One dead as PA forces crack down on Hamas in West Bank

One dead as PA forces crack down on Hamas in West Bank
Protesters clash with Palestinian security forces in Nablus in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday following the arrest of two members of Hamas. AFP
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Updated 21 September 2022

One dead as PA forces crack down on Hamas in West Bank

One dead as PA forces crack down on Hamas in West Bank
  • Fighting ‘weakens Abbas’s position’ ahead of crucial speech at UN

RAMALLAH: A 53-year-old man was killed in the city of Nablus as the Palestinian Security Services exchanged fire with Hamas fighters in the center of the occupied West Bank’s second-largest city.

The man, named as Firas Yaish, died as four others were injured in angry clashes, with residents pelting an armored jeep with objects.

The incident, sparked by a raid to arrest two Hamas militants, marked a rare case of deadly internal Palestinian fighting in the occupied West Bank.

It also reflected the deep unpopularity of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which is widely seen as collaborating with the Israeli-imposed status quo.

The clashes in Nablus took place a few days before the annual speech of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23 in New York, during which he will demand an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Taysir Nasrallah, a prominent Fatah leader in Nablus, told Arab News that the timing of the raid was wrong — three days before Abbas’ UN speech and five weeks before An-Najah National University elections in Nablus — as it would affect Fatah’s chances of winning the student council elections.

Palestinian Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Ziad Hab Al-Rih and a delegation of senior security advisers visited Nablus on Tuesday to contain the situation and restore order. Sources told Arab News that the city’s governor, Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Ramadan, refused to release the two detainees taken in the raid, including Musab Shtayyieh, who tops Israel’s list of most wanted people.

Nasrallah said the arrests had gone down poorly with the public, and that Shtayyieh had not violated any Palestinian law.

FASTFACT

Residents accused the Palestinian security forces of making the arrests on behalf of Israel and began shooting into the air and burning tires. Palestinian security responded with tear gas, and exchanges of fire took place.

Hamas condemned the raid and accused the PA of collaborating with Israel.

“While the enemy continues to carry out killings, arrests, Judaization and settlements, the PA identifies with it by continuing security coordination, suppressing our people, and pursuing and arresting resistance fighters in behavior outside all our national norms,” Hamas said in a statement.

Amer Hamdan, a political activist from Nablus, told Arab News that the timing of Shtayyieh‘ arrest was wrong “because its repercussions will weaken Abbas’ position at the UN.”

Hamdan believes that Israel pressured the PSS to arrest Shtayyieh at this particular time to embarrass the PA at the UN, and to show the world that it cannot control security in cities under its control.

Maj. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a former spokesman for the PSS, told Arab News that it is Hamas and Islamic Jihad that wish to escalate violence in the West Bank to weaken the PA and damage its standing with Israel as a security guarantor.

He added that Israel, too, is interested in creating chaos in Palestinian areas.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, called on all segments of Palestinian society to be calm and to confront the Israeli occupation.

The PA has recently come under immense pressure from Israel to act against growing militancy in Jenin and Nablus, from where the militants allegedly plan attacks against Israeli targets.

The PA requested a four month period from Israel with no Israel Defense Forces incursions into Palestinian areas. However, Israel refused and said the IDF and the security agency Shin Bet would continue their operations.

The PA has a 33,000-strong security force in the West Bank, but it has to withdraw each time the IDF invades the West bank’s cities, embarrassing the PA and PSS in front of their people.

Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank is now in its 55th year, with no signs of ending anytime soon. The last substantial round of peace talks ended in 2009.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank, home to some 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heartland for a future independent state.


Tunisia’s ex-speaker in court over ‘terror links’

Tunisia’s ex-speaker in court over ‘terror links’
Updated 28 November 2022

Tunisia’s ex-speaker in court over ‘terror links’

Tunisia’s ex-speaker in court over ‘terror links’

TUNIS: The speaker of Tunisia’s dissolved parliament appeared on Monday before a judge investigating accusations his party helped Tunisian extremists travel to fight in Iraq and Syria.

Rached Ghannouchi, an arch-rival of President Kais Saied and also head of the Ennahdha party, arrived in the morning at the anti-terror court in a suburb of the capital Tunis, said one of his lawyers, Mokhtar Jemai.

At the end of the hearing, the judge is expected to decide whether or not to charge the 81-year-old.

Several other Ennahdha officials have been questioned on the “shipment of extremists” case since Saied sacked the Ennahdha-supported government and seized full executive authority in July 2021.

After Tunisia’s 2011 revolt, thousands of Tunisians joined terror groups in Libya as well as Daesh in its strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

Rivals of Ennahdha, which dominated Tunisian politics from 2011 until Saied’s actions, accuse the party of helping them leave.

The party has repeatedly rejected those accusations as “fabricated” and says authorities are trying to distract public attention from “economic and social concerns and the deterioration of people’s living conditions.”

Ghannouchi also appeared before a judge on November 10 as part of a case involving money-laundering and “incitement to violence.”


Lebanon’s courthouses suffer from judicial paralysis

Lebanon’s courthouses suffer from judicial paralysis
Updated 28 November 2022

Lebanon’s courthouses suffer from judicial paralysis

Lebanon’s courthouses suffer from judicial paralysis
  • Judges’ suspension of work has damaged public trust in system, lawyers and security official say

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s courthouses are paralysed after the country’s judges’ strike entered its fifth month. 

This prolonged inactivity has had a severe impact on the daily lives of Lebanese people, with hundreds of pending files and detainees awaiting prosecution.

More than 450 of the 560 judges in Lebanon have stopped working, with the rest continuing in military courts or for humanitarian reasons.

The strike centers around demands for salary revisions after the collapse of the Lebanese pound, as well as improvements in working conditions.

In addition to the collapse of the pound, political interference has caused significant displeasure among many in the judiciary, contributing to the desire to strike.

“People are greatly affected,” said Imad Al-Masri, a lawyer specializing in criminal proceedings. “As lawyers, we must defend people’s interests, along with our personal interests, as we are on the verge of bankruptcy and our salary is zero.”

He stated that lawyers in Lebanon are unable file complaints to release detainees, noting that preventive detention is limited to two months.

“There are humanitarian cases where people have to be released. Some (of those who) were arrested due to misdemeanors … can be released in days at the stroke of a pen. However, they have been held for months in inappropriate conditions and no one is taking action.”

Al-Masri added: “Had it not been for the security agencies that are taking action in prosecuting criminals, we would be governed by the law of the jungle.”

Another lawyer, who did not reveal his name, said: “Court hearings in a criminal court (are taking place) without a representative of the Public Prosecution office. This court is considered illegal.

“Some judges suddenly choose not to suspend their activity and decide to open files that are classified as having political coverage, such as in the bribery file of the directory of road traffic.”

The lawyer added that he tried to file an urgent complaint last week before the Cassation Public Prosecution about an attempt to kill one of his clients. However, the complaint was rejected, and when he added that the suspect might kill his client, the prosecution responded that their hands were tied.

The judges’ strike has led many citizens to lose trust in the judiciary, with some taking matters into their own hands.

A security source noted that cases of fraud and physical abuse had increased in the last months, and that offenders are no longer afraid since courthouses are not taking any action. Stories of public prosecutors not receiving people’s complaints or legal proceedings, and police stations not receiving directives to arrest suspects, meanwhile, are common.

Judges who have suspended their activities have been receiving $1,500 for three months, in addition to their salary, while continuing their strike.

However, this is covered by the Support Fund for Judges, a judicial source told Arab News, as a temporary aid while demands for a salary review continue.

The Lebanese Judges Association declared last month that “responsibility, anger and blame should be directed at the political authorities.

“The case of judges suspending their work was not given any importance, thus leaving the people and judges to suffer humiliation, as if justice is not, and never was a priority,” said the association.

Arab News learnt that the Lebanese central bank, the Banque du Liban, had agreed to give judges their salary at the rate of 8,000 Lebanese pounds to the US dollar, subject to the approval of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

At current rates, though, judges’ monthly salaries are worth between 1.6 million pounds ($40) and 8.2 million dependent on rank and experience.

These salaries ranged between $400 and $5,000 per month before the collapse of the pound.

The increase of the public sector’s wages within the 2022 budget, meanwhile, did not include judges.

A judicial source told Arab News: “There is no electricity, no paper and no pens (at the courts). We sometimes use both sides of a sheet of paper and a phone’s flashlight to search files due to the diesel shortage and the generators’ intermittent power.

“Consequently, there is neither heating, nor cooling or maintenance, and garbage is piling up in some justice palaces.

“There are attempts to interfere politically in judicial files. How can one work in such conditions, in addition to the extremely low salaries?”


Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says
Updated 28 November 2022

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says
  • Key security role reportedly handed to extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir in cabinet being assembled by Benjamin Netanyahu fuels concern

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are ready to confront the policies and actions of the Israeli occupation forces with widespread displays of resistance and steadfastness, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday.

His comments, at the start of a cabinet session on Monday in Ramallah, came amid growing Palestinian alarm over a key role promised to far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir in the next Israeli government. Ben-Gvir, a settler living in the West Bank who has long been a fierce opponent of Palestinian statehood, will reportedly have an expanded national security portfolio in the new administration, including responsibility for border police in the West Bank.

More generally, concerns are growing by the day among Palestinians about the likely threats posed by the extreme right-wing Israeli coalition government being formed under the leadership of Likud leader Netanyahu, which will include members of radical religious parties.

Prominent extremist leaders such as Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have openly stated the policies they intend to impose on Palestinians upon the formation of a government in which they are involved.

As a sign of the growing threat, their supporters among the settler population in the West Bank, and some Israeli army soldiers, reportedly have already begun to display more aggressive behavior toward Palestinian civilians.

Israeli sources said one of the plans of the Netanyahu government will be to legalize 60 settler outposts in the West Bank, built by Hilltop Youth extremists on large areas of confiscated Palestinian land. There are said to be plans to allocate money for the modernization and development of the outposts, and to expand the powers of the Israeli Civil Administration to approve the allocation of land for settlement expansion, according to the sources. The new Israeli government will allocate about $52 million annually for development of infrastructure for the “new small settlements” and outposts, they said.

On Monday, Shtayyeh said that the intentions of the next Israeli government had started to become clear, along with its “aggressive and colonial programs and its plans to erase the 1967 borders and to strengthen colonial outposts and turn them into new colonies, and provide them with what they need, covering it legally, materially and politically.”

He said the aggression continues despite “our realization that all settlements are illegal and illegitimate according to international law.”

Shtayyeh added that the next Israeli government will form settler militias, under the protection of the Israeli army, and had vowed to further escalate an already tense situation. However, the threats and intimidation will not frighten the Palestinians, he said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has stated its opposition to settlement expansion in the West Bank on the grounds that it threatens the two-state solution that Washington supports.

The Palestinians fear continuing settlement expansions will destroy their dream, for which they have fought for 55 years, of a contiguous Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Khalil Al-Tafakji, director of the maps department and an expert on settlement affairs at the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem, told Arab News that Ben-Gvir is a settler from the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron who ideologically considers the West Bank to be part of Israel. He will not accept that there is any state other than Israel between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and does not believe in the existence of a Palestinian state.

Israeli political and religious parties on the left and right and in the center have differing opinions on many matters, Al-Tafakji said, but they all agree on the issue of settlements and opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The legalization of settlement outposts in the West Bank will make these outposts a national priority in terms of allocating funds to them, paving roads linking them to neighboring settlements and main streets, exempting them from taxes, and transforming them in the future to be part of a large settlement close to them,” he said.

Al-Tafakji said that what concerns him most is that because a significant part of the new government is likely to include extreme right-wing politicians such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, who hail from settlement backgrounds, Netanyahu might appear more moderate.

There are 145 settlements in the West Bank, in which about 550,000 settlers live, 15 settlements in East Jerusalem that are home 230,000 settlers, and 170 illegal outposts. All settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. Most of the settlement outposts are in the Jordan Valley or the Hebron area in the southern West Bank, Al-Tafakji said, and they represent a clear existential threat to the Palestinian dream of a state of their own

Younes Arar, director of international relations at the Settlement and Wall Resistance Commission, told Arab News that the growing threat of legalization of settlement outposts comes amid an increase in the pace of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank in recent days. This is in addition to moves to return settlers to outposts previously vacated by an Israeli political decision, including Avitar, south of Nablus, and Tarslah, near Jenin, he said.

Benny Gantz, who was defense minister in the previous coalition government, strongly criticized the plans to place Ben-Gvir in control of the Border Guard as part of the coalition agreement with Netanyahu.

Gantz, who has accused Ben-Gvir of establishing a private militia, warned against the politicization of the army. There is a consensus among the public on this issue, he told Channel 12 news on Monday.

“I am confident that the leaders and the Israeli army will not acquiesce in the illegal demands in the army,” he said.

Gantz also criticized a reported agreement to transfer the oversight unit in the Israeli Civil Administration that handles civilian and humanitarian affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party.

Meanwhile, Israel has announced that it will now be an offense punishable by three years in prison for Arab-Israelis or Israelis to take their vehicles to Palestinian garages in the West Bank for repair. Dozens of garages in the West Bank, especially in towns and villages close to the border with Israel, are popular with Jews and Israeli Arabs because they are relatively cheap.

The crackdown follows a recent incident in which an Israeli Druze teenager, Tiran Fero, died as a result of a car accident when he took his car to a garage in Jenin for repair.

After his death, Palestinian gunmen took the body, which threatened to cause a major security crisis in the Jenin camp as tensions rose between the Druze community and Palestinians. The body was subsequently handed over following intervention from officials on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Yemen leader visits Jordan to push for Houthi blacklisting

Yemen leader visits Jordan to push for Houthi blacklisting
Updated 28 November 2022

Yemen leader visits Jordan to push for Houthi blacklisting

Yemen leader visits Jordan to push for Houthi blacklisting
  • Meanwhile, the country’s foreign minister urges the international community to support government efforts to punish the Iran-backed militia

AL-MUKALLA: Rashad Al-Alimi, the chairperson of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday in his continuing efforts to build international support for punishing the Iran-backed Houthis for their escalating attacks on government-controlled areas and the country’s oil infrastructure.

Yemen’s official Saba News Agency reported that Al-Alimi, who was accompanied by two council members, will meet King Abdullah II and other Jordanian officials to discuss the war in Yemen and lobby for international support to counter Houthi threats to international maritime traffic off the coast of the country.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has stepped up its diplomatic pressure to gain international support for labeling the Houthi militia as a terrorist group and persuade the world to publicly denounce them for targeting oil terminals in southern Yemen over the past two months.

Al-Alimi’s visit to Jordan came a day after the Presidential Council approved, following three days of deliberation, a number of measures in response to the Houthi drone attacks on the oil facilities. The steps include the blacklisting of Houthi leaders and organizations, and the sanctioning of traders who deal with or support them, in an effort to target the militia’s financial resources.

The council also ordered the revival of government agencies involved in counterterrorism efforts and defending state infrastructure against Houthi threats.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak urged the international community to support Yemen’s efforts to punish the Houthis. He told the US ambassador to the country, Steven H. Fagin, that the designation of the Houthis as terrorists would help to curb their deadly attacks and encourage them to stop blocking peace efforts designed to end the war.

Despite the government pressure, the Houthis continue to launch assaults on state-controlled sites around the nation, resulting in casualties and property damage.

According to local media reports on Monday, heavy fighting broke out between government soldiers and Houthis in the southern province of Lahj during the previous 24 hours as the Houthis began a fresh offensive in Al-Qabbabeh district. Several government soldiers and an African migrant reportedly were killed or injured in the fighting.

The Houthis also launched a barrage of Katyusha rockets at a village west of the Hays district in the western province of Hodeidah, local media reported. There were no casualties. The government’s Joint Forces in the area responded by targeting the Houthis responsible for the launches.

In Sanaa on Sunday, the Houthis held funeral processions for nine military personnel of various ranks who had been killed in battles with government troops.

Meanwhile, at least 10 soldiers were injured on Monday in the southern province of Abyan during a patrol when their vehicle triggered a roadside bomb in the Omaran valley, a local military official told Arab News. Similar devices have killed three soldiers and wounded 15 in the valley and neighboring areas since early last week, the source said.

In September, pro-independence Yemeni forces declared that they had taken complete control of the Omaran valley, which had long been used by Al-Qaeda militants as a base for hiding, training and planning attacks.


Arab League meeting prioritizes food insecurity

Arab League meeting prioritizes food insecurity
Updated 28 November 2022

Arab League meeting prioritizes food insecurity

Arab League meeting prioritizes food insecurity
  • Subcommittee follows up on implementing strategic framework for UN Zero Hunger goal

CAIRO: The Arab League held the region’s eighth meeting of the Subcommittee for Hunger Eradication, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture on Monday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Chaired by Sudan, it focused on implementing “UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger,” which aims to eliminate food insecurity and malnutrition in the region. 

Nada El Agizy, director of sustainable development and international cooperation at the Arab League, said that food security is a top priority for joint Arab action.

She emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts and called for the strengthening of existing partnerships, as well as the formation of new ones, to address the challenges. 

The “Strategic Framework for Zero Hunger in the Arab Region” was launched in February during the fourth Arab Week for Sustainable Development in Cairo.

A UN study in June 2021 warned that hunger in the Arab region was on the rise and threatened the area’s efforts to achieve freedom from it by 2030.