Sinwar: Our Goal is to Wipe Israel not Recognize it

Ramallah- Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar has stated that the time to discuss the recognition of Israel as a state had elapsed, saying the movement is instead debating “when to wipe out Israel.”

Sinwar was responding to the US stance that rejects any Palestinian reconciliation without Hamas recognizing the state of Israel as a main condition in any future Palestinian government. This was disapproved by both Hamas and Fatah.

“Gone are the days of Hamas (discussing) the recognition of Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel,” Sinwar said.

“Disarming us is like Satan dreaming of heaven. No one can take away our weapons,” he added.

Sinwar stated that the US-Israeli stance will make the future stage more difficult but Hamas won’t back off from the reconciliation.

His comments followed the statement of US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, who said: “The United States reiterates the importance of adhering to the principles of the Quartet for the Middle East: any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognize the state of Israel, accept previous agreements and obligations between the parties – including to disarm terrorists – and commit to peaceful negotiations.”

“If Hamas is to play any role in a Palestinian government, it must accept these basic requirements,” he added.

“Hamas must recognize Israel as a Jewish state and cease terrorism as per the Quartet’s terms, dismantle its military wing, release the Israeli soldiers who have been held in Gaza and cut its ties with Iran,” announced the Israeli security cabinet.

Hamas considered Greenblatt’s statement a blatant interference in Palestinian affairs, while Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary Majed al-Fatyani expressed rejection to the US stance.

Fatah sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the movement will not ask Hamas to recognize Israel because it hasn’t done so either.

Abbas Opens Recruitment for Security Services in Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he delivers a speech in the West Bank city of Bethlehem

Ramallah- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas opened the door to recruitment in the Gaza Strip, in a move that would rearrange the security services in the sector.

Member of Fatah Central Committee Hussein Sheikh said that Abbas signed the decision to open the recruitment in the Gaza Strip to restructure the security establishment, noting that a number of security leaders in the West Bank would head to Gaza in the coming days in order to oversee the structure of the security services there.

“We want a security institution committed to the basic law of the State of Palestine, and its doctrine is to protect the national project and the political program of the Palestinian legitimacy,” he added.

Abbas’ decision came ahead of scheduled meetings with security officials from the West Bank and others from the Gaza Strip, in order to arrange security in the sector.

Sources close to the matter told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the president’s decision would entail “rebuilding the security services and getting rid of any burden.”

“The decision was made in coordination with the Egyptians. They have been informed,” the sources added.

They went on to say that a large number of the PA’s military personnel would be referred to retirement.

“This may also apply to the Hamas military, and then the remainder will be chosen as the nucleus of the new forces in Gaza,” the sources explained.

The Authority plans to attract some 5,000 new recruits in the Gaza Strip. The applicant must be Palestinian holding a Palestinian identity, between the age of 18 and 22. He must not be sentenced to a felony or misdemeanor. He should have a good appearance and have passed the initial medical examination, and not being separated from his previous service by disciplinary decision.

Hamas and other Palestinian factions gather thousands of armed men in Gaza. The weapons of these groups were not discussed during the rounds of Palestinian dialogue in Cairo. It was only agreed that peace and war would be based on a joint decision and that weapons remain in hideouts to be used when needed.

General Director of Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority Arrives in Gaza


Ramallah – Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority began assuming its duties of managing Gaza’s crossings, according to the Palestinian Public Works Minister Mufeed al-Hasaynah.

Hasaynah spoke during a meeting with General Director of Palestinian Crossing and Borders Authority Nazmi Muhanna, Hamas Head of National Security Maj-Gen Tawfiq Abu Naim, Head of Gaza Civil Affairs Saleh al-Zeq, Director of Gaza Crossings Raed Fattouh. He explained that the committee began assuming its duties and the work began backed by everyone’s determination to succeed in this.

Muhanna told journalists that he had been sent by president Mahmud Abbas to implement the “first step” in the reconciliation agreement, “the taking over of the crossings.”

He said he was hopeful that in talks with Hamas they would agree on handing over the borders quickly.
The crossings have been one of the issues that long hindered previous agreements due the authority’s desire to completely control it, and Hamas’ insistence on co-managing the crossings. However, Hamas agreed this time to hand the crossings over to the government.

All crossings are meant to be handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the beginning of November ahead of the full transfer of power on first of December.

However, Hamas was not pleased with PA focusing on the crossings rather than other issues.

Hamas member of political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk criticized statements of several officials concerning issues like the employees or security, saying “they don’t promise good.”

Hamas’ spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum also condemned Abbas’ for keeping his measures against Gaza and blatant denial of reconciliation requirements.

“The failure of [Palestinian] Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to respond affirmatively to the popular and national demands to cancel his arbitrary measures against our people in Gaza is unjustifiable and a clear denial of the demands of reconciliation. He must bear responsibility for exacerbating the people’s suffering and crises,” said Barhoum.

Sami Abu Zahri, also Hamas’ spokesperson, said that it is unjustifiable to maintain the measures on Gaza.

Zahri tweeted that the government only talks about handing the crossings and digging for gas.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that despite the dissolving of the administrative committee in Gaza and the agreement, the president has no intention of end his punitive measures. The sources added that Abbas would like to see how things go first in Gaza.

Abbas is in no hurry and would like to make sure the reconciliation is not just another agreement, according to the sources.

Fatah held a meeting chaired by Mahmoud Abbas during which the movement discussed Egypt-sponsored talks and reiterated its determination to re-establish national unity.

The movement issued a statement following he meeting stating the importance of full commitment to the primary law, protect the democratic political system, and maintain the Palestinian national independent decision.

The central committee lauded the Egyptian leadership for its efforts and distinguished role in achieving the agreement in Cairo. The committee also commended the efforts and support of Arab leaderships such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Hamas Runs a Regional PR Campaign

Fatah’s Azam al-Ahmad (right) and Saleh al-Aruri of Hamas kiss after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on Thursday.

Ramallah- Gaza ruling party Hamas is steadily on the track of restoring its ties with former allies while maintaining current friends. The move by no means is risk-free, as conflict pits parties Hamas views as valuable against each other.

It is no secret that the Islamist movement, which lost allies and won others, is planning broader and better relations with Egypt. It looks forward to opening up as much as possible to Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But it also strives to do the same with Qatar and Turkey, and to restore ties with Iran and Hezbollah, and perhaps the Syrian regime at a later date.

Officially, Hamas says it wants to maintain advanced relations with all Arabs in the region, as well as other countries, so long that it serves the best interest of the Palestinian cause.

Many Hamas officials, including Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal, confirmed that this goes beyond playing along politics axes.

Hamas-affiliated writer and political analyst Ibrahim Madhoun said the movement will partially succeed in its endeavors.

“There are countries and people who understand the positions of the movement and there are other countries that are conservative, but this will not push Hamas to take a hostile stance or to back down,” said Madhoun.

“The movement will try to knock on these doors, and open areas with everyone in one way or another, especially central countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Egypt, as they stand to be the real supporter of the Palestinian cause,” he added.

According to Madhoun, “Hamas’ response to Egyptian efforts was not at the expense of Turkey or Qatar or of any other party, and neither will contact with Tehran be at the expense of Riyadh or the Gulf.”

“I believe that talking to Russia does not mean antagonizing the United States, although the latter takes a negative attitude. There are efforts by Hamas to infiltrate the American wall itself.”

Contacts made by the head of Hamas’ political bureau in the last two days, made it clear that Hamas actually tried to communicate with all sides openly as if it were sending out a message in every direction in this regard.

‘Cairo Agreement’ Closes Chapter of Palestinian Division

Ramallah- Fatah and Hamas movements closed on Thursday the chapter of Palestinian division by signing the most important agreement over political reconciliation between the two sides.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told reporters after the signing ceremony in Cairo that the agreement inked with Hamas’ representative Saleh al-Arouri would empower a national unity government to assume its full authorities in Gaza, the first among other steps to follow in line with the agreement, which declared December 1 as the deadline for the Palestinian Authority to take over the Gaza Strip.

The reconciliation deal also allows the PA to take over Gaza’s border crossings with Egypt and Israel no later than November 1, while the PA Presidential Guard forces would control the Rafah crossing and the border with Egypt at a later time, in coordination with Cairo.

Directly after the signing of the deal, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the agreement “strengthens and hastens the process of ending the division and restoring unity of the Palestinian people, land and institutions.”

The president also called on his government and all security apparatuses to work for implementing the agreement.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah responded by saying his cabinet was ready to immediately start assuming all responsibilities to govern the Gaza Strip.

Hamdallah also said he will soon travel to Gaza. The prime minister visited the enclave earlier this month following the first agreement between Fatah and Hamas allowing the PA government to assume its administrative responsibility there.

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinians celebrated carrying Abbas’ photos for the first time since Hamas controlled the Strip in 2007.

Hamdallah would carry his duties until the establishment of a national unity government, which Hamas, Fatah and other Palestinian factions are expected to discuss during a meeting in Cairo on November 21.

Abbas will visit Gaza for the first time in a decade within a month. His trip is expected to announce the end of the division between the two Palestinian sides.

Munir al-Jaghoub, who heads Fatah’s Information Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is no doubt that the President is going to Gaza, but there is still no schedule for his visit. The issue needs wide preparations.”

Hamas Will Take Part in Palestinian Govt., Refuses to Discuss its Arms


Ramallah – The Hamas movement announced that it will be part of a Palestinian national unity government that will be formed soon as part of the recent reconciliation with the rival Fatah organization.

This will help pave way for holding general elections.

The two Palestinian factions will tackle the details of this government when they meet in Cairo in a series of meetings that will kick off on Tuesday.

The Hamas official responsible for national ties, Hussam Badran, said that the national unity government “means the real participation of all active Palestinian factions, starting with Hamas.”

“This is everyone’s right. In fact, it is a duty at this stage. Our people deserve to choose who should lead them on the path of salvation from occupation,” he stressed.

The mechanism of resisting and confronting the occupation should also be devised during this phase, he added.

It remains to be seen whether Hamas will participate directly or indirectly in the government. Independent figures may be chosen. Hamas’ participation is one of the obstacles that may hinder reconciliation due to the Israeli-American demand that any upcoming government recognize Israel.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that unknown figures may be chosen to occupy ministerial posts because they may not have clear direct ties with Hamas and other factions. This will allow the government to commit to the Palestinian Liberation Organization program and avoid having Hamas recognize Israel.

Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Hayyah said that nothing can stand in the way of reconciliation if the conviction to achieve partnership and united work is available.

“We are headed towards Palestinian reconciliation with an open mind that will help make the anticipated Cairo meeting a success,” he added.

“There is a real chance to end the Palestinian division … it is wrong to place obstacles before the dialogue has even started,” he continued.

He said that Hamas believes that there should be a single authority, government and legislative council that would represent each Palestinian.

It should be able to manage their lives on the basis of serving and supporting the citizen and not at the expense of the Palestinian cause, Hayya stated.

He also spoke of a single government that would rule the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This will also encompass security forces.

The Hamas official vowed however that the “resistance’s weapons” will be left out of the discussions.

“The weapons are not open to discussion. A prior agreement has been made over this,” he said.

The Cairo talks will cover the issue of former Hamas government employees. They will also address border, security and crossings issues.

Palestinian Government Sets Economic Reform Plan for Gaza Strip

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah chairs a cabinet meeting in Gaza City

Ramallah– Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah presented on Wednesday highlights of his government’s economic reform plan in the Gaza Strip.

“We have plans ready for action,” said Hamdallah, who remained in Gaza with a group of ministers following a Cabinet session on Tuesday.

“We hope we can invest in industrial areas and gas fields,” he stated, addressing a group of Gazan businessmen.

The prime minister was referring to his intention to reproduce the experience of the West Bank in the establishment of large industrial zones, which is still in its early stages, and to start extracting gas from the natural gas field off the coast of Gaza, which was discovered in 1998.

The Authority highlighted an initial agreement with foreign companies for gas extraction, hoping that the Gaza gas field would be one of the foundations of the Palestinian economy.

In addition, Hamdallah said that his government was looking to improve the business and investment environment in Gaza, to work on the land settlement and water purification projects and to complete infrastructure and sanitation plans.

The economic file will be one of the most important issues that the Palestinian government will have to deal with, in the wake of the high rates of unemployment and poverty, and the significant and dangerous economic decline witnessed over the last period.

According to a recent study, the Gaza Strip incurred losses worth $15 billion over the past ten years.

Hamdallah stressed that his government would work to improve the economic situation, despite the decline of foreign aid by more than 70 percent, the delivery of only 35.5 percent of aid, and with many countries not fulfilling their commitments to reconstruction in Gaza.

The prime minister, however, linked the ability of his government to implement its economic plans with the agreement between Fatah and Hamas on the reconciliation files in Cairo.

“We hope that reconciliation will be a lever for our efforts in this context, which will contribute to improving our economy and the living conditions of citizens,” he said.

Two delegations from Fatah and Hamas are expected to arrive next Monday in Cairo, upon an invitation by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Khalid Fawzi.

On Tuesday, Hamdallah presided over a Cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip, in a move towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas parties.

Fatah, Hamas Leaders to Discuss Unresolved Issues in Cairo

Ramallah- The Palestinian cabinet held on Tuesday a meeting in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for the first time in three years, but failed to take any prompt decisions.

Instead, the government decided to send the difficult and complicated files to a meeting of Fatah and Hamas leaders in Cairo next week.

“We are ready to remove all pending issues to the Cairo meeting,” Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said during the meeting held in Gaza at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The prime minister told the crowd on Tuesday, “The only way to statehood is through unity. We are coming to Gaza again to deepen the reconciliation and end the split.”

The Palestinian Authority is asking to completely control the Gaza Strip, including its security, borders and crossing points.

Fatah and Hamas should therefore solve such disputes, in addition to the political program and the elections.

Abbas said on Tuesday that the government should be given the green light to enforce its full authority in the Gaza Strip.

In a video address to the Palestinian unity government, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said, “I have always known that there is an opportunity for peace in the region, on the condition of union between all parties.”

Recently, Egypt has been sponsoring talks for the resumption of Palestinian national reconciliation efforts.

The Egyptian president said that Egypt has forever been a supporter of the Palestinian cause. “The cause has always been at the top of Egypt’s priorities during meetings with world leaders or during international conventions,” El-Sisi said.

He added that the whole world was watching the current efforts to achieve reconciliation between the Palestinian people.

“I have a full belief that the differences should be solved among Palestinians with the support of your Arab brothers, rejecting interference from any foreign powers on the issue,” El-Sisi said.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Abbas and has ruled the impoverished desert enclave of two million people since then.

It is still unknown how Fatah and Hamas would solve their disputes especially the ones related to security issues, particularly in the presence of a militant army in the Gaza Strip. 

Abbas says he only accepts the presence of one army, which is the army of the Palestinian Authority while Hamas says that the weapons of the resistance are not up for discussion.

Hamdallah in Gaza: My Government’s Success Depends on its Ability to Work on Ground


Ramallah – Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said on Monday his government’s success in the Gaza Strip would depend on its ability to work on the ground.

Hamdallah, accompanied by a senior governmental delegation, crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday in a move towards reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas parties, as his unity government would begin assuming control of the region’s administrative affairs, as well as “security tasks and responsibility for crossings and borders.”

“What Gaza experienced in the years of division can no longer bear any waste of time in stalling and disagreement.

Now it is time to work because the only beneficiary of divisions is the occupation forces,” the Palestinian prime minister said, addressing the welcoming crowds.

“We seek to work with all factions, the private sector, and the civil society to enable the government to fulfill its tasks in the sector, address the repercussions of division and heal the rift that has exhausted every Palestinian and caused major imbalances in the structure of the society and its political system as a whole,” he added, promising that the government would deploy all efforts “to have a positive impact on citizens’ lives.”

Hamdallah highly praised Egypt’s role in the reconciliation, calling on all parties to unify ranks and put “national consensus at the top of priorities.”

The prime minister went on to say: “We are fully aware that the road is still long and arduous, and that we will encounter obstacles and challenges… But our people, who emerged from the rubble of the Nakba, are now able to rise again from destruction and suffering of Gaza, to protect their homeland and their future and to live in freedom and dignity.”

Hamdallah is expected to preside over a meeting of the Palestinian government on Tuesday held at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The government will try to manage the Gaza Strip, which was under Hamas control for more than 10 years.

Palestinian Government to Visit Gaza on Monday to End Division

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah

Rammallah– Palestinian Authority security forces are laying the final touches for the expected visit of Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah to Gaza Strip on Monday. In addition, several engineers and workers are finishing the work needed to prepare the residence of President Maamoud Abbas in Gaza where the government meeting will be held for the first time since 2014.

A security delegation arrived in Gaza from West Bank where a plan will be devised in a rarely-occurring coordination with Hamas’ security forces in Gaza.

The two delegations met to organize the forces and secure Hamdallah’s visit and his accompanying delegation of dozens of ministers and officials.

Security officials from the Palestinian Authority arrived in Gaza to coordinate several topics between the two parties as they attempt to solve the deep rift between them.

Security sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Hamas security forces will secure the streets and the PM and ministers’ residences and the places they are expected to visit.

Hamdallah is expected to arrive in Gaza on Monday, while he will convene his Cabinet next Tuesday. Several bilateral meetings in Egypt between Hamas and Fatah will follow the visit to set a comprehensive plan which includes the formation of unity government and the agreement on elections.

Hamas had previously announced the dissolution of its administrative committee in Gaza. The movement welcomed the government’s visit to the strip.

Hamdallah will arrive in Gaza through Beit Yahoun crossing and will begin his visit with extensive meetings with Hamas leaders and other factions including Hamas’ chief Ismail Haniyyeh and Hamas’ leader in Gaza Yehya Sinwar. He will then tour the strip to oversee the debris and damage done by Israeli forces. The government will then convene in Abbas’ house.

Hamdallah stated that the government formed several ministerial committees to handle the security, crossing points, and handle all issues in the strip including the legal and civil cases that resulted from the division.

However, Hamdallah has several issues to handle, namely the security in Gaza controlled by Hamas and the movement’s former civil servants. But, the problems are expected to be handled calmly and peacefully to ensure the success of the reconciliation.

An Egyptian security delegation will also arrive in Gaza on Monday to ensure the smooth transition of the authority from Hamas’ to Hamdallah’s.

Hamas senior official Mushir al-Masri reiterated the important role of Egypt as a force to help ensure reconciliation.

Speaking at a political seminar, Masri said that division is no longer accepted especially amid the crises in the region and the challenges facing the Palestinian people and cause. He added that the reconciliation is a historic chance to end the rift which all Palestinian parties should seize as an opportunity.

Masri confirmed that the movement is committed to all agreements signed especially that of Cairo 2011. He added that the success of national reconciliation requires free political will that it is not affected by any foreign pressures.