza, said the document sought to help improve regional and global relations.

The document made no reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas was a splinter movement.

In 2013, Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in Egypt, and the movement has since been suppressed in several Middle Eastern countries.

“Hamas has been isolated regionally and internationally since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring and the exclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” Abu Saada said.

“It is about assuring Egypt and the other Arab states there is no relationship between Hamas (and the Brotherhood).”

There was little initial public reaction, either positive or negative, on Tuesday.

The United States, Russia and other global players remained silent, with Arab states remaining largely quiet.

The office of UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov did not comment on the contents of the document.

Another Western diplomat said that as the document did not officially recognise Israel or renounce violence, it would be impossible for them to change position publicly.

Congressman Ed Royce, chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered a rare reaction, downplaying the document’s significance.

“Until Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist, its words are meaningless. I will see to it that Hamas remains designated a terrorist organisation as long as it continues to launch rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.”

A third diplomat based in Israel saw some reason to be positive, but stressed it would be unlikely to lead to any shifts in relations in the short term.

“Diplomats have been pushing for a change to the charter for a long time,” he said. “You need extremists to move towards the centre.”

Yossi Mekelberg from the Chatham House think tank in London said that while Israel was publicly bullish, some would interpret it as a positive sign.

But he noted the issue had not received extensive coverage in Western media.

“If you look at Europe, it is pretty self-obsessed right now,” said Mekelberg, also a professor at Regent’s University London. “They are hardly interested in Hamas.

“I think the response from the international community will be that it is a good sign, something to be explored, but we won’t see major shifts.”

by Joe Dyke with Sakher Abou El Oun in Gaza City

New Hamas chief to be announced soon

April 30, 2017


© AFP/File | Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza City on March 25, 2017

GAZA CITY (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The new leadership of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas will be announced in the coming days, officials said Sunday, while it also prepared to unveil a new version of its charter.

Ismail Haniya, until recently head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said the results of internal elections will be announced “in the coming days”.

A high-ranking Hamas official told AFP that the new leadership will be announced before May 15.

The official said Haniya is likely to be named the new head of the movement, replacing Khaled Meshaal who lives in Doha in exile and has completed the maximum two terms in office.

Hamas runs the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian Authority dominated by president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party controls the occupied West Bank.

On Monday in Qatar, Hamas will unveil a supplementary charter that will formally accept the idea of a state in the territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Some analysts say the move is a bid to ease Hamas’s international isolation.

The original 1988 charter will not be dropped, just supplemented, and there will be no recognition of Israel, as demanded by the international community.