‘No National Elections Without A Unity Agreement And The Release Of Prisoners’

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No national elections will be held without a unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah and the release of political prisoners from West Bank jails, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said on Friday.

No progress on unity was reportedly achieved by the latest Egyptian delegation to tour Ramallah and Damascus.

Barhoum called the meetings held with the group part of an ‘exploratory round’ to flush out the positions of all parties on security, elections and political detainees in the West Bank.

In its discussions with Hamas in Ramallah the delegation concentrated on the issue of political detainees and mechanisms to create the necessary conditions for a 25th August unity meeting in Cairo.

‘Mahmud Abbas, the president, wants to corner dialogue and concentrate on the presidential and legislative elections,’ Barhoum said, and noted this position was unacceptable to the party.

‘The insistent denial of the illegitimate government in Ramallah of Salam Fayyad on the presence of political detainees in its jails is a sheer lie and deception aimed at covering up the crimes committed against those detainees as documented by human rights groups’, he said on Saturday.

Barhoum said in a press release on Saturday that such a denial was of no use and would not dissuade Hamas from demanding the release of all political detainees in Fayyad’s jails in the West Bank without any conditions attached.

He reiterated his Movement’s position that there would be no agreement with the Fatah faction, which controls the security apparatuses of Fayyad, without releasing those detainees.

Barhoum said that Fatah offered, through Egyptian mediators, to focus the national dialogue on elections alone, which Hamas refused, insisting that all issues should be tackled and endorsed as a one package agreement.

Hamas MP Dr Mahmoud Al-Ramahi, for his part, said that there could be no elections without achieving Palestinian reconciliation and ending divisions in the Palestinian arena.

He said in a press statement on Saturday that political detention remains the main obstacle facing reconciliation.

Hamas issued a statement in the West Bank, meanwhile, lashing out at Fayyad for dismissing more civil servants for political affiliation.

It added that Fayyad’s ‘illegitimate government and Fatah’s security apparatuses’ have covered major strides in their ‘dirty war’ on the people’s sustenance.

Meanwhile, all crossings into the Gaza Strip were closed Friday, and remained closed Saturday, ensuring no goods were transferred on the first days of Ramadan.

Palestinian crossings official Raed Fattouh said the decision was communicated by Israeli crossings officials.

The closures follow refusals by Israeli authorities to allow additional goods for Ramadan and the start of the school year into the Strip.

One-hundred US dollars and food aid will be distributed to 78,000 Gazan families on the occasion of Ramadan, the Hamas government in Gaza announced on Thursday.

The Minister of Labour of the Hamas government, Ahmad Al Kurd, said the donations would be handed out to those registered in the revamped government databases that record the unemployed and poor families of the Strip.

The names of the families will be published on the Hamas Ministry of Labour’s website. Those who are not registered must contact the ministry as soon as possible.

Distributions to the first 12,000 families were due to be completed on Sunday.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health issued a harshly-worded denial and denunciation on Thursday of a union leader’s charges that workers’ rights were being violated at a Ramallah hospital.

Palestinian Workers’ Union Chief, Bassam Zakarneh, had earlier said the ministry hired temporary workers who do not receive overtime pay, risk bonuses, or reimbursement for transportation.

In a statement, the PNA Ministry of Health described Zakarneh’s complaints as a media campaign, and that ‘the general director, heads of departments and central units, and employees of Ramallah Hospital have all denounced these fabricated stories as lies.’

However, Zakarneh reiterated his support for the demands made by the Health Union, and rejected what he described as Health Minister, Fathi Abu Moghli crossing the line by reporting the head of the Health Union to the Attorney General without justification.

Zakarneh has requested the Ministry of Health hold a meeting with the Health Union instead of releasing statements which charge the union with trying to harm the government by false testimony.

He went on to describe the health minister’s statement as a forgery adding that ‘health employees appointed to cover shortages in the hospital are not paid overtime, do not receive a risk bonus, and must pay for the extra cost of transportation on their own.’

In addition to petitioning Abu Moghli to ‘commit to justly applying the health insurance law, and to respect the union’s right to free speech,’ Zakarneh requested a media debate with the Minister and either himself or the head of the Health Union concerning the health worker abuses. He added that these violations are easily noticed by any visitor to any hospital and particularly in the emergency wards.

Meanwhile, more than 700 travellers heading to the West Bank from Jordan were delayed at the Allenby Bridge for at least four hours, eyewitness travellers reported on Friday.

No drinking water or washrooms were provided for the travellers, including women and children, as changes to the bus system transporting travellers from the Jordanian to the Israeli side of the West Bank border caused massive delays.

Passengers were not allowed even to disembark from the busses as they waited at the border, and many fear delays will only increase as the day progresses.

l Dozens of citizens, Israelis and internationals were wounded by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) during four pacifist marches against the Apartheid Wall and colonisation in the West Bank villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, Al Massara and Beit Ummar on Friday.

In Bil’in near Ramallah, the IOF raided the march with tear gas and rubber bullets, wounding dozen of demonstrators while they were protesting at the building of the wall.

Earlier, the night in Bil’in had been disrupted by a raid ending with the arrest of one the members of the Village’s Popular Committee Against the Wall and Colonies, while children shouted: ‘We want to sleep,’ ‘Stop the night raids’.

In Ni’lin near Ramallah, nine citizens and two foreigners were wounded by the IOF during the March against the Wall, which would make the village into a prison. The IOF placed 8-metre high cement blocks, in place of the fence that was built before.

Since May 2008, residents of Ni’lin have been organising and participating in unarmed demonstrations against the construction of the Apartheid Wall.

Despite being deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the Occupation continues to build the Wall, further annexing Palestinian land.

Ni’lin will lose approximately 2,500 dunums (one dunum equals 1,000 square metres) of agricultural land when construction of the Wall is completed.

Israel annexed 40,000 of Ni’lin’s 58,000 dunums in 1948. After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal colonies and infrastructure of Kiryat Sefer, Mattityahu and Maccabim were built on village lands and Ni’lin lost another 8,000 dunums.

Of the remaining 10,000 dunums, the Occupation will confiscate 2,500 for the Wall and 200 for a tunnel to be built under the segregated settler-only road. Ni’lin will be left with only 7,300 dunums.

The current entrance to the village will be closed and replaced by a tunnel to be built under Road 446.

This tunnel will allow for the closure of the road to Palestinian vehicles, turning road 446 into a segregated settler-only road.

Ni’lin will be effectively split into two parts (upper Ni’lin and lower Ni’lin), as road 446 runs between the village. The tunnel is designed to give Israeli occupation forces control of movement over Ni’lin residents, as it can be blocked with a single military vehicle.

In al Massara near Bethlehem, two citizens were wounded by the IOF in the weekly march against building of the Wall.

In Beit Ummar near Hebron, the IOF arrested six citizens and an international pacifist in a march against colonisation in front of the Karmi Tsur colony situated between Beit Ummar and Halhoul town north of Hebron.

• Bethlehem deportees declared an open hunger strike at the Palestinian embassy in Italy in protest of what they say are difficult living conditions in Europe.

Half a dozen of the men deported to Europe following the Israeli siege of the Nativity Church in Bethlehem say they are not receiving enough money from the Palestine Liberation Organization to cover their cost of living.

Spokesman of the deportees Jihad Ij’arah said that those deported to Italy say Palestinian official’s ‘ignorance and carelessness’ over their situation has resulted in many of the men having their water and electricity cut off from their homes and others being threatened with eviction as they are unable to pay high rents in European cities.

The deportees are reportedly entitled to 2000 Euros each month, with an additional 150 Euros to provide for their families, most of who remain in the West Bank.

Ij’arah said he had attempted to contact PLO member Saeb Erekat, and sent letters to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas.