Palestinian leadership’s call fails to overcome divisions

A demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag stands in front of Israeli forces during a protest against Israeli settlements and the U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan, in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Bank February 25, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 May 2020

Palestinian leadership’s call fails to overcome divisions

  • A Fatah spokesman, Hussein Hamayel, said that the positions of Hamas and PIJ were unjustified, and that they should stand with the leadership in the face of the imminent danger facing the Palestinians

GAZA CITY: In an effort to unite Palestinians against the Israeli annexation plans in the West Bank the Palestinian leadership has called on all factions to hold an emergency meeting to discuss an action plan on Saturday in Ramallah.

It sent invitations to Hamas, Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and other Palestinian groups to attend the meeting to formulate the strategy to respond to Israeli plans.

Hamas and PIJ have refused to participate, saying the meeting would be a formality and would not produce any influential decisions, while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) decided to participate, despite its tense relationship with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Justifying its position, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said: “The repeat of facing the liquidation project with the same tools is wasting the energies of our people and is an additional encouragement to the occupation.”

Haniyeh, who has not returned to Gaza since his departure on a foreign tour a few months ago, said Hamas appreciates any serious Palestinian step to confront Israeli plans, but not with meetings that are content with media coverage and with no strategies that the people could accept.

A senior PIJ official, Ahmed al-Mudallal took the same line: “It is not possible to confront American-backed Israeli crimes except with serious steps towards real Palestinian unity that preserves the national project and restores the state of comprehensive and popular confrontation to the Zionist enemy, especially in the West Bank, to make the occupation costly.”

Haniyeh called for ”comprehensive popular resistance” in the West Bank and Gaza to confront the “deal of the century.”

Al-Mudallal called on the Palestinian authority to cancel its recognition of Israel, the Oslo accords and the rest of the agreements signed with Israel to inaugurate what he called “a new and unified Palestinian struggle period.”

The PFLP, contrary to the position it has been taking close to Hamas in recent years, has officially announced its participation in the Ramallah meeting.

"Our participation stems from the responsibility of the National Front to confront a plan to annex large areas of West Bank, which aims to complete the colonial project for the entire Palestinian land," said Maher Mezher, a member of PFLP Central Committee.

At the meeting the PFLP will demand to set up committees to discuss their response.

Mezher told Arab News that PFLP will also demand the withdrawal of recognition of Israel, the implementation of the decisions of the National and Central Councils to end the Oslo Agreement and the consequent political, security and economic obligations.

A Fatah spokesman, Hussein Hamayel, said that the positions of Hamas and PIJ were unjustified, and that they should stand with the leadership in the face of the imminent danger facing the Palestinians.

He accused Hamas of trying to “create weak arguments to justify its positions towards the Palestinian leadership.”

“The meeting is important and is expected to result in strong and historic decisions in the face of the annexation projects. Hamas and PIJ’s apology means their adherence to division and weakening the Palestinian position,” Hamayel said.

In his speech to mark the 72nd anniversary of the Nakba, President Abbas threatened to withdraw from the agreements with Israel, “We will reconsider our attitude on all agreements and understandings, whether with the occupying state or with the US itself, and we will be free of all those agreements and understandings if the Israeli government has announced the annexation of any part of our occupied lands.”


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”