Gazans fear new bloodshed as Hamas, Fatah clash over assassination attempt

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) arrives at his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah following his return from the Gaza Strip where an explosion targeted his convoy on March 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Gazans fear new bloodshed as Hamas, Fatah clash over assassination attempt

GAZA CITY: The assassination attempt on Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah earlier this week has left Gazans fearful that political differences between Hamas and Fatah will erupt again into violence.
Hamdallah was traveling through the Gaza Strip on Tuesday when his motorcade was targeted by a roadside bomb. Six of his security guards were slightly wounded in the attack, which sent debris hurtling into the air and left a large crater.
Hamas was quick to condemn the incident, but people here fear it may jeopardize a fragile reconciliation deal struck between the hard-line movement and the Palestinian Authority last year.
“We are the prisoners of siege, poverty and unemployment. Now to add to this we have an assassination attempt on the prime minister in Gaza,” Alaa Mutair, a 27-year-old designer, told Arab News.
“The incident is very dangerous. I do not know who is behind it, but whoever stands behind it certainly does not have any interest in the Palestinian people and their future.”
Hamdallah is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by Fatah and controls the West Bank. Fatah has been in dispute with Hamas since 2006, when the movement won legislative elections in the Occupied Territories by a landslide.
Tensions erupted in Gaza a year later, with both sides carrying out public executions of rival fighters. Hamas emerged victorious and has controlled the strip ever since.
While the two factions signed a reconciliation deal last October, ill-feeling persists. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum wrote on Facebook that Fatah had used the assassination attempt to launch a media campaign “steeped in hatred and exclusion of Hamas.”
Hany El-Masary, 36, told Arab News that customers at his hairdressing salon had been feverishly discussing the attempt on Hamdallah’s life.
“We seriously fear the dispute between Fatah and Hamas will continue for a long time and reconciliation will become impossible. We are lost between the two rivals,” he said
Israel has imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2007. The siege has crippled the economy and caused the UN to warn that the strip faces “full collapse.”
Reflecting on this week’s assassination attempt, Abeer Lubbad, a 54-year-old housewife, said: “The fear today is that we will return to having a chaotic security situation, just like we have a chaotic economic situation.”


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.