Key meeting ‘to incorporate all Palestinian factions as partners’

Palestinians wave yellow Fatah movement flags during a rally marking the 13th anniversary of the death of Fatah founder and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, in Gaza City, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Updated 20 November 2017

Key meeting ‘to incorporate all Palestinian factions as partners’

GAZA CITY: Azzam Al-Ahmed, a senior official from Palestine’s Fatah faction, said on Monday that a key meeting Tuesday in the Egypt’s capital Cairo “aims to incorporate all the Palestinian factions as partners and not just spectators as the page of division is folded for the last time.”
Leaders of various Palestinian groups headed for Cairo on Monday ahead of talks. Senior figures from 13 different political factions — including Gaza’s rulers Hamas — are due to meet for the three-day talks, with potential topics of discussion including the formation of a new unity government.
The Hamas delegation will be headed by deputy leader Salah Al-Aruri and its Gaza head Yahya Sinwar. Neither Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas nor Hamas chief Ismail Haniya will attend the meeting.
The talks come as Palestinians face rising tensions with the US over the threatened closure of their office in Washington.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have reemerged since they signed a reconciliation deal last month. Fatah has been at loggerheads with Hamas since the militant group 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 threatened closure of their office in Washington 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?”
Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior PLO official, said the talks could last until Thursday.
“I think this meeting will be a huge step toward the removal of all the obstacles to reconciliation, which is supported by everyone,” he told AFP.
The most controversial issue remains security — meaning the future of Hamas’s vast military wing.
Bassem Naim, a top Hamas official, said it was impossible for them to consider giving up their weapons.
He argued that in the West Bank where Abbas’s government is meant to have partial self rule, the Israeli army in reality operates with impunity — including in areas nominally under full Palestinian control.


Yemen president dismisses army commander after battlefield setbacks

Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, President of Yemen. (AP)
Updated 8 min 7 sec ago

Yemen president dismisses army commander after battlefield setbacks

  • Dozens of Houthis and loyalist forces, including commanders, have been killed since the Marib attack

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has dismissed an army general following a series of military setbacks in Nehim district, near Houthi-held Sanaa.
The official Saba News agency reported on Monday that Hadi had appointed Maj. Gen. Ahmad Hassan Jebran as the commander of the 7th Military Region, replacing Maj. Gen. Mohsen Al-Khubi.
Al-Khubi has been commanding government forces in Nehim and neighboring battlefields since August 2018. The Nehim battlefield has endured a military stalemate as government forces could not make major gains.
The dismissal comes amid reports that the Iranian-backed Houthis have seized control of Fardhat Nehim military base, a large swathe of the mountainous district and a strategic road that links Marib city with the northern province of Jawf.
The rebels expanded in Nehim following heavy clashes with government forces, backed by air support from Saudi-led coalition warplanes.
Last week, Yemen’s minister of defense said that army troops carried out a “tactical retreat” in Nehim to allow forces to regroup before pushing back into the battlefield. Fighting in Nehim escalated on Jan. 19, a day after a Houthi missile and drone attack killed more than 110 soldiers and civilians at a military base mosque in the city of Marib.
The attack prompted senior government officials to threaten to pull out of the Stockholm Agreement, which largely ended hostilities in the western province of Hodeida. Dozens of Houthis and loyalist forces, including commanders, have been killed since the Marib attack.

HIGHLIGHT

The dismissal comes amid reports that the Houthis have seized control of Fardhat Nehim military base.

Saba reported on Monday that Hadi telephoned the minister of defense and the governors of Marib, Jawf and Sana’a, hailing “victories” on the battlefields and ordering his forces to escalate military activities until they purged the Houthis from areas under their control.
Fighting also continued in Abyan’s Lawder district when the Houthis attacked government forces.
Similar clashes were also reported in Jawf, Marib’s Serwah and Taiz. UN envoy to Yemen urges recommitment to Stockholm Agreement
The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has urged the Houthis and the internationally recognized government to adhere to the Stockholm Agreement and to stop hostilities on the battlefields as the Yemeni government reiterated threats to pull out of the deal.
“The parties in Yemen must de-escalate violence and renew their commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Yemeni people deserve better than a life of perpetual war,” he said on Tuesday, urging both sides to commit to keeping Hodeida safe and releasing detainees.
“More than a year ago in Stockholm, the parties promised the Yemeni people to keep Hodeida safe, to use port revenues to pay salaries and to return detainees to their loved ones. They must fulfill these promises and build a conducive environment for the peace process,” he added.
Yemeni government officials argue that the Houthis exploited a cessation of fighting in Hodeida to strengthen their forces in Nehim and Taiz.