Hamas widens probe into Gaza bomb attack against PM

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah addresses the media upon his arrival in the West Bank town of Ramallah following his return from the Gaza Strip where an explosion targeted his convoy. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Hamas widens probe into Gaza bomb attack against PM

GAZA CITY: Gaza’s ruling movement Hamas widened an investigation Wednesday into a bomb explosion that targeted Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah as he made a rare visit to the strip a day earlier.
The interior ministry in Gaza said it had launched a “high-level investigative committee” into the bomb attack, which was a further blow to faltering reconciliation talks between Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party.
It said a number of suspects were being questioned after the roadside bomb targeted Hamdallah’s convoy shortly after he entered Gaza, leaving him uninjured but lightly wounding six guards.
It did not provide further details on the investigation Wednesday or release the identity of the suspects.
“The door is open to anyone who wants to participate in the investigation,” Tawfeeq Abu Naim, the head of the Hamas security services in Gaza, said in a statement.
Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s internationally recognized government more than a decade ago but agreed in October to hand power back.
Yet the deal has all but collapsed, with the two sides accusing each other of responsibility, and Tuesday’s explosion further exacerbated tensions.
After the attack, Abbas said he held Hamas responsible as the de facto power in the strip, though stopping short of directly accusing the group of carrying out the bombing.
Hamas shot back, saying such rapid accusations were unhelpful before in turn pointing the finger of blame at Israel.
Other potential suspects include smaller, more radical extremist groups that are opposed to Hamas but operate in Gaza, or a Hamas splinter group.
There has been no claim of responsibility.
Hamdallah said the attack would not end his government’s commitment to continue with reconciliation and again called on Hamas to hand over all power in Gaza.
“We are talking about internal security — the police and the civil defense,” he said. “Without security there won’t be a government.”
Jamal Al-Fadi, a political scientist in Gaza, said the aim of the attack was to “sabotage any chance for reconciliation.”
He said potential suspects are those that have an interest in maintaining the split.
“It could be a group that split from Hamas for ideological reasons, such as a militant Salafi group,” he said.
In October, Abu Naim, the Hamas security chief who issued Wednesday’s statement, was wounded by a car bomb after leaving a mosque.
Hamas officials privately admit the assassination attempt was by Salafists, rather than Israel, and like Tuesday’s attack the explosion was relatively small.
The UN envoy to the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned Tuesday’s attack and called on Hamas to hand over control in Gaza to the recognized government.
Mladenov has warned of the consequences of the desperate humanitarian suffering in the strip, saying in January that Gaza “risks exploding in our face again.”
Hamas has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 while the Jewish state maintains a crippling blockade of Gaza.
Hamdallah traveled to Rome Wednesday for a meeting of international donors aimed at raising funds for the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees, which is facing desperate shortages after the US froze tens of millions of dollars in aid.
The White House held a conference on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza on Tuesday, but no Palestinian officials attended.
They have refused to meet with President Donald Trump’s administration since he broke with longstanding US policy in December by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 21 June 2018
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.