Posts Tagged ‘Mahmud Abbas’

Palestinian reconciliation deal dying slow death — with no progress in sight

February 1, 2018

Fatah’s Azzam Al-Ahmad (L) shares a laugh with Hamas leader Izzat Al-Rishq (R) following the signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo. Under the agreement, the Palestinian Authority was to resume full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by December. (File Photo: AFP)
GAZA CITY: The two leading Palestinian factions missed another deadline Thursday to implement a reconciliation deal, potentially burying the landmark accord aimed at ending their decade-long split.
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Hamas was to hand over power in the Gaza Strip by December to the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by secular movement Fatah.
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But the handover was missed and a February 1 deadline for solving the issue of two rival civil services passed Thursday with no progress in sight.
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While small changes have occurred since the deal was signed in October — notably the handing over of Gaza’s borders to the PA — Hamas remains firmly in charge in Gaza.
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Hamas and Fatah traded blame for what could turn out to be a gradual abandoning of the accord.
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Senior Hassam official Bassem Naim said the Fatah-led PA had backed away from the deal “without clear reasons,” while Fayez Abu Eita, a Fatah official in Gaza, called for Hamas to respect the deal.
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Egypt, which brokered the agreement, has elections coming up and the focus of its leaders appears elsewhere.
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Egyptian intelligence services chief Khaled Fawzy, the main broker of the deal, was replaced last month.
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It was hoped that reconciliation could alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, home to some two million people.
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Earlier this week a senior United Nations warned Gaza was on the verge of “full collapse.”
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The reconciliation deal was also seen by some as a strategy for the Palestinians to face down an increasingly hostile US administration and right-wing Israeli government.
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US President Donald Trump has suspended tens of millions of dollars in aid and threatened to withhold much more.
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On Wednesday his administration added Hamas leader Ismail Haniya to a terror blacklist.
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Hamas won 2006 parliamentary elections but Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah and much of the international community refused to accept the result, leading to increased strife.
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A year later, Hamas violently seized control of Gaza.
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Since then two separate civil administrations emerged.
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The PA kept on its payroll tens of thousands of employees, who stayed home but still claimed their salaries, while Hamas employed tens of thousands to replace them.
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This and the as yet unresolved future of Hamas’s vast armed wing are the two key issues that have derailed previous reconciliation bids.
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“They were trying to negotiate the issues over time in order to build a sense of trust, but these issues — the employees and Hamas’s standing army — are the biggest hurdles, and it’s clear they haven’t surpassed them,” said Grant Rumley, who focuses on Palestinian politics at the US think tank the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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Since October, Hamas has largely stopped paying its staff, saying it is the responsibility of the PA under the agreement while last year PA staff have had their salaries cut by 30 percent.
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Bashir Amer, 30, who works at the Hamas-run education ministry, said he was struggling to care for his family.
“They give us 1,000 shekels ($300, 235 euros) and it is not enough to eat and drink,” he said.
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Hugh Lovatt, Israel and Palestine coordinator at the European Council of Foreign Relations think tank, said Egypt’s Fawzy “had really been driving this process.”
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“It is unclear whether Egyptian sponsorship of the ongoing reconciliation process — which has been critical — will continue in his absence.”
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Meanwhile Hamas, which remains heavily armed, has appointed former military figures to senior roles in the past year, most notably former military leader Yahya Sinwar who became its chief Gaza.
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Fears have grown that Hamas — which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 — could opt for war again, Rumley said.
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“My sense is that Sinwar and the rest of the military faction do not want a war now because they’re focused on ameliorating the situation, primarily through reconciliation talks,” he said.
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“When those fail and Hamas is backed into a corner, how will its new leadership respond?“

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Jordan king urges world to back Palestinian rights — Wants East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital

January 29, 2018

 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) welcomes Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the Royal Palace in Amman on January 29, 2018. (AFP)
AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday urged the international community to “fulfil its responsibilities” toward Palestinians in Jerusalem and support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
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His comments, following a meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, came after US President Donald Trump sparked Arab and Muslim outrage by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and suspended funds to UNRWA.
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“The international community must fulfil its responsibilities to protect the rights of Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem,” Abdullah said, according to a palace statement.
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The city is “the key to achieving peace and stability in the region,” he said.
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East Jerusalem was under Jordanian administration before Israel occupied it during the 1967 Six-Day War.
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Israel, which signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994, recognizes the kingdom’s status as custodian of the city’s holy sites.
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Jordan in December called Trump’s move “a violation of decisions of international law and the United Nations charter.”
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The Jordanian monarch also on Monday urged the international community to support the UN agency for Palestinians.
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Earlier this month, the United States put on hold two planned payments of more than $100 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
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The agency, set up after the 1948 creation of Israel that drove huge numbers of Palestinians from their homes, faces what the UN has described as the “most severe” crisis in its history.
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US takes swipe at Palestinian leader Abbas — At the U.N.

January 25, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | US Ambassador Nikki Haley said Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas had “insulted” US President Donald Trump
UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – US Ambassador Nikki Haley took direct aim at Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Thursday, telling the United Nations Security Council that he lacked the courage needed for a peace deal.Haley spoke soon after President Donald Trump insisted that Palestinians had “disrespected” the United States and issued a new threat to cut aid during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland.

The United States remains “deeply committed” to an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Haley said, “but we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace.”

“To get historic results, we need courageous leaders,” she said.

The US ambassador, who has strongly defended Israel at the United Nations, said Abbas had “insulted” Trump and called for suspending recognition of Israel after the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Abbas cancelled a planned meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence to protest the US decision on Jerusalem, which the Palestinians view as the capital of their future state.

Addressing the council, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the search for peace had been Abbas’ “life’s work” and suggested attacks on the Palestinian leader were a form of “demonization.”

Mansour said the Palestinian rejection of the US decision on Jerusalem “is not intended as ‘disrespect'” but rather a “position rooted in full respect for the law, for the principles of justice and equity.”

The Security Council was meeting to discuss Israeli-Palestinian tensions for the first time since the General Assembly voted 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, to reject the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The US move broke with decades of international consensus that the city’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The meeting also followed a US decision to freeze more than $100 million in funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that has been criticized by European governments.

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US Christian tourists see deep meaning in Trump’s Jerusalem move

January 21, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Mike Smith | Members of a group of American Baptist Christian tourists stand at the Mount of Olives as they look towards Jerusalem’s Old City and the Dome of the Rock on January 20, 2018

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Near the olive grove where Christians believe Jesus agonised before his crucifixion, an American visitor spoke of a decision by US President Donald Trump some believe also holds spiritual importance.Phillip Dunn, the 37-year-old pastor of an evangelical Christian church in the US state of South Carolina, said he saw Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last month as part of biblical prophecy.

“Certainly this holds a lot of significance for people in that way. We believe Christ is going to return,” Dunn, part of a group of around 50 American Southern Baptists visiting Jerusalem holy sites over the weekend, said before climbing back aboard a tour bus.

Trump’s controversial declaration on December 6 will be back in the spotlight over the coming days with Vice President Mike Pence arriving Sunday night for talks with Israeli officials in Jerusalem.

Dunn and his fellow believers are key backers of Trump’s move in the United States and part of the Christian evangelical community there that has become an important pillar of support for his Republican party.

Pence, who stood behind Trump as he made his Jerusalem announcement, is himself an evangelical Christian.

Dunn and others on the Jerusalem tour, planned before Trump’s announcement, said they were pleased with his declaration because they consider it important to support Israel and affirm its claim that the entire city is its capital.

But there were also otherworldly considerations among the group.

Some evangelicals believe, based on interpretations of scripture, that firmly establishing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing a new temple there could help lead to the second coming of Jesus.

Dunn and others on the trip said interpretations of Jerusalem’s place in biblical prophecy vary too widely to provide a simple answer such as that one.

– ‘A lot of mystery’ –

Brett Burleson, a pastor at a church in Alabama, said “there’s a lot of mystery to that, so I don’t claim to know how it’s all going to play out”.

“We do recognise that this is a place where we believe the Lord Jesus himself will return and bring a peaceful end to human history,” the 47-year-old said.

Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the most sensitive issue in the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel occupied and later annexed its eastern sector in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.

It sees the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump’s declaration deeply angered the Palestinians, with president Mahmud Abbas cancelling plans to meet Pence during his visit, which had been set for late December before being postponed.

The declaration was partly the result of a long political debate in the United States, with a law passed calling for the embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1995.

It however allowed presidents to sign a waiver every six months to prevent the embassy move for national security reasons.

Trump again signed the waiver when declaring Jerusalem Israel’s capital last month, but stressed he intended to move the embassy.

He also said Jerusalem’s final borders and status would have to be negotiated, but Palestinians were unconvinced.

– ‘Probably not’ –

David Parsons, vice president of the International Christian Embassy based in Jerusalem, said he helped draft an earlier version of the embassy legislation while working for a pro-Israel lobbying firm in the United States.

“We have a large, broad movement worldwide that supports Israel on various motivations,” Parsons said of the primarily evangelical Christian embassy.

“Some are motivated by biblical prophecy, but there’s a broad array of views on biblical prophecy.”

Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, said Sunday that Israel has long reached out to US Christian groups for support.

Specifically mentioning evangelicals, Shoval said “we may not agree with everything anybody says about the future of Israel or the future of the country.”

Some evangelicals believe Jews would eventually have to convert to Christianity.

“But we must look at the present situation,” he told journalists.

“The present situation is that there is a very important body of people in America who believe — honestly and genuinely believe — in the future of the Jewish people and its place in the Jewish country in Israel.”

Lewis Richerson, 37, a pastor from Louisiana on the Jerusalem tour, may be among those he had in mind.

His support for Trump’s declaration was “primarily political” since backing Israel in part helps “promote democracy and freedom around the world.”

Richerson said of the declaration: “Is that some type of biblical prophecy? Probably not.”

by Mike Smith

Palestinians to meet to discuss Trump Jerusalem response

January 12, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Nasser Abu Bakr | US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has infuriated the Palestinian leadership

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Senior Palestinian leaders will meet in Ramallah on Sunday to debate responses to US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.Among the options to be considered is the potential suspension of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) recognition of Israel, delegates said.

Such a move could call into question a founding principle of the peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians and threaten decades of agreements with Israel, including on security.

Scepticism is widespread that the leadership will follow through with such an unpredictable step, but the fact that it is being discussed will be taken as a measure of the level of anger towards the Trump administration.

The two-day meeting of the Palestinian Central Council will begin late Sunday, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas expected to open with a brief address.

The 121-member council is a high-ranking arm of the PLO, the internationally recognised representative of the Palestinian people, and includes members of different parties.

Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has infuriated the Palestinian leadership, who see at least the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state they have sought to gain through American-led negotiations.

His administration has also not publicly committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state, and the PLO office in Washington was briefly closed down.

Abbas has said after the recognition the Americans can no longer play a role as mediator, and is expected to shun Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence when he visits Israel on January 22-23.

– Redefining the relationship –

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior PLO official, told AFP that a committee created to formulate responses to Trump’s announcement would recommend redefining the Palestinian relationship with Israel.

Among the options, he said, was suspending recognition of Israel, accusing the Jewish state of failing to abide by agreements.

“It is not possible for the Palestinian side to remain the only one committed to the agreements signed while the other side (Israel) is not committed to them and has violated them for years,” Majdalani said.

Previous Palestinian threats to suspend security coordination or recognition of Israel have not been carried out.

In 2015 the council voted to end security cooperation with Israel but it was not implemented, with the rulings not binding on Abbas.

The Palestinian leadership signed the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993, formalising its recognition of Israel.

The agreements were supposed to lead to a final settlement — what many envisioned as the creation of an independent Palestinian state — within five years, but they have since broken down.

Majdalani said instead of US-mediated talks they would be looking for a conference led by the United Nations on the future of the peace process.

The agenda of Sunday’s talks includes a review of the situation since Oslo, as well as responses to Trump.

Palestinian Islamist movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are not members of the PCC, have been invited, delegates said, but it was unclear if they would attend.

Hamas, which runs Gaza, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and does not recognise it.

Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst, said the Palestinian leadership was seeking to change course.

But she said there were different camps among the leadership.

“One that sees that Trump has ushered in a completely different era and business as usual is no longer possible.

“The other camp is less convinced the world is ready to support us in a way that confronts this administration.

“The debate is about what can we do that won’t leave us alone with our backs against the wall.”

by Nasser Abu Bakr

Palestinian authority to restore Gaza electricity payments — Out of the darkness?

January 3, 2018

AFP

© Mahmud Hams, AFP | Palestinian children do their homework during a power cut in an impoverished area in Gaza City, on September 11, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2018-01-03

The Palestinian Authority (PA) said Wednesday it had agreed to restore payments for electricity in the Gaza Strip after a cut in June worsened a power crisis in the blockaded enclave.

The electricity payments have been a key issue in ongoing efforts at reconciliation between Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah.

A cut in PA payments to Israel to supply power to Gaza in June reduced the amount being delivered to the Palestinian territory by some 50 megawatts. Many residents had been left with around four hours of electricity per day as a result.

The restoration of the 50 megawatts will return the Gaza Strip to the situation it faced before June, when public mains electricity was supplied to residents in eight-hour cycles.

Businesses and residents in the Gaza Strip who can afford them use generators to supplement electricity supply.

Announcing the reversal, the PA government said Wednesday it “took this decision to ease the hardships faced by Gaza residents.”

The cut came as part of measures taken by Abbas to pressure Hamas after the Islamist movement created what was seen as a shadow government in the Gaza Strip.

Israel had not commented on the PA’s decision or confirmed when it could begin restoring the power cut.

Israeli NGO Gisha, which monitors humanitarian conditions in Gaza, welcomed the PA decision, but said more must be done.

“Even if supply is restored, much more needs to be done to meet actual demand for electricity,” it said.

“Israel must cooperate to solve the ongoing electricity crisis in the strip.”

Hamas and Fatah signed a landmark reconciliation accord in Cairo in October aiming to end their decade-long feud and hand power in the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian Authority.

Reconciliation efforts however later stalled and the rival factions missed a December deadline to transfer power in Gaza.

Security control in Gaza remains a major issue, with Hamas refusing to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.

(AFP)

Palestinians say Jerusalem ‘not for sale’ after Trump aid threat

January 3, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state
RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – 

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s office said Wednesday Jerusalem is “not for sale” after US President Donald Trump threatened to cut annual aid of more than $300 million to force them to the negotiating table.

“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine and it is not for sale for gold or billions,” Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP, referring to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The December 6 declaration led Abbas to say the United States could no longer play any role in the Middle East peace process.

“We are not against going back to negotiations, but (these should be) based on international laws and resolutions that have recognised an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Abu Rudeina said.

Trump made the funding threat in a tweet on Tuesday, saying: “We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.”

“With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

It was not immediately clear whether Trump was threatening all of the budget, worth $319 million in 2016, according to US government figures.

The United States has long provided the Palestinian Authority with much-needed budgetary support and security assistance, as well as an additional $304 million for UN programmes in the West Bank and Gaza.

Such programmes are seen by many analysts, including Israelis, as helping maintain stability in the Palestinian territories.

Israelis see the whole of Jerusalem as their undivided capital.

Abbas condemns Israeli ruling party vote for West Bank annexation

January 1, 2018

AFP

© AFP | Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas sits in front of a picture of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 18, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday harshly condemned a vote by Israel’s ruling party in support of annexing large parts of the West Bank and criticised the United States for its silence.Abbas said the non-binding vote by the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party on Sunday “could not be taken without the full support of the US administration.”

He said in a statement that the White House “has refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine.”

“We hope that this vote serves as a reminder for the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace,” Abbas said.

“Rather its main goal is the consolidation of an apartheid regime in all of historic Palestine.”

The Likud central committee backed a resolution urging Israel to extend sovereignty over all settlement areas in the West Bank and called for unlimited settlement construction.

Netanyahu, who is a member of the central committee, was not present for the vote.

Taking such a measure could effectively end hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as there would be little area left for a Palestinian state.

But a significant number of members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition say that is precisely what they are seeking and openly oppose a Palestinian state.

The prime minister says he still supports a two-state solution with the Palestinians, although he has also pushed for Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation for more than 50 years.

Palestinian anger at the US is already high after President Donald Trump last month tore up decades of careful policy to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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Japan FM lays wreath at Israel holocaust memorial — “From the bottom of my heart that such a tragedy will never be repeated”

December 25, 2017

AFP

Image may contain: 1 person, fire and night

© AFP | Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on December 25, 2017

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Monday laid a wreath at Israel’s Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and called for stronger ties between the two countries.He wrote in the memorial’s guest book that he prayed “from the bottom of my heart that such a tragedy will never be repeated”.

At a joint press conference with President Reuvin Rivlin, he said Japan “regards Israel as a country full of talent, not just a state of technology, but humanity, art and science”.

“I hope to increase the exchange of people between (the) two countries,” he added.

Rivlin said he was “very concerned” about North Korea and that “a crisis on one side of the globe can influence the other side of the globe”.

In a statement, Rivlin’s spokesman said Kono voiced hope that Israel and Japan would establish direct air links “sometime soon”.

Kono was set to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas later Monday.

Fatah calls for protests against US VP Jerusalem visit

December 16, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A masked Palestinian protestor takes cover behind a bin during clashes with Israeli forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 16, 2017
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RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – The Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday called for demonstrations next week when US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem, after Washington’s policy shift on the holy city.Breaking with decades with US policy, President Donald Trump announced on December 6 his decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he would move the US embassy to the city.

The move has stirred global condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied territories between Palestinians and Israeli forces.

It also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Fatah called for a day of “protests” on Wednesday near Jerusalem and the Old City “against the visit of the American vice-president and Trump’s decision” to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a statement said.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for two of four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula, located between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where the enclave’s Islamist Hamas rulers had on Friday called for a “day of rage”.

One of those killed was Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a Palestinian who lost his legs in an Israeli attack a decade ago, who, with his wheelchair, was a regular feature at protests along Gaza’s border with Israel.