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.


Assad pledges to regain control of northern Syria by force if needed

Updated 24 June 2018
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Assad pledges to regain control of northern Syria by force if needed

  • Damascus said it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij
  • “We will fight with them (rebels) and return control by force," said Assad

MOSCOW: The Syrian army will regain control of the country’s north by force if rebels there refuse to surrender, President Bashar Assad said in an interview with Russian television channel NTV on Sunday.
Assad’s comments come after Damascus said it rejected the presence of Turkish and US forces around the northern town of Manbij, a day after soldiers of the two countries began patrolling the area.
“We have chosen two paths: the first and most important one is reconciliation... The second path is to attack terrorists if they don’t surrender and refuse to make peace,” Assad said in the interview.
“We will fight with them (rebels) and return control by force. It is certainly not the best option for us, but it’s the only way to get control of the country,” said Assad, responding to a question about the northern part of Syria where rebel groups backed by Turkey hold some territory.
Assad has previously promised to also squeeze rebels from the country’s south, and the Syrian army this week dropped barrel bombs on opposition areas of the country’s southwest on Friday for the first time in a year.
Assad said in the same interview on Sunday that Syria would not accept any Western money to help rebuild the country, which is shattered after seven years of war.
“We have enough strength to rebuild the country. If we don’t have money — we will borrow from our friends, from Syrians living abroad,” Assad said.