Tens of thousands mark Arafat death anniversary in Gaza

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Fatah supporters wave the party flag as they take part in a rally in Gaza City on Saturday, November 11, 2017, marking the death anniversary of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. (FP / MAHMUD HAMS)
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Palestinians wave yellow Fatah movement flags during a rally in Gaza City on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, to mark the 13th anniversary of the death of Fatah founder and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Updated 11 November 2017
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Tens of thousands mark Arafat death anniversary in Gaza

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of Gaza Palestinians marked the 13th anniversary of the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s death on Saturday for the first time since the Islamic Hamas group seized the territory a decade ago.
In the wake of a brewing reconciliation between Hamas and the Fatah party Arafat founded, Fatah supporters flocked to Al-Saraya Square in Gaza City from all over the coastal enclave to commemorate the event, waving their yellow flag, raising posters of Arafat and donning his trademark kaffiyeh headgear.
Arafat died in 2004 at a hospital in France after two years of an Israeli siege on his West Bank headquarters. Palestinians accuse Israel of poisoning him but offer no proof, adding to the mystery surrounding the death.
After winning legislative elections in 2006, Hamas forces violently overthrew Fatah in Gaza the following year. The commemoration comes amid improving relationships between Fatah and Hamas, a month after the two rivals signed a deal in Egypt paving the way to end the Palestinian internal divide.
Under the deal, Hamas would cede control of Gaza to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority after a decade of unilateral rule by the Islamic movement.
“The accurate implementation of the deal and the full empowering of the government will surely lead to easing the suffering and reviving hope of a better future for all of us,” President Mahmoud Abbas, Arafat’s successor, told the crowd in a prerecorded speech from his West Bank headquarters.
Earlier this month, Hamas transferred control at Gaza’s crossing points with Israel and Egypt to the Fatah-led Palestinians Authority, implementing the first part of the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation. Talks will continue in Cairo in ten days to discuss broader issues.
A sticking point has been the vast arsenal of rockets, attack tunnels and explosives that Hamas and smaller groups in Gaza possess. In his speech, Abbas reiterated his firm stance that he wants “one authority, one law and one legitimate weapon” in Gaza. Hamas vows not to disarm.
In November 2007, months after Hamas took over Gaza following a week of bloody fighting, Fatah organized a rally to mark Arafat’s death, but it ended with clashes between Fatah supporters and armed Hamas forces, in which seven civilians were killed.
Saturday’s event ended peacefully after two hours of speeches and people swaying to patriotic songs blaring from huge loudspeakers.
Not all participants belonged to Fatah. Some of them came because they missed the sort of unity that prevailed during Arafat’s reign. “Arafat is for all the Palestinians,” said Ashraf Hamouda, 34.


North Korea puts reunion of war separated families in doubt

A woman and a young child walk down a street together in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 7, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 40 min 14 sec ago
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North Korea puts reunion of war separated families in doubt

  • South Korea's current liberal President Moon Jae-in wants to expand ties with North Korea, but repatriating any of the women would be a delicate matter
  • There has been mounting speculation that some of the 12 North Korean women might have been truly duped into coming to South Korea

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea said that an August reunion of Korean families separated by war may not happen if South Korea doesn’t immediately return some of its citizens who arrived in the South in recent years.
The 2016 arrival of a group of 12 female employees from a North Korean-run restaurant in China has been a source of contention between the rival Koreas. North Korea has accused South Korea of kidnapping them, while South Korea says they decided to resettle on their own will.
North Korea has often used the women as a reason to rebuff South Korea’s repeated request to allow elderly citizens split during the 1950-53 Korean War to reunite with each other briefly. But Friday’s statement is the North’s first attempt to link the fate of the women to the August reunion and comes amid worries that a global diplomacy to push the North to give up its nuclear weapons is making little headway after a detente of the past several months.
The North’s state-run Uriminzokkiri website said that the reunion and overall inter-Korean ties will face “obstacles” if Seoul doesn’t send back the women.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it has no comment on the Uriminzokkiri dispatch.
There has been mounting speculation that some of the 12 North Korean women might have been truly duped into coming to South Korea.
After meeting some of the women earlier this month, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ independent investigator on human rights in North Korea, told reporters in Seoul that they told him they did not know they were heading to South Korea when they departed China.
“Some of them, they were taken to the Republic of Korea without knowing that they were coming here,” Quintana said, referring to South Korea by its formal name. “If they were taken against their will, that may (be) considered a crime. It is the duty and responsibility of the government of the Republic of Korea to investigate.”
South Korean media had earlier carried a similar report, citing interviews with some of the women and their North Korean male manager who came to South Korea with them.
The women’s arrival happened when South Korea was governed by a conservative government, which took a tough stance on the North’s nuclear program. South Korea’s current liberal President Moon Jae-in wants to expand ties with North Korea, but repatriating any of the women would be a delicate matter, with many experts saying relatives of those who decide to stay in the South will certainly face reprisals by the North Korean government.