Hamas in urgent need of new patron

August 23, 2017
Sarah Benton

The Rafah Crossing is closed most of the time. It is the only route out of Gaza which does not involve trying to get a permit from Israel for the Eretz Crossing.

UN expresses ‘deep concern’ over ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza

By Ma’an
August 12/13, 2017

BETHLEHEM — The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights office (OHCHR) expressed “deep concern” on Friday over the ever-deteriorating situation in the besieged Gaza Strip, three months after the electricity supply was severely cut by Israel at the behest of the PA.

In May, the Fatah-led PA decided to slash funding for Israeli fuel to the coastal enclave, as Israeli authorities acceded to PA demands to dramatically reduce its electricity supply to Gaza, which was already reeling from lack of adequate access to electricity and fuel.

The PA was accused of carrying out “collective punishment” on Palestinians living in the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, which had already been embroiled in a dire electricity crisis that was only worsened by increasing punitive measures by Israel and the PA.

“At the height of summer, with soaring temperatures, electricity provision has not risen above six hours per day since the beginning of the current crisis in April, and has often been under four hours,” OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said during a media briefing in Switzerland.

Prior to the latest crisis, Gaza residents had received only eight hours of electricity a day under Israel’s devastating blockade, which marked its tenth year in June.

“This has a grave impact on the provision of essential health, water and sanitation services,” Shamdasani said, adding that the large-scale power cuts were a life-threatening risk for vulnerable residents of the coastal enclave. “Israel, the State of Palestine, and the authorities in Gaza are not meeting their obligations to promote and protect the rights of the residents of Gaza.”

The power cuts, which have seriously affected Gaza hospitals, come as medical sources have told Ma’an that scores of patients in the besieged Palestinian enclave, including dozens of children suffering from cystic fibrosis, were in “mortal danger” due to severe medicine shortages.

“I cannot imagine seeing a patient (with cystic fibrosis) who was not receiving medication. This is fatal,” Hiyam Marzouqa, the medical director at Caritas Baby Hospital in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, told Ma’an in July. “Their lifespan is affected if they don’t take proper medication.”

While the average life expectancy of people suffering from cystic fibrosis stands between 37 and 41 years old in the United States and Europe, Marzouqa said that lack of access to holistic treatment has affected the lifespan of patients in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Caritas Baby Hospital has in the past received patients referred from the Gaza Strip, and most recently sent emergency rations of cystic fibrosis treatment to Gaza via the World Health Organization (WHO) on July 19, but Marzouqa said that no Gaza patients were being treated at the hospital as of mid-July.

“Patients in Gaza need to receive medication urgently, and they need to have properly trained medical teams to follow up with care,” Marzouqa said. “Patients have the right to health and to receive treatment without gaps, which affect the effectiveness of treatment.”

The Fatah-led PA has been accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe in order to wrest control of the territory from Hamas, by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners.

Numerous attempts have been made in the past to reconcile Hamas and Fatah since they came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the Gaza Strip.

However, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliations, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

Hamas authorities have also been accused of withholding funds collected in Gaza from the PA, as well as targeting Fatah officials in Gaza through detentions and restricting their freedom of movement.

On Aug. 3, the Hamas movement announced its readiness to do away with its administrative committee in Gaza, should the PA retract all punitive measures imposed on the besieged coastal enclave in recent months.

However, Abbas said in a speech two days later that the PA would continue to reduce financial support to the Gaza Strip as long as the Hamas movement did not stick to the PA-mandated terms of reconciliation.

“A good face to bring in funds from the UAE and elsewhere.” Hundreds of supporters of exiled former Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan carry a banner with his picture during a protest against metal detectors Israel erected at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, in Gaza City, Thursday, July 20, 2017.  Photo by Adel Hana/AP

Egypt and Hamas deal on Gaza border reflects shifting dynamics

Rafah crossing expected to reopen as Arab states seek to rein in Qatar’s influence

By John Reed, Financial Times
August 23, 2017

Egypt and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group, are finalising a deal that would see a vital border crossing into Gaza reopened allowing much-needed aid to cross into the impoverished strip and enabling more of its residents to travel.

The agreement reflects the changing dynamics of the region and follows a move by Egypt and Gulf states to rein in Qatar, the biggest donor to projects in Gaza and a backer of Hamas. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have imposed a regional blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist groups, such as Hamas, and sponsoring terrorism. Doha denies the allegations.

The deal has been thrashed out at talks brokered by Mohammed Dahlan, a former security chief in Gaza who was ousted after a violent rift erupted between Hamas and Fatah, its Palestinian rival, a decade ago. Mr Dahlan, once a Fatah strongman, has been living in exile in the UAE, which has also supported the deal between Cairo and Hamas.

It comes after Donald Trump, the US president, pledged to broker the “ultimate deal” to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fate of Gaza and its 2m residents will be crucial to any agreement. Jared Kushner, the US president’s son-in-law and adviser, is due to visit Jerusalem and Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, this week as part of Washington’s diplomatic efforts.

The international community views Gaza as a pressing humanitarian issue, as well as a security threat to Israel and Egypt while under the control of Hamas, which is widely designated as a terrorist group.

Details of the deal, under which Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt would be opened after being closed for much of the past four years, have surfaced in statements by Palestinian politicians. Hamas officials, including the group’s new Gaza-based leader, Yahya Sinwar, have visited Cairo three times in recent months to hammer out the details.

Mahmoud Alzahar, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, has confirmed the meetings between Hamas members and Mr Dahlan, who divides his time between Abu Dhabi and Cairo.

Other Palestinian officials have talked of the Rafah crossing re-opening and raised additional details of the deal, including possible compensation for families of people killed in clashes between Hamas and Fatah in 2007. Still, Palestinians remain sceptical as the region has a history of agreements collapsing before they get off the ground.

Hamas has had a toxic relationship with Cairo since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist Mohammed Morsi in 2013 and took steps to isolate the Palestinian group, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt then bulldozed tunnels that Hamas was using to move people and goods under the border, and the Rafah border terminal above ground has been closed to all but a sporadic trickle of Palestinians seeking to leave Gaza.

Mr Sisi’s government has also accused the militant group of supporting an affiliate of Isis operating in Egypt’s Sinai province that has been blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Egyptians.

However, the fact that the Cairo meetings took place illustrates a shift in regional relations. Hamas has become more isolated and is in need of new patrons. The UAE, which has become more assertive in its foreign policy, and Egypt want to counter the influence of Islamist groups and bring stability to a troublesome border.

They also want to begin positioning a successor to Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year-old president of the Palestinian Authority, analysts say.

“Hamas is in crisis domestically and regionally,” said Mohamed Gomaa, an analyst with the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “There is a crisis in funding, in paying the civil service and in electricity [in Gaza], and they consider that Dahlan could present a good face to bring in funds from the UAE and elsewhere.”

Egypt is now upgrading its side of the Rafah border terminal, adding cameras, watchtowers and other security equipment ahead of its reopening, Palestinian officials say.

The UAE is set to provide $15m a month worth of funding for health, education, electricity and other services in the strip, the officials says. The new arrangements would provide relief to Hamas and Gaza’s residents after Mr Abbas stopped paying for electricity to the strip, slashed salaries for Fatah civil servants and cut back on travel permits for people who need to leave for medical treatment.

The rehabilitation of Mr Dahlan in an official or semi-official role would represent a blow for Mr Abbas, who has previously accused the former security chief of plotting to overthrow him. Mr Dahlan was expelled from the West Bank in 2011 after the allegations were made.

In exile, the 55-year-old has been financing humanitarian projects in Gaza in a move seen as an attempt to build a base for a future bid for the Palestinian presidency. His wife has been allowed to visit the strip via Egypt, and officials close to Mr Dahlan have floated the idea that some of his aides might return soon.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017