Hamas closes Qatari-Palestinian cellphone provider over PM attack

Residents pass by close offices of a Qatari-Palestinian cellular, Wataniya Mobile, in Gaza City, on Saturday. (AP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Hamas closes Qatari-Palestinian cellphone provider over PM attack

GAZA CITY: Hamas on Saturday shut the offices of a Qatari-Palestinian telecommunications company in connection with its investigation into an explosion that targeted the visiting Palestinian prime minister.
Hamas police spokesman Ayman Batniji said on Saturday that Wataniya Mobile, a subsidiary of Qatar’s Ooredoo, was being closed down for “refusing to cooperate” in the inquiry.
A roadside bomb struck a convoy carrying Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah earlier this week after he crossed into Gaza from Israel, wounding some of his bodyguards. Local reports say a second bomb that failed to detonate contained a Wataniya SIM card.
Hamdallah’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) held Hamas responsible for the attack. Hamas rejected the accusation and blamed Israel.
Wataniya’s mobile telephone service was not cut off.
There has been no claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s bomb attack.
Hamas has launched an investigation and made several arrests.
The apparent assassination attempt further complicated an already faltering reconciliation agreement between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas’ secular Fatah party.
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.


France, Russia send humanitarian aid to Syria for Ghouta victims

Updated 32 min 5 sec ago
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France, Russia send humanitarian aid to Syria for Ghouta victims

  • A Russian Antonov 124 military cargo plane carrying 50 tons of medical aid and humanitarian supplies left the airport at the central French city of Chateauroux at 3am
  • The medical aid is aimed at some 500 people who have been seriously injured and the 15,000 others who have lighter injuries during the fighting in Eastern Ghouta

CHATEAUROUX: France and Russia on Saturday despatched a plane carrying humanitarian aid to the ravaged former Syrian rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, which was retaken by government forces in April after a five-year siege.
A Russian Antonov 124 military cargo plane carrying 50 tons of medical aid and humanitarian supplies left the airport at the central French city of Chateauroux at 3am (0100 GMT), the airport’s head Mark Bottemine told AFP.
Undertaken as part of a UN Security Council resolution, “the aim of this project is to enable civilian populations better access to aid,” a joint Franco-Russian statement said.
The plane is heading for Russia’s Hmeimim air base in the west of Syria. It is the first joint humanitarian aid operation between Russia and a western country.
The aid will be distributed on Saturday under the supervision of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA).
“Humanitarian assistance is an absolute priority and must be distributed in accordance with principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence across all Syrian territory without exception, where international humanitarian law must be fully respected,” the joint statement said.
France had secured “guarantees” from Russia that the Syrian regime would not obstruct the distribution of the aid, and that it would not be misappropriated or diverted for political purposes, the foreign ministry said.
More than 1,700 civilians were killed during the Syrian regime’s operation in Eastern Ghouta in March and April. According to the Russian military, more than 160,000 people, both military and civilians, were evacuated from the region.
The cargo comprises medical equipment, tents, cooking utensils and blankets, said an AFP photographer who witnessed the plane being loaded.
The medical aid is aimed at some 500 people who have been seriously injured and the 15,000 others who have lighter injuries during the fighting in Eastern Ghouta, on the fringes of the Syrian capital Damascus.