Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

Palestinian militants of Al-Nasser Salah Al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, take part in a training exercise in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

GAZA CITY: Hamas’ dismantling of its governing body in the Gaza Strip may pave the way for reconciliation with its rival Fatah, but there are tough issues ahead.
Rami Nuredeen, 44, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) employee who was ordered to stay home since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, said he is “optimistic” that he will return to work following a reconciliation deal.
“I want to be like any public personnel in the world, going to work in the morning and receiving a full salary at the end of the month,” said Nuredeen, who used to be a police officer.
The issue of public employees appointed before and after 2007 was the main obstacle in previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday reiterated his party’s readiness for Palestinian reconciliation.
On Sunday, the hard-line group said it was willing to accept a series of demands by Fatah and backed plans for new elections.
Chief among the Egyptian-brokered concessions was dissolving the so-called administration committee, seen as a rival government to the PA administration in the West Bank.
“The administrative committee in Gaza is no longer functioning. We’re ready now to receive the national consensus government to enter Gaza,” Haniyeh told a news conference at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
“We’re ready to return in a few days to Cairo to resume dialogue,” he said, adding that he is “committed to the success” of reconciliation.
On Monday, he spoke with PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in nearly a year, and Fatah officials said they expect Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to visit Gaza in the coming days.
Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met in New York on Monday on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.
“The test will be the full transfer of management of Gaza’s affairs to the Palestinian government, and the cancelation of all the steps Hamas has taken, including collecting taxes, controlling the border crossings and more,” said Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee.
The PA said its Cabinet will meet in a few days to draft a plan to manage Gaza’s affairs. The question is how much Hamas will allow it to do so.
The parties have avoided addressing the remaining issues of contention, such as the future of Hamas’ military wing.
Hamas, and especially its new Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, have begun talking about emulating Lebanon’s system, in which Hezbollah maintains a powerful military wing while serving in the Cabinet. The PA, in contrast, wants Hamas to disarm at some point.
The US peace envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, said the international community must work to ensure the handover of Gaza to the PA.
He accused Hamas of abusing Gazans, adding: “The time has come to stop watching the situation in Gaza and start changing it.”
Mustafa Ibrahim, a Palestinian columnist in Gaza, said: “The PA announcement was vague. It said it’s ready to take control of Gaza, but it didn’t say when and how.”
He added: “We’ll see a clear vision after Abbas’ meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York.”


Ex-child soldier presents damning testimony of Houthi recruitment in Yemen

Updated 15 min 36 sec ago
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Ex-child soldier presents damning testimony of Houthi recruitment in Yemen

  • Children who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting
  • The study shows 80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn much-needed money

JEDDAH: Children recruited as fighters by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen are beaten into submission and face psychological abuse, as well as the risk of death, injury and disability, a former child soldier said on Friday.
Those who try to flee are recaptured and forced to continue fighting, he told the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations (YCMHRV).
The child’s testimony is part of a documentary about the recruitment of children in Yemen, which was broadcast during the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Legal expert Lisa Al-Badawi highlighted efforts to rehabilitate former child soldiers and children affected by the war in Yemen.
She said children make up a third of fighters in the Houthi militias, according to a field study by the Wethaq Foundation for Civil Orientation.
The study showed that 80 percent of child soldiers in Yemen begin fighting to earn much-needed money amid deteriorating economic conditions, while just 10 percent join Houthi ranks for “ideological reasons.”
Al-Badawi revealed numerous human rights violations faced by the recruits, including the risk of death and injury, deprivation of education, and exposure to sexual and psychological abuse.
She also discussed the methods used to treat and rehabilitate these children, emphasizing the importance of promoting awareness among parents.
She presented statistics on the areas covered by the rehabilitation process, which is carried out with support from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said he is not surprised by the Houthis’ large-scale recruitment of children.
“By devious design, they push children onto the frontlines so that when the children become victims, the Houthis can cry foul and blame the legitimate Yemeni government for killing children,” he told Arab News.
“These are terrorist militias, and like all terrorists, they have no qualms about playing with the lives of children.”
It is easy for the militias to brainwash children, Al-Shehri said. “Grown people are difficult to convince, but children become easy prey,” he added.
“In most cases, the Houthis don’t even tell children that they’re going to the frontlines. They lure them by saying they’ll be helping their men.”
Now that the Houthis have been cornered in Hodeidah, they will use children and the civilian population as human shields, Al-Shehri said, asking: “What can we expect from such terrorists?”
Meanwhile, the Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of Hodeidah port to the UN, according to sources quoted by Reuters. The port is a principal entry point for relief supplies for Yemen.
This week, UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital Sanaa and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to try to negotiate a solution.
The source, quoted by Reuters, said the Houthis indicated that they would accept overall UN management and inspections of the port.
A Western diplomat said the UN would oversee income from the port and make sure it gets to Yemen’s central bank. The understanding is that Yemeni state employees will work alongside the UN.
Griffiths on Thursday said he was “encouraged by the constructive engagement” of the Houthis, and will be holding meetings with Yemen’s internationally backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Speaking earlier at the UN, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi reiterated the Saudi-led coalition’s demand that the Houthis quit the city of Hodeidah entirely.
“What we are offering is for the Houthis to hand over their weapons to the government of Yemen and to leave, to leave peacefully, and to provide information about the locations of mines and improvised explosive devices,” he said.