What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?

Palestinians walk past buildings destroyed during Israeli strikes in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, on February 26, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians walk past buildings destroyed during Israeli strikes in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, on February 26, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 February 2024
Follow

What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?

What would a new Palestinian government in the West Bank mean for the war in Gaza?
  • Israel killed 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry
  • It was granted limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza ahead of what the Palestinians hoped would be full statehood in both territories as well as east Jerusalem, lands that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian Authority’s prime minister announced his government’s resignation on Monday, seen as the first step in a reform process urged by the United States as part of its latest ambitious plans to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But it will do little to address the authority’s longstanding lack of legitimacy among its own people or its strained relations with Israel. Both pose major obstacles to US plans calling for the PA, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to govern postwar Gaza ahead of eventual statehood.
That’s assuming that the war in Gaza ends with the defeat of the Hamas militant group — an Israeli and US goal that seems elusive nearly five months into the grueling war that has killed almost 30,000 Palestinians and pushed the territory to the brink of famine.




This handout picture provided by the Palestinian Authority's Press Office (PPO) shows Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (L) presenting the resignation of his government to President Mahmud Abbas, in Ramallah on February 26, 2024. (AFP)

Here’s a look at the government shakeup and what it means for the Israel-Hamas war.
WHAT IS THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY?
The PA was created in the early 1990s through interim peace agreements signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, then led by Yasser Arafat.
It was granted limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Gaza ahead of what the Palestinians hoped would be full statehood in both territories as well as east Jerusalem, lands that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war.
But the sides were unable to reach a final agreement through several rounds of peace talks. Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the PA in 2005, months after Arafat’s death. Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections the following year, triggering an international boycott of the PA.




A displaced Palestinian child stands outside a makeshift tent attached to a school hosting families from other parts of the Gaza Strip in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza on February 26, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue for the fifth month. (AFP)

A power struggle between Abbas’ secular Fatah party and Hamas boiled over in the summer of 2007, with Hamas seizing power in Gaza after a week of street battles. That effectively confined Abbas’ authority to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Abbas recognizes Israel, is opposed to armed struggle and is committed to a two-state solution. His security forces have cooperated with the Israeli military to crack down on Hamas and other armed groups, and his government has worked with Israel to facilitate work permits, medical travel and other civilian affairs.
WHAT DOES THE RESIGNATION MEAN?
In announcing his resignation, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said new arrangements were needed to address “the new reality in the Gaza Strip.”
Abbas accepted Shtayyeh’s resignation and is expected to replace him with Mohammad Mustafa, a US-educated economist who has held senior positions at the World Bank and currently leads the Palestine Investment Fund. He was deputy prime minister and economy minister from 2013-2015.




Palestinians search the rubble of their house destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in east Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

As a political independent and not a Fatah loyalist like Shtayyeh, Mustafa’s appointment would likely be welcomed by the US, Israel and other countries.
Mustafa has no political base of his own, and the 88-year-old Abbas will still have the final say on any major policies. Still, the appointment would convey the image of a reformed, professional PA that can run Gaza, which is important for the US
State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was up to the Palestinians to choose their leaders, but that the US welcomes any steps to “reform and revitalize” the PA.
“We think those steps are positive. We think that they’re an important step to achieving a reunited Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
HOW DO PALESTINIANS VIEW THE AUTHORITY?
Abbas’ popularity has plummeted in recent years, with polls consistently finding that a large majority of Palestinians want him to resign. The PA’s security coordination with Israel is extremely unpopular, causing many Palestinians to view it as a subcontractor of the occupation.
Both the PA and Hamas have cracked down on dissent in the territories they control, violently suppressing protests and jailing and torturing critics. Abbas’ mandate expired in 2009 but he has refused to hold elections, citing Israeli restrictions.
Hamas, whose popularity has soared during this and previous rounds of violence, would likely do well in any free election.
But the most popular Palestinian leader by far is Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison after a 2004 terrorism conviction.
Hamas is demanding his release in exchange for some of the hostages it captured in the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war, but Israel has refused.
Hamas has called for all the Palestinian factions to establish an interim government to prepare the way for elections. But Israel, the US and other Western countries are likely to boycott any Palestinian body that includes the militant group, which they view as a terrorist organization.
DOES ISRAEL SUPPORT THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY?
Israel prefers the PA to Hamas. But even though they cooperate on security matters, Israel accuses the PA of inciting terrorism, and the PA accuses Israel of apartheid and genocide.
Israel’s criticism largely focuses on the PA’s provision of financial aid to the families of Palestinian prisoners and Palestinians killed by Israeli forces — including militants who killed Israelis. Israel says the payments incentivize terrorism. The PA portrays them as social welfare for victims of the occupation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the PA should have no role in postwar Gaza. He says Israel will maintain open-ended security control over the territory while local Palestinian leaders administer civilian affairs. Netanyahu’s government is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
The US has outlined a path to a broader postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel and join other Arab states and a revitalized PA in helping to rebuild and govern Gaza — all in exchange for a credible path to an independent Palestinian state.
The reform of the PA represents a small part of that package, which has yet to win over the Israeli government.
 

 


Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings

Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings
Updated 4 sec ago
Follow

Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings

Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings
  • Lazzarini stressed an investigation was necessary “to have accountability, in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations,” Lazzarini said

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees hit back at Israel Tuesday, calling for a Security Council probe into the “blatant disregard” for UN operations in Gaza after some 180 staffers were killed.
Philippe Lazzarini also revealed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had been able to partly offset a funding shortfall by raising $100 million from online donations since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out in October.
His comments came a day after the release of an independent review that said Israel had not yet provided evidence supporting its claim that hundreds of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups. The review did, however, identify “neutrality-related issues” within the agency, for example in employees’ social media posts.
While accepting the findings of the review, Lazzarini told reporters that attacks on UNRWA’s neutrality “are primarily motivated by the objective to strip the Palestinians from the refugee status — and this is a reason why there are pushes today for UNRWA not to be present” in Gaza, east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
UNRWA was established in 1949 to serve Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as their descendants. There are now 5.9 million registered Palestinian refugees.
Lazzarini said that he recently “called on the members of the Security Council for an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard of UN premises, UN staff, and UN operations in the Gaza Strip.”
As of Tuesday, 180 UNRWA staff have been killed in the war, 160 premises have been damaged or destroyed, and at least 400 people have been killed while seeking the protection of the UN flag, Lazzarini said.
Vacated UNRWA premises have been used for military purposes by the Israeli army or Hamas and other militant groups, while UNRWA staffers have been arrested and even tortured, he added.
Lazzarini stressed an investigation was necessary “to have accountability, in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations,” Lazzarini said.
Allegations by Israel in January that some UNRWA staff participated in the Hamas attacks led to many donors freezing some $450 million in funding at a time when Gaza’s 2.3 million people are in dire need of food, water, shelter and medicine.
Many countries have since resumed their donations, while others, including the United States — which passed a law blocking funding until at least March 2025 — have not.
“In terms of our funding of UNRWA, that is still suspended. We’re gonna have to see real progress here before that gets changed,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
Lazzarini said UNRWA was operating “hand to mouth for the time being” but said that online fundraising to the agency totaled $100 million since October 7, in “an extraordinary indication of grassroots solidarity.”
Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA with Hamas, the militant group responsible for the October 7 attack which resulted in the death of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
At least 34,183 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombabardments and ground offensive, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 23 April 2024
Follow

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”


Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 23 April 2024
Follow

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.
 


US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 23 April 2024
Follow

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 23 April 2024
Follow

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”