Palestinian factions to meet in Cairo for reconciliation push

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, right, shakes hands with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in a file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 19 November 2017

Palestinian factions to meet in Cairo for reconciliation push

RAMALLAH: Leading Palestinian political factions are to gather on Tuesday in Cairo to push ahead with reconciliation efforts, despite fundamental disputes ahead of a key Dec. 1 deadline.
The talks come as Palestinians face rising tensions with the US over the threatened closure of their office in Washington, but this is seen as unlikely to affect the outcome.
Tensions between the two largest Palestinian groups — Fatah and Hamas — have reemerged since they signed a reconciliation deal last month, but delegates hope the meeting of 13 factions could push the bid ahead.
The fate of Hamas’s vast armed wing, however, remains unclear.
Fatah, led by Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, has been at loggerheads with Hamas since the militants seized control of Gaza in 2007.
But on Oct. 12, the two parties signed an Egyptian-brokered deal which is meant to see Hamas hand back civilian power to Abbas’s internationally recognized Palestinian Authority (PA) government, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, by Dec. 1.
In a crucial first step, Hamas stuck to a Nov. 1 deadline to hand over the border crossings between Gaza and its neighbors Egypt and Israel.
However, since that date, progress has appeared to stall, with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah suggesting the PA needed full security control of Gaza before further steps could be taken.
Hamas rejected that, accusing Hamdallah of seeking to change the terms of the agreement.
The Fatah-dominated Palestinian government has also refused to remove crippling measures targeting Gaza — including reducing electricity.
Palestinians and international powers hope an implemented reconciliation deal could help ease the suffering of Gaza’s two million residents, who suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment. Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.
The Cairo talks come amid a rise in US-Palestinian tensions over a threatened closure of the office in Washington of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which the international community recognizes as representing all Palestinians.
The threatened closure was apparently over a Palestinian suggestion of taking the issue of Israeli settlements on occupied land to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
But an analyst said these tensions were not likely to influence discussions in Cairo.
“I don’t think the tensions between the PA and Washington will affect the reconciliation process,” Palestinian political analyst George Giacaman said.
“The problems that the PA is facing regarding Gaza are of a different nature: How will they cope with the financial and humanitarian situation in Gaza, how will they control the groups that Hamas struggled to control until now?”
Tuesday’s meeting brings together 13 factions, and analysts expect them all to back reconciliation.
Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior PLO official, said the talks could last until Thursday, with all factions expected to be in attendance.
PA ordered to pay for deadly attack
An Israeli judge has ordered the PA and perpetrators of a deadly 2001 attack to pay $18 million in damages to relatives of those killed, the court said Sunday.
The Jerusalem District Court named imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti as one of the seven liable to compensate relatives for their role in the shooting that killed three family members.
The ruling, handed down on Thursday by justice Moshe Drori, awarded the relatives 62 millions shekels ($18 million), which is to be divided between the PA, which would pay 40 percent, and the seven Palestinian perpetrators, who would pay 60 percent.
The attack, which took place on a West Bank highway on August 25, 2001, claimed the lives of Yaniv and Sharon Ben Shalom, a couple, and Sharon’s brother Doron Sviri.
The families had sued the PA and as well as the perpetrators, among them Barghouti.


Hundreds of employees fired from Turkey’s Incirlik air base

Updated 25 January 2020

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.