Palestinian engineers protest in challenge to Abbas’ authority in West Bank

Palestinian police prevent demonstrators from gathering ahead of a planned protest against the Palestinian authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP file photo)
Palestinian police prevent demonstrators from gathering ahead of a planned protest against the Palestinian authority in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 01 August 2022

Palestinian engineers protest in challenge to Abbas’ authority in West Bank

Palestinian engineers protest in challenge to Abbas’ authority in West Bank
  • Syndicate chair Nadia Habash told the sit-in: “We demand that the prime minister come down from his ivory tower to address the masses of engineers demanding their rights”

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Engineers Syndicate has announced the escalation of its protest action, with hundreds of people demonstrating on Monday in front of the Palestinian prime minister's headquarters in Ramallah as ministers met for their weekly Cabinet session.

Protesters are demanding the financial rights of public engineers and seeking a government commitment to implement a financial agreement signed between the two parties last year, syndicate sources told Arab News.

It has demanded the implementation of the Cabinet’s decision, which includes disbursing a bonus to engineers working in the public sector at a rate of 120 percent, similar to employees in the same segment.

It also wants rewards for military engineers and housing allowances for fourth-grade teacher engineers.

Syndicate chair Nadia Habash told the sit-in: “We demand that the prime minister come down from his ivory tower to address the masses of engineers demanding their rights.”

She urged the prime minister to look at “us and address the engineers, talk to them, listen, and respond to their demands.”

She stressed the pursuit of justice and fairness for the engineers and the implementation of the agreement signed with the government in 2014, saying the government was persistent in ignoring their pleas and denying them their rights.

She said the government had filed a court case against the engineers to stop their strikes and repudiate the agreement.

The syndicate embarked on a strike of general engineers throughout last week to pressure the government to respond to its demands.

On July 30, it announced the escalation of its protest action for this week.

As part of a series of strikes and work pauses, which engineers carried out on Sunday, they also stayed away from the workplace and remained at the union’s headquarters.

Permanent engineers were also urged to leave their offices and follow the strike.

The syndicate began escalating its campaign in June, announcing an eight-day strike this month for engineers in the public sector.

Osama Taha, head of the syndicate in Ramallah, told Arab News: “We waited for the government to approve its budget for 2022 and the president's endorsement, but we have a government that does not abide by or implements the agreements that it signs.”

The protest covers 30,000 engineers in the West Bank, 18,000 active members of the syndicate, and 2,000 employees in the public sector from ministries affiliated with the Palestinian Authority.

The escalation of the action coincides with the ongoing month-long protest by 10,500 Palestinian lawyers.

A senior leader in the Fatah Central Committee expressed concern about the widening circle of union protests, which could weaken the status of the Palestinian Authority and paralyze life in the West Bank, especially if other unions such as doctors, pharmacists, and teachers announced a strike and similar protest steps.

“This series of union protests and strikes to demand rights indicates a defect in the relationship between the government and civil society institutions and negatively affects and weakens the image of the Palestinian government,” Ahmed Rafiq Awad, head of the Al-Quds Center for Future Studies at Al-Quds University, told Arab News,

“The frequent and continuation of strikes for a long period leads to job insecurity that weakens the authority's prestige and may lead to paralysis in public life.

“If the government claimed that it does not have financial capabilities, we would have cooperated with it to consider what was agreed upon as a debt to its engineers, which it can fulfill and abide by whenever its financial conditions improve, but it did not respect the agreements with the union and ignored them.”

But he expressed his hope that there would eventually be an agreement between the two sides.

Amid concern about the protests, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyieh said at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet session on Monday in Ramallah that the Israeli government's decision to deduct $177 million from Palestinian tax funds was unjust, illegal, and piracy.

“It adds to our financial crisis in another dimension, but it will not deter us from our commitment toward the families of prisoners and martyrs,” he added.

Israel has deducted the value of the salaries that the authority pays to the families of prisoners and martyrs since the end of last December.

Israel’s move has negatively affected the financial conditions of the authority, as it is now paying 80 percent of the salary value of its 170,000 public employees.

 


Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid
Updated 27 January 2023

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

JERUSALEM: Gaza militants fired rockets and Israel carried out airstrikes early Friday as tensions soared following an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank that killed nine Palestinians, including at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.
It was the deadliest single raid in the territory in over two decades. The flare-up in violence poses an early test for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government and casts a shadow on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expected trip to the region next week.
Palestinian militants fired five rockets at Israel, the military said. Three were intercepted, one fell in an open area and another fell short inside Gaza. Israel carried out a series of airstrikes at what it said were militant targets. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Thursday’s deadly raid in the Jenin refugee camp was likely to reverberate on Friday as Palestinians gather for weekly Muslim prayers that are often followed by protests. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, had earlier threatened revenge for the raid.
Raising the stakes, the Palestinian Authority said it would halt the ties that its security forces maintain with Israel in a shared effort to contain Islamic militants. Previous threats have been short-lived, in part because of the benefits the authority enjoys from the relationship and also due to US and Israeli pressure to maintain it.
The Palestinian Authority already has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, and almost none over militant strongholds like the Jenin camp. But the announcement could pave the way for Israel to step up operations it says are needed to prevent attacks.
The Israeli strikes early Friday targeted training sites for Palestinian militant groups, the military said. Witnesses and local media reported that Israeli drones fired two missiles at a Hamas militant base before fighter jets struck it, causing four large explosions.
Air raid sirens went off in southern Israel as the initial two rockets were fired and then again after the airstrikes, when the militants fired the other three rockets.
On Thursday, Israeli forces went on heightened alert as Palestinians filled the streets across the West Bank, chanting in solidarity with Jenin. President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, and in the refugee camp, residents dug a mass grave for the dead.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had decided to cut security coordination in “light of the repeated aggression against our people.” He also said the Palestinians planned to file complaints with the UN Security Council, International Criminal Court and other international bodies.
Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said the Biden administration was deeply concerned about the situation and that civilian casualties reported in Jenin were “quite regrettable.” But she also said the Palestinian announcement to suspend security ties and to pursue the matter at international organizations was a mistake.
Thursday’s gunbattle that left nine dead and 20 wounded erupted when Israel’s military conducted a rare daytime operation in the Jenin camp that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack on Israelis. The camp, where the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group has a major foothold, has been a focus of near-nightly Israeli arrest raids.
Hamas’ armed wing claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad claimed three others. An earlier statement from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia loosely affiliated with Abbas’ secular Fatah party, claimed one of the dead was a fighter named Izz Al-Din Salahat, but it was unclear if he was among those seven militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the 61-year-old woman killed as Magda Obaid, and the Israeli military said it was looking into reports of her death.
The Israeli military circulated aerial video it said was taken during the battle, showing what appeared to be Palestinians on rooftops hurling stones and firebombs on Israeli forces below. At least one Palestinian can be seen opening fire from a rooftop.
Later in the day, Israeli forces fatally shot a 22-year-old and wounded two others, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as Palestinians confronted Israeli troops north of Jerusalem to protest Thursday’s raid. Israel’s paramilitary Border Police said they opened fire on Palestinians who launched fireworks at them from close range.
Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks.
Israel’s new national security minister, far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who seeks to grant legal immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinians, posted a video of himself beaming triumphantly and congratulating security forces.
The raid left a trail of destruction in Jenin. A two-story building, apparently the operation’s target, was a charred wreck. The military said it entered the building to detonate explosives.
Palestinian Health Minister May Al-Kaila said paramedics struggled to reach the wounded during the fighting, while Akram Rajoub, the governor of Jenin, said the military prevented emergency workers from evacuating them.
Both accused the military of firing tear gas at the pediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke. Video at the hospital showed women carrying children into a corridor.
The military said forces closed roads to aid the operation, which may have complicated rescue efforts, and that tear gas had likely wafted into the hospital from nearby clashes.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem said Thursday marked the single bloodiest West Bank incursion since 2002, at the height of an intense wave of violence known as the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which left scars still visible in Jenin.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened” by the violence. Condemnations came from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Turkiye, which recently reestablished full diplomatic ties with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries also condemned the Israeli raid.
The Islamic Jihad branch in Gaza has repeatedly fought against Israel, most recently in a fierce three-day clash last summer that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Hamas, which seized power from the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in 2007, has fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem last year, making 2022 the deadliest in those territories since 2004, according to B’Tselem. So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed. So far this year, not including Thursday, one-third of the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or civilians had ties to armed groups.
Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel says its raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say they further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of the West Bank, which Israel captured along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim those territories for their hoped-for state.
Israel has established dozens of settlements in the West Bank that now house 500,000 people. The Palestinians and much of the international community view settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace, even as talks to end the conflict have been moribund for over a decade.


France, Iraq sign comprehensive strategic partnership agreement — Elysee

France, Iraq sign comprehensive strategic partnership agreement — Elysee
Updated 27 January 2023

France, Iraq sign comprehensive strategic partnership agreement — Elysee

France, Iraq sign comprehensive strategic partnership agreement — Elysee

French President Emmanuel Macron met with Iraq Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani on Thursday, the French presidency said, signing a set of strategic agreements meant to boost Iraq’s economic cooperation with the European country.
In the meeting, France and Iraq signed a treaty that seeks to strengthen bilateral relations in anti-corruption, security, renewable energy and culture, the Elysee Palace said on Friday.


S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace
Updated 26 January 2023

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace
  • Pope Francis is due to go to Congo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 and then spend two days in South Sudan

JUBA: After spending nearly a decade in a camp for the displaced in South Sudan’s Juba, Mayen Galuak hopes that Pope Francis’ visit to the capital city next week will inspire political leaders to finally restore peace, allowing him to go home.

The 44-year-old entered the UN camp, just a few kilometers from his residence, in search of safety three days after conflict broke out in 2013.

In the ensuing years, he has watched as South Sudan’s leaders forged peace deals and broke them; as militias carried out and denied ethnic massacres; and as relentless conflict pushed parts of the country into famine.

Pope Francis is due to go to Congo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 and then spend two days in South Sudan. 

The pope has wanted to visit South Sudan for years but plans were postponed due to the instability there and a scheduled trip last June was canceled due to the pope’s knee ailment.

The Vatican’s envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo has said the trip will remind the world not to ignore decades-long conflicts.

“We are in a bad situation ... since 2013, we have not seen any good peace,” said Galuak, who says he can’t travel to his birth home in the country’s north because of the risk of attack. Sporadic clashes continue to kill civilians throughout the country.

South Sudan gained independence in 2011.


Jailed Kurdish leader urges unity against Erdogan

Jailed Kurdish leader urges unity against Erdogan
Updated 26 January 2023

Jailed Kurdish leader urges unity against Erdogan

Jailed Kurdish leader urges unity against Erdogan
  • The Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP — parliament’s third-largest — faces the threat of being banned ahead of polls in which Erdogan will seek to extend his rule into a third decade

ISTANBUL: Turkiye’s pro-Kurdish party should back the main opposition candidate instead of fielding its own against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May elections, its elder statesman told AFP from jail.

“I am in favor of backing a joint candidate” Selahattin Demirtas, who ran against Erdogan twice, told AFP through a lawyer from his jail in the western city of Edirne.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP — parliament’s third-largest — faces the threat of being banned ahead of polls in which Erdogan will seek to extend his rule into a third decade.

Erdogan portrays the HDP as the political wing of outlawed Kurdish militants who have been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

The party says it is being singled out for standing up for Kurdish rights and resisting Erdogan’s crackdown on civil liberties.

Turkiye’s top court is expected to rule on a prosecutor’s request to shut it down in the coming months.

The party’s legal problems add a new layer of uncertainty to the parliamentary and presidential polls — widely viewed as Turkiye’s most important in generations.

The HDP has been excluded from a six-party opposition alliance now trying to agree on a single candidate to run against Erdogan.

But after securing 12 percent of the vote in 2018 elections, the HDP’s future could prove decisive in what promises to be a tight race.

Demirtas’s second presidential challenge came from behind bars, where he has languished since 2016 on a myriad of charges, some of them terror-related.

The 49-year-old denies them all and the European Court of Human Rights agrees, repeatedly calling for his release.

Demirtas has been convicted on some counts since the last election, making him ineligible to run again.

But the party’s co-chairwoman, Pervin Buldan, suggested this month that the party should still field its own candidate, even without its brightest star.

Demirtas conceded that Buldan might ultimately get her way.

“At this stage, it seems more likely that the HDP will nominate its own candidate,” he said.

But a “compromise with the HDP through negotiations” could still produce a joint candidate representing Turkiye’s entire opposition — including the Kurds, he said.


Syrian Kurdish forces arrest Daesh commander in eastern region

Syrian Kurdish forces arrest Daesh commander in eastern region
Updated 26 January 2023

Syrian Kurdish forces arrest Daesh commander in eastern region

Syrian Kurdish forces arrest Daesh commander in eastern region
  • The commander served as the chief of the extremist group’s faction for Raqqa and was among the 68 militants detained in the operation

RAQQA: Syrian Kurdish-led forces captured a local commander of Daesh in eastern Syria as part of an ongoing operation targeting sleeper cells in the city of Raqqa, the US-backed forces announced on Thursday.

The commander served as the chief of the extremist group’s faction for Raqqa and was among the 68 militants detained in the operation, the Syrian Democratic Forces said.

The operation started earlier this week, in response to a December attack by Daesh that targeted military and security buildings in Raqqa and killed at least six Syrian Kurdish fighters. 

A Kurdish commander, Mazloum Abdi, said they had indications of “serious preparations” by Daesh for attacks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based opposition war monitor, said Daesh also targeted a military intelligence prison holding some 200 militants in the December attack.

Daesh lost all territorial control in Iraq and Syria in 2019, following a yearslong US-backed campaign that defeated the so-called caliphate, where Raqqa was once the Daesh de facto capital. 

However, militant sleeper cells persist and have since killed scores of Iraqis and Syrians. 

Syrian Kurdish and US forces frequently conduct raids targeting Daesh sleeper cells in northern and eastern Syria.

The captured Daesh commander was identified as Atallah Al-Maythan. 

Syrian Kurdish forces said he headed the militant group’s operations across Raqqa province, and allegedly “confessed to his involvement in planning and leading terrorist acts,” extorted money from residents in the area and kept Daesh sleeper cells in contact.

Some 5,000 Syrian Kurdish-led fighters are involved in the operation, and have already raided some 80 locations, said their spokesperson, Farhad Shami.

The US-led coalition was providing air support, reconnaissance, and gathering intelligence, Shami added.

This is the second recent operation by the US-backed forces in Syria. In late December, the Syrian Kurdish-led fighters targeted Daesh cells in Al-Hol and Tal Hamis, following a surge in militant attacks.

The US Central Command said that 215 militants from Daesh were arrested last year and 466 were killed in Syria. There are roughly 900 US troops in Syria.