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.


Australia recognizes west Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Updated 15 December 2018
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Australia recognizes west Jerusalem as capital of Israel

  • The prime minister is also committed to recognizing a future state of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital when the city’s status is determined in a peace deal
  • The embassy will be moved to west Jerusalem, and defense and trade offices will also be established

SYDNEY: Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Saturday, but a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.
Morrison is also committed to recognizing a future state of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital when the city’s status is determined in a peace deal.
“Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem — being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government — is the capital of Israel,” Morrison said in a speech in Sydney on Saturday.
“And we look forward to moving our embassy to west Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status of determination,” he said, adding that work on a new site for the embassy was under way.
In the interim, Morrison said, Australia would establish a defense and trade office in the west of the holy city.
“Furthermore, recognizing our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government is also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in east Jerusalem,” he added.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Most foreign nations have avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status — until US President Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy there earlier this year.
Morrison first floated a shift in foreign policy in October, which angered Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
The issue has put a halt on years-long negotiations on a bilateral trade deal.
Canberra on Friday told its citizens traveling to Indonesia to “exercise a high degree of caution,” warning of protests in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and popular holiday hotspots, including Bali.
Morrison said it was in Australia’s interests to support “liberal democracy” in the Middle East, and took aim at the United Nations he said was a place Israel is “bullied.”