Fatah divides deepen as Palestinians honor Arafat

Fatah supporters take part in a rally marking the death anniversary of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in Gaza City on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017

Fatah divides deepen as Palestinians honor Arafat

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza marked the 13th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat on Saturday. Arafat was the founder of Fatah, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for 35 years, and president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) for 10 years.
Arafat, who died aged 75 on Nov. 11, 2004, at a hospital near Paris from unknown causes, remains a seminal figure for Palestinians. He spent much of his life in his Ramallah headquarters, under siege by Israel’s military.
Many Palestinians have accused Israel of poisoning Arafat, and a team of Swiss forensic experts found traces of the highly toxic radioactive material polonium on his body.
Last month’s reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas saw the latter agree to hand over control of Gaza — which has been under Hamas rule since July 2007 — to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) government, paving the way for Saturday’s rally to take place in Gaza City.
Hamas handed over control of Gaza’s borders to Fatah on Nov. 1, in the first key test of the agreement. But there have been signs of tensions in recent days over who will ultimately exercise control of security in the Gaza Strip.
Thousands of Gazans began gathering late Friday night in preparation for the main event, scheduled for midday Saturday, with participants from all Palestinian factions. The rally drew people from all over the coastal enclave, waving flags, raising posters of Arafat and donning his landmark kaffiyeh.
But on Thursday, the former Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan — who lives in exile in the UAE — also organized a rally in honor of Arafat in Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Dahlan was once one of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ top officials in Gaza but the two fell out and Dahlan was later expelled from Fatah.
Dahlan and Gaza’s prime minister, senior Hamas figure Yahya Sinwar, have met several times in Cairo over the last year, under the auspices of the Egyptian government. The meetings have been fruitful for both parties: For Hamas, Dahlan helped improve its relationship with Egypt, while for the exiled Dahlan — who still retains supporters in Fatah — improved relations with Hamas paved the way for those supporters to work more freely in Gaza, where Hamas had previously prevented Fatah supporters from promoting the party or individual members.
Mokhaimer Abu Sada, a political science professor at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, told Arab News that the two rallies illustrate how deep the divisions in Fatah are now.
“It used to be a clear dispute between Hamas and Fatah,” he said. “But now people talk about Fatah versus Fatah.”
He claimed that Hamas would use those divisions to press for concessions from Abbas as they negotiate the details of the reconciliation deal. However, he added that he thought it unlikely Fatah’s divisions would really affect the deal, “despite how slowly the PA has moved in removing the sanctions against Hamas,” explaining that the deal is “more related to the stability of regional approval.”
In a recorded speech addressing Saturday’s rally in Gaza City, Abbas was bullish about efforts to finalize the reconciliation and reunite the West Bank and Gaza Strip and said that he “hoped to meet (Gazans) soon.”
“We are proceeding with Palestinian reconciliation,” he said. “We are going to continue until we achieve one authority, one law and one legal weapon. I say to our people in Gaza that the timely implementation of the agreement (to fully empower) the government will definitely ease your hardships and bring hope of a better future for all of us.
“I want to tell all our friends around the world that in spite of the obstacles created by the Israeli occupation and its apartheid-based colonial settlement activities, we are still holding on to the culture of peace and fighting terrorism in our region and in the world.”
He also reiterated the need for governments who support the two-state solution to officially recognize Palestine now.
“We renew our call to the countries that believe in the two-state solution to recognize the two states and not only one state. This is because the two-state solution is now in real danger,” he said.
“We will not accept the policy of apartheid that we live under (because of) the Israeli occupation of our country, and we will demand equal rights for the people of historic Palestine if the two-state solution is not implemented.”

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

Updated 19 June 2019

‘Hypocrite’ Rouhani rejects war as Iran’s drones target Saudi civilians

  • Tehran regime has fanned sectarian flames in region for four decades, analyst tells Arab News
  • IRGC chief says Iranian missiles capable of hitting "carriers in the sea" with great precision

JEDDAH: Iran “will not wage war against any nation,” President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday — hours after two drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen targeted civilians in southern Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani's statement sounded a note of restraint after the United States announced more troop deployments to the Middle East.

“Iran will not wage war against any nation,” he said in a speech broadcast live on state TV. “Despite all of the Americans’ efforts in the region and their desire to cut off our ties with all of the world and their desire to keep Iran secluded, they have been unsuccessful.”

But he was also contradicted by the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Hossein Salami, who said Iran’s ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.

“These missiles can hit, with great precision, carriers in the sea ... they are domestically produced and are difficult to intercept and hit with other missiles,” Salami said.

He said Iran's ballistic missile technology had changed the balance of power in the Middle East.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Before both men spoke, Saudi air defenses intercepted and shot down two Houthi drones packed with explosives. One targeted a civilian area in the southern city of Abha, and the second was shot down in Yemeni air space. There were no casualties, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen said.

Rouhani’s offer to avoid war was “the height of hypocrisy,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“Rouhani is the biggest hypocrite in the world,” he said. “On the one hand, he is saying that Iran does not seek a conflict with anybody, and on the other it is launching attacks through its militias on oil tankers, oil pipelines, civilian airports and holy cities.

“This is nothing but the height of hypocrisy. Who does he think he is fooling with those words? Why are they enriching uranium? Why are they seeking nuclear bombs? What have they done over the past four decades? They have only caused trouble. They have only fanned sectarian flames in the region.”

The Saudi Cabinet, meeting in Jeddah, also condemned the Houthi attacks on Saudi civilians, and last week’s terrorist attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely blamed on Iran. 


Confrontation fears

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and its long-time foe the United States have mounted since Thursday when two oil tankers were attacked near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane, which Washington blamed on Tehran.

Iran denied involvement in the attacks and said on Monday it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under a 2015 nuclear deal, which had sought to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Exceeding the uranium cap at the heart of the accord would prompt a diplomatic crisis, forcing the other signatories, which include China, Russia and European powers, to confront Iran.

The standoff drew a call for caution from China. Its top diplomat warned that the world should not open a “Pandora’s Box” in the Middle East, as he denounced US pressure on Iran and called on it not to drop out of the landmark nuclear deal.

Russia urged restraint on all sides.

On Monday, Iranian officials made several assertive comments about security, including the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, who said Tehran was responsible for security in the Gulf and urged US forces to leave the region.

Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were defensive purposes, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

The new US deployment is in addition to a 1,500-troop increase announced last month in response to tanker attacks in May. Washington previously tightened sanctions, ordering all countries and companies to halt imports of Iranian oil or be banished from the global financial system.

'Nuclear blackmail'

Iran’s announcement on Monday that it would soon breach limits on how much enriched uranium it can stockpile under the deal was denounced by a White House National Security Council spokesman as “nuclear blackmail.”

The move further undermines the nuclear pact, but Rouhani said on Monday the collapse of the deal would not be in the interests of the region or the world.

The nuclear deal seeks to head off any pathway to an Iranian nuclear bomb in return for the removal of most international sanctions.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese State Councilor Wang Yi said the United States should not use “extreme pressure” to resolve issues with Iran.

Wang told reporters China, a close energy partner of Iran, was “of course, very concerned” about the situation in the Gulf and with Iran, and called on all sides to ease tension.

“We call on all sides to remain rational and exercise restraint, and not take any escalatory actions that irritate regional tensions, and not open a Pandora’s box,” Wang said.

“In particular, the US side should alter its extreme pressure methods,” Wang said. “Any unilateral behavior has no basis in international law. Not only will it not resolve the problem, it will only create an even greater crisis.”

Wang also said the Iran nuclear deal was the only feasible way to resolve its nuclear issue, and urged Iran to be prudent.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU would only react to any breach if the International Atomic Energy Agency formally identified one.

The Trump administration says the deal, negotiated by Democratic President Barack Obama, was flawed as it is not permanent, does not address Iran’s missile program and does not punish it for waging proxy wars in other Middle East countries.