Palestinian rivals agree to respect poll outcome

Palestinian rivals agree to respect poll outcome
Members of Central Elections Commission's filed teams, walk to register local residents to the electoral roll, at the main road of Gaza City, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
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Updated 10 February 2021

Palestinian rivals agree to respect poll outcome

Palestinian rivals agree to respect poll outcome
  • Factions end Cairo talks with 15-point accord on historic elections

CAIRO: After years of bitter division, rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed on “mechanisms” for forthcoming elections and to respect the outcome of the polls.

In a 15-point final statement delivered at the end of the two-day talks in Cairo, the factions said that the elections would be held on the announced dates and that all obstacles to their implementation would be removed.

The factions asked Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, to direct Egyptian authorities to follow up on the implementation of the agreement and to take part in monitoring of the elections.

Last month, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for legislative elections on May 22 and presidential elections on July 31, provided that the formation of the Palestinian National Council will be completed on Aug. 31.

These will be the first legislative elections since 2006 and the first presidential elections since 2005.

The factions said in the final statement that the national partnership begins with the Legislative Council elections, followed by the presidential elections and then the formation of the National Council.

The statement noted the importance of adhering to the election timetable set by the presidential decree, with a commitment to accept and respect the results.

The deal provides for an “electoral court” — by consensus of judges from the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza — with exclusive jurisdiction over the electoral process and any cases arising from the elections, provided that the president issues a decree to form it.

The factions entrusted the task of election security to the police in the West Bank and Gaza.

The statement also said that polling “must take place in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, without exception,” adding that “public liberties and an atmosphere of political freedom” must be allowed as well as equal access to official media for all electoral lists.

The deal includes a commitment to immediately release all prisoners detained “on factional grounds or in relation to freedom of opinion.”

The agreement ensures freedom of political advertising, publishing and printing, holding political meetings, and ensuring the impartiality of the security services in the West Bank and Gaza and their non-interference in the electoral process.

The Cairo meeting also decided to submit a recommendation to the Palestinian presidency to consider amendments in several points of the election law, including insurance fees, resignation, and lowering the nomination age and the proportion of women.

Khalil Al-Hayya, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said: “The Palestinian factions and forces agree on the mechanisms for conducting elections for the National and Legislative Council and the presidency, including the formation of an election court by consensus.”

He added: “It was agreed to return to Cairo next March to lay the foundations and mechanisms for forming a new National Council through elections and consensus.”

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine stressed the importance of completing the dialogue sessions next month to deal more comprehensively with the Palestine Liberation Organization and agreeing to strengthen the national resistance program that guides the Palestinian people’s struggle.

The front said that its delegation presented its vision of the foundations upon which all components of the Palestinian political system are built.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement decided not to participate in the elections as long as they were in line with the Oslo Accords.

Hamas, blacklisted as a terrorist group by the EU and the US, won an unexpected landslide at the last elections in 2006. That victory was not recognized by Fatah.

That led to violent clashes the following year and a split in Palestinian governance.

Fatah has since run the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Hamas has held power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, the year Israel imposed a devastating blockade on the coastal enclave.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a phone call on Tuesday, thanked Abbas for supporting the Cairo talks, saying he hoped for the “success of the elections and the end of the division,” according to the official WAFA news agency.


Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut
Updated 8 min 13 sec ago

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut

Five dead in ambush on Hezbollah mourners south of Beirut
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called for restraint after the clashes

LONDON: Hezbollah official Ali Barakat has been killed in clashes in Khalde, a town south of Beirut on Sunday, Lebanese media reported. 

At least five people were killed in an ambush on Shi'ite mourners in the town, a day after a revenge killing of a member of Lebanon's Hezbollah group, a senior source in the group said.

The five were shot in Khaldeh, where sectarian tensions have long flared between its mixed Shi'ite and Sunni residents.

A statement from Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called for restraint after the clashes.


Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready
Updated 01 August 2021

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready

Egyptian chief of staff calls on southern region’s military unit to be vigilant, combat-ready
  • The chief of staff discussed the unit’s various combat missions and methods of confronting emergencies
  • Farid stressed the need to develop the field skills of fighters and improve those of officers

CAIRO: Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed Farid called on the personnel and officers from one of the southern region’s military units to be “vigilant and combat-ready to carry out the tasks of securing the country’s borders.”

During a meeting with personnel from the unit, Farid conveyed the greetings and appreciation of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for their efforts and sacrifices in the fight to maintain the security of the country’s southern border against smuggling, illegal immigration and hostilities.

The chief of staff discussed the unit’s various combat missions and methods of confronting emergencies, praising their combat readiness and high morale.

Farid stressed the need to develop the field skills of fighters and improve those of officers to enable them to make quick decisions under various circumstances.

He inspected the unit’s procedures for raising combat efficiency, beginning with the presentation of a report that included the technical and administrative status of the unit following improvements to weapons and other areas.


Israel says it has evidence linking Iran to deadly tanker attack; Tehran denies

Israel says it has evidence linking Iran to deadly tanker attack; Tehran denies
Updated 01 August 2021

Israel says it has evidence linking Iran to deadly tanker attack; Tehran denies

Israel says it has evidence linking Iran to deadly tanker attack; Tehran denies
  • Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has ordered the nation’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism”

JEDDAH/DUBAI: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday Israel had “evidence” Iran was behind the deadly tanker attack off Oman despite its denials, and warned his country could “send a message” in retaliation.

Bennett’s statement came after Iran rejected Israel’s “baseless accusations” it was responsible for the attack that killed two crewmen, and Tehran vowed to defend its interests after its arch-foe pushed for UN action against it.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh made comments on the attack from Tehran and denied any involvement, saying Israel “must stop such baseless accusations,” and noting “it is not their first time to direct such accusations at Iran.”

The MT Mercer Street, managed by prominent Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer, was struck Thursday off the Omani coast.

“The intelligence evidence for this exists and we expect the international community will make it clear to the Iranian regime that they have made a serious mistake,” the Israeli premier said at the weekly cabinet meeting in remarks conveyed by his office.

“In any case, we know how to send a message to Iran in our own way.”

From Jerusalem, Bennett slammed Iran’s “cowardly” denial, saying he could “determine with absolute certainty that Iran carried out the attack against the ship.”

“Iran’s aggressive conduct is dangerous not only to Israel, but also harms global interests, freedom of navigation and international trade,” he said.

Two crewmen, one British and one Romanian, died in Thursday’s attack on the oil tanker, which was on its way from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Fujairah in the UAE.

The US military said that early indications “clearly point” to a drone strike on the Mercer Street.

“US Navy personnel are on the Mercer Street, assisting the vessel’s crew,” the US military’s Central Command said. “US navy explosives experts are aboard to ensure there is no additional danger to the crew, and are prepared to support an investigation into the attack.”

The maritime industry analysts Dryad Global said the attack had “the hallmarks of the ongoing Israel/Iran ‘shadow war’.”

The UK on Sunday denounced Iran's “deliberate, targeted” attack on an oil tanker in the Sea of Oman after assessing Tehran was behind the attack.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the attack “unlawful and callous” and said the UK was working with its international partners on a concerted response to what he called an “unacceptable” strike.

It said the attack was the fifth against a ship connected to Israel since February, and two ships linked to Iran had been attacked in the same period.

Iran’s Arabic-language Al-Alam state TV channel, citing “informed regional sources,” said the attack was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” targeting an airport in central Syria where Iran is backing the regime.

On Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and agreed to work with other allies "to investigate the facts, provide support, and consider the appropriate next steps", a State Department statement said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid ordered his country’s diplomats to push for UN action against “Iranian terrorism.”

He said: “I’ve instructed the embassies in Washington, London and the UN to work with their interlocutors in government and the relevant delegations in the UN headquarters in New York.

“Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terrorism, destruction and instability that are hurting us all.”

Lapid said he had also spoken to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, stressing “the need to respond severely to the attack on the ship in which a British citizen was killed.”

HIGHLIGHT

Several Iranian drones appear to have carried out the attack, crashing into living quarters under the ship’s command center.

The strike on the tanker comes as European powers meet with Iran in an effort to shore up a 2015 agreement to curtail the Islamic republic’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions.

The accord was strained when in 2018 former US President Donald Trump withdrew the US unilaterally and reimposed sanctions.

Negotiations in Vienna, where the US is indirectly taking part, have stalled ahead of next week’s inauguration of newly elected ultra-conservative Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi.

Retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom, a senior research fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said the attack appeared to copy elements of an Israeli exploding drone strike on a centrifuge manufacturing site in Iran in June.

Israel “started developing drones and was among the first to develop the concept of a kamikaze,” Gen. Brom said.

“The Iranians are imitating us and adopting the same techniques.” Iran’s strike was “a certain escalation but aimed at avoiding a full-scale war,” he said. “They are not interested in a wider escalation, just as we are not interested in a wider escalation.”

In June, Iran said it had foiled a sabotage attack on an atomic energy agency building near the city of Karaj west of Tehran.

But aerial photographs obtained by private Israeli intelligence firm The Intel Lab revealed damage to the site.

(With AFP and AP) 


Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
Updated 01 August 2021

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
  • It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants
  • Migrant boat departures have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved

ABOARD SEA-WATCH 3, Mediterranean: Two humanitarian rescue ships pulled 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean overnight on Sunday in an operation lasting about six hours, a Reuters witness said.

The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters 68 km (42 miles) from the North African coast, near oil facilities and other ships.

Sea-Watch 3, which assumed command of the operation, took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took the rest. The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.

It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants who were in the wooden boat, which was crammed with migrants on deck and inside the hull.

The craft was taking in water and its engine was not working, the Reuters witness said.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.

According to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.

Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said.

The migrants were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.


Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
Updated 01 August 2021

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

GAZA: Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as chief of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, two Palestinian officials told Reuters on Sunday.
Haniyeh has led Hamas since 2017.