Palestinian rage over holy city fuels fears of bigger conflict

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Palestinians take part in a protest against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in Gaza City on December 7. (AFP)
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Above, Palestinian women shout slogans during a protest in Gaza City on December 6. (AFP)
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A protester waves a Palestinian flag near the words “Free Palestine” spray-painted onto a wall of the US consulate during a demonstration in Istanbul on December 6. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Palestinian rage over holy city fuels fears of bigger conflict

LONDON: Palestinians on Wednesday warned that a bloody third “intifada” could follow a decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, branded Trump’s policy shift as a “breach of international conventions” which both trampled on the rights of Palestinians and put Israel at heightened risk of attack.
He told Arab News: “People are going to go into the streets, not only in Palestine but in all capitals across the Arab world. The situation is very risky.”
By changing America’s stance toward Jerusalem, Trump “is opening a can of worms that cannot be controlled.”
Trump’s decision sparked anger across the Middle East and beyond as global leaders warned about the destabilizing repercussions across borders.
Since fielding a phone call from Donald Trump on Tuesday night, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been in close contact with regional allies, the UN and the EU, demanding they condemn the move.
Hassassian said that the US policy shift discredited America’s role as a peace broker between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We cannot look at the US as a mediator anymore,” he told Arab News, adding that the new policy showed an undeniable bias toward the Jewish state. Moreover, Hassassian cautioned that altering the status of Jerusalem would spark ire far beyond the borders of Palestine.
“The issue of Jerusalem will carry the weight of a religious conflict, now,” Hassassian said. “1.5 billion Muslims are not going to accept the monopoly of Judaism over the (holy city).”
The American president he said, “is putting the region into real risk.”
The international community considers East Jerusalem to be Palestinian territory illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.
Trump’s statement, Hassassian said, constituted a break with UN resolutions and international norms.
Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, agreed. “The decision that Donald Trump has made is a flagrant violation of international law and disregards legitimate rights and claims of the Palestinian people,” he told Arab News.
He said that the status of Jerusalem was an unequivocal red line for Palestinians. “There is no possible peaceful resolution to the conflict that does not acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.”
Condemnation of Trump’s new policy was echoed by Omar El-Hamdoon president of the Muslim Association of Britain, who said it was “not just a step in the wrong direction but it’s almost like pouring oil onto the fire.”
Hassassian said the Palestinian leadership was appealing to the international community to stand against Trump’s intransigence.
Jamal agreed: “It is time for the international community to take robust action if it wishes to support a just resolution,” he said. “Donald Trump’s decision needs to be … condemned by all governments, including the UK government that say they support international law.”


Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

Updated 16 August 2018
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Egypt finalizing details of long-term Hamas-Israel truce

  • Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha
  • “We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides..." the source said

CAIRO: Egypt is finalizing details of a long-term truce deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, an Egyptian security source said on Thursday, amid easing tensions on the border of the enclave where some two million Palestinians live.
Cairo has brokered an interim truce that has allowed commercial goods into Gaza ahead of the Muslim Eid Al-Adha feast which starts next week.
“We are putting the final touches to the terms of the truce that will be signed by all sides, and we expect to announce the terms next week if Fatah helps us to do so,” the source said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s mainstream party which dominates the occupied West Bank.
Officials from Fatah have not joined those of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, and other Palestinian factions for the talks in Cairo on the long-term truce.
But Fatah’s backing is crucial for any deal as the party retains a large presence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and has overall control in areas under Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
“The period of calm will be for one year, during which contacts will be held to extend it for another four years,” the source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A long-term truce could pave the way for talks on other issues, including the easing of a blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and allowing a possible swap of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers.
The source said Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was expected to meet Abbas in Ramallah after similar talks in Israel, and a deal could be announced by next week. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Kamel had met with Netanyahu in Israel this week, but gave no details.
A Palestinian source in Ramallah said Kamel has left without seeing Abbas, who had been preoccupied with a Palestinian leadership conference. But the source said Abbas had informed Egypt that Fatah representatives would join the Cairo talks later this week or next week.
Apart from the opening of its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into Gaza, Israel also expanded the enclave’s fishing zone, in waters under Israeli naval blockade, from three to nine nautical miles off the southern coast and to six nautical miles in the north, according to the head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.
The Egyptian security source said the extended truce would also include opening a sea lane from Gaza to Cyprus under Israeli supervision.
A Palestinian official in Gaza familiar with the talks said Palestinian factions were demanding a “total lifting of the blockade on Gaza, opening all crossings with Israel and Egypt and a water corridor.”
Israel says its blockade is a self-defense measure against Hamas, a group that has called for its destruction.
Israel’s security cabinet, a forum of senior ministers headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed the Gaza situation on Wednesday and an Israeli “diplomatic official” said Hamas would have to prove its commitment to the truce.
As well as wanting calm along the border, Israel has said Hamas must return the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war and release two civilians whose fate is unknown. It says they are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
“That’s the only way,” Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said on Thursday when asked if a broad arrangement depended on the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
“Nothing will be done to enable (Gaza’s) significant rehabilitation and the improvement of infrastructure and ports and other such fantasies, unless they release the bodies and the two Israeli captives,” he told Israel radio.
The Egyptian security source said the long-term truce would also envisage Israel freeing hundreds of detained Palestinians in a prisoner swap.
However, the Palestinian official denied any talks were taking place on a swap, saying Hamas opposed mixing the issues.
Egypt has brokered a Palestinian reconciliation agreement that provides for Hamas to cede control of Gaza to Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. A dispute over power-sharing has hindered implementation of the deal, but the Egyptian source said Cairo was still seeking progress on the issue.