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.

Israeli Army Shuts Down Eight TV Production Companies, Outlets

Tel Aviv, Ramallah- The Palestinian authority and some media institutions denounced the attack of Israeli occupation forces on eight media outlets and warned against this violent step that aims to silence journalists and the press.

The Israeli army raided on Wednesday eight offices of TV channels and production companies in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Hebron, arresting some journalists and staff.

Commander of the Judea Brigade Col. Itzik Cohen stated after the end of the operation that the closed outlets helped main Palestinian channels in incitement and encouraging terrorism.

He said the incitement was a source of annoyance but the response was quick. 

“We see incitement as an integral part of encouraging terrorism and that’s why we continue to fight it,” Cohen added.

For its part, the Palestinian Ministry of Information considered the Israeli raids the peak of terrorism and piracy. It rejected the so-called closure decision, which contradicts international law and degrades UN Resolution 2222.

Upon the ministry’s request, all national media institutions united their broadcast for one minute (12:00 noon) as a protest.
Further, the Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms”. PA government spokesman Youssef al-Mahmoud said in a statement that “occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices.”

He added that the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”

Israel Refuses to Negotiate with Palestinian Government ‘Dependent on Hamas’

Tel-Aviv – Following long discussions and sharp disputes over the stance towards the Palestinian reconciliation agreement, the Israeli cabinet announced on Tuesday its rejection to negotiate with a Palestinian government “dependent on Hamas”, which Israel describes as “a terrorist organization that calls for the destruction” of the country.
 
The statement followed comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in which he said that his government would neither try to prevent the implementation of the Palestinian agreement, nor would it cut relations with the Authority.
 
The Israeli government stressed that Hamas should recognize Israel and renounce terrorism in accordance with the Quartet’s conditions. It also demanded the disarming of Hamas, the return of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers killed in the recent war, and the release of two citizens held by the movement in the Gaza Strip.
 
The government added to these conditions, which Netanyahu had put forward following the signing of the reconciliation agreement last week, the necessity that the Palestinian Authority extend its full security control over the Gaza Strip, including the crossings, and prevent arms smuggling there.
 
It also called for thwarting the Hamas-terrorist network in the West Bank and cutting relations between the movement and Iran.
 
Israel’s security cabinet, which convened on Monday evening, conducted lengthy research on the reconciliation agreement, after which Netanyahu declared that Israel would neither recognize nor accept the agreement signed between Fatah and Hamas.
 
However, he said that he would “not try to prevent its implementation on the ground, and will not cut relations with the Authority.”
 
Netanyahu told his ministers that should the reconciliation agreement be implemented and PA officials return to the civil administration offices in Gaza and control the border crossings, “we must work with them, because this serves the Israeli interests in preventing a humanitarian crisis and improving the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.”

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.

Israeli Intelligence Accuses Hezbollah of Recruiting Palestinians for Operations in Settlements

Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally marking Al-Quds day in Beirut's southern suburbs

Tel Aviv- Israeli intelligence accused Hezbollah of recruiting Palestinians to carry out operations in Israeli settlements and other sites.

It revealed that one man was brought to court on charges of carrying out terrorist acts and that the official in charge of this file from Hezbollah is called Mohammed Ataya.

“Hezbollah recruited a Palestinian man to carry out attacks against Israel in the West Bank,” Ofir Gendelman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Arabic-language spokesperson, said Monday.

“This is another failed attempt by Mohammad Ataya, commander of the Hezbollah unit that recruits Palestinians to carry out terror attacks,” he added in a tweet moments later.

Ataya directs Hezbollah’s 113 Unit, which aims to compile intelligence and build up operational capabilities to carry out what it describes as revenge attacks against Israel.

According to the results of the investigation, he was recruited by Hezbollah in May 2017 through a Lebanese “profile” on Facebook.

He was supposed to receive money from the Lebanese officer in charge from Hezbollah to buy a laptop to communicate with him through a secret program.

Badawi planned to carry out the operations after receiving the money, but he was arrested before he could do so.

The statement pointed out that investigations with Badawi showed he had worked in arms trade and threw stones at Israeli military forces, who were working in the area of his residence.

“The method used by Hezbollah to recruit Badawi is a well-known method for the activity of this organization, as was evident during other investigations conducted during the last year,” the statement stressed.

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.

US Quits UNESCO Over ‘Anti-Israel Bias’

A general view shows the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris

The United States is withdrawing from the United Nation’s world heritage body UNESCO, effective Dec. 31, the US State Department said in a statement on Thursday citing “continuing anti-Israel bias” and “mounting arrears”.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” the department said.

The US would seek to “remain engaged … as a non-member observer state in order to contribute US views, perspectives and expertise”, the statement added.

UNESCO’s director general, Irina Bokova, said she had received a formal notification of withdrawal from the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

In 2011 the US canceled its budget contribution to Unesco in protest against the admission of Palestine as a full member.

In a statement Bokova expressed her “profound regret” over the US decision. “This is not just about World Heritage,” she said, describing the withdrawal as “a loss to both the organization and the US”.

According to a report by Foreign Policy magazine, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision several weeks ago at the UN General Assembly, but the State Department urged Washington to remain in the organization until a new director general is voted in the coming weeks.

After two days of a secret ballot that could run until Friday, Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari is leading France’s Audrey Azoulay and Egyptian hopeful Moushira Khattab.

The emergence of Kawari has been seen by Israel and the US as a failure of their efforts to secure the post for a figure they regard as more friendly.

Earlier this week Israel’s UNESCO ambassador described the trajectory of voting in the secret ballots as “bad news for the organization and unfortunately also for Israel”.

The US previously withdrew from UNESCO under Ronald Reagan, only to rejoin under George W Bush.

UNESCO has drawn the ire of Israel and the Trump administration for a series of decisions, including the listing of Hebron, a city in the southern part of the occupied Palestinian territories, as a Palestinian world heritage site.

Fatah Commits to Resistance Arms, Says Use Exclusive to National Decision

People gather as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives to take control of Gaza from the Islamist Hamas group, in the northern Gaza Strip

Cairo– The round of negotiations complementing the Palestinian reconciliation continued for the second day in a row in Cairo, witnessing a preliminary agreement over Hamas’ weapons.

Fatah Member Abbas Zaki said that disarming Hamas or any other faction was out of the question for the Palestinian Authority.

He told Asharq al-Awsat: “We believe that the weapons are needed and the resistance is a duty, but we are seeking an agreement over the need for a collective national decision as the basis for the use of those weapons.”

Zaki stressed that in the face of “an Israeli enemy arming the settlers, we do not ask Hamas or the Jihad or other factions to disarm. Everyone must know that we have not dropped the decision of the armed struggle, but it should be based on national consensus.”

Former Fatah chief in Cairo, Barakat Al-Farra, expressed the same stance.

In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat, Farra said that the Palestinian reconciliation was not aimed at disarming Hamas, but “the decision of the resistance should go back to the Palestinian Authority, based on a collective agreement.”

Sources in Fatah said that the movement had agreed to exempt Hamas from recognizing Israel.

“We do not work with Israel; its government and its majority party must recognize Palestine first. Hamas and others are not required to take the step of recognizing the occupier. We must demand that the world withdraw its recognition of Israel, based on UN Resolution 181 pertaining to the partition of Palestine,” Zaki said.

Speaking on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set three conditions for dealing with the new Palestinian government that would be formed following the Cairo negotiations.

Those include, according to Netanyahu, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, dismantling Hamas’ military apparatus and cutting ties with Iran.

According to Samir Ghattas, an expert in Palestinian affairs and member of the Egyptian parliament, the Israeli condition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state lacks sound grounds, especially since “no country in the world recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and that neither the Palestinian Authority nor Fatah or Hamas is required to pay attention to such calls”.

Saudi Arabia Welcomes Palestinian Reconciliation, Hopes It Consecrates National Unity

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman chairs the Cabinet's session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh. Saudi Gazette

Riyadh- Saudi Cabinet stressed on Monday what Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had said during his meetings with Russian officials regarding calling the international community to intensify efforts to combat extremism and terrorism and dry up their sources of funding.

The cabinet also reiterated the necessity to end the suffering of the Palestinians and the importance of maintaining stability and security in the Gulf and the Middle East to achieve global security and stability.

It also tackled the importance of the political settlement for the Yemeni crisis, the end of the crisis in Syria while maintaining its unity, protecting Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity and uniting its internal front to fight terrorism and calling upon the international community to shoulder its responsibilities with regard to Muslims in Rohingya.

This came during the cabinet session, which was held at Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday under the chairmanship of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who briefed the cabinet on the outcomes of his visit to Russia and his talks and meetings with President Vladimir Putin and prominent Russian officials.

He also talked about his meetings with Presidents of Tatarstan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Bashkiria during which they discussed bilateral relations to achieve the aspirations of the two countries and push them forward to broader, more comprehensive horizons.

He emphasized, during his meetings in Russia, on the Kingdom’s keenness to boost relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia and on the continuity of positive bilateral cooperation to achieve the stability of the world oil markets for the interest of the global economic growth.

Internally, the cabinet praised the achievements made by the State Security Presidency as it managed to dismantle an ISIS-linked terrorist cell along with raiding three sites affiliated to the cell and arresting five of its members in addition to 22 persons accused of inciting criminalized acts according to the Islamic Sharia and law and the country’s regulations.

Following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awwad bin Saleh al-Awwad told SPA that the cabinet has commended the outcomes of King Salman’s visit to Russia, which contributed to strengthening and cementing bilateral relations, the exchange of agreements, memorandums of understanding and cooperation programs signed between the two countries.

The Cabinet expressed gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for the royal decrees he had issued to meet the needs of the homeland and its citizens, including the establishment of the National Development Fund to carry out the general supervision, as organization, regulatory and operational of the funds and banks in order to improve their performance to achieve the desired goals of their establishment, reflecting the wise leadership’s interest in supporting the march of supporting development programs and projects that serve citizens directly.

He said that the Cabinet reviewed a number of reports on latest regional and international developments, welcoming the development of the Palestinian reconciliation efforts and expressed the Kingdom’s hope that the efforts of the Government of Reconciliation will contribute to the consolidation of national unity and the unity of Palestinian ranks to meet the ambitions of the brotherly Palestinian people.

Hamas Hopes Negotiations Would Coincide with Easing PA Sanctions

Palestinian Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh waves as he and senior Hamas leaders wait for the arrival of Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi in Gaza City

Cairo– On the eve of the launching of the Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo, the Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas – has put forward what was described as minimum gains and a ceiling of concessions, according to a movement official.

There are “”irreversible constants, such as the weapons of resistance and equal participation in government,” the official told Asharq al-Awsat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He noted that the ball was now in the court of Fatah Movement, Egypt and other Arab countries, as Hamas has shown “great flexibility to reach an advanced point in the path of reconciliation.”

The official added that the movement “is waiting for the fulfillment of promises made by several parties, which cover some political demands, and other economic and developmental aspects.”

It is expected that the round of reconciliation talks between representatives of Fatah and Hamas would resolve a number of points of disagreement, mainly Hamas’ Qassam Brigades and the financial sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip.

The Fatah delegation in the negotiations is headed by Azzam al-Ahmad, member of the movement’s central committee, and includes leaders Rouhi Fattouh, Fayez Abu Ayta, Hussein al-Sheikh and Major General Majed Faraj. On the other hand, the Hamas delegation includes Yehya al-Sinwar, Khalil al-Hayya, Husam Badran, Izzat al-Rishq, Moussa Abu Marzouk and Saleh al-Arouri.

Prior to the start of the negotiations on Tuesday, Hamas Spokesman Abdelatif al-Qanou told Asharq al-Awsat that the movement was committed to the 2011 Cairo Agreement, on which the talks would be based.

He added that Hamas hoped the negotiations would coincide with easing sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the Gaza Strip.

The “Cairo Agreement”, which was reached by Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian factions, under the auspices of Egypt, stipulates the establishment of a government of national unity, the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections, and the restructuring of security services.

Qanou renewed Hamas’ refusal to put the Qassam Brigades on the discussion table.
“It was never raised before, at any stage, and will not be raised,” he said.