Palestinian impatience threatens Gaza cease-fire

Palestinian men prepare an object to be flown toward Israel as part of their protest, near the Israel-Gaza border east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday. (AFP)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Palestinian impatience threatens Gaza cease-fire

  • There is no official announcement from the Palestinian factions about renewed hostilities

GAZA CITY: The launch of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory could mark the resumption of hostilities after some Palestinians expressed frustration at the lack of results from the temporary agreement with Israel.

There was no official announcement from the Palestinian factions about renewed hostilities, and Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the Committee for the Return March, described them as “individual actions.”
Egypt had brokered a short-term agreement between Hamas and Israel in October 2018 to ease Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and provide concessions in exchange for easing demonstrations on the border.
These included increasing the fishing zone in the Gaza Sea, allowing an increase in exports of products from the Gaza Strip, and the import of some materials that Israel had banned.
Media reports spoke of additional talks recently in Cairo to reach a long-term agreement between Hamas and Israel, which had been unsuccessful.
Bassem Naim, a Hamas leader, said the discussions were about extending the duration of the arrangement for an additional six months, as the previous timetable ended in December.
“The talk about a long-term agreement is only media gossip. The talks were centered on extending the duration of the previous understandings. There is no progress in the Israeli implementation of what has been agreed upon so far,” Naim said.
He added “Israel always make elections as excuse to prolong the period of understandings without improving them.”
The October 2018 agreement talked of two phases. The first was to provide specific facilities for the Gaza Strip, and the second was to begin after the formation of the Israeli government over a long-term truce that would include a prisoner exchange deal.
Political science professor Mokhamar Abu Saada believes that the tension on the Gaza border is over the slow implementation of the agreement.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Egypt had brokered a short-term agreement between Hamas and Israel in October 2018 to ease Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and provide concessions in exchange for easing demonstrations on the border.

• A Hamas leader said there is a tension in the relationship between Egypt and Hamas as a result of Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran.

“We have noticed in the previous Israeli election period that there was an escalation as Hamas and factions tried to obtain more Israeli facilities. It was a way to pressure the Israeli government as it knew that the Israeli reaction would be limited in this period,” Abu Saada told Arab News.
“Netanyahu cannot at this stage reach a long-term agreement with Hamas because of the Israeli elections, because all he wants is to keep the Gaza Strip calm without tension, but he has no ability to offer much,” he added.
Press reports talk of a tension between Hamas and Egypt that led to the recent escalation in the Gaza Strip. Taher Al-Nounou, media adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, denied this.
He said in a press statement: “The head of Hamas attaches special importance to this firm and growing relationship (with Egypt), as Egypt has from its geographical position a central role in the path of the Palestinian issue.”
Egypt allowed Haniyeh to travel on a foreign tour at the end of last year for the first time since he became head of Hamas in 2017.
A Hamas leader who declined to be identified said that there is a tension in the relationship between Egypt and Hamas as a result of Haniyeh’s visit to Tehran to participate in the funeral of Qassem Soleimani.
“Hamas promised Egypt that Haniyeh would not visit Tehran but after the assassination of Soleimani there was a necessity to do so, which angered Egypt and increased tension,” he said.
Haniyeh’s presence at the funeral sparked a debate in Palestinian circles about Hamas’s position on Iran, and on Soleimani specifically.


Egypt sets virus vaccine target

Updated 45 min 51 sec ago

Egypt sets virus vaccine target

  • Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days

CAIRO: Assistant Health Minister and Coordinator of the Anti-COVID-19 Scientific Committee Ihab Kamal said that 842 people have volunteered in just one week to take part in Egypt’s coronavirus vaccine trials.

About 332 have been admitted in accordance with the health ministry’s requirements, which include being free from chronic disease.

Kamal said: “The number of volunteers until now is not low. We are working on raising the awareness of the citizens through various media platforms on the importance of the vaccine tests.” He added that the required number of volunteers is 6000.

He said the first two phases of the vaccine tests are complete and the third phase has begun. He added that volunteers are called for 21 days, pointing out that volunteers take a second dose in case they do not suffer any side effects. Kamal said the blood’s antibodies are measured throughout the year as part of the program.

Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed announced on Thursday that she had launched the third and final phase of clinical trials on two vaccines developed by Egypt. She said the results of the two vaccine trials are positive so far.

Sources said that the Ministry of Health and the three centers taking part in the trials have received many applications. However, many of the applicants do not match the prerequisites, and therefore only 335 were accepted for the trials.

Zayed said in a press conference in Cairo that the current phase targets the participation of 6000 Egyptians. She said there are three places allocated for clinical trials.

Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days. After 45 days of the first dose, antibodies produced by the vaccine are measured to test their efficiency, Zayed said.

She said that national medical committees have been formed from civil and military bodies representing Egypt’s best medical experts.

She added that a committee will oversee conducting the clinical trials and that two vaccines out of seven have reached the third phase of clinical trials.

Zayed said that the first phase of the two vaccines included a test on a small group of 10 to 20 people with the aim of ensuring safety and also determining an appropriate dose. About 200 people took part in the second phase.

The third phase aimed included trials on 45,000 people from around the world, including 6,000 Egyptians.

The Ministry of Health and the company responsible for conducting the clinical trials explained the conditions that volunteers must follow to be eligible for tests.

They include an age bracket from 18 to 60 years old according to health condition. Registration must also be carried out using official documents. Volunteers must reside in Egypt or have valid residency documents during the trial period. Moreover, volunteers must sign an “informed consent” form prior to taking part in the trial.

There are a number of health conditions that prevent volunteers from taking part in the trials, including suffering from the symptoms of fever, dry cough, exhaustion and gonorrhea during the 14 days that precede the tests.