Optimism in Gaza as Palestinian unity ministers arrive

A poster of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime minister Rami Hamdallah hangs on a street in Gaza City, on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 02 October 2017

Optimism in Gaza as Palestinian unity ministers arrive

AMMAN: A rare mood of optimism swept Gaza on Sunday as Palestinians prepared for the arrival of their new unity government.
“I am usually very pessimistic, but in the last 48 hours what I have seen and heard have made me feel very optimistic that we are on strong ground, and the reconciliation this time is going to take root,” Maher Tabbaa, head of public relations at the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News.
In a deal brokered by Egypt, Hamas, who have controlled Gaza since June 2007, agreed last month to form a unity administration with the rival Fatah movement in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and other ministers arrive in Gaza on Monday morning, and are expected to hold their first full Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
Palestinian security forces from Ramallah are already cooperating with Hamas security on the ground to prepare for the meeting.
Culture Minister Ehab Bseiso arrived on Sunday and took over the ministry offices without hindrance. Senior Egyptian security and political officials are also in Gaza.
The new unity government will be expected to address major problems in Gaza, including 44 percent unemployment, an electricity supply restricted to four hours a day, stalled rebuilding work after the destruction caused by Israeli air strikes, and tightly controlled border crossings and travel permits that restrict business and trade.
The business community has also paid a high price because of the different laws and fee structures between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after 10 years of separation. “There is a need to unify laws, regulations and bylaws, as well as the fees, customs, taxes and investment waivers that are aimed at strengthening the economy in Gaza,” Tabbaa told Arab News. “The energy file also has to be dealt with immediately. If we can get to 10-12 hours a day then the machine of the economy will be able to restart again.”
Gazans also hope 2,000 travel permits that were withdrawn from businessmen will be restored, and that reconstruction efforts will be restarted. UN and other international organizations say less than 20 percent of funds earmarked for rebuilding Gaza have actually been spent, because there has been no reliable government body to supervise the expenditure.
Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah leader and adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, credited Egypt with bringing about the reconciliation. “Egypt has regained its unifying role, which was lost with the fall of Mubarak. Egypt is key to Gaza and Palestine, and it has the chance of breaking the siege on Gaza,” he said.
“I am very optimistic for this reconciliation, which is long overdue. President Abbas is also optimistic, as are Hamas leaders.”


Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

Israeli border policemen take up position during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators at a protest against Trump's decision on Jerusalem, near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank March 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 January 2020

Suspected arson at East Jerusalem mosque

  • The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property

JERUSALEM: Israeli police launched a manhunt on Friday after an apparent arson attack, accompanied by Hebrew-language graffiti, at a mosque in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
“Police were summoned to a mosque in Beit Safafa, in Jerusalem, following a report of arson in one of the building’s rooms and spraying of graffiti on a nearby wall outside the building,” a police statement said.
“A wide-scale search is taking place in Jerusalem,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. “We believe that the incident took place overnight. We are searching for suspects.”
The spokesman would not say if police viewed it as a hate crime. The graffiti, on a wall in the mosque compound and viewed by an AFP journalist, contained the name Kumi Ori, a small settlement outpost in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The Times of Israel newspaper said on Friday that the wildcat outpost “is home to seven families along with roughly a dozen extremist Israeli teens.”
“Earlier this month security forces razed a pair of illegally built settler homes in the outpost,” it reported.
All settlements on occupied Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.
The paper said: “A number of young settlers living there were involved in a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and (Israeli) security forces.”
Police said that nobody was injured in the mosque incident.
The attack had the appearance of a “price tag” attack, a euphemism for Jewish nationalist-motivated hate crimes that generally target Palestinian or Arab Israeli property in revenge for nationalistic attacks against Israelis or Israeli government moves against unauthorized outposts like Kumi Ori.
“This is price tag,” Israeli Arab lawmaker Osama Saadi told AFP at the scene.
“The settlers didn’t only write words, they also burned the place and they burnt a Qur’an,” said Saadi, who lives in the area.
Ismail Awwad, the local mayor, said he called the police after he found apparent evidence of arson, pointing to an empty can he said had contained petrol or some other accelerant and scorch marks in the burned room.
“The fire in the mosque burned in many straight lines which is a sign that somebody poured inflammable material,” he said.
There was damage to an interior prayer room but the building’s structure was unharmed.
In December, more than 160 cars were vandalized in the Shuafaat neighborhood of east Jerusalem with anti-Arab slogans scrawled nearby.
The slogans read “Arabs=enemies,” “There is no room in the country for enemies” and “When Jews are stabbed we aren’t silent.”
The attackers were described by a local resident as “masked settlers.”