Israel: US Christians build field hospital in Gaza

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

US Christians build field hospital in Gaza, deepening rift between PA and Hamas

PLO official claims project, funded by pro-Israel evangelical donors, serving ‘military, intelligence and security’ purposes, but terror group brushes off concerns

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

Construction of field hospital in the Gaza Strip near the Erez crossing. (Screenshot from the Friend Ships-Project-Camp Gaza Facebook page)

A field hospital being built by a US Evangelical Christian aid group in the northern Gaza Strip has become a source of controversy for the already feuding Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership and the Hamas terrorist group that controls the coastal enclave.

An official in the West Bank has claimed the project, spearheaded by pro-Israel donors, is a front for American and Israeli intelligence operations, an allegation Gaza’s rulers have dismissed as “unfounded.”

Over the past several months, trucks carrying materials and equipment for the hospital have entered Gaza, which suffers from inadequate health infrastructure. Now American volunteers affiliated with Friend Ships, the aid group, have begun building the medical facility adjacent to the Erez crossing, the sole pedestrian passageway between Israel and the enclave.

Pictures posted on Facebook last week showed the volunteers erecting tents a short distance from the barrier separating Israel and Gaza.

The construction of the hospital is one part of the unofficial ceasefire understandings between Israel and terror groups in Gaza, which the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has fiercely protested.

From Syria to Gaza

Friend Ships, whose evangelical founders Don and Sondra Tipton have expressed strong support for Israel, has described the project as “a multi-faceted mobile (tent-based) medical facility.”

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“We will have [telemedicine] for worldwide consultation with specialists, a large children’s play area, hydroponics training program and distribution center,” the organization’s website said.

Friend Ships, which is headquartered in Louisiana, plans to eventually provide a wide range of health services at the hospital, including cancer treatment, physical therapy, post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, dental care, among others, according to the group’s website.

The hospital will include equipment that Friend Ships used for a similar project close to Syria, Al-Monitor, a news site based in Washington, reported in June.

The group also operated a field hospital in the Golan Heights in 2017-2018 with Israel’s permission, where medical staff treated some 7,000 Syrians.

The medical facility in Gaza will include 16 wards with a “focus on diagnosing patients with hereditary or life-threatening diseases” and receive funding from the Qatari government, the Al-Monitor report said.

Mohammed al-Emadi, a Qatari envoy who maintains contacts with Hamas, the PA and Israel, told a press conference in May that the hospital will occupy an area equivalent to 40 dunams.

Exploring Israel on the weekend

Friend Ships has also been advertising opportunities to volunteer at the hospital, highlighting the chance to travel through Israel on days off.

“Friend Ships Camp Gaza will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel,” its website said.

A post on the Friend Ships Facebook page said volunteers will learn about the region and “become part of what God is doing there today.”

Sondra Tipton, one of the founders of the organization, told a Louisiana news outlet in 2015 about her passion for Israel: “We feel like it’s very important for people to realize that Israel is a true democracy and a true friend to the United States and then from a Christian point of view, the Bible is emphatic about the land of Israel being the apple of God’s eye and how, as believers in Jesus, we need to stand with the Israelis.”

Illustrative: An injured Palestinian man arrives at a hospital to receive treatment following an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on December 8, 2017 .(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Friend Ships, the IDF, and the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for liaising with the Palestinians, declined to comment.

Brewing controversy between Palestinian factions

In the past week, however, the hospital has transformed into a major source of controversy between the rivals Fatah and Hamas.

After Palestinian news sites reported on the photos of the volunteers last Tuesday, which were posted on the Friend Ships Facebook page, a number of Fatah, PA and PLO officials lashed out at the project.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad claimed on Palestine TV, the official PA television channel, on Monday, that the hospital was for “military, intelligence and security” purposes. He later confirmed to The Times of Israel that he was referring to the US and Israeli intelligence.

PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh accused the hospital on Monday of serving the Trump administration’s peace plan.

PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that he believed the hospital was deepening the division between the West Bank and Gaza because its planning and construction was not coordinated with the PA.

Friend Ships has since removed almost all of its posts related to the hospital from its Facebook page and wiped other information about it from its website.

Hamas, meanwhile, has pushed back against the Ramallah-based Palestinian officials’ allegations, calling them baseless.

“The statements of Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and PLO Executive Committee and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad are based on false and unfounded data,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassim told Dunya al-Watan, a Gaza-based news site on Tuesday. “They wove them together with imaginary information.”

Hamas deputy chief in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, also questioned the intentions of the hospital’s critics. But he said the terror group would not hesitate to shut it down if it determined the humanitarian project was against its interests.

Hamas senior political leader Khalil al-Hayya during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017 (AFP/Mohamen El-Shahed)

“If we found anything in it that undermines our national or security interests, we will tell them to leave,” he told the Islamic Jihad-linked Palestine Today on Tuesday.

A source familiar with the details of the project, who asked to remain nameless, called the claims leveled against the hospital “complete nonsense.”

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry declined to specifically comment on the hospital, but said that it welcomes any effort to improve the health sector in Gaza.

“The Israeli restrictions on movement of goods and people have totally undermined the health sector. We are dealing with a major shortage in our hospitals in terms of medicines and medical supplies,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in a phone call. “So we believe any efforts to mitigate these dire circumstances are positive.”

Israeli officials have said they maintain limitations on movement to prevent terror groups in Gaza from importing weapons or the means to build them into the territory.

Talal Okal, a Gaza-based analyst, said he thought the hospital shows that the ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel were moving forward.

“It s a clear indication that Hamas and Israel are advancing the understandings,” he said in a phone call. “But what we really need in Gaza is to improve the existing hospitals and health centers. We don’t need a field hospital.”

AFP contributed to this article.

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5 Creepiest Places in the United States

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

5 Creepiest Places in the United States

It’s almost Halloween. If you need a little adrenaline rush for this spooky season, consider visiting one of the five creepiest places in the United States. Each will scare you more than an old horror movie.

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Mütter Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

Mütter Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

Credit: LordRunar/ iStock

If you’re a science nerd or love learning about the human body, you’ll feel right at home at Mütter Museum. But the average visitor will most likely be creeped out. Why? Because it’s the home of human skulls, preserved bodies, cross-sections of Albert Einstein’s brain, and so much more.

The mission of the Mütter Museum is to “help the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.” And while that does sound like a noble cause, this museum is still not for the faint of heart. That collection of 139 human skulls — they all belonged to one man. He was a Viennese anatomist named Joseph Hyrtl, who lived in the 1800s.

Trans–Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Westin, West Virginia)

Trans–Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Westin, West Virginia)

Credit: BDphoto/ iStock

There is nothing creepier than a shuttered insane asylum. And that’s precisely what the Trans–Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is. For $100, you can stay overnight. Seriously. This asylum operated in Westin, West Virginia, from 1864–1994. Perhaps the origins of the shelter were altruistic, providing a safe, comfortable home for those not able to function in normal society. But over the years, conditions became more and more horrific. At one point during the 1950s, over 2,400 people lived in this facility built to house only 250.

Sadly, hundreds of people died here over the years. And staff, guests, and hosts from your favorite paranormal reality TV shows say they’ve seen apparitions, heard bizarre noises, and experienced strange things. The asylum’s website says they’ll leave it to you to decide if the place is haunted.

Villisca Ax Murder House (Villisca, Iowa)

Villisca Ax Murder House (Villisca, Iowa)

Credit: Laura Bernhardt/ Flickr/ CC BY-ND 2.0

The Villisca Ax Murder House is the site of a brutal murder scene. This horrible event happened in 1912, but the murder remains unsolved. Of course, after they found bodies, this small Iowa town was in chaos and just wanted to be able to go to sleep without worrying for their lives. But despite private detectives, police investigations, and several suspects, the case was never solved.

We can rest assured whoever committed these heinous 1912 murders is no longer with us. But that still doesn’t explain the reported ghost sightings and other hauntings at the Villisca Ax Murder House. If you really want to go check it out yourself, you sure can. You can even stay there overnight.

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The Stanley Hotel (Estes Park, Colorado)

The Stanley Hotel (Estes Park, Colorado)

Credit: gregobagel/ iStock

“Redrum, redrum.” If you’ve seen The Shining, you know exactly what we’re talking about. A stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, inspired Stephen King to write the hit book. The movie wasn’t filmed at The Stanley, but guests, staff, and visitors often report paranormal experiences, including feeling the ghosts of past travelers.

And while The Stanley is an incredibly stunning hotel and on the National Register of Historic Places, they do lean into their reputation. They offer night tours that emphasize the paranormal. And around Halloween, they have lots of extra-creepy events such as a murder mystery dinner and a masquerade party in the ballroom that is supposedly the most haunted space in the whole venue.

Clinton Road (West Milford, New Jersey)

Clinton Road (West Milford, New Jersey)

Credit: Jeffrey Oliver/ iStock

One of the myths of Clinton Road is that the ghost of a little boy haunts a particular bridge. Sometimes, if you throw him a coin, he will throw it back to you. Sounds silly enough, but how freaked out would you be if that happened to you? One legend has it that the boy was hit by a car while he was walking on the bridge when he bent over to pick up a quarter. So if you go there, see a coin on the ground, and try to pick it up, he will push you into the water to save you from being hit by a car too. So maybe he’s a friendly ghost.

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinians Slam PA Ban on 59 Websites

Wednesday, 23 October, 2019 – 10:45
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the Fourth National Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution during the forum’s opening session in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 9 2019. (Nasser Nasser/AP)
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
A Palestinian court decision to block access to 59 news websites and Facebook pages has drawn criticism and sparked widespread controversy, anger,x and growing calls for stopping the “gagging” policy.

In a rare move, Abbas’s government called on the attorney general to overturn the latest decision by Ramallah Magistrate’s Court.

Government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem said in a statement that the PA government urged administrators of social media pages and news sites to “follow professional and moral standards in publishing news and media items.”

He stressed the government’s respect for international conventions that guarantee the protection of freedoms and its strong respect for the independence of the judiciary and non-intervention in its affairs.

The decision was made at the request of the Palestinian prosecution.

In its petition to the court, The prosecution argued that the sites disseminate harmful content about the PA and its officials and are likely to be used to incite lawlessness.

The court’s decision was leaked after prosecutors sent it to Internet companies in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate held a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after the news of the blockage was leaked.

Syndicate Head Naser Abu Baker called it a “black day” for the press in Palestine.

“The judiciary must protect freedom in Palestine,” he stated. “It should not restrict it.”

He said that the syndicate appealed against the decision and announced that it is against any previous agreements with the Public Prosecution.

“What is required now is for the court to cancel this decision and amend the law on cyber crimes with respect to freedom of information.”

Abu Baker described the decision to block websites as a blow to the government and its efforts to establish media freedoms.

In this context, Palestinian officials and factions rejected the “gagging” policy.

Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.

“Blocking access to websites or imposing other measures that prevent access to information or restrict freedom of expression are in complete contradiction with the Palestinian Basic Law,” she stressed in a statement.

 

Palestine: Abbas Thinks Everyone Is An Idiot And A Fool

Palestine: Abbas Thinks Everyone Is An Idiot And A Fool

 

I have to admit that this letter I am writing to you tonight is one based within a little bit of upset-ness. Earlier today I reblogged an article from the Saudi Newspaper Asharq al-Awsat about comments from the Palestinian President Abbas and the stupidity of his comments is causing me to write this article to you tonight. For it is my belief that Mr. Abbas thinks that everyone who might hear or read his words are idiots and or fools. Mr. Abbas said and I quote “Palestine is for Canaanites and outsiders must leave.” I realize that there are a lot of people who don’t know what a Canaanite even is as people who aren’t familiar with the first few books of the Old Testament would probably have never had any reason to care or know about those folks from so long ago. The exception may be some of the people who live in the Middle-East now, mainly the Palestinians and the Israelite’s. Mr. Abbas’s comment also shows very plainly that he and the Palestinians have no intention of ever allowing there to be any such thing as a Nation of Israel. Giving land for piece is pure stupidity as all they will ever do is to keep attacking anyone who is not Islamic believers. This is exactly what happened when Israel turned over the West Bank and Gaza to them, the Palestinians simply used this land as a new base to continue their attacks on the people and Nation of Israel. There will never be a true peace between the two ever because Islamic believers will never ever let it be so.

 

Mr. Abbas now says that they, the Palestinians are modern day Canaanites and that only they have the right to live in the land of Canaan, or modern day Palestine. He is using this ideology for the purpose of saying that the Palestinian people’s linage goes back before the Hebrew (Israeli) peoples claim to the land when through God’s power He brought them out of the land of Egypt with Moses at the helm. This is because their claim to the land from the time of Mohammed in the seventh century when Islamic raiders took over the whole Middle-East does not go back before the time of the Nation of Israel. In the past the Islamic believers simply have said that there never was a Nation of Israel, disallowing all of Israels people from having been there before Islam was born. They have stated this theology ignoring all written and physical evidence of what they were saying was a total lie. So, now it appears that Mr. Abbas is trying another angle, but, for anyone to believe what he is saying now they would have to be ignorant (un-knowledgeable) of the Old Testament writings. One can easily say that the Islamic people don’t believe in the teachings of the Bible anyway so what would that matter. Good point except that they do honor Abraham and Moses as being Prophets of God. They believe parts but then disavow other teachings all around them. What Mr. Abbas is hoping for is that you, I, and everyone else of the planet is either an idiot and or a fool. In truth everyone that is alive today is an idiot meaning un-knowledgeable about somethings and or many things. Being an idiot on a subject matter is a whole lot different than being stupid, meaning that you are just mentally unable to learn. I looked up the meaning of stupid at Dictionary.com and for the word Fool it says: A person who lacks judgement or sense. And: a person who has been tricked or deceived into appearing to act silly. When I looked up the definition in the Bible it says: Those who misuse wisdom. And foolishness: A disregard of final issues. In other words, they don’t actually care what the truth is, thus showing themselves to be foolish or a fool.

 

I am going to give you a little bit of Biblical input to help you build your knowledge on the matter of the Canaanites and of the Hebrew people, God’s chosen people, the Israelite’s. I am not going to get into copying down ever word written in each paragraph but I will give you a very good detailed base in which you can then easily look up each paragraph that I list to help you understand. I believe that the information that I am going to give you straight from Scripture will open your eyes to the understanding as to why, even if the modern day Islamic believers or Palestinians claim to be of the bloodline of the Canaanites that they are not the ones to be the legal residents of the land of Israel, Palestine. Mr. Abbas knows this, he is just hoping that you and I are all idiots who can be easily fooled.

 

Starting with the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis.  Chapter 12 verses 6 and 7. Written as 12: 6-7. (1) This is when Abram (later named Abraham) was sent into Canaan, the land was occupied by the Canaanites. (2) God said to Abram “unto your seed I will give this land.”

10: 19 God describes the borders of Palestine in which the 7 Nations of the Canaanites lived. This would be the future borders of the land of Israel once they came up out of Egypt with Moses. Current day Israel is but a small sliver of the land that belongs to the Biblical Nation of Israel.

Genesis 15: 18-21 God tells Abram that He will give the land (what is considered to be Palestine) to his seed and God will DRIVE OUT THE NATIONS THAT ARE NOT HIS SEED, INCLUDING THE CANAANITES!

Exodus 3: 6-8 God talked to Moses at the Burning Bush. There God refers to the Hebrews (Israelite’s) who were slaves in Egypt as “His people” telling Moses that He will bring them to the land of Canaan and plant them there.

Deuteronomy 7: 1-2 In verse one God told Moses for “the People to go and possess the land” from those who current inhabited it. (2) “God will deliver them (the inhabits) to you and you shall smite (kill) them and utterly destroy them, you shall make no agreement with them, nor show mercy to them.”

7: 6 God speaking: “For you (Hebrews) are a Holy People to Himself above all people who are upon the face of the Earth.”

7: 16 God Speaking to Moses about the Canaanites “destroy them, show no pity.”

There are three people who are called the “Fathers of Israel” they are Abraham (Abram), Isaac his son and Jacob, his son. God changed Jacobs name to Israel and the 12 Tribes of Israel are named after the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel. The following passages are where God gave promises to each of them.

Abraham Genesis 12: 1-3

Isaac Genesis 26: 2-3

Jacob Genesis 28: 10-13

Israel Exodus 3: 8

 

Joseph while in captivity in Egypt in Genesis 40: 15 Referring to his homeland (Palestine) as “the land of the Hebrews.” This was several hundred years before the birth of Moses.

Exodus 15: 14-17 Palestine: all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. (17) Canaan is Israel’s inheritance.

Hebrews 11: 9 (New Testament) The Apostle Paul speaking of Abraham “by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.”

 

For President Abbas to say that his people (of the PA, Palestinian Authority) are the descendants of the Canaanites thus being Canaanites themselves, thus the rightful owner of the land of Palestine either he is an ignorant and or stupid fool in this regard or he simply believes that you/we are.

 

 

Palestinian-Israeli Meeting Fails to Resolve Tax Funds Crisis

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian-Israeli Meeting Fails to Resolve Tax Funds Crisis

Friday, 28 June, 2019 – 11:00
A Palestinian demonstrator takes part in a protest against an Israeli decision to trim funds over prisoner stipends, in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on February 19, 2019. (Reuters)
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
A new Palestinian-Israeli meeting has failed to end the Palestinian tax revenue crisis.

Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs and Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh said ongoing talks with Israel about the seizure of Palestinian deducted funds did not make any progress.

“I met with the Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Minister of Finance Shukri Bshara yesterday(Wednesday) and discussed means to solve the clearance issue,” he tweeted.

“We demanded that Israel release the funds,” he said.

Their meeting at the Israeli Ministry of Finance headquarters in Jerusalem was attended by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Palestinian territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon.

Israeli sources said they only discussed economic matters, explaining that it was one of a series of meetings that brought them together in an attempt to reach a solution to the crisis.

Israel wants to reach a settlement in this matter in a way that would prevent the collapse of the PA.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kahlon have earlier discussed emergency plans, should the PA’s financial system collapse over its refusal to accept tax dividends collected by Israel.

Israel has tried to transfer large sums of money to the PA, which refuses to accept them without the deducted amounts, leading to a critical financial crisis.

Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and then it transfers the money to the PA.

In February, it decided to deduct around $10 million a month from those revenues, corresponding to the amount it said the PA paid families of prisoners or directly to inmates serving time in Israeli jails.

Palestinians responded by saying they would refuse any funds from which unilateral deductions had been made.

Israel: Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Shin Bet Chief Meets Palestinian President, Warns of PA’s Bankruptcy

Monday, 17 June, 2019 – 11:30
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian volunteer paramedic Sajed Mezher was killed by Israeli troops, during his funeral in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Kifah Zboun, Asharq al-Awsat
Head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Nadav Argaman, recently met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to persuade him to agree to accept tax money collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf, according to political sources in Tel Aviv.

The sources said that Argaman tried during the meeting to convince Abbas to accept the funds after the deduction of amounts paid to families of martyrs and prisoners. He informed the PM that the amount Israel intends to decduct is far less than the salaries.

But Abbas refused to give up any “dime” and asked that Israel deal with these funds as Palestinian funds that no one has the right to dispose of them.

“Any deduction from these funds is a theft,” Abbas said.

After his meeting, the Israeli Minister reported to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that Abbas firmly and categorically refused the proposal and called for a political decision to resolve this crisis.

Argaman said that the Authority is suffering from a severe financial crisis, which led to the reduction in salaries of a large number of employees, including tens of thousands of members of the Palestinian security services.

Military analyst Amos Harel indicated that Abbas believes he is facing a triple attack from the United States, Israel and Hamas. Washington has almost completely curtailed economic aid to the Palestinians.

The United States is now offering “economic peace” without resolving the issue of Jerusalem and borders, and trying to impose a permanent separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The military estimates that Abbas considers that Israel is economically affected by the prisoner crisis, but continues to build the settlements, rejects the political dialogue and seeks the opportunity to annex parts of the West Bank after the failure of the deal of the century.

Hamas is building a state in the Gaza Strip with a “silent US-Israeli approval.” It is also believed that a number of Arab leaders in the region support Trump’s plan.

Israeli security services top officials agree that the Authority will begin its economic collapse within two or three months.

In related news, Abbas stressed that “we reject the US peace plan,” better known as the “deal of the century,” in a meeting with the leaders of the Fatah Youth Movement.

He announced that Palestine will not participate in the US-sponsored economic workshop to be held in Manama, Bahrain, on June 25.

“Jerusalem and Palestine are not for sale,” asserted Abbas, adding that “the Palestinian leadership is sticking to the stable legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state.

Abbas reiterated the Palestinians’ rejection to receive the partial funds of the tax revenue dues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA from the Palestinian trade.

Palestinian Authority Rejects Direct Arab Support To Hamas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Authority Rejects Direct Arab Support to Hamas

Monday, 29 April, 2019 – 08:15
Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. (Reuters)
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The reconciliation between Hamas movement and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has seen no development in the past few weeks, according to informed Palestinian sources.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Fatah’s position remains unaltered and that it had informed the Egyptian leadership that there was no need for any dialogue with Hamas, but rather it should implement the reconciliation agreement of 2017.

The sources pointed out that the policy of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, will restrict the money that reaches Hamas. They indicated that the Authority does not want to keep an ATM for Hamas and do not want any Arab funds to reach the movement directly.

The funds must come through the PA, because it’s capable of employing them to provide relief to Gaza Strip. Otherwise, it will be a direct support for Hamas.

A Fatah delegation recently visited Cairo and conveyed fears to Egypt regarding the ceasefire in Gaza, especially the flow of money to Hamas. Fatah has rejected suggestions from regional countries for a meeting of Palestinian factions.

Fatah says there won’t be any meeting with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements before they recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people, and there will be no meetings regarding reconciliation.

In the context, Secretary of the Central Committee of Fatah, Major General Jibril al-Rajoub said that Hamas is required to take practical steps to end the division.

Rajoub noted that the movement should do what’s necessary to establish a national front based on fortifying the national project based on an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital within the 1967 borders and the return of refugees.

He stressed that Hamas must first remove all forms of its authority in Gaza, return the government to the Strip to carry out its duties and its responsibilities as the Palestinian national government from Rafah to Jenin.

Rajoub noted that the concept of partnership is embodied in a genuine democratic process, such as the recent elections of student councils in the universities of the West Bank.

Earlier, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he was ready to meet with Abbas in order to restore national unity in the face of the “deal of the century”.

“Hamas has no veto on any meeting that would ensure unity and end the division in order to provide elements of perseverance and confrontation against the deal of the century,” Haniyeh explained.

“Reconciliation and unity are urgent demands… We don’t want an alternative to the PLO,” he added.

Haniyeh’s remarks on the PLO were in response to previous accusations by its officials against Hamas.

PLO officials had previously said that the movement was seeking to form an alternative to the organization. It had called on all Palestinian factions to boycott a supreme body that Hamas has been trying to form on the pretext of confronting the deal of the century.

Palestinian Central Council To Meet In Mid May To Tackle ‘Deal Of The Century’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Central Council Meeting to Tackle ‘Deal of the Century’

Tuesday, 23 April, 2019 – 09:45
A Palestinian boy is evacuated after inhaling tear gas fired by Israeli forces during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah- Asharq Al-Awsat
The President of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Salim Zanoun, said that he has started contacting members of the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) to convene mid next month, upon the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

This meeting holds significance as it precedes the announcement of the anticipated Deal of the Century.

Jamal Moheisen, a member of the Fatah central committee, said in statements to the official Voice of Palestine radio that the central council will be held in difficult circumstances.

“The Palestinian issue is exposed to strategic risks that require everyone to stand up to their responsibilities and raise the requirements of the stage in order to address this project, which threatens the future of our Palestinian issue,” Moheisen added.

The PCC is supposed to tackle previous decisions that haven’t been implemented including decisions to cancel deals and sever ties with Israel.

A PCC member, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the members will push towards clear decisions and not recommendations that fail to be implemented. He added that the PCC decisions are binding but they are not being applied for known reasons – and this will be discussed in the meeting.

“The agenda of the next session of the central council will discuss a number of important issues related to how to crystallize an Arab Islamic and international position to support the abortion of the so-called Deal of the Century,” said Wasel Abu Yusuf, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO.

He added that the central council will discuss the relations with Israel, “especially under the US and Israeli plans to legitimize the settlement blocs in the West Bank and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

Fatah official spokesman Usama al-Qawasimi stated that facing the deal of “shame”, achieving national unity and ending division require tangible acts, not statements. Qawasimi described the situation as extremely dangerous.

Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Abbas Slams Hamas, Accuses it of Oppressing Palestinian Protesters

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 – 11:30
Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas seen in the central Gaza Strip March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has slammed Hamas, saying it is being “oppressive” in its crackdown on protesters in the Gaza Strip.

The movement has used excessive force to disperse protesters as part of “We Want to Live” rallies held against price hikes and the dire economic situation in the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas told Atef Abu Seif, the Fatah spokesman in Gaza and member of its central committee, in a phone call that he has honored his country.

He stressed that Hamas and its elements will end up in the “dustbin of history just like those who secede from the Palestinian legitimacy.”

Fatah has accused Hamas of Abu Seif’s assassination attempt after he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen and suffered multiple bone fractures around his body. He is reported to be in serious condition.

Abu Seif is among dozens of activists and journalists, who were severely beaten during demonstrations or arrests.

Hamas detained about 1,000 people in just a few days, dispersed more than 25 rallies with live fire and pursued activists in their homes and on the streets.

“We Want to Live” movement announced a two-day civil disobedience and public strike on Thursday, calling on people to perform Friday prayers in public squares and reject accusations by Hamas preachers against protesters.

It stressed that its peaceful protests will continue until Hamas’ government in Gaza meets the people’s legitimate demands.

The movement also called on the families of the detainees, the oppressed and the wounded to perform Friday prayers near the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

It urged them to demand the immediate release of their loved-ones, holding accountable those who ordered the imprisonment and torture of protesters and taking to court those who caused casualties in the rank of demonstrators.

Gaza Strip: Truth, Knowledge, History Of Human Disaster

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Gaza Strip

Introduction The September 1993 Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements provided for a transitional period of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Under a series of agreements signed between May 1994 and September 1999, Israel transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza stalled following the outbreak of an intifada in September 2000, as Israeli forces reoccupied most Palestinian-controlled areas. In April 2003, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) presented a roadmap to a final settlement of the conflict by 2005 based on reciprocal steps by the two parties leading to two states, Israel and a democratic Palestine. The proposed date for a permanent status agreement was postponed indefinitely due to violence and accusations that both sides had not followed through on their commitments. Following Palestinian leader Yasir ARAFAT’s death in late 2004, Mahmud ABBAS was elected PA president in January 2005. A month later, Israel and the PA agreed to the Sharm el-Sheikh Commitments in an effort to move the peace process forward. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all its settlers and soldiers and dismantled its military facilities in the Gaza Strip and withdrew settlers and redeployed soldiers from four small northern West Bank settlements. Nonetheless, Israel controls maritime, airspace, and most access to the Gaza Strip. A November 2005 PA-Israeli agreement authorized the reopening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt under joint PA and Egyptian control. In January 2006, the Islamic Resistance Movement, HAMAS, won control of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The international community refused to accept the HAMAS-led government because it did not recognize Israel, would not renounce violence, and refused to honor previous peace agreements between Israel and the PA. HAMAS took control of the PA government in March 2006, but President ABBAS had little success negotiating with HAMAS to present a political platform acceptable to the international community so as to lift economic sanctions on Palestinians. The PLC was unable to convene throughout most of 2006 as a result of Israel’s detention of many HAMAS PLC members and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions on other PLC members. Violent clashes took place between Fatah and HAMAS supporters in the Gaza Strip in 2006 and early 2007, resulting in numerous Palestinian deaths and injuries. ABBAS and HAMAS Political Bureau Chief MISHAL in February 2007 signed the Mecca Agreement in Saudi Arabia that resulted in the formation of a Palestinian National Unity Government (NUG) headed by HAMAS member Ismail HANIYA. However, fighting continued in the Gaza Strip, and in June, HAMAS militants succeeded in a violent takeover of all military and governmental institutions in the Gaza Strip. ABBAS dismissed the NUG and through a series of Presidential decrees formed a PA government in the West Bank led by independent Salam FAYYAD. HAMAS rejected the NUG’s dismissal and has called for resuming talks with Fatah, but ABBAS has ruled out negotiations until HAMAS agrees to a return of PA control over the Gaza Strip and recognizes the FAYYAD-led government. FAYYAD and his PA government initiated a series of security and economic reforms to improve conditions in the West Bank. ABBAS participated in talks with Israel’s Prime Minister OLMERT and secured the release of some Palestinian prisoners and previously withheld customs revenue. During a November 2007 international meeting in Annapolis Maryland, ABBAS and OLMERT agreed to resume peace negotiations with the goal of reaching a final peace settlement by the end of 2008.
History Ancient history until mid 16th century (15th century BC-1517)

The first recorded mention of the city of Gaza was a reference by Pharaoh Thutmose II (18th dynasty; 15th century BC), though the actual habitation no doubt predates that official record. It is also mentioned in the Amarna letters, an archive of clay tablets with diplomatic and administrative correspondence between the Egyptian administration and its representatives in Canaan and Amurru in the New Kingdom.

Because of its strategic position on the ancient trade route of Via Maris, linking Egypt with the northern empires of Syria, Anatolia and Mesopotamia, Gaza experienced little peace in antiquity. Throughout its history it was a prosperous trade center, sitting as it does on the ancient Sea Road.

The area was under Egyptian occupation for over 300 years when the Philistines took control and settled the city and surrounding area. Gaza became an important Philistine trading center and part of the Pentapolis (league of five cities).

The Bible makes a reference to Gaza as the place where Samson was delivered into bondage by Delilah and where he died while toppling the temple of the god Dagon.[1][2] It fell to the Israelite King David in 1000 BC.

The area fell to the Assyrians in 732 BC, to the Egyptians, to the Babylonians in 586 BC, Persians in 525 BC, and the Macedonians. Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great met stiff resistance there in 332 BC. After conquering it, he sold its inhabitants into slavery.[3] [4] [5]

In 145 BC Gaza was conquered by Jonathan the Hasmonean (Brother of Judah the Maccabee). In Hellenistic and Roman times the harbour, about 3 miles (5 km) from the city proper, was called Neapolis (Greek: “New City”).

It was conquered by Arabs in the 630s after a siege during which the Jewish population of the city defended it alongside the Byzantine garrison. Believed to be the site where Muhammad’s great grandfather was buried, the city became an important Islamic center. In the 12th century, Gaza was taken by Christian Crusaders; it returned to Muslim control in 1187.

Ottoman and British control (1517-1948)

In 1517 Gaza fell to the Ottomans and was part of the Ottoman Empire until the First World War.

Starting in the early 19th century, Gaza was culturally dominated by neighboring Egypt. Though part of the Ottoman Empire, a large number of its residents were Egyptians (and their descendants) who had fled political turmoil.[6]

The region served as a battlefield during the First World War (1914-18). The Gaza Strip was taken by the British in the Third Battle of Gaza on 7 November 1917.

Following World War I, Gaza became part of the British Mandate of Palestine under the authority of the League of Nations.

Jews were present in Gaza until 1929, when a long-running dispute between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall in Jerusalem escalated and erupted into a series of violent demonstrations and riots and forced the Gaza Jews to leave the area. After that the British prohibited Jews from living in the Gaza area, though some Jews returned and, in 1946, established kibbutz Kfar Darom near the Egyptian border. [8]

British rule of Palestine ended with the Israeli War of Independence in 1948.

Egyptian occupation (1948-67)

According to the terms of the 1947 United Nations partition plan, the Gaza area was to become part of a new Palestinian Arab state. Following the dissolution of the British mandate of Palestine and 1947-1948 Civil War in Palestine, Israel declared its independence in May 1948. The Egyptian army invaded the area from the south, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[9]

The Gaza Strip as it is known today was the product of the subsequent 1949 Armistice Agreements between Egypt and Israel, often referred to as the Green Line. Egypt occupied the Strip from 1949 (except for four months of Israeli occupation during the 1956 Suez Crisis) until 1967. The Strip’s population was greatly augmented by an influx of Palestinian Arab refugees who fled or were expelled from Israel during the fighting.

Towards the end of the war, the All-Palestine Government (Arabic: حكومة عموم فلسطين hukumat ‘umum Filastin) was proclaimed in Gaza City on 22 September 1948 by the Arab League. It was conceived partly as an Arab League attempt to limit the influence of Transjordan over the Palestinian issue. The government was not recognized by Transjordan or any non-Arab country. It was little more than a façade under Egyptian control, had negligible influence or funding, and subsequently moved to Cairo. Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip or Egypt were issued All-Palestine passports until 1959, when Gamal Abdul Nasser, President of Egypt, annulled the All-Palestine government by decree.

Egypt never annexed the Gaza Strip, but instead treated it as a controlled territory and administered it through a military governor.[10] The refugees were never offered Egyptian citizenship.

During the Sinai campaign of November 1956, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula were overrun by Israeli troops. International pressure soon forced Israel to withdraw.

Israeli occupation (1967-2005)

Israel occupied the Gaza Strip again in June 1967 during the Six-Day War. The military occupation lasted for 38 years, until 2005. However, Israel retains control of air space, territorial waters, offshore maritime access, the population registry, entry of foreigners, imports and exports as well as the tax system.[2]

During the period of Israeli occupation, Israel created a settlement bloc, Gush Katif in the south west corner of the Strip near Rafah and the Egyptian border. In total Israel created 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, comprising some 20% of the total terroritory. Besides ideological reasons for being there, these settlements also served Israel’s security concerns. The Gaza Strip remained under Israeli military administration until 1994. During that period the military administration was also responsible for the maintenance of civil facilities and services.

In March 1979 Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Among other things, the treaty provided for the withdrawal by Israel of its armed forces and civilians from the Sinai Peninsula which Israel had captured during the Six-Day War. The final status of the Gaza Strip as with relations between Israel and Palestinians was not dealt with in the treaty. The treaty did settle the international border between Gaza Strip and Egypt. Egypt renounced all territorial claims to the region beyond the international border.

In May 1994, following the Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, a phased transfer of governmental authority to the Palestinians took place. Much of the Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas) came under Palestinian control. The Israeli forces left Gaza City and other urban areas, leaving the new Palestinian Authority to administer and police the Strip. The Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, chose Gaza City as its first provincial headquarters. In September 1995, Israel and the PLO signed a second peace agreement extending the Palestinian Authority to most West Bank towns. The agreement also established an elected 88-member Palestinian National Council, which held its inaugural session in Gaza in March 1996.

The PA rule of the Gaza Strip and West Bank under leadership of Arafat suffered from serious mismanagement and corruption. Exorbitant bribes were demanded for allowing goods to pass in and out of the Gaza Strip, while heads of the Preventive Security Service apparatus profited from their involvement in the gravel import and cement and construction industries, like the Great Arab Company for Investment and Development, the al-Motawaset Company and the al-Sheik Zayid construction project. [11]

The Second Intifada broke out in September 2000. In February 2005, the Israeli government voted to implement a unilateral disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip. The plan began to be implemented on 15 August 2005 (the day after Tisha B’av) and was completed on 12 September 2005. Under the plan, all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip (and four in the West Bank) and the nearby Erez bloc were dismantled with the removal of all 9,000 Israeli settlers (most of them in the Gush Katif settlement area in the Strip’s southwest) and military bases. On 12 September 2005 the Israeli cabinet formally declared an end to Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip. To avoid any allegation that it was still in occupation of any part of the Gaza Strip, Israel also withdrew from the Philadelphi Route, which is a narrow strip adjacent to the Strip’s border with Egypt, after Egypt’s agreement to secure its side of the border. Under the Oslo Accords the Philadelphi Route was to remain under Israeli control, to prevent the smuggling of materials (such as ammunition) and people across the border with Egypt. With Egypt agreeing to patrol its side of the border, it was hoped that the objective would be achieved.

Palestinian Authority control (2005-2007)

In accordance with the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority took over the administrative authority of the Gaza Strip (other than the settlement blocs and military areas) in 1994. After the complete Israeli withdrawal of Israeli settlers and military from the Gaza Strip on 12 September 2005, the Palestinian Authority had complete administrative authority in the Gaza Strip.

Since the Israeli withdrawal the Rafah Border Crossing has been supervised by EU Border Assistance Mission Rafah under an Agreement finalised in November 2005.

Israel continues to assert control over activities that rely on transit through Israel, as well as air space over and sea access to ports in Gaza. Israel approves all immigration to and emigration from Gaza via Israel, as well as entry by foreigners via Israel, imports and exports via Israel, and collection and reimbursement of value-added tax in Israel.

Palestinians and others maintain that the Israeli occupation is not over because of this Israeli control. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem said in November 2006 that “the broad scope of Israeli control in the Gaza Strip creates a strong case for the claim that Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip continue.”[3] University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, law professor Iain Scobbie noted in 2006 that “Israel retains absolute authority over Gaza’s airspace and territorial sea. It is manifestly exercising governmental authority in these areas…. it is clear that Israeli withdrawal of land forces did not terminate occupation.”[4] And according to some Palestinians, Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip continued. “They control the water, the sky and the passages. How can you say occupation is over?” said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in 2005.[5] Similar viewpoints have been presented by many other Palestinian organizations and leaders.[6][7][8] The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights also argues that the Gaza Strip remains occupied by Israel.[9]

Prior to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the United States considered the Gaza Strip to be an Israel-occupied territory. Following the withdrawal, no official US government statement has been made on the status of the Strip. However, the CIA World Factbook (an official U.S. government publication), which was last updated in 2007, continues to list the Gaza Strip as an Israeli-occupied territory.

On the other hand, Israel and others claim that Gaza is no longer occupied as it doesn’t exercise effective control or authority over any land or institutions in the Gaza Strip.[12][13] According to the The Hague convention of 1907 ‘Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army’, and ‘the occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised.’ It also says that ‘[The occupying power] must safeguard the capital of these properties [like public buildings , real estate, and other land], and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.’ It seems clear that Israel is in no such position regarding the Gaza Strip, as the IDF doesn’t control any part of Gaza anymore. Israel doesn’t administer any property belonging to Gazans nor any means of transportation. The Hague convention also implies that occupation is a condition applying between states. When the Israeli army left Gaza, an unclear legal situation was created, as Gaza doesn’t belong to any sovereign state. Moreover, some argue that, if Israel would still occupy Gaza, this would mean it has the right or even the duty to maintain law and order there. [14]

Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. However, when a Hamas-controlled government was formed, continuing to refuse to recognise Israel, renounce violence and agree to honour agreements previously made by the PLO, Israel, the United States, Canada, and the European Union froze all funds to the Hamas-controlled government. They view Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In December 2006, news reports indicated that a number of Palestinians were leaving the Gaza Strip, due to political disorder and economic stagnation there.[10]

In January 2007, fighting continued between Hamas and Fatah, without any progress towards resolution or reconciliation. The worst clashes occurred in the northern Gaza Strip, where Gen. Muhammed Gharib, a senior commander of the Fatah-dominated Preventative Security Force, was killed when a rocket hit his home. Gharib’s two daughters and two bodyguards were also killed in the attack, which was carried out by Hamas gunmen.[11]

At the end of January 2007, it appeared that a newly-negotiated truce between Fatah and Hamas was starting to take hold .[12] However, after a few days, new fighting broke out.[13] Fatah fighters stormed a Hamas-affiliated university in the Gaza Strip. Officers from Abbas’ presidential guard battled Hamas gunmen guarding the Hamas-led Interior Ministry.[14]

In May 2007, the deal between Hamas and Fatah appeared to be weaker, as new fighting broke out between the factions. This was considered a major setback.[15] Interior Minister Hani Qawasmi, who had been considered a moderate civil servant acceptable to both factions, resigned due to what he termed harmful behavior by both factions.[16]

Fighting spread in the Gaza Strip with both factions attacking vehicles and facilities of the other side. In response to constant attacks by rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched an air strike which destroyed a building used by Hamas. Some Palestinians said the violence could bring the end of the Fatah-Hamas coalition government, and possibly the end of the Palestinian authority.[17]

Hamas spokeman Moussa Abu Marzouk placed the blame for the worsening situation in the Strip upon Israel, stating that the constant pressure of economic sanctions upon Gaza resulted in the “real explosion”.[18] Expressions of concerns were received from many Arab leaders, with many offering to try to help by doing some diplomatic work between the two factions.[19] One journalist wrote an eyewitness account stating:

Today I have seen people shot before my eyes, I heard the screams of terrified women and children in a burning building, and I argued with gunmen who wanted to take over my home. I have seen a lot in my years as a journalist in Gaza, but this is the worst it’s been.[20]

Hamas control (2007-Present)

In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Fatah (Palestine Liberation Movement) intensified. Hamas routed Fatah, and by 14 June 2007, the Gaza Strip was completely overrun by Hamas, which now effectively controlled the Gaza Strip and proclaimed itself to be the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas responded by declaring a state of emergency, dissolving the unity government and forming a new government without Hamas participation. PA security forces in the West Bank arrested a number of Hamas members and closed some Hamas offices.

After Hamas’ victory in June it started ousting Fatah-linked officials from positions of power and authority in the Strip (such as government positions, security services, universities, newspapers etc) and strove to obtain a monopoly of fire power by progressively removing guns from the hands of peripheral militias, clans, and criminal groups, and gaining control of smuggling tunnels. Under Hamas rule, newspapers have been closed down and journalists have been harassed.[21] Fatah demonstrations have been forbidden or suppressed, as in the case of a large demonstration on the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, which was suppressed violently by Hamas security forces, killing 7 and wounding 130. [22]

Christians are being threatened and assaulted in the Gaza Strip. The owner of a Christian bookshop was abducted and murdered,[15], and on February 15, 2008, the Christian Youth Organization’s library in Gaza City was bombed.[16] Hamas condemns these attacks.

Since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the EU Border Monitors at the Rafah Crossing have not been able to perform their functions under the Agreement, citing security concerns, resulting in the Rafah Crossing being mostly closed. The only land access into the Strip to Israel is via the Erez and Karni crossings. Meanwhile Hamas continued smuggling in large quantities of explosives and arms from Egypt through tunnels, as Israeli and Egyptian security reports claim. Egyptian security forces uncovered 60 tunnels in 2007. [17]

While clamping down on lawlessness in the Strip, Hamas has made no effort to control the continued firing of Qassam rockets from the Strip across the border into Israel, targeted at Israeli civilians. According to Israel, since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip until the end of January 2008, 697 rockets and 822 mortar bombs have been fired at Israeli towns. [18] In response, Israel targeted Qassam launchers and military targets and on September 19, 2007, declared the Gaza Strip a hostile entity, to make it possible to cut fuel and electricity supplies. In January 2008 the situation escalated and Israel curtailed travel from Gaza and entry of goods, and decided to cut fuel supplies to the Strip on January 19, resulting in power shortages. This brought charges that Israel was inflicting collective punishment on the Gaza population, leading to international condemnation. Israel countered that Gaza had enough food and energy suplies for weeks[19]

Current situation

Abbas’ government has won widespread international support. Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia said in late June 2007 that the West Bank-based Cabinet formed by Abbas was the sole legitimate Palestinian government, and Egypt moved its embassy from Gaza to the West Bank.[20]. The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip faces international diplomatic and economic isolation.

However, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt support reconciliation and the forming of a new unity government, and press Abbas to start serious talks with Hamas. Abbas has always conditioned this on Hamas ceding control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is supported by Syria and Iran, and is believed to have brought in large sums of money from Iran. Hamas fighters are also believed to have received training in Iran. Hamas has been invited to and has visited a number of countries, including Russia, and in the USA and EU countries, opposition parties and politicians have called for a dialog with Hamas and an end to the economic sanctions.

On January 23, 2008, after months of preparation during which the steel reinforcement of the border barrier was weakened[21], Hamas destroyed several parts of the wall dividing Gaza and Egypt in the town of Rafah. Hundreds of thousands of Gazans crossed the border into Egypt seeking food and supplies. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered his troops to allow the Palestinians in, due to the crisis, but to verify that they did not bring weapons back.[23] Egypt arrested and later released several armed Hamas militants in the Sinai who presumably wanted to infiltrate into Israel. At the same time, Israel increased its state of alert along the length of the Israel-Egypt Sinai border, and warned its citizens to leave Sinai “without delay”. The EU Border Monitors have indicated their readiness to return to monitor the border, should Hamas guarantee their safety; while the Palestinian Authority has demanded that Egypt deal only with the Authority in negotiations relating to borders. Israel has eased up some influx of goods and medical supplies to the strip, but it has curtailed electricity by 5% in one of its ten lines, while Hamas and Egypt have shored up some of the gaping holes between the two areas.[22] The first attempts by Egypt to reclose the border were met by violent clashes with Gaza gunmen, but after 12 days the borders were sealed again.[23] In mid-February there had still been no agreement reached between the parties on conditions for reopening the Rafah crossing.[24] In February 2008 an Haaretz poll indicated that 64% of Israelis favour their government holding direct talks with Hamas in Gaza about a cease-fire and to secure the release of Gilad Shalit,[24] an Israeli soldier who was abducted in a cross border raid by Palestinian militants on 25 June 2006 and has been held hostage since.[25][26][27]

In February 2008, Israeli-Palestinian fighting intensified with rockets launched at Israeli cities and Israel attacking Palestinian militants. An increase in rocket attacks lead to a heavy Israeli military action on March 1, resulting in over 100 Palestinians being killed according to BBC News, as well as 2 Israeli soldiers. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem estimated that 54 of those killed were not involved in hostilities, and 25 were minors. [28] . Current ongoing status is held between Hamas and Israel. Some Jewish groups are also trying to wrestle sovereignity away from Hamas, such as Baruch Marzel and Tzvi Fishman.

Geography Location: Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Egypt and Israel
Geographic coordinates: 31 25 N, 34 20 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 360 sq km
land: 360 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: total: 62 km
border countries: Egypt 11 km, Israel 51 km
Coastline: 40 km
Maritime claims: Israeli-occupied with current status subject to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement – permanent status to be determined through further negotiation
Climate: temperate, mild winters, dry and warm to hot summers
Terrain: flat to rolling, sand- and dune-covered coastal plain
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Abu ‘Awdah (Joz Abu ‘Auda) 105 m
Natural resources: arable land, natural gas
Land use: arable land: 29%
permanent crops: 21%
other: 50% (2002)
Irrigated land: 150 sq km; note – includes West Bank (2003)
Natural hazards: droughts
Environment – current issues: desertification; salination of fresh water; sewage treatment; water-borne disease; soil degradation; depletion and contamination of underground water resources
Geography – note: strategic strip of land along Mideast-North African trade routes has experienced an incredibly turbulent history; the town of Gaza itself has been besieged countless times in its history
Demographics In 2007 approximately 1.4 million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, of whom almost 1.0 million are UN-registered refugees.[29] The majority of the Palestinians are descendants of refugees who fled from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Strip’s population has continued to increase since that time, one of the main reasons being a total fertility rate of more than 5 children per woman. In a ranking by total fertility rate, this places Gaza 19th of 222 regions.[25]

The vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslims, with an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Christians.[30] The Christian population has been shrinking since Hamas’ takeover, due to tensions with the Muslim community and economic sanctions imposed by Israel. In December 2007, Israel has permitted 400 Gaza Christians to travel through Israel to Bethlehem for Christmas. While they are strictly travel permits, many Christian families are taking the opportunity to settle in the West Bank, despite the illegality.[26]

One of the largest foreign communities in the Gaza Strip was the approximately 500 women from the former Soviet Union. During the Soviet era, the Communist Party subsidized university studies for thousands of students from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and the territories. Some of them got married during their studies and brought their Russian and Ukrainian wives back home. However, over half of them were able to leave the Strip via the Erez crossing to Amman within days of Hamas’ takeover. From there they have flown back to Eastern Europe.

People Population: 1,482,405 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 47.6% (male 361,115/female 344,236)
15-64 years: 49.9% (male 377,927/female 361,824)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 15,454/female 21,849) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 16 years
male: 15.9 years
female: 16.2 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.66% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 38.9 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 3.74 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.43 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.049 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.045 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.707 male(s)/female
total population: 1.037 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 21.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 22.91 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 20.79 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 72.16 years
male: 70.84 years
female: 73.54 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.64 children born/woman