Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week for reconciliation efforts

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 (AP)
Updated 25 September 2017
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Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week for reconciliation efforts

JERUSALEM: Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah will travel to Gaza on October 2 as part of a fresh push to end a decade-long split between Fatah and Hamas, which runs the enclave, his government said Monday.
The visit follows concessions by Islamist group Hamas after discussions with Egypt, which has urged it to take steps toward reconciliation with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank.
Fatah and Hamas have been divided for a decade, with separate administrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Prime minister Rami Hamdallah has decided after consulting with president Mahmud Abbas that the government will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza next week,” government spokesman Yusuf Al Mahmoud said in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
“Hamdallah and members of the government will arrive in Gaza next Monday to start taking over government responsibilities after Hamas announced its agreement to dissolve the administrative committee and enable the government to assume its full responsibilities.”
Hamdallah, who is not believed to have traveled to the Gaza Strip since 2015, also wrote about the visit on his Facebook page.
“I am heading to the beloved Gaza Strip next Monday with the government and all bodies, authorities and security services,” he wrote.
“We hope all parties and all Palestinians will focus on the national interest to enable the government to continue carrying out all of its functions in a way which serves the Palestinian citizens first.”
Hamas said a week ago that it had agreed to steps toward resolving the split with Abbas’s Fatah, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government — known as the administrative committee — and was ready to hold elections.
The statement came after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials and with the Gaza Strip facing a mounting humanitarian crisis.
It remains unclear whether the steps will result in further concrete action toward ending the deep division with Fatah.
Hamas for now continues to run a de facto separate administration in the Gaza Strip and is in charge of security forces there.
Previous attempts to resolve the split have repeatedly failed. The last attempt at a unity government fell apart in 2015, with the two sides exchanging blame.
Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, having seized it in a near civil war from Fatah following a dispute over parliamentary elections won by the Islamist movement the previous year.
It formed the administrative committee in March, and since then Abbas has sought to put further pressure on the Islamist movement, reducing electricity payments for the Gaza Strip and cutting salaries for public employees.
The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006.
Abbas, whose term was meant to end in 2009, has remained in office with no election held.
The Gaza Strip has meanwhile faced deteriorating humanitarian conditions, including a severe electricity crisis and a lack of clean water.
The coastal enclave of some two million people also has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates and has seen three wars with Israel since 2008.
It has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.
Facing those conditions, Hamas has turned to Egypt for assistance, particularly for fuel to produce power and with hopes of opening the border — and has faced pressure to take steps toward Palestinian reconciliation in return.


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 40 min 49 sec ago
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.