Yes, Hamas leadership does support Mahmoud Abbas' UNGA move to upgrade Palestine status

In a report from Amman, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said today that “President Mahmoud Abbas Monday received a phone call from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in which he confirmed his support for the Palestinian bid to the United Nations General Assembly to gain a non-member state status”. This is posted here.

There has been confusion about this since last week, when WAFA published something similar, just after the cease-fire announced from Cairo. But some Hamas people denied the report.

This time, there is no denial.

Ma’an News Agency then wrote a corroborating report, posted here, saying: “Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal telephoned President Abbas on Monday to confirm the Islamist movements’ support for the upcoming UN bid, the official news agency Wafa reported”.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza that he supported the move in the UNGA:  “nobody is against statehood, and (my government) supports any political movement to establish a Palestinian state on the occupied Palestinian territory…Our vision is to have a state based on inalienable Palestinian principles, and a state on the pre-1967 borders does not mean ceding the rest of Palestinian land”. This is published here.

We reported this Hamas position last week — see our earlier report here.

Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Sara Roy [Boston.com] + Rashid Khalidi [NPR]+ Eyal Weizmann [LRB] + a JPost editorial

Sara Roy, a economist who’s done extensive work on Gaza over years, now senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, wrote an article entitled “Where’s our humanity for Gaza”, which is published here on Boston.com. In it, she reports that:

“The Gaza Strip is now in its 46th year of occupation, 22nd year of closure, and sixth year of intensified closure. The resulting normalization of the occupation assumes a dangerous form in the Gaza Strip, whose status as an occupied territory has ceased to matter in the West; the attention has shifted — after Hamas’s 2006 electoral victory and 2007 takeover of the territory — to Gaza’s containment and punishment, rendering illegitimate any notion of human rights or freedom for Palestinians. The Israeli government has referred to its siege policy as a form of ‘economic warfare’ … which was achieved through an Israeli-imposed blockade that ended all normal trade”.

Continue reading “Reflections on the Gaza war [Operation Pillar of Clouds]: Sara Roy [Boston.com] + Rashid Khalidi [NPR]+ Eyal Weizmann [LRB] + a JPost editorial”

Notes on the cease-fire

Worries that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was weak and wobbly increased on Friday when a large group of some 300 Palestinian men reportedly entered the no-go zone inside the perimeter fence east of Khan Younis.

One Palestinian was killed and 23 injured by Israeli troops.  Anwar Abdul Hadi Qudaih, 20, reportedly was hit in the head with a live bullet.

According to Maan News Agency, “A relative of the dead man, who was at the scene, told Reuters that Qudaih had been trying to place a Hamas flag on the fence”.   That was Friday.  Maan also reported that some 200 Palestinians had approached the perimeter fence the day before, Thursday.

Anwar Qdeih

A photo said to be of Anwar Qudaih or Qdaih, standing on the Israeli-built fence, posted with the Al-Jazeera story published here.

Al-Jazeera reported that “Most of those approaching the fence were young men, the Associated Press news agency reported, but the crowds also included farmers hoping they could check on their farm lands in the buffer zone…Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza City, said the farmers may have been confused about the current terms of access to the 300-metre wide buffer zone as Wednesday’s truce stipulates easing of travel restrictions.  They may have thought that they can now travel there, she said…”

Israel declared the  no-go zone in recent years, and from time to time increased it.   The “rules” could change at any time, and were never completely clear, except when the Israeli Army shot at people, some were wounded or killed.  Haaretz’s Aluf Benn wrote after the cease-fire that “The current confrontation broke out after Hamas tried to create a counter-perimeter on the Israeli side”… Continue reading “Notes on the cease-fire”

After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank

After last night’s cease-fire in Gaza, the IDF says it has now arrested — “in cooperation with the ISA [Israel Security Agency], Israel Police and the Israel Border Police” — some 55 people said to be affiliated Hamas + Islamic Jihad, from the north to the south of the West Bank.

According to the IDF announcement, they include “a number of senior level operatives” — but the IDF published no names.

The official IDF explanation is: it will “to restore calm”.  In the past eight days, there has been unrest and protest demonstrations around the West Bank against the IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds against Gaza, and at least 62 protesters against Operation Pillar of Clouds were detained by the IDF during the operation in Gaza.

However, almost none of these protests are organized by Hamas or Islamic Jihad, who take a quite low-key profile in the West Bank. Nor is it Hamas or Islamic Jihad who send young men out to throw stones whenever they see jeeps of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Hamas officials have regularly been arrested ever since their electoral victory in 2006 Legislative Council elections. Islamic Jihad activities were “prohibited” in the occupied Palestinian territory by a decree of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 6 October 2010.

Until last night, most of the West Bank unrest has been due to protests led by a combination of the popular committees and the younger anti-Oslo Accords, anti-PA, anti-Abbas protesters who came together last year in support of Egypt’s Tahrir Square revolution. One of their main platforms is the call for a revival of, and world-wide Palestinian elections to, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Palestine National Council [PNC]. .

Hamas is not yet a member of the PLO, despite an agreement in Cairo in 2005 that this would happen.

What prevented Hamas’ joining the PLO was a tough position by Fateh “unity” negotiators against Hamas getting an allocated percentage of seats in the PNC proportional to the more-than-60% seats it won in the local Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 elections. The Fateh negotiators were firm that Hamas did not deserve more than 20-25% of the seats in the PNC, which the Fateh negotiators insisted was the true strength of Hamas.

Those who were arrested this week, until last night, were the younger more secular crowd.

Addameer, a prisoners support group based in Ramallah, Tweeted this: @Addameer_ps – There has been a spike in arrests across the West Bank since the Occupation attacked #Gaza last week.

Continue reading “After cease-fire in Gaza, IDF says it arrests senior Hamas + Islamic Jihad people in the West Bank”

Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds – Pillars and Pillars and Pillars [of smoke]

Israel, apparently still unsatisfied with the details of a cease-fire agreement being negotiated from Cairo, conducted 70 strikes overnight — from the air as well as from the sea — but said there was quiet, until rocket fire from Gaza resumed this morning.

UPDATE: Haaretz reported on its live blog here that “More than 70 rockets have been fired at Israel since Saturday, and the IDF has attacked a similar number of targets in the Gaza Strip”. So, during this phase of cease-fire negotiations, Israel appears to have deferentially downgraded from massive attacks to eye-for-an-eye striking…

One person from Gaza reported that the Israeli strike had created pillars of smoke [rather than pillars of clouds].

Pillars of Clouds is a closer translation, apparently, of the Hebrew name for this IDF military operation against Hamas in Gaza — but the IDF and Israeli Government has chosen to call it “Defensive Pillar” in English, instead.

Some of the Israeli targets — and yes, the IDF spokesperson reported this morning that they were targets precisely chosen after months of intelligence work — were two media offices in downtown Gaza City.

Among the other casualties of the Israeli attacks, according to Reuters’ Noah Browning, were three small children killed since midnight. The casualty figures are rising continuously.

The IDF also reported that last night it took out more missile storage and/or launching sites [which the Army previously said had been largely wiped out on Day 1 of this operation, last Wednesday].

But, yesterday afternoon, the Global Post’s Jerusalem Correspondent Noga Tarnopolsky Tweeted [@NTarnopolsky] :  #Homeland Security minister Avi #Dichter foresees “hundreds more #missiles” in coming days #Israel #Gaza @GlobalPost

And, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu said at his regular weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that some 1,000 rockets +  missiles had been fired from Gaza to Israel in the past four days.

The first of the two media offices attacked was in “Shawwa and Hussary tower” at about 4 am this morning, reportedly injuring about 8 Palestinian journalists, in the offices of Hamas-funded Al-Quds TV, which was one of two television channels which aired last night the bravado statement put out just before midnight by AlQassam Brigade/Islamic Jihad .  The statement was accompanied by a video, apparently now available on Youtube, showing an underground hatch opening to allow rocket launchers to move up briefly, and fire.

The IDF says these airstrikes targetted “Hamas’ operational communications”.

Smoke coming from Al-Quds TV in Gaza after IDF attack on 18 Nov 2012
Photo of a pillar of smoke coming from Al-Quds TV offices in Gaza city after IDF strike this morning

The photo above was announced on Twitter and posted on Facebook, here.

The IDF later sent an SMS calling this a “surgical strike”.

An Al-Quds TV cameraman Khader az-Zahar has reportedly had to have his leg amputated as a result of the attack this morning.

[A Reuters photojournalist from Gaza suffered injuries that resulted in the amputation of his entire leg after a previous Israeli attack several years ago in Gaza {was it one using “flechette” bombs that sent out hundreds of razor-sharp arrows?}].

Deliberately targetting civilians is considered a war crime.

Bombing of media operations has, as BBC correspondents and editors Tweeted this morning, been specifically denounced by UN resolutions.  The BBC World Service’s Middle East Editor Jon Williams sent this Tweet to that effect this morning :

[@WilliamsJon] “International law protects journalists involved in conflict. #UNSC 1738 sets important standard #Gaza #pressfreedom http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8929.doc.htm …

[[This resolution states, in part: “without prejudice to the war correspondents’ right to the status of prisoners of war under the Third Geneva Convention, that journalists, media professionals and associated personnel engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered civilians, to be respected and protected as such“.]]

Reprisal bombing — using the argument that media funded by a protagonist in a conflict is a legitimate target [because it broadcasts information helpful to the enemy or part of the hostilities, or whatever] — didn’t go well when it happened in Belgrade during the Balkans war in the mid 1990s. The US operating on behalf of NATO there at the time had to struggle to prevent judicial examination for war crimes.

Gaza TV building hung with poster of Fadel Shani killed by an Israeli-fired flechette bomb in 2008 - photo Tweeted by by Noah Browning of Reuters

Photo taken by Noah Browning of Reuters, showing Gaza TV building today, where TV transmission facilities are located and available for hire.  The building is hung with a poster of Reuters’ Fadel Shani, killed by an Israeli-fired flechette bomb while reporting in Gaza in 2008.

Continue reading “Day 5 of Operation Pillar of Clouds – Pillars and Pillars and Pillars [of smoke]”

Day 2 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds – Today is Palestinian Independence Day

Today, 15 November, is Palestinian Independence Day. The employees of the Palestinian Authority [PA] in the ministries in Ramallah and elsewhere in the West Bank are off work for what will be a 3-day holiday. In a rare sign of solidarity, the otherwise disgruntled Palestinian East Jerusalem merchants will also close their shops to mark the date that Yasser Arafat declared the independent Palestinian state, at a meeting of the PLO’s Palestine National Council in Algiers.

In Gaza, people are reeling under [another] full-scale Israeli attack — this one, like the previous ones, designed to “bring about an improvement in the security reality and allow a normal life for the residents of the State of Israel” [Israeli Security Cabinet communique Wednesday evening 14 November].

The Security Cabinet also stated that “Alongside the military effort, Israel will, to the best of its ability, work to avoid harming civilians while honoring the humanitarian needs of the population, in keeping with the rules of international law”.

Israel’s new-found appreciation of international law dates to the fallout from its interception of the Freedom Flotilla on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of May 2010. A handful of Israeli special forces boarding the 600-passenger Mavi Marmara in the dark were outnumbered and surrounded, and killed 9 Turkish men, including one Turkish-American high school student.

Without dwelling on the academic distinction between “international law” and “international humanitarian law [which pertains in situations of occupation, for example] it has to be said that there is wide room for various argued-understandings of the construct.

By the time the Security Cabinet convened, there were already casualties — some of those specifically targetted, like the Hamas military chief Ahmad Jaabari, and then the absolutely and completely innocent victims, like this 11-month-old baby boy, Omar Jihad al-Mashhrawi, his body held by his grief-stricken father, Jihad:

Jihad Al-Mashhrawi holding his baby son Omar, killed in Israeli strike on Gaza - 14 November 2012

Photo by Anne Paq of Activestills, posted on the Flickr photostream here.

One of the accusations against Jaabari was that he was responsible for the operation that captured IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit just outside the Gaza perimter near the Israeli crossing of Kerem Shalom in June 2006. Shalit was held somewhere in Gaza until his release in October 2011 — after Egyptian-brokered negotiations carried out with Jaabari.

Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said on Wednesday evening after the “precision” strike that hit Jaabari’s car in Central Gaza, that Gilad was “still absorbing” the news.

The New York Times reported here that:

    “Military officials in Israel, which took credit for killing Mr. Jabari, said their forces had carried out additional
    airstrikes in Gaza targeting what they described as ‘a significant number of long-range rocket sites’ owned by Hamas that
    had stored rockets capable of reaching 25 miles into Israel. The statement said the airstrikes had dealt a ‘significant
    blow to the terror organization’s underground rocket-launching capabilities’. The Israel Defense Forces said Mr. Jabari had been targeted because he ‘served in the upper echelon of the Hamas command and was directly responsible for executing terror attacks against the state of Israel in the past number of years’. A video released by the Israel Defense Forces and posted on YouTube showed an aerial view of the attack on what it identified as Mr. Jabari’s car on a Gaza street as it was targeted and instantly blown up in a pinpoint bombing. The Israel Defense Forces later posted a Twitter message showing a mug shot of Mr. Jabari overwritten by the word ‘eliminated’.”

Continue reading “Day 2 of IDF Operation Pillar of Clouds – Today is Palestinian Independence Day”

Hamas figure dies in Nablus, condolences cause traffic jam

It was so hot. It was the second hot day, after a long and dreary winter, one of the worst in recent years, most people here agree.

And then, unexpectedly, there was such heavy traffic. It came to a standstill in the village of Huwwara, just south of Nablus. It was so hot, and the traffic was so bad…

The reason, I was told, was the large number of people coming to Nablus to give their condolences and pay respect for the death of a religious scholar and Hamas figure who was also an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

    * Bumper-to-bumper traffic going thru Huwwara village to Nablus after news of death of Sheikh Hamed al-Betawi – background story here.

    * Unprecedented traffic between Ramallah + Nablus afternoon said to be officials going to pay condolences on death of Hamas scholar

    * Can demonstration of respect upon news of death of Nablus’ Hamas MP+scholar be extrapolated to predict results of next elections [if held]?

    * Religious leaders and scholars are due to drive to Nablus on Friday to express their condolences upon death of Hamas MP + religious scholar

    * Completing the picture, Ma’an reports that Fadel Beitawi, 33 [son of Hamas Sheikh] was detained Monday [just three days before his father’s death] by IDF after a pre-dawn raid on home in Nablus

    * Though Sheikh al-Betawi himself was arrested by the IDF several times, the arrest of his son coming so soon after the Sheikh’s recent heart surgery could not have helped his medical condition.

    * Despite who he is, the Sheikh did get a permit to go for treatment to a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem, on part of the Mount of Olives, where he is reported to have died.

    * IDF presence discretely reduced along the way to Nablus [+ back], as what must have been thousands went for condolences on death of the Hamas learned scholar and MP, Sheikh Hamed al-Betawi.

Mahmoud Abbas tells a TV interviewer that "Unity is Frozen" – UPDATED

Speaking in a television interview from Baghdad, where he is attending the Arab League summit, the man who holds all the reins of Palestinian political power, Mahmoud Abbas, said “unity” between Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian body politic, and therefore between Gaza and the West Bank, is “frozen”.

His remarkable remarks — which appear to have been made in an interview with Ma’an Television, but it is not clear from the article — are reported by Ma’an News Agency, here.

The general reaction has been, “ho hum” [a big yawn].

In the article about the interview, Abbas also reportedly said: “We agreed on the vision and objectives and conditions in full…I confirm that Mashaal was honest and we were ready (to proceed)”.

The Israel News Network report, here, tells us that ” ‘some Hamas leaders rejected the agreements reached in Doha’, he [Abbas] said in a clear reference to Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders in Gaza who blocked the deal”. This innuendo is left out of the Ma’an report…

Earlier this week, the Palestinian Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to the proposal that arose out of long “unity” negotiations that Mahmoud Abbas would replace Salam Fayyad [whose appointment in 2007 irritated Hamas] and would serve as interim Prime Minister in an interim unity governments of technocrats [though Abbas could hardly be called a technocrat] that would prepare for new elections [in which Fatah hopes Hamas will be trounced, just to show them] that should have been held in May 2012.

A Presidential Decree must be issued three months before elections, so the May date has already slipped.

Oh, and Palestinian leader [there is almost no other] Mahmoud Abbas now reportedly has agreed to drop [or perhaps to postpone?] a threat to dismantle the Palestinian Authority…

This news of a not-yet-happened development is attributed to unnamed “foreign diplomats” [American?], and published in Haaretz here.

The Haaretz report tells us that:

    “The diplomats who provided the letter said Abbas scrapped the threat at the urging of President Barack Obama. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the letter has not yet been sent. The letter was leaked more than ten days after, Saeb Erekat asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but his request was denied. During the meeting, Erekat was to submit the letter to Netanyahu. The letter was originally supposed to include an ultimatum on the part of the Palestinians, saying that if their demands were not met, they intended to turn to the international community, urge that Israel uphold international law, and demand that Israel take direct responsibility for the situation in the West Bank. However, beacause of the heavy pressure exerted by U.S., the ultimatum was dropped. The current draft includes only the Palestinians core demands: 1967 borders as a framework for negotiations, a settlement freeze, the release of prisoners, and a section that was added later to the letter: a demand to end IDF operations in West Bank Area A.”

Obama spoke to Abbas recently for the first time since September [when Obama was warning Abbas not to make the “UN bid” for full membership of the state of Palestine in the United Nations. Obama’s phone call was followed by one from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…

Maybe they told Abbas that Obama can’t do anything until after the elections — but then [when Obama is re-elected, the presumption is], just wait, there will be big moves…

Meanwhile, Marwan Barghouthi [a Fatah “Youth” leader in his time] now in his 50s and just marking ten years in Israeli jail, where he is serving five life sentences ordered by an Israeli court at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, has reportedly called for “a renewal of efforts” in the “UN bid” to gain UN membership for the state of Palestine. This “UN bid” is why Israel and the U.S. withheld money to the PA earlier this year — prompting one of Mahmoud Abbas’ periodic thoughts of quitting or of dissolving the PA.

Marwan Barghouthi’s message, transmitted via his lawyer, urged Palestinian leaders to “Stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations after this vision has failed miserably”. He also called for “stopping all forms of security and economic coordination [with Israel] in all areas immediately”… And, most interestingly, Barghouthi called for “a renewal of efforts” concerning the “UN bid”. According to a wire service report, published here, “Barghouti said that the Palestinians should take their statehood case to the General Assembly or other agencies as an alternative, alluding to forums in which the Palestians have wider support”.

In his weekly article, veteran Israeli activist Uri Avnery wrote about this statement by Marwan Barghouthi, and said:

    “I FIRST met Marwan in the heyday of post-Oslo optimism. He was emerging as a leader of the new Palestinian generation, the home-grown young activists, men and women, who had matured in the first Intifada. He is a man of small physical stature and large personality. When I met him, he was already the leader of Tanzim (‘organization’), the youth group of the Fatah movement. The topic of our conversations then was the organization of demonstrations and other non-violent actions, based on close cooperation between the Palestinians and Israeli peace groups. The aim was peace between Israel and a new State of Palestine.

    When the Oslo process died with the assassinations of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Marwan and his organization became targets. Successive Israeli leaders – Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon – decided to put an end to the two-state agenda. In the brutal ‘Defensive Shield’ operation (launched by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of the Kadima Party) the Palestinian Authority was attacked, its services destroyed and many of its activists arrested.

    Marwan Barghouti was put on trial. It was alleged that, as the leader of Tanzim, he was responsible for several ‘terrorist’ attacks in Israel. His trial was a mockery, resembling a Roman gladiatorial arena more than a judicial process. The hall was packed with howling rightists, presenting themselves as ‘victims of terrorism’. Members of Gush Shalom protested against the trial inside the court building but we were not allowed anywhere near the accused. Marwan was sentenced to five life sentences. The picture of him raising his shackled hands above his head has become a Palestinian national icon. When I visited his family in Ramallah, it was hanging in the living room.

    IN PRISON, Marwan Barghouti was immediately recognized as the leader of all Fatah prisoners. He is respected by Hamas activists as well. Together, the imprisoned leaders of Fatah and Hamas published several statements calling for Palestinian unity and reconciliation. These were widely distributed outside and received with admiration and respect.

    [Now, in his latest statement, issued through his lawyer] Marwan advocates an official end to the charade called ‘peace negotiations’. This term, by the way, is never heard anymore in Israel. First it was replaced with ‘peace process’, then ‘political process’, and lately ‘the political matter’. The simple word ‘peace’ has become taboo among rightists and most ‘leftists’ alike. It’s political poison. Marwan proposes to make the absence of peace negotiations official. No more international talk about ‘reviving the peace process’, no more rushing around of ridiculous people like Tony Blair, no more hollow announcements by Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton, no more empty declarations of the ‘Quartet’. Since the Israeli government clearly has abandoned the two-state solution – which it never really accepted in the first place – keeping up the pretense just harms the Palestinian struggle.

    Instead of this hypocrisy, Marwan proposes to renew the battle in the UN. First, apply again to the Security Council for the acceptance of Palestine as a member state, challenging the US to use its solitary veto openly against practically the whole world. After the expected rejection of the Palestinian request by the Council as a result of the veto, request a decision by the General Assembly, where the vast majority would vote in favor”…

Whose fault is it?

A colleague called me today as he was leaving Erez “terminal”, just coming out of Gaza after two days there.

The situation of the people who don’t have any electricity, or any fuel, is terrible, he said.

He asked, “Whose fault do you think it is”?

[He said he is leaning toward blaming Hamas…]

But, there is enough blame to go around…

Where to start?

The European Union was paying for the special industrial diesel fuel used to run the Gaza Power Plant once it was repaired in November 2006 [precision Israeli Air Force bombing took out each of the four generators/turbines, one by one, in late June 2006, in response to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, and the EU paid for repairs that were done through Egypt].

The way it worked is important to understanding the situation: Gaza would tell the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah how much fuel it needed. Ramallah would order the fuel from an Israeli fuel company [Dor Alon] with whom Ramallah had concluded a contract. Fuel transfer facilities were constructed at Nahal Oz — Dor Alon paid for the installation on the Israeli side of the facility, and the PA paid for the installation on the Gaza side. Israeli tankers came one by one to offload their fuel cargoes into underground pipes which transferred the fuel into Gaza where it was loaded into Palestinian tanker trucks for delivery around the Gaza Strip.

VAT taxes paid on these fuel purchases by the PA were returned by Israel to the PA in Ramallah.

These arrangements continued after the Hamas rout of Fatah/Palestinian preventive security services in mid-June 2007.

(1) Because Hamas was in power there, Israel’s military was authorized to implement tightening sanctions against Gaza, starting in late October 2007. These military sanctions were designed to cut the fuel deliveries to Gaza by about 15% each month. Gaza’s Power Plant experienced shut-downs from January, due to Israeli-military-mandated cuts in fuel delivered to Gaza.

(2) About four years later [at the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011], there was a switch of responsibilities that was never fully explained, in which the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority took over from the EU the payment for the fuel, in exchange for the EU paying for salaries and pensions… There soon arose disputes over payments. Ramallah said that Gaza was not remitting enough in payments for electric bills, so they cut down on the fuel they ordered and paid for. More shut-downs in Gaza’s Power Plant ensued. VAT

(3) Gaza decided to stop going along with this arrangement, and its dependency on Ramallah’s good will, and turned instead to taking fuel for the Gaza Power Plant smuggled in via the tunnels under the border with Rafah. At around the same time, a clever tweak — invented by Gaza Power Plant Engineer Dirar Abu Sisi [later kidapped in Ukraine, where he was trying to emigrate with his Ukranian wife and their children, and brought to Israel, where he is still in jail] — allowed the Gaza Power Plant to use normal diesel fuel to operate. There were considerable cost savings. Taxes for the import of fuel went to Hamas.

(4) Israel gradually closes all cargo transport into Gaza via all crossings except Kerem Shalom — where Israeli customs officials operate. This move was opposed by the PA. Israel delayed the move, but eventually did it.

(5) Egypt, under pressure, decides to reduce the fuel transfers through the tunnels.

(6) Hamas hopes to persuade Egypt to deliver fuel through Rafah crossing — preferably via tankers crossing into Gaza — though there is no provision for cargo transfer via Rafah in the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access. Israel prefers fuel to come from Egypt via Kerem Shalom. There are negotiations and talks and more talks. Gaza’s Power Plant shuts down three times in recent weeks due to fuel shortage — including after an exceptional one-time transfer last Friday of 450,000 liters of fuel bought from Israel and paid by the PA. This quantity of fuel lasted for just over a day, and the Gaza Power Plant shut down again on Sunday.

During these talks and negotiations, it was reported here that “The [Gaza] cabinet also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, saying it has instructed the European Union to stop funding the power station in Gaza for political reasons. The Gaza government said it had turned to Egypt to relieve the current fuel crisis and thanked Cairo for its efforts, adding that it was also in contact with Qatar, Algeria and Turkey to ease shortages”.

An equivalent or greater amount of energy was put into mutual recriminations. Haaretz reported on 20 March here that Iran paid Hamas to block a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas [which might have eased the fuel crisis]:

    Hamas spokesman Ahmed Assaf said: “We have information that Iran paid tens of millions of dollars to Zahar and Haniyeh in their visits to Iran”. [He was referring to Hamas leaders Mahmoud Zahar who visited Tehran last week and Ismail Haniyeh who was there in February. Assaf was responding to a comment by Zahar that Palestinian political reconciliation “is in the freezer now”, despite a unity deal signed last month.
    “Reconciliation is in the freezer because Zahar was the one who put it there and he got the price from Iran,” Assaf told Reuters. “Zahar, Haniyeh and Hamas’s Gaza leadership were paid by Iran to freeze reconciliation.”
    Hamas rejected the charges. “The Fatah government did not implement any of their obligations (under the unity deal) and they prefer American money to nationalist agreements,” spokesman Taher al-Nono said.

    “Iran has an interest in the division continuing. Iran realizes the importance of the Palestinian cause from the religious, political and geographic status and, therefore, it wants to control it,” Assaf said.
    If unity was restored and the Palestine Liberation Organization or any legitimate leadership ruled Gaza, Iran would lose its influence, he said.

(7) Emergency talks and negotiations ensue on Monday. On Tuesday, there is an announcement in Cairo of a deal with Egypt, made by the Gaza head of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Energy Authority. But, this deal involves the transfer of Egyptian gas through Rafah to Gaza [not fuel]. This deal is reported by Ma’an News Agency, here.

Here are comments I Tweeted [@marianhouk] yesterday on this announced deal:

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza Power Plant, constructed to run either on indust. diesel or gas, will now be converted to use gas [provided initially by Egypt].

27 Mar @Marianhouk
The World Bank recommended in 2007 that the Gaza Power Plant switching to using gas as fuel, ultimately cheaper then indust. diesel

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas will come from Egypt [initially] by terms of agreement signed today in Cairo by Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority – http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=471644

27 Mar @Marianhouk
How fast can this happen? “technicians in Gaza will prepare to install a 30-km pipeline from Rafah to the power plant in Gaza City” via Maan

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gas cld come to Gaza Power Plant from Palestinian Gaza Marine undersea gas fields in Med, if reconciliation [or if offshore island built]

27 Mar @Marianhouk
“Egy technicians have been instructed 2 conduct geograph surveys 2 find best route for pipelines 2 transport gas from Sheikh Zweid 2 Rafah”

27 Mar @Marianhouk
Gaza rep of PA Energy Authority in Ramallah in Cairo: “the new agreement will increase the plant’s capacity from 40 to 180 Megawatts”. When?

27 Mar @Marianhouk
However, vulnerability of Sinai pipelines will be an issue in new decision signed today to supply Egyptian gas to fuel Gaza Power Plant…

Do Hamas members + supporters have human, civil rights in the West Bank?

The answer is obvious, but the question is not rhetorical.

There has been a great deal [well, ok, an unusual amount] of mobilization at official levels concerning the Israeli military’s detention of Aziz Dweik [see our earlier post here] at Jaba’a Checkpoint last Thursday.

UPDATE: On Tuesday 24 January, Aziz Dweik was sentenced at Ofer Military Court to six months’ Administrative Detention. That means neither substantial accusations nor evidence is made known to the accused or to his/her lawyer [nothing beyond “being a threat to security of the area”]. The Israeli Security services just ask to speak to the Israeli military judge in a private session, and that is that. Since there are no charges and no evidence, no defense is possible, in such circumstances….

UPDATE: Also on Thursday 24 January, Israeli troops entered Ramallah — Area A, and the de facto capital of the West-bank based Palestinian Authority — to arrest yet one more Palestinian MP affiliated with Hamas, AbdulJabber Fuqara. Israeli reports citing Palestinian sources say that his wife reports that Israeli troops also confiscated papers at Fuqara’s home Thursday morning [no doubt, quite early, in the dark, before dawn, when the rest of the area is sleeping, these operations are almost always carried out] …

Administrative Detention is one of the major violations of human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Nearly 300 Palestinians [some 26 or 27 of them, currently about 10 percent of the total, are Palestinian members of the non-functioning Legislative Council who were elected on a Hamas-affiliated political party list].

As the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR, based in Gaza, but no affiliate of Hamas] has reported, Dweik’s car was stopped at 20h30 at night, after work,  as he was on his way home from Ramallah to Hebron. That means that Dweik had driven on the road that passes around Qalandia Checkpoint, and going out through Jaba’a checkpoint on the lane that is normally not checked by soldiers. 

The lane in the direction Dweik was travelling heads out towards the roads [shared with thousands of settlers and the relatively few internationals who work in Ramallah and elsewhere in the northern West Bank] which lead to the Maale Adumim traffic circle, then through congested and garbage-strewn Abu Dis and Eizariyya [Bethany] before passing the infamous Wadi Nar [hellfire] road going south to Bethlehem and then to Hebron.

Jaba’a Checkpoint is on the feeder road that is next to Jaba’a village, facing Road 60 which brings settlers and Palestinians from the northern West Bank.  It is just across from the traffic circle outside the Jewish settlement of Adam.  Passing through this traffic circle is the only way for Palestinian ID holders in Palestinian cars to get from the north to the south of the West Bank.  [There is also heavy settler traffic on the roads between Adam traffic circle and the Hizmeh Checkpoint at the entry to Jerusalem via the settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which the Palestinian cars — which are not allowed to enter Jerusalem either through Qalandia Checkpoint or through Hizmeh Checkpoint, must circumvent to take a more circuitous route to Maale Adumim traffic circle before continuing south. … so the term “Apartheid Road” system is not completely accurate, and is usually determined by the Checkpoint regime rather than by any other type of enforcement.]

Dweik was reportedly blindfolded and handcuffed, and eventually taken to Ofer prison — which is not even a one-star hotel — where he is apparently still being interrogated. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported Sunday night, here, that:

    “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Sunday for the release of Abdel Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was detained by the IDF last Thursday. ‘I’m not convinced that Dweik had committed any crime’, Abbas told a Russian TV station”.

So, the question is, why did Abbas have to say this to a Russian TV station [through its local correspondent in Jerusalem?], and not on Palestinian TV? Would that have been called incitement?

No one of the usual sources has raised a cry against the wave of Hamas detentions that has been going on through the past year.

If someone is a political opponent, or even if someone is labelled as being linked to a “terrorist” organization, does that mean they have no human or civil rights? Of course it does not. But, in the West Bank under occupation, it is only too easy to deprive people of the few rights that might be available to them…

The PA itself has detained Hamas members [both sides are supposed to have released “political” prisoners as part of the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, but this has not happened after two deadlines have passed, and in general the PA has said it has no “political” prisoners, only those who have committed security offenses or common crimes…]

The PA has also fired Hamas-affiliated governmental employees, including dozens of school teachers — yet Hamas members dominate many of the local municipal councils, and there is a Hamas mayor a “moderate” one] in the large northern West Bank city of Nablus.

There has been some talk about Dweik’s arrest really being motivated by Israel’s aim to block his plan to convene an imminent meeting of the dormant Palestine Legislative Council [PLC]. But Israeli arrests of Hamas members of the PLC have been going on for several years … and it is not clear why Israel would be more concerned about this now, unless it is a way to foil Hamas-Fatah reconcilation efforts.

The reconvening of the PLC s also understood to be a matter of concern to Abbas advisers, who known that the minute the PLC is convened, it may do something like decide to repeal several years of executive decisions that Abbas has been able to issue in the lack of a viable PLC. So, it became a vicious circle: so many Hamas members were in jail it was impossible to convene the necessary quorum, and even if it were to become possible, no one really wanted to deal with the unforseeable consequences.

The Khaled Abu Toameh article in the JPost also reported that Abbas said, about Dweik’s detention:

    “ ‘Frankly, this is an arbitrary detention and it’s completely illegal’, Abbas said, noting that Dweik, a top Hamas political figure in the West Bank, had been arrested a number of times in the past. The PA, meanwhile, presented Israel with a letter demanding the release of Dweik and 23 Palestinian legislators, most of whom belong to Hamas. A Palestinian official told AFP that chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat delivered the letter to Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho during their fourth meeting in Amman over the weekend. The PA also demanded the release of some 130 Palestinians who were jailed before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. In addition, the PA is demanding the release of top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for his role in terror attacks against Israelis; and Ahmed Sa’dat, secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – the group behind the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. Among the Hamas legislators who are held in Israeli prison are Mahmoud Ramahi; Ahmed Haj; Ayman Daraghmeh; Nayef Rajoub; Fadel Hamdan; Mohammed Tal; Omar Abdel Razek; Mohammed Abu Teir; Mohammed Natsheh; Mohammed Abu Gehisha; Hassan Yousef; Azzam Salhab; Hatem Kafisha; Azzam Salhab; Nizar Ramadan; and Samir Qady”.

This list, if exhaustive, neatly leaves out Hussam Khader, a Fatah activist from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus who was once part of the group known as “young Fatah” [which included Marwan Barghouthi as well as Qaddoura Fares, a long-time prisoner held by Israel in an earlier period who has since actively supported the Geneva Initiative of civil society working to advance a peace treaty and who now heads the Ramallah-based Palestinian Prisoner’s Society].

Khader has confronted and challenged the Fatah leadership for years, famously including Mahmoud Abbas during the Sixth Fatah General Conference held in Bethlehem in August 2009 — and has been considered inconvenient despite [or perhaps because of] his popular appeal.

Khader was re-arrested in a 2am raid on his home on June 2, and has been held in Israel’s Megiddo Prison, north of the West Bank, since an Israeli military judge confirmed a 6-month sentence of Administrative Detention in June, which was renewed in December at the request of the Israeli Security Services [then cut in half, to 3 months, upon the appeal of his Palestinian-Prisoner-Society lawyer Jawad Bulous, who has offices in the Galilee and in East Jerusalem]. Both in June, and again in December, the Israeli military judge did express some scepticism about the lack of concrete charges — publicly, as is usual in cases where Administrative Detention is applied to Palestinians under military law — the charges are only listed as “being a threat to safety and security in the region”. But, both times, the Israeli military judge did give in to the demands of Israeli Security Services.

It is believed, however, that Hussam Khader was questioned about his contacts with Hamas — particularly during visits to Lebanon and to Syria in 2010, during which time he believed he acted with the blessing of Mahmoud Abbas, as part of efforts to bring about Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.

So, why has Mahmoud Abbas not mentioned Hussam Khader’s detention?