Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he would take legal measures against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

AMMAN: Mahmoud Abbas’s verbal attack against Washington and Hamas in a 14-minute speech on Monday night seemed aimed at self-preservation and securing his legacy.
The Palestinian Authority president upped the ante with Washington, accusing it of shedding “crocodile tears” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and he called the US ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog.”
But the president, who will be 83 on March 26, has little to lose as he will start to hand power to a new generation at a meeting of the Palestine National Council on April 30.
Abbas said he would take “national, legal and financial measures” against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Rami Hamdallah, his prime minister and head of Palestinian intelligence. He blamed the bomb attack on Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and remains bitterly divided from Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Mohammad Laham, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council from Bethlehem, told Arab News it had become clear that Hamas was involved soon after the attack.
“The visit to Gaza was only known 24 hours earlier and the size of the explosives (30 kg) as well as the choice of the location of the attack, all point that those behind it are not a peripheral group, but a group that is well connected and knowledgeable,” he said.
Abbas’s speech sent a message to the US, which had recently held a meeting in Washington about the humanitarian needs of Gaza. In that meeting, Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to the Middle East, told attendees to “park their politics outside” when discussing Gaza, which is under a long-standing Israeli blockade.
“Unfortunately, we cannot ‘leave politics at the door’ because the crisis in Gaza is a result of right-wing extremist Israeli policies seeping into the rhetoric of the international community,” Dr. Saeb Erekat, PLO secretary general, wrote last week in Newsweek.
The Palestinian president knows that the White House meeting on Gaza was held because Israel is worried about a total collapse in Gaza, as the US plans to cut off millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations Agency Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
It seems that by adding to the pressure on Hamas, the Palestinian leader is hoping for either a capitulation of the Islamic movement or for intervention by Egypt, Israel or a combination of forces in which Ramallah would be eventually called on to keep the peace in Gaza. He appears to be applying the well-known Arab proverb “it needs to get bigger before it gets smaller.”
Abbas may be thinking in terms of his reputation and legacy — many Palestinians feel that he has wasted years trying to appease Israel and the US in search of a compromise.
By attacking Washington, he has thrown the dice, but how will he deal with the chaos that will engulf the Strip if external powers decide not to intervene?


US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

Updated 20 October 2018
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US-backed Syria offensive kills 35 Daesh fighters: monitor

BEIRUT: An offensive by US-backed forces against Daesh’s last redoubt in eastern Syria killed 35 militants on Saturday, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Twenty-eight Daesh members were killed in air strikes by the US-led coalition around the town of Hajjin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Another seven militants were killed in ground fighting with the Syrian Democratic Forces, who launched a coalition-backed offensive against the Daesh-held pocket in the Euphrates Valley last month.
Fighting has killed 414 militants and 227 SDF fighters in total since the assault began on September 10, the Observatory said.
Coalition air strikes on Daesh targets in another part of the pocket on Thursday and Friday killed at least 41 civilians, 10 of them children, the monitor said.
Daesh overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” across the land it controlled.
But the militant group has since lost most of its territory to various offensives in both countries.
In Syria, its presence has been reduced to parts of the vast Badia desert and the Hajjin pocket in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor near the Iraqi border.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.