Poster of Iran’s Soleimani sparks controversy in Gaza Strip

A Hamas policeman stands guard during a ceremony to mourn slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani killed in Baghdad in a US airstrike, in Gaza City. (AFP)
A Hamas policeman stands guard during a ceremony to mourn slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani killed in Baghdad in a US airstrike, in Gaza City. (AFP)
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Updated 01 January 2021

Poster of Iran’s Soleimani sparks controversy in Gaza Strip

Poster of Iran’s Soleimani sparks controversy in Gaza Strip
  • Palestinians view late Iranian general as war criminal

GAZA CITY: A picture of the late Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani that was posted on a billboard in Gaza City has been vandalized and torn down, days before the first anniversary of his death.
Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad Airport on Jan. 3, 2020.
The Gaza picture bore the phrase “the martyr of Jerusalem,” which was uttered by the head of Hamas’ political bureau Ismail Haniyeh at Soleimani’s funeral.  
Hamas has publicly praised Iran during the past few years as it is the most prominent supporter of developing the movement’s military capabilities.
But Palestinians and Arabs view Soleimani as a war criminal, involved in massacres against Syrian and Iraqi civilians through his direct intervention in military operations in both countries.
The poster was put up by an unknown group believed to be affiliated with Hamas and Iran-backed factions.
Hamas security forces arrested Sheikh Majdi Al-Maghribi, who was at the front of the group that tore down the image, according to his family and those close to him.
Al-Maghribi wrote on Facebook: “Every hero can remove this shame from the land of Gaza. Let him blur, rip, and distort these images ... A shame for this filth remaining above our heads.”
The appearance of the poster also coincided with a military exercise in the Gaza Strip that involved the participation of Hamas and 12 military wings, most of which acknowledge Iranian support.
A few days ago, a prominent Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, said that Soleimani had handed him $22 million during their first meeting in 2006 when he was Gaza’s foreign minister.
A member of the Political Bureau of the People’s Party, Walid Al-Awad, said that displaying Soleimani’s image at this time was unnecessary and would negatively affect Gaza because it would either pay the price at the hands of Israel or lose ties with Arab countries.
“Raising Soleimani’s picture is a step that will be exaggerated in a way that places Gaza in the circle of Iranian terrorism,” he added.
A member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Talal Abu Zarifa, said the general’s picture would lead Gaza into a “maze and great and dangerous political entanglements” and lose the support of Arab countries instead of having them on side at a time when the Palestinian cause was going through a great impasse.
Activist Ahmed Silmi also rejected the justifications for showing Soleimani’s image with Iranian support for Palestinian factions. “The resistance is not only a military action, but it is a moral clarity in order to be worthy of the people’s bias toward you and their feeling motivated in adopting your causes. The interest in building an arsenal of weapons alone at the expense of concern for moral clarity has a heavy price.”  
Hezbollah possessed an arsenal of weapons greater than Gaza but had become a pariah in the consciousness of Muslim peoples, so its weapons had not satisfied it, he added.
Political science professor Hussam Al-Dajani at Umma University said controversy accompanied everything in Gaza, whether it was a picture of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi Sisi, Soleimani, or an Emirati aid convoy.
“Our whole lives are controversies, and although this debate is healthy and useful, we should know that politics is governed by interests, not principles, even if we disagree on that,” he said.
It is the second time that Soleimani’s picture has been raised in Gaza. The first was in a mourning marquee set up for him by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Resistance Committees.
Hamas official Ismail Radwan said at the time: “We will remain in the Gaza Strip loyal to those who supported Palestine and developed the capabilities of the factions.”

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 16 January 2021

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
  • Veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis will be secretary-general Antonio Guterres’s representative to the country
  • Glimmers of hope for Libyans as progress reported at first meeting of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s advisory committee

NEW YORK: Security Council members on Friday approved the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN’s special envoy to Libya.

It came as UN officials said significant progress has been made in Geneva this week during the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Kubis to be his envoy, a position that has been vacant since early March last year, when Ghassan Salameh resigned due to stress after less than three years in the job.

A number of replacements were suggested but members of the Security Council failed to agree on one. In December they overcame their differences and approved the choice of Bulgarian diplomat Nikolai Mladenov — only for him to surprise everyone by turning down the offer for “personal and family reasons.”

Kubis is currently the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon. He previously held similar positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described as significant progress during the first meeting of the LPDF’s advisory committee, which began in Geneva on Jan. 13 and concludes on Jan. 16.

“The mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection-mechanism proposals,” Dujarric said.

The formation of the advisory committee was announced on Jan. 3. Its 18 members, including women, young people and cultural figures, were chosen to reflect the country’s wide geographical and political diversity.

The secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, had indicated that the main task for the committee would be to deliberate on the contentious issues that have plagued the selection of a unified executive authority. The aim is to develop solid recommendations the LPDF can consider in line with the political roadmap agreed by its 75 members during their first round of talks in Tunis last year.

This roadmap represents a rights-based process designed to culminate in democratic and inclusive national elections Dec. 24 this year. The date is also that of Libya’s 70th Independence Day. The elections will mark the end of the transitional phase for the country and chart a new way forward.

“This unwavering achievement, this date to return the sovereign decision to its rightful owners, is our top priority,” said Williams in her opening remarks at the advisory committee meeting in Geneva this week.

She also rejected claims that UNSMIL will have any say in the selection of the new executive authority. “This is a Libyan-Libyan decision,” Williams said, adding that the interim authority is intended to “shoulder the responsibility in a participatory manner and not on the basis of power-sharing, as some believed.”

She added: “We want a participatory formula where there is no victor, no vanquished; a formula for coexistence for Libyans of various origins for a specific period of time until we pass on the torch.

UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said the Geneva talks have already overcome some major hurdles. This builds on the political accomplishments since the Tunis meeting at which a consensus was reached on the political roadmap, the eligibility criteria for positions in the unified executive authority, and the authority’s most important prerogative: setting a date for the elections.

He also reported “very encouraging progress” in military matters since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in October by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the members of which include five senior officers selected by the Government of National Accord and five selected by the Libyan National Army.

“This includes the recent exchanges of detainees conducted under the JMC’s supervision, as part of wider confidence-building measures; the resumption of flights to all parts of Libya; the full resumption of oil production and export; as well as the proposed unification and restructuring of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, in addition to the ongoing serious talks on the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, which we hope will take place very soon,” said Alam.

He also hailed “promising developments” relating to the economy, including the recent unification of the exchange rate by the Central Bank of Libya, a step that requires the formation of a new authority for it to be implemented.

“The recent meeting between the ministries of finance was an important effort to unify the budget and allocate sufficient funding to improve services and rebuild Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure, particularly the electrical grid,” Alam said.

“All of these reforms are steps that will bring national institutions together to work in establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement.”

Williams added that without a unified executive authority, it would difficult to implement these steps.