Hamas allows rival Fatah to mark anniversary in Gaza rally

Supporters of the Palestinian Fatah movement burn a picture of exiled Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan during a rally marking the 55th foundation anniversary of the political party in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on January 1, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 01 January 2020

Hamas allows rival Fatah to mark anniversary in Gaza rally

  • The territory’s Hamas rulers permitted the event for the first time in years
  • Hamas’ decision to permit Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward Fatah

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets in Gaza on Wednesday to mark the 55th anniversary of President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement.
The territory’s Hamas rulers permitted the event for the first time in years.
The militant Islamic group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip by force from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority in 2007, allowed Fatah supporters to celebrate on a Gaza City street. They denied their request to organize the event at one of the city’s public squares or parks.
But the crowd was so big that several thousand people made their way to nearby Saraya Square, the site of the last massive anniversary festival that Hamas allowed in January 2013.
The Hamas takeover left the Palestinians divided between two governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority governing autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Fatah and Hamas remain bitter enemies, and repeated attempts to reconcile have failed. But in recent months, they have both pledged to hold new elections. Hamas’ decision to permit Wednesday’s demonstration appeared to be a goodwill gesture toward Fatah.
“This year is the year of Palestinian unity and Fatah’s unity behind its leader Mahmoud Abbas,” said Ahmed Hilles, the top Fatah official in Gaza.
Fatah sought to portray the large turnout as a reflection of its good standing, though its popularity has plunged in recent years. Abbas failed to regain control of Gaza and or move closer toward his goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Further hurting Abbas’ standing, the Palestinian leader slashed the salaries of thousands of Palestinian Authority civil servants in Gaza. The step, meant to put additional pressure on the cash-strapped Hamas government to provide for its people, backfired and provoked anger toward Abbas.
Hilles promised to work on restoring the full payments to the workers. “We are one movement and one people,” he said.
On Tuesday, thousands of Fatah supporters who are loyal to Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah strongman who is now a rival of Abbas while living in exile, organized a similar rally in the middle of the city.
Despite the challenges, the participants said they hope Hamas will allow them to mark the anniversary every year.
“We came here to tell everybody that Fatah is still well,” said Mohammed Al-Raqqagh, a supporter draping the Palestinian flag around his body.


Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website madad.ps to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.