Agreement between Fatah and Hamas paves way for Palestine coalition

Agreement between Fatah and Hamas paves way for Palestine coalition
Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 January 2021

Agreement between Fatah and Hamas paves way for Palestine coalition

Agreement between Fatah and Hamas paves way for Palestine coalition
  • Both sides agreed that the new government “will work on unifying laws and institutions, and have security control over all areas”

AMMAN: Fatah and Hamas leaders appear to be moving closer to setting up a unified list that will be the basis of a Palestinian coalition government, a draft agreement between the rival factions reveals.
The agreement, seen by Arab News, was a key factor in the decision to hold elections — Palestine’s first in 15 years — on May 22.
Details of the accord were discussed at meetings in Istanbul and Cairo, and became the basis of an exchange of letters between Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Compromises appear to have been made by both sides, but particularly by Hamas, which accepts that “the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) is the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and is responsible for all external political issues and negotiations as well as all issues related to war and peace.”
However, Fatah, which has effectively controlled the PLO for decades, acknowledges that the organization requires reform and strengthening so it can better represent all Palestinian groups and in order for its decisions to be mandatory.
By agreeing to be part of the PLO and under its political umbrella, Hamas can avoid the problems it faced in 2006 when it refused to recognize Israel. The PLO exchanged letters of recognition with Israel in 1993.
Hamas and Fatah also agreed to share surplus votes in elections for a national unity government that will run affairs in Gaza and the West Bank, and have total control over all Palestinian areas.

BACKGROUND

Details of the accord were discussed at meetings in Istanbul and Cairo, and became the basis of an exchange of letters between Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Both sides agreed that the new government “will work on unifying laws and institutions, and have security control over all areas.”
A coalition government appears to give the people of Gaza a chance to exercise freedom of movement and benefit from rebuilding work in the enclave.
According to the agreement, one of the main goals of a coalition government seeking to revive Gaza’s battered economy will be a long-term cease-fire with Israel to prepare the groundwork for extensive rebuilding.
The agreement also calls for Gaza airport and all crossings to be permanently restored along with the establishment of a security corridor between Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas and Fatah also appear to agree on the need for a change in the role of the Palestinian president, with calls for an overhaul of Palestine’s political structure, “especially the roles of the president, government and legislative council.”
“It is either a presidential structure or a parliamentary one,” the accord said. “The hybrid is a source of conflict.”
Changes should take place before the presidential elections due on July 31, it adds.
The two factions also agreed that the “election campaigns must be civilized, respectful, and avoid abuse and libel from all sides.”
According to the agreement, election results “will be recognized no matter what they are.”


Free and fair Palestinians elections must include East Jerusalem: UN experts

Palestinian and Israeli activists demonstrate against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (AFP/File Photo)
Palestinian and Israeli activists demonstrate against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 2 min 42 sec ago

Free and fair Palestinians elections must include East Jerusalem: UN experts

Palestinian and Israeli activists demonstrate against the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes, in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Israel as occupying force must clearly state it will allow elections in East Jerusalem and refrain from interfering in the rights and daily lives of Palestinians
  • Experts also called on Palestinian leadership to remove “unjustified” legal barriers that inhibit the democratic process and reschedule elections very soon

NEW YORK: UN human rights experts have urged both the Palestinian Authority and Israel to reschedule the presidential, legislative and municipal elections “in the very near future” and ensure that they are “peaceful and credible.”

In April, Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas issued a presidential decree postponing the elections — originally planned for May and July — “until the participation of our people in Jerusalem is guaranteed.”

He blamed Israel for uncertainty about whether it would allow Palestinians to vote in East Jerusalem.

Expressing concern over the postponement, the UN experts recalled the importance of the elections as a means to “address the long-standing internal political divisions, to strengthen accountable institutions and to take an important step toward achieving the fundamental national and individual rights of the Palestinian people.”

The experts include Martin Lynk, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory; Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of expression; and Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Special rapporteurs are independent experts who serve in individual capacities, and on a voluntary basis, at the UN’s Human Rights Council. They are not members of UN staff and are not paid for their work.

They called on Israel as an occupying power to “clearly state” that it will allow the democratic process to take place unhindered, and to “interfere as little as possible with the rights and daily lives of the Palestinians.”

The 1994 Oslo Accords between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the state of Israel provided for the right of Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate in elections.

Article XI of the interim agreement explicitly stated that “the two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, the integrity and status of which will be preserved during the interim period.”

It has been 15 years since Palestinians last cast ballots. In previous elections, Palestinians from East Jerusalem had been allowed to cast their ballots, although not without difficulty.

In the lead-up to the 2006 elections, Israel launched a campaign of arrests against members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, revoked their Jerusalem identity cards, banned candidates from holding election campaigns inside Jerusalem and prohibited public meetings and rallies.

Recalling the UN Security Council and General Assembly’s statements that any Israeli alterations to East Jerusalem and its political and legal status are “null and void,” the experts called the present moment “a golden opportunity for the world to affirm these commitments in the name of democracy and international law.”

They called on the Palestinian Authority to reschedule the elections “in the very near future,” and demanded that “the democratic rights of voters, candidates, political parties and participants (be) fully respected by all, including the occupying power. 

“Arrests and detentions and the disruption of political meetings and campaigning by any governing authority are utterly incompatible with international human rights protections.”

The human rights experts said that they were “disturbed” by the eligibility rules established by the Palestinian authority for the upcoming elections, including a requirement that each political list pay a $20,000 registration fee and that candidates working in civil society resign from their current jobs in order to run.

The experts said these rules “appear to create unjustified obstacles (and) inhibit the full and free participation of Palestinians in the democratic process.” They called on the Palestinian leadership to remove these legal barriers.

The human rights experts concluded: “We do not underestimate the challenges of holding free and fair democratic elections while under an entrenched and harsh occupation.

“We welcome the assistance offered by the international community, particularly the European Union and the United Nations, to facilitate these elections. But the elections will only achieve credibility and open the door to political renewal, particularly among younger Palestinians, if all sides respect the values of democracy and human rights.”


Iraq records 12,000 COVID-19 infections in new daily high

Iraq records 12,000 COVID-19 infections in new daily high
Updated 26 July 2021

Iraq records 12,000 COVID-19 infections in new daily high

Iraq records 12,000 COVID-19 infections in new daily high
  • Much of the 40-million-strong population remains skeptical of vaccines
  • More than 1.5 million people have now tested positive and 18,347 have officially died of Covid-19 in Iraq

BAGHDAD: Iraq has recorded 12,180 Covid infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Monday, the highest number detected in a single day so far in the pandemic.
More than 1.5 million people have now tested positive and 18,347 have officially died of Covid-19 in Iraq, where the health infrastructure is dilapidated.
Much of the 40-million-strong population remains skeptical of vaccines, with only 1.3 million having been inoculated, the health ministry says.
It is not clear how many of those have received two jabs.
Monday’s record “unfortunately, does not surprise us because of a lack of respect for mandatory hygiene measures such as a ban on gatherings and mask wearing,” ministry spokesman Saif Al-Badr said.
“This increase is probably due to the large number of gatherings during the Eid” Al-Adha festival marking the end of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, he said.
The authorities have struggled to persuade people to get vaccinated and to abide by measures such as wearing face masks in public.
Earlier this month, Sarmad Al-Qarlousi, who heads Baghdad’s Al-Kindi Hospital, warned that unless more people get jabbed, Iraq will spiral toward “an epidemiological catastrophe.”
The ministry spokesman has blamed a reluctance to get inoculated on a “misinformation campaign which preceded the arrival of the vaccine.”
On Monday Badr renewed his appeal to Iraqis to get vaccinated, saying the spike in infections is putting pressure on the country’s fragile health infrastructure.
Two huge fires at Covid-19 hospital wards in April and in mid-July killed more than 120 people, sparking anger and defiance among Iraqis who blame corruption for the failing health system.


UAE reports 1,549 new COVID-19 cases, 7 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,549 new COVID-19 cases, 7 deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 26 July 2021

UAE reports 1,549 new COVID-19 cases, 7 deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,549 new COVID-19 cases, 7 deaths in last 24 hours
  • 1,510 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing patient recoveries to 650,683

DUBAI: The UAE on Monday reported 1,549 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths overnight, bringing the total number of recorded cases to 673,185 with 1,927 fatalities related to the highly contagious disease.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention also said that 1,510 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing patient recoveries to 650,683.

An 232,389 additional COVID-19 tests were also over the past 24 hours, the ministry added in a statement published by state news agency WAM.

The UAE’s aggressive vaccination drive has resulted into a 77.85 percent of the population receiving a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 68.75 percent have been fully vaccinated.

The total number of doses provided stands at 16,495,917 with a rate of vaccine distribution of 166.79 doses per 100 people, the ministry reported.


Biden, Iraqi PM to announce end of US combat mission in Iraq

Biden, Iraqi PM to announce end of US combat mission in Iraq
Updated 26 July 2021

Biden, Iraqi PM to announce end of US combat mission in Iraq

Biden, Iraqi PM to announce end of US combat mission in Iraq
  • Plan to shift the American military mission will be spelled out in a broader
  • The Daesh is a shell of its former self since it was largely routed on the battlefield in 2017

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi are expected to announce on Monday that they’ve come to an agreement to end the US military’s combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year, according to a senior Biden administration official.
The plan to shift the American military mission, whose stated purpose is to help Iraq defeat the Daesh group, to a strictly advisory and training role by year’s end — with no US troops in a combat role — will be spelled out in a broader communique to be issued by the two leaders following their White House meeting on Monday afternoon, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the yet to be announced plan.
The official said the Iraqi security forces are “battle tested” and have proved themselves “capable” of protecting their country. Still, the Biden administration recognizes that Daesh remains a considerable threat, the official said.
Indeed, the Daesh terror organization is a shell of its former self since it was largely routed on the battlefield in 2017. Still, it has shown it can still carry out high-casualty attacks. Last week, the group claimed responsibility for a roadside bombing that killed at least 30 people and wounded dozens in a busy suburban Baghdad market.
The US and Iraq agreed in April that the US transition to a train-and-advise mission meant the US combat role would end, but they didn’t settle on a timetable for completing that transition. The announcement comes less than three months before parliamentary elections slated for Oct. 10.
Al-Kadhimi faces no shortage of problems. Iranian-backed militias operating inside Iraq have stepped up attacks against US forces in recent months, and a series of devastating hospital fires that left dozens of people dead and soaring coronavirus infections have added fresh layers of frustration for the nation.
For Al-Kadhimi, the ability to offer the Iraqi public a date for the end of the US combat presence could be a feather in his cap ahead of the election.
Biden administration officials say Al-Kadhimi also deserves credit for improving Iraq’s standing in the Mideast.
Last month, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited Baghdad for joint meetings — the first time an Egyptian president has made an official visit since the 1990s, when ties were severed after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
In March, Pope Francis made a historic visit to Iraq, praying among ruined churches in Mosul, a former IS stronghold, and meeting with the influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf.
The US and Iraq have been widely expected to use the face-to-face meeting to announce plans for the end of the combat mission, and Al-Kadhimi before his trip to Washington made clear that he believes it’s time for the US to wind down the combat mission.
“There is no need for any foreign combat forces on Iraqi soil,” Al-Kadhimi said.
The US troop presence has stood at about 2,500 since late last year when former President Donald Trump ordered a reduction from 3,000.
The announcement to end the US combat mission in Iraq comes as the US is in the final stages of ending its war in Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after President George W. Bush launched the war in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The US mission of training and advising Iraqi forces has its most recent origins in former President Barack Obama’s decision in 2014 to send troops back to Iraq. The move was made in response to the Daesh group’s takeover of large portions of western and northern Iraq and a collapse of Iraqi security forces that appeared to threaten Baghdad. Obama had fully withdrawn US forces from Iraq in 2011, eight years after the US invasion.
The distinction between combat troops and those involved in training and advising can be blurry, given that the US troops are under threat of attack. But it is clear that US ground forces have not been on the offensive in Iraq in years, other than largely unpublicized special operations missions aimed at Daesh group militants.
Pentagon officials for years have tried to balance what they see as a necessary military presence to support the Iraqi government’s fight against IS with domestic political sensitivities in Iraq to a foreign troop presence. A major complication for both sides is the periodic attacks on bases housing US and coalition troops by Iraqi militia groups aligned with Iran.
The vulnerability of US troops was demonstrated most dramatically in January 2020 when Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Al-Asad air base in western Iraq. No Americans were killed, but dozens suffered traumatic brain injury from the blasts. That attack came shortly after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qassim Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis at Baghdad International Airport.
The US military mission since 2014 has been largely focused on training and advising Iraqi forces. In April, in a joint statement following a US-Iraqi meeting in Washington, they declared, “the mission of US and coalition forces has now transitioned to one focused on training and advisory tasks, thereby allowing for the redeployment of any remaining combat forces from Iraq” at a time to be determined later.
Monday’s communique is also expected to detail US efforts to assist the Iraqi government’s COVID-19 response, education system and energy sector.


Lebanese PM-designate Mikati aims to form gov't to implement reform plan

Lebanese PM-designate Mikati aims to form gov't to implement reform plan
Updated 51 min 23 sec ago

Lebanese PM-designate Mikati aims to form gov't to implement reform plan

Lebanese PM-designate Mikati aims to form gov't to implement reform plan
  • Veteran politician Hariri gave up on cabinet formation
  • Mikati says no magic wand but has international guarantees

BEIRUT: Lebanese businessman Najib Mikati secured enough votes in parliamentary consultations on Monday to be designated the next prime minister, and now faces the difficult challenge of forming a viable government to tackle a financial crisis.
Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty. He received 72 votes out of a total of 118 members of parliament.
Like previous nominee Saad Al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states.
"I don't have a magic wand and I can't work miracles," Mikati said after his nomination, but added that he had been studying the situation and had "the necessary international guarantees". Mikati is the third person to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion at Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city.
Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity since then, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Mikati said he was confident he could form a government, and its first priority would be to implement a reform plan by former colonial power France.
The French roadmap envisioned a government of specialists capable of implementing reforms and engaging the International Monetary Fund.
Hezbollah, the heavily armed Shi'ite Islamist movement that the United States deems a terrorist group, nominated Mikati in Monday's consultations. Most of the main parliamentary blocs endorsed the choice.
Muhammad Raad, the leader of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, told reporters there were signs hinting at the possibility of forming a government and "that's why we named Mikati, to give an extra boost to facilitate forming a government."
Hezbollah is an ally of President Michel Aoun.
Among Mikati's endorsers was Hariri who, after nearly 10 months, abandoned efforts to form a government last week after failing to agree its composition with Aoun.
Hariri told reporters after meeting Aoun that he hoped Mikati, a telecoms tycoon, would be chosen and succeed in forming a cabinet, adding: "The country has a chance today."
The news of Mikati's likely designation boosted the Lebanese pound earlier on Monday on the unofficial parallel market, where dollars changed hands at around 16,500 pounds, compared to over 22,000 at the height of the deadlock over the government.
In Lebanon's political system, the post of prime minister has to be held by a Sunni Muslim, while the presidency is held by a Maronite Christian.
Western governments have been piling pressure on Lebanon to form a government that can set about reforming the corruption-marred state. They have threatened to impose sanctions and said financial support will not flow before reforms begin.