Tension in Palestine amid Arafat death anniversary

A supporter of the Fatah movement attends a ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2016

Tension in Palestine amid Arafat death anniversary

GAZA: Days after the 12th anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leaders descended into new recriminations over who may have been involved in the demise of the former president.
Coming two weeks before a meeting that is expected to overhaul the leadership of Fatah, the party of Arafat and President Mahmoud Abbas, the accusations underscore a growing animosity that threatens the movement’s stability.
Speaking at a memorial on Thursday in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas said he knew who was behind Arafat’s death and that an investigating panel would soon reveal its findings.
“The result will come out in the nearest time possible and you will be surprised to know who did it,” Abbas said. Although he stopped short of naming suspects, Abbas’s comments were widely seen as referring to his main political rival — Mohammad Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief.
Dahlan, a fierce Abbas critic who lives in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates, took to Facebook on Saturday to point the finger at Abbas.
“He (Abbas) is not qualified to make accusations and he personally is in the circle of accusation and the sole beneficiary of Abu Ammar disappearance,” Dahlan wrote, referring to Arafat by his nickname. Abbas’s office could not be reached for comment.
Officials within Fatah are growing increasingly impatient with Abbas’s leadership and rival groups have been emerging ahead of a party congress, the first since 2009, set to take place this month.
Dahlan, 55, retains influence within Fatah’s revolutionary council and central committee — the equivalent of Fatah’s parliament.
Abbas, 81, is expected at the party congress to push for the election of a new central committee and revolutionary council that would be free of Dahlan loyalists.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states have been pressuring Abbas to resolve divisions in Fatah and with the rival Hamas movement. Neighboring states and diplomats fear the festering divisions could lead to conflict.
Arafat, who signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accord with Israel but led a deadly uprising after subsequent talks broke down in 2000, died in 2004 aged 75 in a French hospital four weeks after falling ill.
The official cause of death was a massive stroke, but French doctors were unable at the time to determine the origin of the illness and no autopsy was carried out. Palestinian leaders have blamed Israel. Israel denies involvement.


Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

Updated 30 min 30 sec ago

Thousands return to government-seized areas in northwest Syria: state media

  • The Syrian Observatory reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control
  • The Idlib region is one of the last holdouts of opposition forces

DAMASCUS: Thousands have returned to their hometowns in northwest Syria after military advances by government loyalist against militants and allied rebels, state media said Sunday.
“Thousands of citizens return to their villages and towns of the northern Hama countryside and the southern Idlib countryside,” state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, reported “around 3,000 people” going home from other areas under regime control.
Since August 31, a cease-fire announced by regime backer Russia has largely held in northwestern Syria, though the Observatory has reported sporadic bombardment.
SANA said the returns came amid “government efforts to return the displaced to their towns and villages.”
The Idlib region of around three million people, many of them dispaced by fighting in other areas, is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces backing Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Moscow announced the cease-fire late last month after four months of deadly violence that displaced 400,000 people, most of whom fled north within the jihadist-run bastion, according to the United Nations.
Regime forces had chipped away at the southern edges of the jihadist-run stronghold throughout August, retaking towns and villages in the north of Hama province and the south of Idlib province.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.
Assad’s regime now controls more than 60 percent of the country after notching up a series of victories against rebels and jihadists with key Russian backing since 2015.
But a large chunk of Idlib, fully administered by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate since January, as well as a Kurdish-held swathe of the oil-rich northeast, remain beyond its reach.