Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

Palestinian militants of Al-Nasser Salah Al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, take part in a training exercise in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017

Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

GAZA CITY: Hamas’ dismantling of its governing body in the Gaza Strip may pave the way for reconciliation with its rival Fatah, but there are tough issues ahead.
Rami Nuredeen, 44, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) employee who was ordered to stay home since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, said he is “optimistic” that he will return to work following a reconciliation deal.
“I want to be like any public personnel in the world, going to work in the morning and receiving a full salary at the end of the month,” said Nuredeen, who used to be a police officer.
The issue of public employees appointed before and after 2007 was the main obstacle in previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday reiterated his party’s readiness for Palestinian reconciliation.
On Sunday, the hard-line group said it was willing to accept a series of demands by Fatah and backed plans for new elections.
Chief among the Egyptian-brokered concessions was dissolving the so-called administration committee, seen as a rival government to the PA administration in the West Bank.
“The administrative committee in Gaza is no longer functioning. We’re ready now to receive the national consensus government to enter Gaza,” Haniyeh told a news conference at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
“We’re ready to return in a few days to Cairo to resume dialogue,” he said, adding that he is “committed to the success” of reconciliation.
On Monday, he spoke with PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in nearly a year, and Fatah officials said they expect Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to visit Gaza in the coming days.
Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met in New York on Monday on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.
“The test will be the full transfer of management of Gaza’s affairs to the Palestinian government, and the cancelation of all the steps Hamas has taken, including collecting taxes, controlling the border crossings and more,” said Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee.
The PA said its Cabinet will meet in a few days to draft a plan to manage Gaza’s affairs. The question is how much Hamas will allow it to do so.
The parties have avoided addressing the remaining issues of contention, such as the future of Hamas’ military wing.
Hamas, and especially its new Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, have begun talking about emulating Lebanon’s system, in which Hezbollah maintains a powerful military wing while serving in the Cabinet. The PA, in contrast, wants Hamas to disarm at some point.
The US peace envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, said the international community must work to ensure the handover of Gaza to the PA.
He accused Hamas of abusing Gazans, adding: “The time has come to stop watching the situation in Gaza and start changing it.”
Mustafa Ibrahim, a Palestinian columnist in Gaza, said: “The PA announcement was vague. It said it’s ready to take control of Gaza, but it didn’t say when and how.”
He added: “We’ll see a clear vision after Abbas’ meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York.”


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 36 min 35 sec ago

Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

  • Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington
  • It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past

ANKARA: More than 420 people working at a crucial military air base in southern Turkey have lost their jobs, with some analysts considering it symbolic of decreased cooperation levels with the US and as the Pentagon reconsiders Middle East deployments.
Incirlik Air Base is located in Turkey’s Adana province, near the Syrian border, and it has been a strategic element in ties between Ankara and Washington. It has also played a key role for the US-led Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) against Daesh in Syria and Iraq in the past, as well as hosting US nuclear warheads.
The Colorado-based company Vectrus System Corporation, which provides day-to-day maintenance and operation services at the base, terminated the contracts of almost half of its employees at the base earlier this month.
“The base surged to support OIR,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News. “The Turkey-based staff for OIR has mostly left. So, the base is going back to its pre-OIR level of people, and that level requires less contractor support.”
Vectrus did not reply to Arab News’ request for comment about its decision to scale back at the base.
Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said the move was largely symbolic as the canceled contracts related to logistical support rather than the US military mission.
“But obviously, it comes against the background of some tensions in the US-Turkish relationship and previous hints by Ankara that it might reconsider the status of the Incirlik base,” he told Arab News. “The Pentagon is reconsidering its deployment across the Middle East and it might be looking to become less dependent on Incirlik without fully exiting this crucial military air base.”
Incirlik air base has been used in the past as a bargaining chip at times of tension between the two countries.
“Turkey may re-evaluate the status of the Incirlik Air Base if the US imposes sanctions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last month in an interview with pro-government channel A-Haber, referring to the potential fallout from Turkey’s decision to buy an air defense system from Russia. 
Washington has threatened to use its Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act to punish Ankara for buying the S-400 system.
Seth J. Frantzman, who is executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, said reports of the US reducing presence at Incirlik, or challenges to the US presence there, have been growing over the last years.
“Whether these reports relate to changes or are just random is unclear and it is important to note that the large interests of the military and history tend to mean the US does not simply walk away from bases, even if it reduces its role slowly over time,” he told Arab News.
The US has invested heavily in the Jordanian Muwaffaq Salti Air Base to expand its presence there.