Israel arrests senior Palestinian official

A cleric checks a gate at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 27 February 2019

Israel arrests senior Palestinian official

  • The Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, was among 22 Palestinians arrested overnight in raids in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Wednesday arrested a senior Palestinian official after recent scuffles at a highly sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, officials said.

The Palestinian governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Gheith, was among 22 Palestinians arrested overnight in raids in East Jerusalem, official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Police spoke of two arrests, including “a senior official from the Palestinian Authority,” over suspicions of fraud and forgery.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP they were also arrested in connection with “recent incidents” at the Haram Al-Sharif, or Holy Sanctuary, which includes the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.

The suspects were being questioned, Rosenfeld said, without providing further details.

The arrests risked further raising tensions surrounding the site holy to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.

There have recently been scuffles between worshippers and police there over access to a side building in the compound closed by Israel since 2003.

Arguing there was no longer any reason for it to remain closed, Palestinian officials reopened the building on Friday and worshippers prayed inside despite an Israeli order barring access.

The building is known as the Golden Gate or Gate of Mercy in Arabic.

On Sunday, police arrested and later released a top Palestinian Muslim official, Abdel Azeem Salhab, and his deputy after the holy site incidents.

Salhab is the head of the council of the Waqf in Jerusalem, the religious authority that governs the site in the disputed city.

The arrest drew condemnation from Jordan, the custodian of the holy compound. The site is the third-holiest in Islam and a focus of Palestinian aspirations for statehood. It is also the location of Judaism’s most holy spot, revered as the site of the two biblical-era Jewish temples.

It is a frequent scene of conflict between the two sides.

Palestinians fear Israel will seek to assert further control over it, while Israel accuses Palestinians of using such claims as a rallying cry to incite violence.

Access to Golden Gate was closed by an Israeli court order in 2003 during the second Palestinian intifada over alleged militant activity there, police say. Waqf officials argue that the organization that prompted the ban no longer exists.

The site is located in East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.

Palestinian Authority activities are barred from Jerusalem by Israel.

As a result, the PA has a Jerusalem governor located in Al-Ram, just on the other side of Israel’s separation wall from the city in the occupied West Bank.


Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

Updated 15 November 2019

Former finance minister Mohammad Safadi put forward to be next Lebanese PM

BEIRUT: Three major Lebanese parties have agreed on nominating Mohammad Safadi, a former finance minister, to become prime minister of a new government, the Lebanese broadcasters LBCI and MTV reported on Thursday.
The agreement was reached in a meeting on Thursday between outgoing Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni politician, and senior representatives of the Shiite groups Amal and Hezbollah.
There was no official comment from the parties or Safadi. The broadcasters did not identify their sources.
Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of an unprecedented wave of protests against ruling politicians who are blamed for rampant state corruption and steering Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri remains caretaker prime minister for now.
Since quitting, Hariri, who is aligned with the West and Gulf Arab states, has been holding closed-door meetings with parties including the Iran-backed Hezbollah, which had wanted him to be prime minister again.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim according to the country’s sectarian power-sharing system.
Mustaqbal Web, a Hariri-owned news website, said a meeting between Hariri, Ali Hassan Khalil of the Amal Movement and Hussein Al-Khalil of Hezbollah had discussed recommending Safadi for the post.
MTV said the government would be a mixture of politicians and technocrats. Mustaqbal Web said the type of government was not discussed, and neither was the question of whether Hariri’s Future Movement would be part of the Cabinet.
LBCI said the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party allied to Hezbollah, had also agreed to Safadi’s nomination.
They did not identify their sources.
Safadi is a prominent businessman and member of parliament from the northern city of Tripoli. He served previously as finance minister from 2011-2014 under prime minister Najib Mikati.
Prior to that, he served as minister of economy and trade in the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who was backed by the West. He held that post again in the Hariri-led Cabinet that took office in 2009.
Hariri had said he would only return as prime minister of a Cabinet of specialist ministers which he believed would be best placed to win international aid and steer Lebanon out of its economic crisis, sources close to Hariri have said.