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Two-thirds of Palestinians support Abbas departure

MEMO | September 23, 2015

An opinion poll has suggested that two-thirds of Palestinians believe that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should resign. They also think that his resignation from the PLO Executive Committee is not “real”.

The Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research released the results of a poll on Monday that it conducted in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip between 17 and 19 September. The results show that the popularity of President Abbas has declined “significantly” in the occupied West Bank and has improved “slightly” in the Gaza Strip. Fatah’s popularity has declined in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The results revealed an increase in Hamas popularity in the occupied West Bank and a significant decrease in the Gaza Strip. The popularity of the deputy leader of the Islamic movement, Ismail Haniyeh, has improved in the West Bank but fallen slightly in Gaza.

“If Abbas does not participate in the next presidential elections,” said the research NGO, “the only viable candidates from Fatah to replace him are Marwan Barghouti followed, but with much less support, by Mohammad Dahlan and Saeb Erekat.” Among Hamas candidates, it added, Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal are the most popular to replace Abbas, while among the independents the most popular is Rami Al-Hamdallah followed by Salam Fayyad.

“Two-thirds of the public support Hamas-Israel indirect negotiations about a long term Hudna, or truce, in return for ending the siege of the Gaza Strip. But a majority believes that these negotiations will not succeed. A majority rejects the belief that such negotiations, even if they succeed, would harm the chances for reconciliation.”

The results also reveal that the Palestinian public does not view the PLO or its Executive Committee positively and declines to give it a mandate to make important decisions on behalf of all Palestinians. Instead, the public prefers to give such a mandate to the PA, even if the decisions in question relate to the permanent agreement with Israel. “This, though, does not mean that the public has considerable trust in the PA,” said the centre. “On the contrary, a majority believes that it has become a burden on the Palestinian people and, for the first time since we started asking, a majority now demands the PA’s dissolution.”

Results also show that two-thirds of the public believe that the protection of Palestinians against settler terrorism is the responsibility of the PA, not the Israeli army. “Furthermore, two-thirds believe that the PA is not doing enough to protect Palestinian citizens. To protect Palestinian towns and villages targeted by settlers, the largest percentage has selected, from among several options, the deployment of the Palestinian security forces in those areas. The public believes that if the PA formally establishes civil guard units made up of volunteers in such areas, it would also help to provide protection. Indeed, half of West Bankers say that if such unarmed units were established, they would volunteer to join them.”

The survey was conducted on a random sample of 1,270 people in 127 locations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Leaders Like These: Yet a New Threshold for Gaza’s Misery

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | December 4, 2013

It is impossible to predict the future. But one can state with a degree of certainty that little good can possibly be awaiting Palestinians when their political leadership seems to value their ties with Israel more than the fate of Gaza and all of its inhabitants. An exaggeration? Hardly.

In an interview with Voice of Russia, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas replied to an ‘invitation’ by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak at the Israeli Parliament (Knesset). “If (Netanyahu) wants me to come and say the things I want to say, then I am ready to do it,” Abbas said, according to YNet and other media on November 23rd. However, he had no response to a call for unity by Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

“Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Haniyeh said in a recent speech, as quoted by Reuters. A spokesman for Hamas’ rival, Fatah, Ahmed Assaf, dismissed the call for it “included nothing new.”

Sure, Hamas and Fatah have been engaged in a terrible factional conflict that continues to undermine Palestinian national unity, and the Palestinian cause altogether. But the timing of Haniyeh’s call and Fatah’s dismissal is particularly sensitive, for Gaza is suffering its worst energy crisis since the Israeli-Egyptian siege of 2007.

For weeks, Gaza has been flooded with sewage as a result of a severe energy crisis caused mainly by Egypt’s systematic destruction of hundreds of tunnels that served as Gaza’s economic lifeline. The cheap diesel fuel which normally helps 1.8 million people survive a very harsh and relentless siege and boycott isn’t being smuggled in from the tunnels anymore. Israel has ensured that there can be no alternative to the Egyptian fuel, thus the Gaza government was forced to shut down the strip’s only power station.

Gaza has a high threshold to suffering, so for a place as poor as Gaza to be hurting, this additional agony means that the humanitarian crisis is at its worst. Even before the most recent crisis, a comprehensive UN report last year said that if no urgent action were taken, Gaza would be ‘unlivable’ by 2020. Since the report was issued in August 2012, the situation has grown much worse. Considering the sea of sewage, one would argue that Gaza is already ‘unlivable’.

But for nearly one year, many had hoped that the dramatic political changes in Egypt could in fact bode well for Palestinians in general and Gaza in particular. Gaza was still bleeding from Israel’s so-called Operation Cast lead – the 22-day war of 2008-9 that killed over 1,400 Palestinians and wounded over 5,500 more. The war had destroyed much of Gaza’s poor infrastructure, and the siege made a complete recovery impossible.

Then there was the war of November 2012 – eight days of fighting that killed 167 Palestinians and six Israelis. As strange as it may sound, the second war was a source of hope for Palestinians. Back then, Egypt had a democratically elected president. Sure, Morsi at times seemed to behave as a lame duck president, but he sided with the Palestinians against Israel, and helped craft a ceasefire agreement that met more of Hamas’ terms than Israel’s. It was the first time that Palestinians felt that the Egyptian government was truly on their side since the Camp David agreement in 1979.

Morsi was under severe pressure from the US and his own military, generously funded by the US, to isolate Hamas. Although he didn’t do so, he was too weak to offer Gaza a sustainable solution to break the Israeli siege. The Rafah border crossing, however, was mostly open, and relations were in constant improvement.

But the ousting by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Morsi on July 3rd changed all of that. The Egyptian military cracked down with vengeance by shutting down the border crossing and destroying 90-95 percent of all tunnels, which served as Gaza’s main salvation. The strip became more vulnerable than ever before. Its haggard infrastructure began falling apart, as Egypt, Ramallah and Israel watched, preparing for various outcomes. Cairo found in Ramallah a willing ally who never ceased colluding with Israel in order to ensure that their Hamas rivals were punished, along with the population of the strip.

The New York Times reported on November 21st that 13 sewerage stations in the Gaza Strip have either overflowed or are close to overflowing, and 3.5 million cubic feet of raw sewage find their way to the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis. “The sanitation department may soon no longer be able to pump drinking water to Gaza homes,” it reported. Farid Ashour, the Director of sanitation at the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities, told the times that the situation is ‘disastrous’. “We haven’t faced a situation as dangerous as this time,” he said.

Gaza’s only power plant has been a top priority target for Israeli warplanes for years. In 2006 it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, to be opened a year later, only to be destroyed again. And although it was barely at full capacity when it operated last, it continued to supply Gaza with 30 percent of its electricity needs of 400 megawatts. 120 megawatts came through Israel, and nearly 30 megawatts came through Egypt. The total fell short from Gaza’s basic needs, but somehow Gaza subsisted. Following the ousting of Morsi and the Egyptian military crackdown, the shortage now stands at 65 percent of the total.

It was precisely then that Haniyeh tried to reach out to Abbas. This time, his call for unity had a particularly urgent humanitarian dimension. Although willing to speak at the Knesset, Abbas had no consolatory words for Haniyeh. Instead, it was time for some cruel politics. The PA decided to end its subsidy on any fuel shipped to Gaza via Israel, increasing the price to $1.62 per liter from 79 cents. According to Ihab Bessisso of the PA, the decision to rescind Gaza’s tax exemption on fuel was taken because sending cheap fuel to Gaza “was unfair to West Bank residents,” according to the Times.

Reports by the Economist, Al Monitor and other media speak of Egyptian efforts to reintroduce Gaza’s former security chief and Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan to speed-up the projected collapse of the Hamas government. Al Monitor reported on November 21rst that Dahlan, a notorious Fatah commander who was defeated by Hamas in 2007, had met with General al-Sisi in Cairo. Evidently, the purpose is to oust Hamas. But the question is how? Some “suggest that a Palestinian brigade mustered in al-Arish could march on Gaza and, with Egyptian support, defeat the broad array of Hamas forces created in the last decade.”

No words can describe the deterioration of the moral standards of the Palestinian political elites. Even during particularly disgraceful episodes of their history, things had never sunk so low. In the meantime, Palestinians in Gaza continue to subsist in an atrocious reality, while pondering future possibilities. And with leaders like Abbas and Dahlan, little good can be expected.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Plot Thickens: Gaza is Flooded with Sewage and Conspiracies

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | November 27, 2013

The latest punishment of Gaza may seem like another familiar plot to humiliate the strip to the satisfaction of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, and the military-controlled Egyptian government. But something far more sinister is brewing.

This time, the collective punishment of Gaza arrives in the form of raw sewage that is flooding many neighborhoods across the impoverished and energy-chocked region of 360 km2 (139 sq mi) and 1.8 million inhabitants. Even before the latest crisis resulting from a severe shortage of electricity and diesel fuel that is usually smuggled through Egypt, Gaza was rendered gradually uninhabitable. A comprehensive UN report last year said that if no urgent action were taken, Gaza would be ‘unlivable’ by 2020. Since the report was issued in August 2012, the situation has grown much worse.

Over the years, especially since the tightening by Israel of the Gaza siege in 2007, the world has become accustomed to two realities: the ongoing multiparty scheme to weaken and defeat Hamas in Gaza, and Gaza’s astonishing ability to withstand the inhumane punishment of an ongoing siege, blockade and war.

Two infamous wars illustrate this idea: The first is Israel’s 22-day war of 2008-9 (killing over 1,400 Palestinians and wounding over 5,500 more) and the second is its more recent war of Nov 2012 – eight days of fighting that killed 167 Palestinians and six Israelis. In the second war, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president Mohammed Morsi was still in power. For the first time in many years, Egypt sided with Palestinians. Because of this and stiff Palestinian resistance in Gaza, the strip miraculously prevailed. Gaza celebrated its victory, and Israel remained somewhat at bay – while of course, mostly failing to honor its side of the Cairo-brokered agreement of easing Gaza’s economic hardship.

In relative terms, things seemed to be looking up for Gaza. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was largely opened, and both Egypt and the Hamas governments were in constant discussions regarding finding a sustainable economic solution to Gaza’s many woes. But the ousting by General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of President Morsi on July 3 changed all of that. The Egyptian military cracked down with vengeance by shutting down the border crossing and destroying 90-95 percent of all tunnels, which served as Gaza’s main lifeline and allowed it to withstand the Israeli siege.

Hopes were shattered quickly, and Gaza’s situation worsened like never before. Naturally, Cairo found in Ramallah a willing ally who never ceased colluding with Israel in order to ensure that their Hamas rivals were punished, along with the population of the strip.

Citing Gaza officials, the New York Times reported on Nov 21 that 13 sewerage stations in the Gaza Strip have either overflowed or are close to overflowing, and 3.5 million cubic feet of raw sewage find their way to the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis. “The sanitation department may soon no longer be able to pump drinking water to Gaza homes,” it reported.

Farid Ashour, the Director of sanitation at the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities, told the Times that the situation is ‘disastrous’. “We haven’t faced a situation as dangerous as this time,” he said. But the situation doesn’t have to be as dangerous or disastrous as it currently is. It has in fact been engineered to be that way.

Gaza’s only power plant has been a top priority target for Israeli warplanes for years. In 2006 it was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, to be opened a year later, only to be destroyed again. And although it was barely at full capacity when it operated last, it continued to supply Gaza with 30 percent of its electricity needs of 400 megawatts. 120 megawatts came through Israel, and nearly 30 megawatts came through Egypt. The total fell short from Gaza’s basic needs, but somehow Gaza subsisted. Following the ousting of Morsi and the Egyptian military crackdown, the shortage now stands at 65 percent of the total.

In an interview with the UN humanitarian news agency, IRIN, James W. Rawley, the humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, depicted a disturbing scene in which the impact of the crisis has reached “all essential services, including hospitals, clinics, sewage and water pumping stations.”

Israelis on the other hand, have been doing just fine since the last military encounter with Hamas. “The past year was a great one,” the Economist quoted the commander of Israel’s division that ‘watches’ Gaza, Brigadier Michael Edelstein. Due to the massive drop in the number of rockets fired from Gaza in retaliation to Israeli attacks and continued siege (50 rockets this year, compared to 1,500 last year), “children in Israel’s border towns can sleep in their beds, not in shelters, and no longer go to school in armored buses,” according to the Economist on Nov 16.

“But Israel’s reciprocal promise to help revive Gaza’s economy has not been kept,” it reported. Israel has done everything it its power to keep Gaza in a crisis mode, from denying the strip solar panels so that they may generate their own electricity to blocking Gaza exports. “In the meantime, Gaza is rotting away.”

Desperate to find immediate remedies, Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh issued new calls to Mahmoud Abbas for a unity government. “Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Haniyeh said in a recent speech, as quoted by Reuters. A Fatah spokesman, Ahmed Assaf, dismissed the call for it “included nothing new.” Meanwhile, the PA decided to end its subsidy on any fuel shipped to Gaza via Israel, increasing the price to $1.62 per liter from 79 cents. According to Ihab Bessisso of the PA, the decision to rescind Gaza’s tax exemption on fuel was taken because sending cheap fuel to Gaza “was unfair to West Bank residents,” according to the Times.

But fairness has little to with it. Reports by the Economist, Al Monitor and other media speak of Egyptian efforts to reintroduce Gaza’s former security chief and Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan to speed-up the anticipated collapse of the Hamas government. Al Monitor reported on Nov 21 that Dahlan, a notorious Fatah commander who was defeated by Hamas in 2007 because of, among other reasons, his close ties with Israeli intelligence, had met with General al-Sisi in Cairo. Evidently, the purpose is to oust Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But the question is how? Some “suggest that a Palestinian brigade mustered in al-Arish could march on Gaza and, with Egyptian support, defeat the broad array of Hamas forces created in the last decade.”

With Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood out of the picture, at least for now, Gaza is more vulnerable than ever. Some of Abbas’s supporters and certainly Dahlan’s may believe that the moment to defeat their brethren in Gaza is now.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt officially rejects proposals for free trade zone with Gaza

MEMO | September 28, 2012

Official Palestinian sources have confirmed that Egypt has formally rejected proposals for the establishment of a free trade zone on its border with the Gaza Strip as a means of solving Gaza’s economic problems. The sources state that during Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh’s visit to Cairo last week, he was informed by the Egyptian authorities that their decision was based on the fact that such a move would isolate the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian territories as an independent entity.

The sources also pointed to Egyptian fears that a Gaza Strip made economically independent through the establishment of a free trade zone with Egypt would be exploited by Israel. It would be forcibly annexed to Egypt as a means of solving the demographic problem in the sector, at Egypt’s expense. Gaza would then be used to accommodate Palestinians returning from abroad, such as Palestinians fleeing the Syrian conflict and those returning from Lebanon.

September 29, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to step down

RT | September 24, 2012

A senior Hamas official has confirmed that the group’s leader, Khaled Mashaal, will not be seeking re-election. Mashaal will, however, remain a member of the Islamist party.

Mashaal, who has led Hamas from various Arab capitals since 1996, told a meeting of senior officials in Cairo last week that he had no desire to remain its chief and that his decision not to run in the election was final, a diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post earlier Sunday.

“When Mashaal said he was not seeking re-election, a message was sent to him from the movement’s leaders, unanimously asking him to change his mind,” senior Hamas official Salal Bardawil told Ma’an news agency.

The diplomatic source told the Jerusalem Post that Mashaal was tired of policy changes from the group’s leadership.

“Mashaal has grown impatient with some of his Gaza officials who recently tried to undermine decisions he took on behalf of the group,” the source said.

The leader angered Hamas’ leadership earlier this year when he agreed that its main rival, the Fatah movement, could lead any future unity government.

Mashaal has made no public comment on his future leadership or on the Cairo meeting.

­The announcement comes after reports earlier this year that Mashaal will not seek re-election.

Khaled Mahaal has been the head of Hamas’s political bureau since 1996, after his predecessor, Mousa Abu Marzook, was arrested in the United States and imprisoned there for two years on suspicion of terrorism.

Mashaal was known as a vocal critic of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, often refusing to follow directives issued by the PA regarding ceasefires with Israel.

In 1997, the Hamas leader became the target of an assassination attempt by the Israeli intelligence service. Mossad agents posing as Canadian tourists injected him with poison on a street in Amman, Jordan. They were later captured by Jordanian authorities. Jordanian King Hussein demanded that Israel hand over the antidote to save Mashaal, who was in a coma. Under growing political pressure and with US President Bill Clinton’s intervention, Israel did so, and its agents were released.

In 1999, Mashaal was expelled from Jordan, with authorities accusing him of illegal activities. He later moved to Damascus, where he stayed until the Syrian civil war intensified, forcing him to move to Qatar.

The date of the election of the next Hamas leader remains secret. Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s leader in the Gaza Strip, and Moussa Abu Marzouk, who headed Hamas in the early 1990s, were the top candidates to replace Mashaal, a source told Reuters.

September 24, 2012 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

5 killed, 46 injured in fourth day of Gaza airstrikes

Ma’an – 12/03/2012

GAZA CITY – Israeli airstrikes killed two Islamic Jihad militants and three civilians on Monday, bringing the death toll since Friday to 23 people, medics and Ma’an’s correspondent said.

An airstrike on Monday afternoon in Beit Lahiya killed Muhammad al-Hasoumi, 65, and his daughter, 30, medical spokesperson in Gaza Abu Salmiya said.

Earlier, hospital officials said a 15-year-old schoolboy was killed in a separate air strike during the day on Monday. Nayif Shaaban Qarmout was killed in Beit Lahiya, north Gaza, Ma’an’s correspondent said.

Witnesses said that the 15-year-old was playing with friends in a play ground near his school when an Israeli missile hit the area.

Five others were injured and taken to Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

Early Monday, two Islamic Jihad militants, Raafat Abu Eid, 24, and Hamadah Salman Abu Mutlaq, 24, were killed in Khan Younis, Ma’an’s correspondent said. Abu Eid was killed when an airstrike targeted a vehicle he was traveling in.

Two other militants sustained injuries and a female passerby was also injured in the attack.

Abu Mutlaq, 24, was killed near a mosque in a village east of Khan Younis after warplanes fired at him. Three others were injured and taken to hospital for treatment.

Earlier, Israeli airstrikes had hit two homes in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring 33 civilians, most of whom were women and children, Abu Salmiya said.

Most sustained moderate injuries, with one critically injured, and were transferred to hospital.

A 17-year-old girl and another man were also injured as Israeli missiles struck a home in Gaza City, Abu Salmiya said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said aircraft had carried out six strikes on Monday. At least 20 rockets have been fired at Israel on Monday, she said.

The army targeted “a weapons storage facility and four rocket launching sites in the northern Gaza Strip, as well as a rocket launching site in the southern Gaza Strip,” a statement said.

Israel’s army denied, however, that there had been any military activity in the northern Gaza Strip at the time of 15-year-old Nayif Shaaban Qarmout’s death.

Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said late Sunday that neighboring Egypt was working to stop the violence and was consulting with militant factions but added that Israel would have to first stop its air strikes.

The latest round of violence flared on Friday when an Israeli airstrike killed two militant leaders in Gaza.

Israel accused them of planning a cross-border attack via Egypt, although an Egyptian official said Sunday that the Sinai is “fully under control.”

“This is an attempt by Israel to give justification for the offensive against Gaza,” he said.

On Sunday, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi strongly condemned Israel’s latest military escalation.

“The Israeli government has acted with impunity for its unilateral violations for far too long. The illegal, cruel siege of the Gaza Strip, along with all other violations of international law must come to an end.”

The PLO official called on the international community to take serious measures to halt Israel’s policy of extrajudicial executions and the continued killing of innocent civilians.

Reuters contributed to this report

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | Comments Off on 5 killed, 46 injured in fourth day of Gaza airstrikes

Haniyeh to Iranian People: You Are Partners in Arab Victories

Al-Manar | February 11, 2012

Palestinian Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh took part Saturday in Iran’s commemoration of its 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran. After thanking the Islamic Republic for supporting the resistance movements, he assured in a speech he delivered before the millions of participants in the celebrations that Hamas “will never recognize Israel”.

“They want us to recognize the Israeli occupation and cease resistance but, as the representative of the Palestinian people and in the name of all the world’s freedom seekers, I am announcing from Azadi Square in Tehran that we will never recognize Israel,” he said.

Haniyeh further emphasized that resistance and jihad are the strategic choice for this nation and the only path for liberating Al-Quds.

“The resistance will continue until all the Palestinian land, including Al-Quds, is liberated and all the refugees return,” he said.

Indicating that the Iranian people are a partner in the Arab victory against the Zionist entity, the Palestinian prime minister rejected the American and Zionist threats to the Islamic Republic, and the Western interference in the Arab and Islamic region, and stressed the importance of Islamic unity.

“The Islamic Revolution in Iran, the resistance, and the Arab spring assure that this is the period of the people, and that no one could stand against the will of the people,” he added.

Moreover, Haniyeh continued addressing the Iranian people saying: “We come to you, o Muslim people, on this day, to embrace the victories from the blessed land of Palestine to the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

February 11, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | 1 Comment