Leaders welcome meeting of Palestine Central Council

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas sits in front of a photo of the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in this December 18, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 26 December 2017

Leaders welcome meeting of Palestine Central Council

AMMAN: Senior Palestinian leaders have welcomed a call for the reconvening of the Palestine Central Council (PCC).
Tayseer Khaled, a member of the PLO’s executive committee and a senior leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Arab News that it was time that the PLO’s top bodies met to assess the current situation.
“The last time that the PCC met was in March 2015 and at that time it was decided to hold a meeting every three months,” he said. Khaled said that a number of decisions made at the last meeting had yet to be carried out. “It was decided to end our connection with the Oslo Accords and the security coordination with Israel but this has not happened.”
Senior Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad said Monday the central council will discuss the declaration of Palestine as a “state under occupation.” Ahmad said that the PCC will convene in the middle of January 2018 in Ramalah.
Tayseer Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a member of the Palestine National Council, also welcomed the call for the central council, although he also wants the more important Palestine National Council (PNC) to meet as soon as possible.
“We need the PNC to meet now because of the extremely difficult situation we are in and in order to have a high level discussion of our priorities, and to launch a new national liberation strategy that is in sync with our people’s wishes of having an independent state and enacting the right of return,” he said.
Nasrallah, a Fatah leader in Nablus who spent many years in Israeli jails, told Arab News that it was important to reassess relations with the Israeli occupiers and the Americans. “We need a serious review of the entire Oslo process, what is positive and negative about it, so that we can rid ourselves of these shackles and return to proper relations between an occupied people and the occupation. We also need to seriously review our relations with the United states,” Nasrallah said.
Tayseer Khaled also believes that the time has come for the state of Palestine to join all remaining international organizations and agencies.
“This is an opportune time for the PLO to decide on joining some 22 international agencies we have been prevented from joining due to the US conditions,” he said.
He believes that a new strategy for Palestine should include the need to agree on a new multinational mechanism for sponsoring any future talks.
It is still not clear whether Hamas and Islamic Jihad will attend the upcoming Palestine Central Council and where exactly it will take place. A senior source in the Popular Front said it preferred that the meeting would take place outside the Occupied Territories to ensure that all members attended.
However, Nasrallah told Arab News that it was best to hold the meeting in Palestine and those who could not come could join via video conferencing.

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”