Hamas Delegation Meets President Assad


A Hamas delegation headed by the Islamist movement’s senior most leader Khaled Mishaal met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus on Saturday to discuss the status of the occupied Palestinian territories.

The meeting tackled the latest developments in the Palestinian territories as reconciliation efforts between rival factions Hamas and Fatah reached an impasse, according to Hamas official Izzat Ar-Rashq.

The conveners also addressed continuous Israeli assaults, settlement activity, plans to Judaisise Jerusalem and divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in addition to the ongoing crippling siege on the Gaza Strip.

Ar-Rashq pointed out that the Hamas delegation updated Al-Assad on the reasons which led to the stalemate in reconciliation efforts, and the amendments Hamas wanted addressed before signing the Egyptian-sponsored document.

Al-Assad reaffirmed his concern for Palestinian reconciliation, asserting that he will support any effort that will lead to an agreement between Palestinian factions.

The Syrian president reiterated that Palestinian unity would be the only means to restoring Palestinian rights and face the challenges they are confronted with.

The meeting held between the Hamas delegation and Hamas officials was undertaken as part of a tour of Arab, Muslim and foreign countries in order to ‘crystallise a national relief strategy to face the failure of Palestinian reconciliation efforts,’ Ar-Rashq said.

Additionally, the tour will aim at finding solutions to ‘the extremist Israeli government led by Netanyahu and his foreign minister Lieberman,’ he said.

The Hamas delegation has also visited Yemen, Libya, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

The visit came against a background on continuing Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank.

At least three Palestinians were killed by Israeli aircraft fire in central Gaza early Sunday evening, medics reported.

Two of the victims were identified as Hasan Al-Qatarawi and Awad Naseir. They were reportedly transferred to Al-Aqsa Hospital.

A third’s body could not immediately be identified because it was blown into pieces as a result of the airstrike, according to Muawiya Hassanein, the Gaza Health Ministry’s director of ambulance and emergency services.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that the country’s air force was operating in the area, but offered no further comment.

Resistance groups said that Israel would feel their revenge.

A spokesperson from Al-Quds Brigades had warned early Saturday morning that armed Palestinian groups would not hesitate to confront Israel if strikes on the Gaza Strip continue saying that Palestinian resistance factions are prepared to face any attack on the coastal enclave.

Spokesman Abu Ahmad said: ‘Israel’s escalation in Gaza is part of an ongoing effort by the occupation forces to provoke us into renewed violence.’

He added: ‘The occupation’s attempts will fail in weakening the spirit of resistance, and that could change the equation of the circumstances in the region.’

The spokesman from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing also commented on successful tests of the Iron Dome missile defence system, saying that Israel ‘can’t cope with our rockets’.

His comments came hours after Palestinian resistance fighters fired three Qassam rockets, into the western Negev.

On Thursday night, Israeli Air Force had struck four targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the firing of a Katyusha rocket which landed near Ashkelon earlier in the night.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man near the southern entrance to Hebron in the West Bank on Sunday.

Israeli soldiers prevented Palestinians from assisting him, and then took him to an unknown location.

Israeli media reported that Israeli district police in Hebron opened fire at the Palestinian driving near Bani Na’im.

According to the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, an investigation was launched after the incident, revealing that a car was stolen.

The driver fled the scene and allegedly ‘endangered the police officers’ lives when he made a U-turn,’ the newspaper reported, claiming that the driver’s injuries were the result of shooting at the car’s tyres.

The injured driver was said to have been evacuated to the Hadassa Hospital in Jerusalem.

In a related event, ten Israeli policemen and detectives were arrested on Sunday on suspicion of abusing an alleged Palestinian car thief, according to The Jerusalem Post.

In a separate development, Israeli military bulldozers began demolishing 12 agricultural storehouses in the Tana neighbourhood east of Nablus in the West Bank on Sunday.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official in charge of settlement-related issues in the northern West Bank, said five Israeli bulldozers and more than fifteen military jeeps stormed the area and began the demolition process.

The owners of the storehouses had appealed to the Israeli High Court of Justice in May 2005 after they received the demolition notices, but were turned down by the courts, asserted Atif Hanini, mayor of the nearby town of Beit Furki.

Hanini explained that the Tana neighbourhood is approximately two kilometres away from an Israeli outpost.

Twenty-five Palestinian families were evicted from the area in 2005 when the military post was positioned in the area.

• Israeli authorities on Sunday opened the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Gaza to allow the transfer of aid and limited exports, a Palestinian border official said.

Between 93 and 103 truckloads of humanitarian aid will be permitted through the Kerem Shalom crossing, said the crossings official, Raed Fattouh.

Only one truckload of flowers and three of strawberries will be allowed out via Kerem Shalom, to be exported to Israel and abroad, he added.

The Karni crossing in northern Gaza will remain closed, Fattouh added.

The Kerem Shalom crossing was suddenly closed on Thursday after mortar shells fired by the militant wing of the Popular Resistance Committees hit near the crossing site.

At the same time. on Thursday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and a Libyan relief delegation signed an agreement whereby 1,000 Libyan families will support 1,000 Palestinian families affected by Israel’s war last winter, sponsored by the Gaza Ministry of Social Affairs.

‘It is not strange that Libyan people should help and stand by Palestinians because both nations are like brothers and have real partnership.

‘Palestinians are still suffering from the blockade but they will be released from it with the help of the Libyan people,’ said Haniya.

The prime minister’s comments followed a visit on Thursday with the Libyan delegation of the International Organisation for Peace to the Rayan family, who erected a tent on the ruins of their home in northern Gaza, demolished by Israeli soldiers during Operation Cast Lead.

The family’s father, Sheikh Nizar Rayan, was killed during Israel’s military offensive.

The Libyan delegation was received by a number of Hamas officials and heads of Gaza municipalities, in addition to numerous Palestinians from northern Gaza.

The son of Sheikh Nizar Rayan welcomed those attending and expressed his gratitude to the delegation.

‘We are proud of all Arabs who lend a hand and support Palestinians living under the Israeli siege,’ he said.

The Medal of Bravery was offered to the head of the Libyan delegation, Khaled Al-Hamidy, by Haniya for their efforts to break the siege imposed on Gaza.

Al-Hamidy assured those present that Arab and Islamic nations do, indeed, support Gaza families and ‘will help them to face the blockade. Israel’s practices won’t defeat people’s steadfastness and strength’.