Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh leads the morning prayers for Eid al-Fitr celebrations, which marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Gaza City, Gaza, July 6, 2016
Closed elections are being held right now for Hamas’ Shura Council. These elections will shape not only the future composition of the Shura Council, but also the movement’s overall leadership. Senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh is expected to be elected head of the movement’s political bureau — and in effect, leader of Hamas. Haniyeh left Gaza Sept. 5 with most of his family members to focus on Hamas’ fateful election campaign. This will be a new era following that of outgoing political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal.
In the past, the Shura Council was composed of dozens of religious leaders and imams, but over the years, other forces have entered the council. They include well-educated individuals and professionals from Gaza and the West Bank as well as top Palestinian lecturers from well-known universities around the world. These members keep their Shura Council affiliation a secret. The list of council members is confidential out of concern for the threat of Israeli assassination of Hamas officials. However, over time, their names have been occasionally leaked as the threat has declined.
From intelligence gathered over the years (for example, interrogations of Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons), it is possible to assemble an almost complete profile of the Shura Council. It shows how the movement has changed over time, consistent with processes taking place within it. For example, when Hamas became a political movement, its leadership’s center of gravity shifted. The composition of the Shura Council shifted from religious figures to members of the political wing.
In the elections currently underway, the makeup of the Shura Council is expected to radically change once again. A high-level source in the Gaza Strip told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that this time, the movement’s military wing, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is more adamant than ever to be part of the council and participate in mapping out its future path. The desire of high-level military members to compete for a foothold in the council was inevitable. Ever since Hamas took control of Gaza and following the subsequent frequent armed conflicts with Israel, power has been concentrated in the military wing, where crucial decisions are made — sometimes over the heads of the political echelon and against resolutions of the Shura Council.
One of the most interesting phenomena in these elections is that Gaza’s “youth revolution” seems to have seeped into fundamentalist Hamas. Youths who completed their studies in Gaza’s Islamic University and were active in student associations view themselves as the next generation of Hamas’ leadership. They expect to inject new spirit into a movement that they feel has been stuck in a dead end under the recent years of Meshaal’s leadership.
Some members of Hamas’ younger generation belong to the movement’s military wing, while others play important roles in the movement’s welfare organization. Many of them are tired of a stagnant leadership that offers no solutions for the coming years. As far as they are concerned, the election of Haniyeh to lead the movement represents a refreshing change, but it is not enough. They feel the revolution will not be complete until they, the youths, become part of Hamas’ new policy-making elite in the post-Meshaal era. The central question that troubles them is how long Hamas can rule the Gaza Strip under an ongoing closure and without hope for an end. They are also upset that the movement’s old guard is unwilling to grant them entrance to the decision-making hubs of power.
A high-level Fatah official in the Gaza Strip who views himself as sharing good relations with Hamas activists told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that in the past, the leadership turnover within Hamas had been very high “in the era when Israel killed [Hamas leaders], mainly during the second intifada years.” He said, “In that period, position-holders were frequently exchanged, allowing for new players to enter the ring. This was not only the result of the assassinations but also due to the emergency atmosphere that prevailed in Hamas at the time and required many workers in a broad variety of spheres. But those days have passed.”
According to the same source, Hamas is presently stagnating. There are almost no recent changes in key positions in the movement. This situation created a bottleneck among members of the younger generation, movement activists aged 30-40 who want to advance and exert political influence over the way their movement will look in the coming years.
During preparations for the Shura Council elections, certain political deals within Hamas emerged. The deals between various Hamas factions were designed to allow new names to squeeze into Hamas’ closed, fossilized list of Shura Council members. The same source reported that Mushir al-Masri — one of the movement’s “intermediate generation” leaders and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council — has become the address for Hamas’ younger generation, which views him as the key to their success.
Over the years, Masri’s outreach activities made him a well-liked man. According to the senior Palestinian source, Masri “encourages youths who studied in the Islamic University to compete for a place on the council, even if their chances of being elected are small in the competition against the military-wing activists.” Masri’s motto is that in order to achieve success, factions in the movement must organize themselves into lobbying groups.
At this stage, it’s impossible to know whether these efforts will bear fruit. No one outside the council knows for sure whether the elections are held under democratic, impartial and fair conditions, and no one knows what the members of the military wing are doing to consolidate their power and retain their positions. But one thing is clear: In the Shura Council elections, Hamas is likely to undergo a great shake-up.
Al-Monitor asked a Hamas activist in Gaza, “What would members of the younger generation view as an achievement?” He answered on condition of anonymity, “When the leaders of the past know that they cannot continue to decide things on their own, that other people in the movement also have opinions and a say in the matter.”
The election results will be revealed at the end of December. Then we will also know whether Haniyeh prefers to remain in Qatar or return to Gaza and live among his people and the youths who view his election as a harbinger of change.
(Source / 07.12.2016)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the Fatah congress in Ramallah, West Bank, Nov. 30, 2016
Party congresses are known for two important things: formulating policies and strategies, and electing a new leadership. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dispensed with the leadership issue by getting elected by acclamation and without opposition on the first day of Fatah’s seventh congress, which opened Nov. 29, and then went on to lay out his political views for the way forwa
Abbas’ Nov. 30 three-hour speech laid out the priorities of Fatah and Palestinians and will no doubt become the guiding principles for the movement, as it tries to accelerate the reconciliation efforts with Hamas, hold a Palestinian National Council meeting, appoint a national unity government, and hold presidential and parliamentary elections.
The liberation of Palestine was the top topic in Abbas’ speech. Abbas mentioned Palestine 150 times. He also laid out a series of Palestinian accomplishments in economics, banking, education, health, information technology, commerce, sports, science, housing and various other fields. In outlining the political accomplishments, Abbas stressed that the term “Palestinian Authority” has been scrapped and replaced by the “State of Palestine” after the UN vote. “In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine as an observer state with 138 nations voting in favor of Palestine,” Abbas proudly stated. He added that this recognition made it possible for the State of Palestine to join some 522 international agencies: “We have joined 44 organizations, including UNESCO and the International Criminal Court.”
Israel was mentioned 31 times in the president’s speech, mostly in terms connected to its occupation (25 times) and settlement (six times) policies. Abbas referred to the 1993 letters of mutual recognition exchanged between the PLO and Israel, but Abbas cautioned the latter not to take them for granted. Palestinian recognition of Israel is not free of charge, he argued in his speech. “We keep repeating that our recognition of Israel is not free and must be reciprocated with a similar recognition. We also call on countries that have recognized the two-state solution to recognize both states and not one.”
In speaking to some 1,400 delegates, Abbas named all of the past leaders of the movement, including Yasser Arafat (nine mentions throughout the speech). He repeated the name of the movement 21 times as he called on all to respect the movement’s independence. “We hope that all will accept our unique and special situation and respect the national Palestinian independent decision-making process, which we have extracted through huge sacrifices as Fatah has always remained a single unified body committed to its goal and attached to its Arab affiliation and depth,” he said.
Al-Quds (Jerusalem) received 15 mentions. “I am full of hope that our next congress will be held in Al-Quds al-Sharif [Jerusalem], the eternal capital of the State of Palestine,” Abbas told the delegates and guests.
Palestinian prisoners were featured prominently in Abbas’ speech with nine mentions, especially in reference to veteran Fatah prisoners. “Israel refused to release our prisoners who were jailed before the Oslo Accord as had been agreed.” Abbas mentioned specifically Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who would later get the highest votes for Fatah’s Central Committee. He also reminded the congress and all Palestinians of Foad Shobaki, another senior Fatah leader currently in prison. Abbas also mentioned other Palestinian leaders and reminded everyone of Ahmad Saadat, the imprisoned secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails, Karim Younis.
The term “struggle” was mentioned 15 times and “popular resistance” received four mentions. “In every meeting, we repeat calls for peaceful popular struggle. This is our right to practice, and we don’t need one-upmanship on this score. We want popular peaceful resistance, and we extend our hands for peace,” the Palestinian president said.
In referring to Israel, Abbas also talked about participating in Shimon Peres’ funeral in September. “We participated in the funeral of Shimon Peres with the goal of sending a message to all that we are seeking peace and that we are willing to go anywhere to the ends of the world to accomplish the goals of our people in freedom and independence,” he said.
Abbas, the Palestinian leader who signed the Oslo Accord in 1993 on behalf of the PLO along with Peres — didn’t shy away from defending the agreement, which he mentioned nine times. “Many say, publicly or in secret, that signing of the Oslo Accord was an act of treason without knowing what it was. Oslo was a memorandum of understanding; all we did was prepare the way for the return of leaders and our cadres to the homeland. We don’t say that this was the right of return, but 600,000 have returned as a result of it.”
Unlike at the sixth congress held in Bethlehem in 2009, Hamas was not demonized at the 2016 congress. Hamas was mentioned four times in rather neutral or positive terms. “At this critical junction of our national struggle, I again make a sincere call to the Hamas movement to end the split by means of a national democratic process,” Abbas said. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal sent a message of congratulations to the congress on its opening day. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, allowed Fatah delegates to attend the congress, unlike in 2009 when the movement refused to allow them to leave Gaza.
In the long-awaited speech, Abbas showcased his accomplishments and defended his policies, but made no reference to one of the most important reasons for holding the congress. Mahmoud Dahlan, the renegade Fatah leader supported by a number of Arab countries, was not mentioned once. This reflects Abbas’ success in weathering the internal and external storms, thus ending Dahlan’s place within Fatah. The success of holding the congress and the direction it has taken bodes well for the possibility of the successful implementation of the agreements that were reached with Hamas.
(Source / 07.12.2016)
An Iraqi journalist reacts after an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi special forces unit with a car bomb during clashes in Bartella, east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 20, 2016
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government is keeping an eye on local and foreign media outlets that are covering security events in the country, especially the war against the Islamic State (IS), namely in the battle to liberate the city of Mosul.
On Dec. 3, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) rectified its previous report on the violence against civilians in Iraq, following the criticism of the report by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, which requested it to be amended. UNAMI admitted that the number of casualties mentioned in the report was incorrect and was not collected from reliable sources.
This was not the first time that media outlets or humanitarian organizations corrected their reports following requests by Iraqi authorities. Since the launch of the Mosul operation, the Iraqi government is keeping an eye on media outlets and humanitarian organizations covering the battle of Mosul to prevent them from publishing false reports.
On Nov. 21, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that is affiliated with the Iraqi government expelled a reporter for the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that published a report on “illegitimate pregnancies in southern Iraq.” The newspaper then issued an apology for the report.
Although the Saudi newspaper’s report did not address any security details concerning the battle to liberate Mosul or any other military campaign, the JOC issued an order to expel the newspaper’s reporter from all military fields, where he was working to cover the news.
In a press statement Nov. 21, the JOC said, “In light of the lies, fabrications and slurs on the values and customs of the Iraqi people published in Asharq al-Awsat, it has been decided to expel the reporter of this perverse newspaper. He is also banned from being present on all the military fronts.”
In the same vein, a reporter for the United Arab Emirates-based Sky News Arabic reported that the government security forces had detained civilians who fled Mosul and prevented them from drinking water. This caused confusion within the Iraqi security circles.
Subsequently, the government War Media Unit was swift to make a statement, demanding Sky News to issue an apology for its correspondent’s reporting. So far, there has been no response from the newspaper.
However, one day after the War Media Unit statement, reporter Hewa Aziz, who is now based in Iraqi Kurdistan, made a media appearance to correct the information he had shared after the government media unit required evidence in support of his claims, according to a Sky News source who spoke to Al-Monitor.
For his part, Saeed al-Jiashi, an official in the War Media Unit, told Al-Monitor, “The unit does not impose conditions on the media outlets covering the battles. Nevertheless, it refuses any breach of the press standards in covering the news. It does not seek praise from media outlets for any failed achievements or rebuke for events that did not exist.”
He added, “The unit is working within the press freedom standards and does not restrict the work of institutions that seek to cover the battles, but will not allow the diffusion and circulation of false information. When this happened, we excluded nine local reporters working for local Iraqi channels from battlefronts.”
The unit has an electronic network that includes a group of journalists working for local Iraqi or foreign media outlets. All information issued by the coordinator of said network — who is the media officer at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior — is considered accurate and can be published or quoted.
On Oct. 28, the Iraqi security authorities expelled Al-Arabiya al-Hadath TV’s correspondent Ahmad al-Hamdani, who was covering the battle to liberate Mosul. According to the JOC, he was reporting “harmful” information.
The unit said in a press statement that “the JOC ordered the expulsion of the Al-Arabiya al-Hadath reporter from the battlefield, where he was covering the events, after disseminating false information about ar-Rutbah and Mosul.”
The reporter of the Dubai-based and Saudi-funded newspaper no longer reports from the battlefield but made a media appearance on the border of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, near the border with Ninevah province.
There is a common thinking among the Iraqi security circles that the policy of Al-Arabiya al-Hadath is not commensurate with Iraq’s policy with regard to its war on terror or the political process that occurred in Iraq after 2003. This was one of the reasons behind the ongoing tension between the TV channel and the Iraqi authorities.
Moreover, an embedded Israeli journalist was present on the battlefield to cover the Mosul operation against IS, which raised much controversy in Iraq. After she entered through the Kurdistan Region with a visa that was not granted by the federal government in Iraq, the security authorities expelled her from the front line.
Today, the Iraqi government is greatly focusing on the importance of media coverage in the ongoing battle, as it believes that it is of paramount importance to unify the rhetoric of the local Iraqi media outlets, despite their different political inclinations.
This step comes after the failure of the state media over the past few years to address the rumors. Talks are making the rounds in Iraq about some Iraqi cities that have fallen under IS’ control at the media level before the military one.
For fear of losing the media battle, Iraqi authorities have established the so-called National Media Alliance, which includes a number of Iraqi media organizations, headed by the semi-official Al-Iraqiya national TV channel.
The Iraqi government has also formed a special committee under the supervision of the War Media Unit and a number of independent journalists, which has been entrusted with granting permission to embedded journalists and media outlets to cover the events in Iraq, as it deems appropriate.
(Source / 07.12.2016)
NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers leveled private Palestinian lands in the northern occupied West Bank village of Jalud in the Nablus district on Tuesday morning, a day after the Israeli Knesset moved forward with a bill seeking to retroactively legalize illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, which would see thousands of dunams of Palestinian lands confiscated.A Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma’an that several bulldozers escorted by Israeli settlers and troops started to level lands on the eastern outskirts of Jalud “without prior notice.”More than 40 dunams (9.88 acres) of land belonging to the family of Ahmad Nasser al-Hajj were leveled, Daghlas added.The illegal Israeli settlement outpost Esh Kodesh is located only a few hundred meters away from the area leveled on Tuesday.Daghlas said that the al-Hajj family tried to access the land on Monday to plow it, but that Israeli forces denied them access, confiscating the keys of the tractors they had brought with them.The al-Hajjs emphatically said that they had not received any documents from the Israeli government regarding a decision to confiscate their land.
Palestinian youth activist Basil al-Araj’s home again raided by Israeli forces as 16 arrested overnight in West Bank
As 16 Palestinians were seized by Israeli occupation forces throughout the West Bank in a series of pre-dawn raids, Palestinian youth activist Basil al-Araj once again evaded an arrest raid on his home. One of six Palestinian youth who were released from Palestinian Authority prisons after nearly six months of detention when they launched a hunger strike, Al-Araj and other youth were seized in April in what was touted as a victory for security coordination between the PA and Israel. After their hunger strike and widespread attention to their case secured their release, four of the youth – Mohammed al-Salameen, Seif al-Idrissi, Haitham Siyaj, and Mohammed Harb – have been seized by Israeli occupation forces. All four have been ordered to administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.
Al-Araj’s family home in the village of Walaja near Bethlehem has been repeatedly stormed by occupation forces, most recently this morning, Wednesday, 7 December, at 1:00 am. His mother stated that they also invaded the homes of his uncles, ransacking their belongings and damaging their property, and ordering Al-Araj’s father and brother to interrogation with the Israeli occupation intelligence.
Also early this morning, five Palestinians were seized in Bethlehem, reported the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society, including a child: Mohammed Sabah, 12 years old. The others arrested include Mohammed Ahmed Ali Sheikh, 21, Mohammed Maher Sheikh, 20, Mahmoud Ahmed Sheikh, 22, and Amir Khalil Afaneh, 19. In al-Khalil, occupation forces seized four Palestinians, including Said Sharawi, 43, and his son Ramadan Sharawi, 23; the former prisoner Rajeh Abu Ajamia, 45, and Basil El-Skafi. In Ramallah and El-Bireh, occupation forces seized Nidal al-Hindi and Ahmed Hussein Al-Khasib. In Qalqilya, occupation forces seized Mohammed Ali Radwan, 24, and Asem Omar Sweidan, 21. In Jerusalem, they arrested Odeh Ahmed Khatib, 20, and Amin Hamed, while in Salfit, occupation forces seized Ahmed Mohammed Bouzaya, 26.
(Source / 07.12.2016)
The Assad regime forces are arresting and forcibly conscripting civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo, the Daily Telegraph reported on Monday. Relatives of detainees said that dozens of military-aged teachers, medics and aid workers have been rounded up and spirited away, as regime troops push further into the city.
The brother of one of those detained told how regime forces were detaining men under the age of 40 whom they accused of supporting the armed opposition.
“I was with him (Mohammed, his brother) when he was taken by the secret service,” said Yussef, who did not wish to give his full name for fear of reprisal. “We just wanted to leave Aleppo to find safety.”
“He was not political, he never took part in any anti-government protests,” said Yussef, speaking from the northern Syrian city of Azaz where he and his family are now seeking refuge.
Yussef added that his brother Mohammed, 30, a father-of-three, had worked as a nurse at a hospital until a few months ago, when he joined a local medical NGO.
Aleppo and its countryside have been subjected to ferocious onslaught by the Assad regime and Russian forces since November 15. Over 900 people, mostly women and children, have so far been killed and thousands more injured in the ongoing bombing campaign on the city and its countryside.
The relentless aerial bombardment forced all schools and hospitals in eastern Aleppo to close down and destroyed two civil defense centers.
Yussef said he knew of many others who have suffered the same fate and feared there were likely hundreds more than reported.
The Telegraph spoke to two other families which confirmed the detentions. One father, whose son was arrested 10 days ago, has heard his son was already fighting with regime forces in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
The Assad regime has been looking to bolster its dwindling forces, having suffered a huge loss of manpower during the bloody five-year-conflict.
“We haven’t heard anything from him since December 1st,” Yussef said. “I think that we will never hear from him again.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office + Al-Jazeera / 07.12.2016)
The Israeli bulldozers demolished on Wednesday two car-washes to the north of Jerusalem under the pretext of building without a permit.
Nawal Barakat, al-Nabi Samuel Organization member, said that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) escorted the Israeli bulldozers that razed a car-wash to the north of Nabi Samuel village.
Quds Press quoted Barakat as saying that the car-wash belongs to her son Laith and constitutes his sole source of income along with four of his friends.
She pointed out that the car-wash place was established two years ago and demolished four times.
The Israeli occupation forces target Palestinians in Nabi Samwil village to pressure them to leave while the media outlets are ignoring the village suffering.
In the same context, Ismail Abu Rabah, a resident of Khalaila suburb, told the Quds Press that the Israeli bulldozers demolished another car-wash belonging to Mahmoud Alqam.
He pointed out that Alqam had appointed a lawyer to follow up a notification for the demolition of his car-wash but the Israeli bulldozers destroyed the place that provides the only sustenance for his family.
(Source / 07.12.2016)