Fatah-Hamas deal boosts hopes for UK recognition of Palestine: Ambassador

Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian Ambassador to the UK. (Twitter photo)
Updated 13 October 2017
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Fatah-Hamas deal boosts hopes for UK recognition of Palestine: Ambassador

LONDON: Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, on Thursday said the historic deal between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo has boosted the chances of the UK recognizing the state of Palestine.

The two rival factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza including the key Rafah border crossing, a decade after seizing the enclave in a civil war.

The deal was brokered by Egypt and helps bridge the bitter and bloody gulf between the two Palestinian parties — the Western-backed Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas which has been in control of Gaza since 2007. The latter group is viewed as a terrorist organization by several countries including the US.

Speaking to Arab News, Hassassian said he was “optimistic” about the deal leading to the creation of a national unity government.

When asked if would help in Palestine’s bid to be recognized by the UK, Hassassian replied, “I think it will. It’s a good stepping stone in the right direction. It puts the country on the path to one president, one flag and one gun.”

Hassassian revealed that he is due to meet the UK minister of state for the Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, on Oct. 17 and that he would be raising the issue of Thursday’s deal.

“I will raise the reconciliation. We will discuss the arrangement and the future plans both short and long term,” he said.

While Hassassian viewed the deal as putting “Palestine on a better path” he also admitted it would be wrong to pin too many hopes on the Cairo agreement, pointing to the fact that many key issues — such as the control of arms in Gaza, and elections — are still to be agreed upon.

“We hope to conclude a transfer of power and achieve continuity between the West Bank and Gaza and hope it’s a prelude to a final reconciliation,” the ambassador said.

“We will deal with arms at a later stage, (whoever) controls the arms controls Gaza.

“This is just the first stage we are optimistic but cannot be too optimistic because the important question of arms and accepting the PLO’s policy of a two-state solution and recognition of Israel are still be agreed.

“We are in a wait-and-see situation. This is a good step in the right direction.”

Israel greeted the Cairo deal grudgingly, saying that it must abide by previous international agreements and terms set out by Middle East peace mediators — including the recognition of Israel and Hamas giving up its weapons.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters said, “Israel will examine developments in the field and act accordingly.”

Hamas’ decision to transfer administrative powers in Gaza to the Abbas government marks a major reversal and one which Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, said would be welcomed by most countries.

“The devil is always in the detail. We’ll see where this deal leads. The issues are still elections, legitimacy and who controls the Hamas military wing,” he told Arab News.

“I imagine the UK will be pragmatic about the deal and, quietly, be relatively satisfied that there is some political movement and that Hamas is getting involved in the Palestinian political system.

“Gaza is a tiny area with 2 million people and there is a need to see Palestine coming together as a single entity. In that regard I think most countries will welcome news of the deal.

“The US is completely different. The administration is very unpredictable and it will be interesting to see how it reacts.

“For the Palestinians the deal is the only way forward.”


Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

Updated 19 July 2018
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Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

GAZA: An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed a member of the militant Hamas group on Thursday and wounded three others, Hamas sources and medical officials said.
The Israeli military confirmed it had carried out an air strike targeting Hamas militants who were about to launch balloons rigged with flammable material over the border into Israel.
Hamas sources said the casualties were security men working at an observation post near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Fires caused by incendiary helium balloons and kites launched by Palestinians in Gaza have ravaged tracts of farmland in Israel in recent months. Israel has vowed to stop the attacks, even at the risk of wider conflict.
Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions at a high for months. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during protests at the frontier held every week since March.
Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations, dubbed The Great March of Return, to provide cover for militants' cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this.
Cross-border violence surged on Saturday when Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel and the Israeli military carried out dozens of air strikes in the Hamas-ruled enclave.