Attack on Al-Hamdallah aimed at derailing reconciliation talks

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-R), escorted by his bodyguards, is greeted by police forces of the Islamist Hamas movement (L) upon his arrival in Gaza City, in this March 13, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2018

Attack on Al-Hamdallah aimed at derailing reconciliation talks

AMMAN: The failed assassination attempt against the Palestinian prime minister on Tuesday had one target — internal Palestinian reconciliation.
The small explosive and the shots fired at the convoy, that also included the head of the Palestinian intelligence, Majed Farraj, has sent political shock waves throughout the Palestinian political map. It was a crude reminder of an attempt against President Abbas in 2007. At the time the president’s security officers uncovered four large explosive devices that were intended to kill Abbas.
Omar Kullab, a political analyst in Jordan of Gazan origin, told Arab News that the best response to the attempt on the prime minister's life, is to move ahead with reconciliation talks.
“We don’t know who is behind it. It might be the Israelis or ISIS (Daesh), but I doubt it is Hamas. Nevertheless, I think that the attitude of Prime Minister (Rami) Hamdallah is the correct one, namely to move even faster ahead with the reconciliation efforts.”
But the attack puts Hamas under the spotlight at a time when the territory they rule is suffering one of the worst economic and humanitarian periods since the Israeli blockade began.
Nahed Abo Tueima, a lecturer on gender issues at Bir Zeit University, near Ramallah, believes that Hamas, as the party in charge of security in Gaza, is responsbile for what happened under its watch.
“Hamas claims that it has a strong security force in Gaza and therefore it is fully responsible for what happens.” Tueima, who was born in Gaza, told Arab News. “It needs to allow for joint investigation in order to uncover who exactly is behind what happened.”
Annes Sweidan, head of the external department in the Palestine Liberation Organization, also feels Hamas has to be held responsible. “They can’t shake off their responsibility even if they didn’t do it. The reconciliation will certainly be negatively affected by the attack,” Sweidan told Arab News.
But regardless of the motive or who is behind the attack, there is no doubt that the situation in Gaza is very volatile and needs close attention. Kullab, the Jordanian-Palestinian analyst, believes that the timing of the attack is not coincidental. “It happened on the same day that a meeting is due to take place in the White House to talk about the situation in Gaza.
The timing of the attack is not innocent, but is meant to send some kind of message to Ramallah and Washington,’ Kullab told Arab News.
Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the Palestinian National Council, told Arab News that Palestinian leaders should not deviate from their goal. “The reconciliation is of utmost importance for the national interest of the Palestinian people and it must be pursued no matter what happened.”
But despite all the brave talk, the attack on the convoy of Palestinian leaders from Ramallah, deep in the Gaza Strip, will leave its scars for a long time to come.
The attack is sure to delay the visit by President Abbas to Gaza further. The president had promised to come once the reconciliation is totally in effect and the security situation is stable.

US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

Updated 18 December 2018

US accepts Assad staying in Syria — but will not give aid

  • James Jeffrey said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war
  • Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay

WASHINGTON: The US said Monday it was no longer seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad but renewed warnings it would not fund reconstruction unless the regime is “fundamentally different.”

James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, said that Assad needed to compromise as he had not yet won the brutal seven-year civil war, estimating that some 100,000 armed opposition fighters remained in Syria.

“We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change —  we’re not trying to get rid of Assad,” Jeffrey said at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

Estimating that Syria would need $300-400 billion to rebuild, Jeffrey warned that Western powers and international financial institutions would not commit funds without a change of course.

“There is a strong readiness on the part of Western nations not to ante up money for that disaster unless we have some kind of idea that the government is ready to compromise and thus not create yet another horror in the years ahead,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama had called for Assad to go, although he doubted the wisdom of a robust US intervention in the complex Syrian war. and kept a narrow military goal of defeating the Daesh extremist group.

President Donald Trump’s administration has acknowledged, if rarely so explicitly, that Assad is likely to stay.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in October that the US would not provide “one single dollar” for Syria’s reconstruction if Iran stays.

Jeffrey also called for the ouster of Iranian forces, whose presence is strongly opposed by neighboring Israel, although he said the US accepted that Tehran would maintain some diplomatic role in the country.

Jeffrey also said that the US wanted a Syria that does not wage chemical weapons attacks or torture its own citizens.

He acknowledged, however, that the US may not find an ally anytime soon in Syria, saying: “It doesn’t have to be a regime that we Americans would embrace as, say, qualifying to join the European Union if the European Union would take Middle Eastern countries.”