Hamas calls US comments on unity deal ‘blatant interference’

Palestinians in Gaza City wave national and Egyptian flags to celebrate the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah in Egypt. (AP)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Hamas calls US comments on unity deal ‘blatant interference’

JERUSALEM: A top aide to US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that an emerging Palestinian unity government must recognize Israel and disarm Hamas, Washington’s first detailed response to a landmark reconciliation deal signed last week.
A Hamas official immediately rejected the comments as “blatant interference” in Palestinian affairs, but did not say directly whether the group planned to comply with any of the demands.
Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who has repeatedly visited the region to seek ways to restart peace talks, laid out a series of conditions.
“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties — including to disarm terrorists — and commit to peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said in a statement.
The US conditions were roughly in line with principles previously set out by the Quartet for Middle East peace — the US, the EU, Russia and the UN.
“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” Greenblatt said.
The statement was also similar to the Israeli government’s response this week in which it vowed not to negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the group agrees to a list of demands.
The demands included recognizing Israel and renouncing violence, but also returning the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, among other conditions.
Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim condemned Greenblatt’s statement and accused the US of adopting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s positions.
“This is blatant interference in Palestinian affairs because it is the right of our people to choose its government according to their supreme strategic interests,” said Naim.
“This statement comes under pressure from the extreme right-wing Netanyahu government and is in line with the Netanyahu statement from two days ago.”
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas Fatah movement signed a reconciliation deal with Hamas in Cairo a week ago aimed at ending a bitter 10-year split.
The Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization has recognized Israel, but Hamas has not and is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade.
Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.
Hamas has run the Gaza Strip since seizing it in a near civil war in 2007 with Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, following a dispute over elections won by the Islamist movement.
The Palestinian Authority, currently dominated by Fatah, is due to resume control of the Gaza Strip by Dec. 1 under the deal.
Talks are also expected on forming a unity government, with another meeting between the various Palestinian political factions scheduled for Nov. 21.
Previous attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed, and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change will occur on the ground.
A major sticking point is expected to be Hamas’s refusal to disarm its 25,000-strong armed wing.
Diplomats say it would be possible to form a unity government that they could deal with that does not officially include Hamas.
Electricity shortage
A previous attempt at a unity government in 2014 was made up of technocrats deemed acceptable by the international community, though that bid fell apart.
Hamas has faced increasing isolation and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a severe electricity shortage.
Abbas has imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip to pressure Hamas, including cutting electricity payments, which has worsened the power cuts.
Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened.
In return, Cairo has pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah.
Greenblatt said “all parties agree that it is essential that the Palestinian Authority be able to assume full, genuine and unhindered civil and security responsibilities in Gaza and that we work together to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians living there.”
In a briefing to the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Miroslav Jenca, UN assistant secretary general, welcomed the reconciliation deal and spoke of the urgency of addressing the “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.


Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

Updated 55 min 50 sec ago
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Turkey train crash leaves 9 dead, dozens injured

  • The high-speed train usually passes through that station without stopping
  • Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash

ANKARA, TURKEY: A high-speed train hit a railway engine and crashed into a pedestrian overpass Thursday at a station in the Turkish capital of Ankara, killing nine people and injuring dozens, officials said.
The 6:30 a.m. train from Ankara to the central Turkish city of Konya collided head-on with the engine, which was checking the tracks at the capital’s small Marsandiz station, Transport Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan told reporters after inspecting the site. The high-speed train, which the Anadolu Agency said was carrying 206 passengers, usually passes through that station without stopping.
At least two cars derailed, hitting the station’s overpass, which then collapsed onto the train. Three engine drivers and six passengers were killed in the crash, Turhan said. One passenger died after being hospitalized while the others were killed at the scene.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 84 other people had sought medical help after the crash.
Television footage showed emergency services working to rescue passengers from wrangled cars and debris. Hurriyet newspaper said sniffer dogs assisted efforts to find survivors. Turhan said later no one else was believed to be trapped.
It wasn’t immediately clear if a signaling problem caused the crash. Authorities detained three state railway employees over suspected negligence and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a thorough investigation.
Passenger Ayse Ozyurt told the IHA news agency that the accident occurred 12 minutes after the train left the main station and that it had not yet gained its maximum speed.
“The train was not fast at that time yet,” she said. “Suddenly, there was a frightening breakage ... and the train was off the rail.”
Konya, about 260 kilometers (160 miles) south of Ankara, is home to the tomb of the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaladdin Rumi, attracting thousands of pilgrims and tourists. The crash occurred during an annual week of remembrance for Rumi, when many travel to Konya to watch Whirling Dervishes, members of a Sufi sect, perform.
Turkey has had a raft of train crashes this year.
In July, 24 people were killed and more than 70 injured when most of a passenger train derailed in northwestern Turkey after torrential rains caused a section of the tracks to collapse. Last month, 15 people were injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in Turkey’s central province of Sivas.