‘Secretive’ Hamas elections spark internal party row

‘Secretive’ Hamas elections spark internal party row
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Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad Chief Ziyad al-Nakhalah attend the Palestinian factions' meeting over Israel and the United Arab Emirates' deal to normalise ties, in Beirut, Lebanon September 3, 2020. (REUTERS)
‘Secretive’ Hamas elections spark internal party row
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Updated 30 January 2021

‘Secretive’ Hamas elections spark internal party row

‘Secretive’ Hamas elections spark internal party row
  • According to widely circulated information, Haniyeh is not guaranteed to remain in his post for a second term in light of Turkish-Qatari support for the return of former chief Khaled Mashaal, who, according to procedural rules, can become president again

GAZA CITY: Secret Hamas internal elections have become the subject of a growing rift in the party amid calls for greater openness and representation ahead of Palestine’s general elections scheduled for May.

The General Shoura Council of Hamas rejected a request by the political leadership to postpone internal elections for one year in order for the party to devote time to legislative elections, in which Hamas can maximize its political clout.

Hamas, which will celebrate its 34th anniversary this year, is looking to new leadership to lead the party over the next four years, but internal disputes are surfacing, bucking the trend of secrecy and traditionalism within the movement.

An official Hamas source said that if the Cairo-hosted inter-Palestinian dialogue on general elections proves successful, Hamas will immediately begin internal elections, provided they finish in two months instead of six.

Hamas conducts its elections in complete secrecy in three regions — the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the diaspora — once every four years in order to choose its leadership. Positions up for grabs range from leadership of sub-regions, Shoura Council spots and Political Bureau posts, which represent the highest “executive authority” in the movement.

The Political Bureau consists of 15 members, distributed evenly across Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora. They are chosen by the Shoura, Hamas’ highest regulatory authority, which maintains an anonymous member count.

The last internal elections were held in 2017 and saw Ismail Haniyeh become head of the Political Bureau — the first time a Gaza-based leader was elected to an executive position.

According to widely circulated information, Haniyeh is not guaranteed to remain in his post for a second term in light of Turkish-Qatari support for the return of former chief Khaled Mashaal, who, according to procedural rules, can become president again.

Haniyeh, who comes from a refugee family, has lived abroad for more than a year, moving between Ankara and Doha, while Mashaal, who was born in Kuwait, has resided permanently in Doha since Hamas left Syria following disputes with the Bashar Assad regime.

Last month, Hamas held elections for new leadership of the High Commanding Authority in Israeli prisons. Salama Al-Qatawi, a detainee, was appointed chief, detainee Abdel Nasser Issa his deputy, while 13 other prisoners were granted membership of the movement.

The anonymous Hamas source told Arab News that Hamas prisoners are dissatisfied with the leadership positions and their perceived lack of power in decision-making.

The source added that the prisoners are calling for prisons to be adopted as a fourth region in elections, their leader made a member of the new Political Bureau, and his deputy made a member of the Shoura Council.

If their campaign proves successful, the prisoners will have a representative in the Political Bureau for the first time in years.

Wasfi Qabha, a prominent Hamas leader in the West Bank and former minister of prisoners, defended the right of the prisoners to be represented in the Political Bureau.

He expressed dissatisfaction with prisoner and West Bank representation in the last election, adding: “It is not acceptable for the prisoners not to have a representative, and those who represent the West Bank have members residing outside it.”

The West Bank is represented in the Political Bureau by exiled ex-prisoners and leaders who have settled in the region, which has led to accusations that its leadership lacks authenticity.

“The principle is that whoever leaves the West Bank is counted on the quota of abroad, and leaves the representation of the West Bank to its people. The West Bank is not a minor child in need of guardianship,” Qabha told Arab News.

West Bank elections are supervised by Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the Political Bureau, who has lived abroad following his deportation in 2011 that came after his release from an Israeli prison as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange.

Hamas’ internal system relies on secrecy. It forbids members from directly running for any of its leadership bodies. Rather, it is based on the principle of endorsement, whereby figures are selected to compete for leadership vacancies — from the lower level to the upper.

Recently, new voices have emerged within Hamas calling for a change in the traditional pattern of elections to keep pace with developments and to face both internal and external challenges.

These include Ghazi Hamad, head of the Ministry of Social Development in Gaza, who wrote the article “Hamas elections — between traditional stereotypes and the required renewal,” in which he argued that it is time to “break the tradition and adopt change, frankness, boldness and qualitative action.”

Hamad addressed the Hamas base, saying that it is wrong to limit the elections of a great movement with a history, popularity and national presence to purely partisan walls.

He added that some people want elections to remain “traditional, stereotypical and secret,” denying members the ability to communicate and revise leadership, and limiting choices only to certain geographic areas.

Khalil Al-Hayya, a member of the Political Bureau, said in an interview with Hamas’ Aqsa TV that the movement took its decision to conduct internal elections as per the scheduled dates, adding that elections will be conducted “smoothly and in a friendly atmosphere.”

 


HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
Updated 32 min 3 sec ago

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
  • Shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baluchi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Baluchistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Baluchs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
Updated 26 February 2021

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
  • About 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine

JERUSALEM: Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.
Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called “Green Pass” with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening.


Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
Updated 26 February 2021

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
  • Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap
  • Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations

CAIRO: Libya’s newly-elected prime minister failed to name members of a much-anticipated Cabinet ahead of an expected deadline Thursday, raising questions over whether his transitional government can unite Libya’s factions.
Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet in a news conference from the capital, Tripoli, and send it to Libya’s House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap, which envisages holding general elections in the war-torn North African country by the end of the year.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations: One in the east and another in the west, each supported by a vast array of militias and foreign governments.
“We are ready to submit the names (of Cabinet ministers) but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously,” Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli without specifying when he will actually make the submission.
Dbeibah said he envisages a Cabinet of technocrats who would represent Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation,” he said.
He added that the country’s sovereign ministerial portfolios should be equally divided between candidates from Libya’s three key geographic areas in the east, the west and the south.
Earlier this month, Dbeibah was elected as prime minister by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Dbeibah should lead the country through general elections on December 24. Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.


Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
Updated 26 February 2021

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
  • The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19
  • The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures

DUBAI: Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) has authorized the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for coronavirus the Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday.

The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and will be given to those most at risk, suchas the elderly, people with chronic diseases and other groups identified by the Health Ministry.

The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, for an additional three months.

The measures involve the continued enforcement of  social distancing and screening of people at commercial and industrial premises for a further three months.


Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely
Updated 26 February 2021

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely

Oman extends COVID-19 safety measures, closes parks, beaches, leisure areas indefinitely
  • Three Omani citizens convicted of violating coronavirus safety protocols

DUBAI: Oman’s Supreme Committee supervising the country’s coronavirus response has extended indefinitely the closure of beaches, public parks and leisure spaces to curb the spread of the highly contagious disease.

It reiterated the ban on indoor gatherings in resthouses, farms and winter camps, state news agency ONA reported, citing the high risk of coronavirus transmission in closed spaces.

In the North A’Sharqiyah governorate, the Supreme Committee has extended the shortened business operating hours with commercial activities required to close from 7 p.m. until 6 a.m..

Petrol stations, health establishments and private pharmacies are exempt from the updated regulation.

The latest regulations were issued as the Sultanate’s coronavirus cases reached 140,588 with 29 new patients hospitalized overnight. The total number of COVID-19 related death cases is at 1,562.

Meanwhile, three Omani citizens have been convicted of violating coronavirus safety protocols and separately fined $2,000 and sentenced to a three-month imprisonment.

“Primary Courts in the governorates of North Al Batinah and Dhofar issued penal verdicts convicting three citizens who breached decisions of the Supreme Committee” particularly non-compliance with the institutional quarantine and for not wearing a mask, ONA said in a separate report.