First rifts emerge in Palestinian reconciliation talks

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, left, and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 04 October 2017

First rifts emerge in Palestinian reconciliation talks

GAZA CITY: A new round of Palestinian reconciliation talks experienced its first sign of trouble on Tuesday as the Hamas militant group said it would not give up its vast weapons arsenal, putting it at odds with both the rival Fatah movement and Israel.
The tough comments by the Hamas supreme leader, Ismail Haniyeh, provided a reminder of the long road that lies ahead after this week’s launch of talks with President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, according to The Associated Press.
The Palestinian government on Tuesday held its weekly Cabinet meeting in Gaza for the first time in three years. Abbas’ Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in Hamas-controlled Gaza earlier on Monday as a practical step in the Palestinian national reconciliation agreement that was achieved through Egyptian mediation.
In a speech before the beginning of the meeting, Hamdallah said that the Fatah delegation came to Gaza to address administrative issues. “I urge everybody to unite and support the Palestinian leadership, and to prioritize the public interest over the factional one,” he said.
“We appreciate the important job Egypt did to grant the achievement of the reconciliation.”
Head of the Egyptian intelligence Khaled Fawzy traveled to Gaza to meet the Palestinian government, following a meeting in Ramallah with Abbas. Fawzy is the highest ranking Egyptian official to visit Gaza since 2007.
“I’m convinced that you are able to implement your promises for the benefit of your people,” he said. “I’m waiting for you in Cairo, your home, and you will do it and succeed. History will register that you have unified your people.”
In a televised speech, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stressed that Egypt seeks to fulfill the demands of the Palestinian people, and that disagreements must be resolved with the cooperation of all Arab countries.
Hamas congratulated the Palestinian people on the development, saying, “We, as the Hamas movement, are looking to flip the chapter of division, and to open a new chapter full of tolerance.”
In a TV interview, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said his group would never give up its armed struggle against Israel.
“As long as there is occupation on the ground, our people have the right to possess weapons and resist the occupation with all forms of resistance,” he told a private TV channel.
In a gesture to Abbas, he said Hamas will not go back to war against Israel unilaterally. “We are ready to negotiate with the Palestinian factions and Fatah on unifying the decision of peace and war,” he said.
Such concessions are unlikely to satisfy Abbas, who issued his own tough statement late Monday saying that “everything must be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority.”
He said he would not agree to reproduce the “Hezbollah model” of Lebanon, where the armed militant group acts freely under the watch of a weak central government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, said his government will not accept a reconciliation deal between rival Palestinian factions that puts Israel at risk.
He said any deal must include recognizing Israel, disbanding Hamas’ military wing and cutting ties with Hamas’ patron Iran.
While previous reconciliation attempts have failed, years of international isolation and steadily worsening conditions in Gaza have pushed Hamas toward compromise.
The real work begins next week in Cairo, where Egyptian mediators will host talks between the Palestinian rivals. There is no set time frame for the negotiations.


Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 28 February 2020

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.