Little progress in Palestinian reconciliation efforts

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh speak during an event in Gaza City. (File photo/AP)
Updated 04 January 2018
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Little progress in Palestinian reconciliation efforts

GAZA CITY: Palestinian reconciliation talks have made little progress, with Hamas insisting that the Palestinian Authority (PA) pay its employees’ salaries in the Gaza Strip, and the PA determined to exercise full governance of the territory.
“President Mahmoud Abbas is determined to achieve Palestinian reconciliation with Hamas, despite the obstacles to the empowerment of the national reconciliation government,” said Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of the central committee of Abbas’ Fatah party.
“When we finish with the empowerment of the government in Gaza, we’ll start with other files. We won’t take another step until we conclude the preceding step.”
Hamas-appointed employees reject the return of those from the PA — who worked in Palestinian ministries before Hamas’ takeover of Gaza in 2007 — until they are paid their salaries in accordance with the reconciliation deal.
The administrative committee formed after the agreement met on Tuesday in Gaza City to discuss the issue of salaries.
“The problem facing reconciliation is the obligations of the PA and its agreements that call for the renunciation of resistance and weapons,” said Saleh Aruri, deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau.
Jamal Muhaisin, a member of Fatah’s central committee, said the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “is an important reason for reconciliation to continue and progress toward success.”
Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said a recent round of talks was obstructed by Fatah, “which refuses to lift the punitive measures imposed by the government … on the Gaza Strip.”
Meanwhile, Israel’s Parliament passed its first reading a bill allowing the execution of Palestinians involved in “terrorist” attacks.
“This decision is contrary to international law and the right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation by all means,” Muhaisin told Arab News.
“In the climate of our popular resistance, any talk about executions today amounts to playing with fire.”


Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

Jordan courts sentence drug traffickers for up to 20 years. (AFP)
Updated 16 min 46 sec ago
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Jordan campaigns to combat drug addiction taboo

  • The number of drug addictions in Jordan increased by 32% since 2017
  • Authorities arrested 20,000 in 2018 for drug abuse

AMMAN: Issam was reduced to tears recounting his life as a drug addict, as Jordanian authorities press an unprecedented campaign in the Muslim-majority country where substance abuse remains taboo.
Slogans such as “No to Drugs” are part of the new drive, launched in the wake of a worrying rise in the number of cases of addiction, possession and smuggling, to raise overall awareness of the issue, according to the anti-narcotics department.
Jordan’s public security directorate has also started a primetime radio show that airs every Tuesday to address the dangers of drug addiction.
“Drugs have made me an outcast. No one respects me or even looks at me,” Issam said during the show, hosted by Major Anas Al-Tantawi of the anti-narcotics department.
“It got to the point where I sold my furniture and my five-year-old daughter’s gold earrings ... I tried to commit suicide twice.”
As the show came to a close, Tantawi said: “They are victims, and we must help them, not discard them.”
Brigadier Anwar Al-Tarawneh, director of the anti-narcotics department, told AFP there has been a 32 percent increase in cases of addiction, possession smuggling in Jordan since 2017.
The evidence is there. In a room in the department, the shelves are crammed with white plastic bags and brown envelopes bulging with seized drugs — including heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. Some were smuggled into the country in hollowed-out books, or shoes or disguised as pastries in a box.
But authorities say hashish is the most commonly used drug in the kingdom, where 20,000 people were arrested in 2018 for drug abuse.
Drug traffickers in Jordan, which has a small population of just over nine million, face sentences of between three and 20 years, depending on the amount and type of drugs seized.
Under a 2016 law, addicts are exempted from serving time if they agree to treatment at a rehabilitation center.
But drug addicts are generally still looked down upon by Jordan’s conservative society.
“Drugs are a (vice) that affects one’s mind, soul, finances and health,” Muslim preacher Raed Sabri, who has a YouTube channel, told AFP.
Recovering addicts however must be “cared for and not discarded so that they can again be contributing members of society,” he insisted.
The kingdom’s anti-drugs campaign targets those aged between 18 and 27, who make up 47 percent of users, according to the anti-narcotics department.
According to Jamal Al-Anani, a psychiatrist and drug addiction specialist, “curiosity, lack of maturity and stress” are the main causes that lead to addiction among teenagers.
Apart from workshops in schools and universities, Tarawneh said authorities were using “modern methods,” including social media, to reach those most vulnerable.
At a 170-bed rehab center in the capital Amman, affiliated with the public security directorate, posters on the walls read “Drugs are a Monster, don’t come near” and “Drugs are a Waste of Money.”
Treatment lasts between one and two months, said Fawaz Al-Masaeed, the center’s director.
“There are three stages: detox, treatment and rehabilitation,” he told AFP, and the center follows up with patients for four months after their discharge.
Omar, 32, said his mother encouraged him to check in to the center after having struggled with drug addiction for 14 years.
“A friend offered me a cigarette when I was depressed, telling me ‘Take this, it’ll make you relax,’” Omar, now a father of four, told AFP.
“When I asked for another, I realized it was hashish ... I was 18 years old.”
After years of substance abuse, “my health deteriorated, I lost 27 kilos, I lost my job, and it strained my relationships with everyone around me. I destroyed my life.”
Now after his rehabilitation, Omar hopes “to start a new life.”