Mahmoud Abbas hails Fatah university election win

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is all praise for pro-Fatah students, particularly the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc, for winning elections at Birzeit University in the West Bank. (Reuters)
Updated 18 April 2019
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Mahmoud Abbas hails Fatah university election win

  • ‘It’s a sign that Palestinians are embracing the PLO program for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital’

AMMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has congratulated pro-Fatah students for winning a series of elections at Birzeit University.

Abbas praised the Martyr Yasser Arafat Bloc on the win and for its recent successes in polls at Hebron and in Al-Quds Universities, calling it “a revival of the Fatah movement and a sign that Palestinians are embracing the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s program for an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Student council elections, especially at Birzeit, have often been seen as a barometer of the direction of Palestinian political thinking, and a broad reflection of opinion.

A debate between the student blocs on April 16 had seen competing views aired, with audience responses suggesting little to separate the two largest blocs, aligned with Fatah and Hamas.

In the end, the Fatah students received 4,065 votes and won 23 of the 51 available student council seats, tied with the Hamas list which received 3,997 votes. A university press release noted that the Arafat Bloc would control the council having won the popular vote.

The Fatah list improved its results by 7 percent from last year’s elections, when it lost to the Hamas list by one seat. The left-wing Progressive Students list won five seats, and the dean of student affairs, Mohammad Al-Ahmad, said turnout stood at 78 percent, with 9,041 votes cast in total.

Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad, a Fatah international media spokesman and active member of its student movement, told Arab News: “The majority in all the universities gave their support to the Fatah youth movement, and this comes at a very important time. The Palestinian leadership needs support.”

“No Palestinian is ready to compromise the main national causes, including a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab lands and recognizing the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”

Palestinian writer Jawdat Manaa told Arab News that the results come at a badly needed time for the Palestinian people. “Even this slight win for the Fatah students, will strengthen President Abbas.”

Manaa from the Dheisheh camp near Bethlehem who was active during the first intifada told Arab News that “the victory in one of the last bastions of Hamas in the West Bank  is reminiscent of the time in the 1980s when student councils and labor unions were behind the support given to the PLO in the occupied territories.”

Commenting on the elections, Birzeit University President Abdul Latif Abu Hijleh said: “Our students have broken the barriers that suppress the democratic process in Palestine. With historic and responsible young leaders, Birzeit University has been able to maintain the values of democracy and freedom of expression, stressing the importance of maintaining unity in the Palestinian quest for justice and equality.”

“Amid the hardships that Palestine must endure due to political fragmentation and the Israeli occupation, we are required — as an academic institution and part of the Palestinian socio-economic, political and cultural spheres — to approach our basic freedoms and rights boldly and to uphold our academic freedom.”

Hatem Abu Zakari, the head of the Fatah youth movement in Gaza, congratulated all the students and the university administration, calling for “similar democratic practices in all Gaza universities denied this right for 12 years.”


Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters get a major boost as Ankara backs them with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them hold their ground. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2019
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Turkey sends weapons to opposition fighters in Syria

  • Ankara signals readiness to preserve its influence in Syria’s Idlib province in northwestern region

AMMAN: Turkey has equipped an array of mainstream Syrian opposition fighters it backs with fresh supplies of weaponry to help them try to repel a major Russian-backed assault, senior opposition officials and opposition sources said on Saturday.
Russia is backing the Syrian army’s large aerial and ground assault as it seeks to gain control of the last big stretch of opposition-held territory in the northwest of the country.
Syria’s Bashar Assad launched the assault last month, saying fighters had breached an existing cease-fire, triggering a civilian exodus by bombarding Idlib and adjacent areas. It has been the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and the opposition fighters in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey, two senior opposition figures said.

FASTFACT

Ankara stepped up supplies in recent days after failing to persuade Russia in recent meetings of a joint working group that it should end its escalation to avert a major influx of refugees pouring into Turkey.

In doing so Turkey signaled its readiness to preserve its influence in northwestern Syria, where it has beefed up its troop presence in a dozen military bases that were set up under a de-escalation deal with Russia, a senior opposition commander said. Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.
Overnight, a Turkish military convoy arrived in a base in northern Hama near opposition-held Jabal Al-Zawiya, where Russian and Syrian jets have been pounding for weeks, a fighter and a witness said.
The delivery of dozens of armored vehicles, Grad rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles helped roll back some army gains and retake the strategically located town of Kfar Nabouda.