Adnan Abu Amer reports that international envoys visiting Gaza are in discussions with Hamas: The increased tempo of international proposals to extend the truce is coinciding with mounting warnings about a conflagration in Gaza caused by the continued siege, the lack of progress in reconciling with Fatah and the similarity in the security and on-the-ground conditions today, compared with those that preceded the last war in July 2014. Taher al-Nunu, Hamas’ media adviser, told Al-Monitor, “The proposals currently considered complement efforts to bolster the cease-fire with Israel. Hamas will present those proposals to all remaining factions, with whom we shall consult to adopt a unified stance.”
Israeli media outlets published details about the truce proposals on March 11, reporting that Israel and Hamas were considering achieving a 15-year cease-fire, during the first five years of which both sides would undertake to cease all military operations in exchange for lifting the siege and building sea and air ports in Gaza.
But Gaza’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad, one of Hamas’ most prominent negotiators with international envoys, told Al-Monitor, “No practical progress has been achieved with Western diplomatic sources visiting Gaza in relation to the sea and air ports dossier; because Israel refuses to hand Hamas a victory after the last battle.” [Continue reading…]
Bel Trew reports: The fighters in Gaza are preparing for a new war every day. It could come at any time: In the past few weeks, Israeli planes and drones have been increasingly circling the 26-square-mile coastal enclave. The Israel Defense Forces have repositioned troops at the eastern borders, an area almost entirely flattened during last summer’s 51-day war.
“The war could start any minute,” says Abu Mujahid. “There is a lot of kinetic movement, so all the fighting groups evacuated the bases, we’ve postponed training sessions, and many of the men have moved underground.”
“There are people right now under your feet,” his wiry second-in-command, Abu Saif, 28, adds with a toothless grin.
Gaza today is a powder keg waiting to explode. The key aspects of the cease-fire agreement that ended the war last summer remain unfulfilled — both Israel and Hamas feel that only more violence can force their enemy to assent to their demands. Meanwhile, the reconstruction of Gaza has stagnated due to Israeli restrictions on letting material into the territory, as well as the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah, sapping Gaza residents’ hope for a better future and leading them to believe that there is no alternative but armed struggle. [Continue reading…]
Adnan Abu Amer writes: Hamas never imagined that it would be classified as a terrorist movement by an Arab country — a classification that has dangerous political, media and perhaps military repercussions.
However, Egypt’s Court of Urgent Matters declared Hamas a terrorist organization on Feb. 28 against the backdrop of the proven movement’s implication in armed operations that claimed the lives of Egyptian officers and soldiers in Sinai Peninsula, after its members seeped through the tunnels into Egypt.
Why is this decision dangerous? Egypt is considered the only leeway for Gaza where Hamas is in control. Egypt’s classification of Hamas as a terrorist organization implies that all efforts are being made to cut off its arms supplies and funding by all means necessary. Moreover, whoever cooperates with Hamas is considered a criminal by law, according to a statement on March 4 by Egypt’s Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber. The law stipulates seizing Hamas properties, arresting all its affiliated members and confiscating their funds and locations. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: In almost every way, the Gaza Strip is much worse off now than before last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas. Scenes of misery are one of the few things in abundance in the battered coastal enclave.
Reconstruction of the tens of thousands homes damaged and destroyed in the hostilities has barely begun, almost six months after the cease-fire. At current rates, it will take decades to rebuild what was destroyed.
The economy is in deep recession; pledges of billions in aid have not been honored; and the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the enclave, refuses to loosen its grip and is preparing again for war.
Diplomats, aid workers and residents warn of a looming humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence.
“After every war, we say it cannot get worse, but I will say this time is the worst ever,” said Omar Shaban, a respected Gaza economist. “There is no sign of life. Trade. Import. Export. Reconstruction. Aid? Dead. I’m not exaggerating when I tell my friends abroad: Gaza could collapse, maybe soon.” [Continue reading…]
Ynet: Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog – currently the main contender to replace Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister – took aim at the hawkish leader’s security policy, blasting him for being weak on Hamas, the terror group ruling Gaza with which Israel locked horns in a 50-day war over the summer.
“For years Hamas has been tunneling under our communities near the Gaza border. And what did you do? You waited, stalled and hesitated,” Herzog said in a new video.
Middle East Eye: Palestinian faction Hamas on Saturday slammed a decision by an Egyptian court to designate its military arm, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a “terrorist organisation”.
“This is a dangerous decision that only serves the best interests of Israel,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told the Anadolu Agency.
He described the court verdict as “politically motivated”, reiterating that his movement does not interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs.
Earlier on Saturday, an Egyptian court declared the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades a “terrorist organization”.
AFP reports: Palestinian Islamist group Hamas condemned Saturday the killing of 12 people in a shooting attack this week on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s offices by two French Islamists.
A statement in French said Hamas “condemns the attack against Charlie Hebdo magazine and insists on the fact that differences of opinion and thought cannot justify murder.”
It also rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments, in which he compared the Paris attack to Hamas firing rockets from the Gaza Strip at civilians in Israel.
“Hamas condemns the desperate attempts by… Netanyahu to make a connection between our movement and the resistance of our people on the one hand and global terrorism on the other,” it said.
Hurriyet Daily News reports: Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, has made a surprise appearance at an event of Turkey’s ruling party, endorsing the Turkish leaders and voicing his hope to “liberate Palestine and Jerusalem” together with them in the future.
“A strong Turkey means a strong Palestine … Inshallah, God is with us and with you on the road to victory,” Mashaal said in his address to the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) annual congress in the Konya province on Dec. 27.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose hometown is Konya, personally presented Mashaal to the audience. “Konya, the city of heroes! You give birth to your leaders,” Mashaal said, congratulating the Turkish people “for having Davutoğlu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.”
Mashaal’s brief speech was interrupted by slogans including “God is great” and “Down with Israel” several times by AKP supporters in the sports hall who waved Turkish and Palestinian flags. [Continue reading…]
The Times of Israel reports: Hamas fears its ties with Qatar will be hindered by the reported reconciliation efforts between Doha and Egypt, London-based Arab paper Rai al-Youm reported Saturday, according to Israel Radio.
According to the report, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, who has been hosted by Qatar since leaving war-torn Syria in 2012, has reached out to Qatari leaders to receive clarifications on the matter, and has been assured that the amended ties with Cairo would not affect Doha’s relations with Hamas. [Continue reading…]
BBC News reports: A top court of the European Union has annulled the bloc’s decision to keep the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on a list of terrorist groups.
The decision had been based not on an examination of Hamas’ actions, but on “factual imputations derived from the press and the internet”, judges found.
The court said the move was technical and was not a reassessment of Hamas’ classification as a terrorist group.
It said a funding freeze on the group would continue for the time being. [Continue reading…]
Amira Hass reports: Israel prevented experts from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch from entering the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, and it still is preventing them. As a result, no independent professionals (for example, a certain retired British military officer) have been able to check in real time the army’s claims and versions; for example, about weapons caches or firing near or from inside UN buildings.
If the Israel Defense Forces and its legal advisers were so sure they were adhering to international law, why were they scared to let these experts enter Gaza – alongside the many journalists who were allowed in?
It could very well be that every word in the IDF spokesman’s recent statement on the decision to investigate “exceptional incidents that occurred during Operation Protective Edge” is truthful. But these words – true or not – are just a veneer covering the problematic layers of Protective Edge and all Israeli military operations against the Palestinians.
The IDF, its lawyers and its commanders hold a monopoly on information from Israeli theaters of war because of the IDF’s technological superiority. So they also hold a monopoly on concealing information, telling untruths and dismissing the findings of Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups – and of course on ignoring Hamas’ claims. [Continue reading…]
Ahmed Yousef, senior political adviser to the former Hamas prime minister of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, writes: It really doesn’t matter what political party you belong to in Palestine because every single one has first to deal with Israeli occupation, settlements, theft and expropriation before it can begin to campaign about public policy on jobs, healthcare and the economy. Despite this stark reality, the question I have faced most frequently since returning to Gaza in 2006 is this: does the Hamas charter, which contains passages deemed offensive to Jewish people, truly represent the movement’s vision and political goals? Diplomats, journalists, academics, parliamentarians and politicians from numerous nations have empathised with Palestinians; yet they all seem to struggle with this document.
The question is understandable given how frequently much of the foreign media refers to it. The reality, however, is that one would be hard pressed to find any member of Hamas who is fully versed in the content of the charter – a treatise that was actually never universally endorsed by the movement. Earnest students of Palestine should consider the context. This was a text written in the early days of the first intifada. Our youth rebelling against the Israeli occupiers needed a rallying cry – a written expression of their resolve. The charter was designed to be that inspirational document and it was never intended to be the governing instrument, the guiding principle or the political vision of the movement. [Continue reading…]