Palestinian University Workers Into Third Day Of Strike Action


Employees in public universities and colleges in the West Bank and Gaza Strip entered the third day of a strike on Wednesday.

Head of the employees union Khayriya Hamadneh said that she has not received any official response to the strike.

The main demand of the strike action is a salary increase to match employees working in other Palestinian universities.

‘The events will continue and will vary to achieve our goals which we have been demanding for six years now while workers and their families have been suffering in universities and governmental colleges due to their low incomes,’ Hamadneh said.

On Monday, union spokesman Abdul-Muhsin Qawasmi said that the salaries of teachers in schools had been improved by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, but no such action had been taken in universities and colleges.

The current semester may be cancelled as the education ministry has not responded to any demands, he added.

The union of employees represents Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, Palestine Technical College, Palestinian technical colleges in Deir Al-Balah, Arroub refugee camp and Ramallah, as well as the Science and Technology College in Khan Younis and Al-Ummah College in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas chaired a meeting yesterday in Cairo encompassing chiefs of Palestinian factions, PLO leaders and the speaker of the Palestinian National Council.

Selected independent figures joined the meeting, which was dedicated to discussing the latest political developments and the ongoing efforts toward Palestinian reconciliation.

‘Reconciliation and evaluation of the performance of the committees which emerged from the Cairo agreement will dominate the agenda,’ secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Front Wasil Abu Yousif said ahead of the meeting.

He added that the participants would address the formation of a technocrat government to be headed by Abbas as agreed in Doha between Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal.

The upcoming government, Abu Yousif highlighted, will prepare for presidential and legislative elections as well as elections of a new leadership for the Palestinian National Council.

Reunification of Palestinian organisations and reconstruction of war-torn Gaza were also on the agenda.

Abu Yousif added that the meeting would place special emphasis on the PLO issue in terms of restructuring the organisation and reactivating its role as a sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Asked to comment on the recent remarks by some Hamas leaders who said the government would not adopt the political agenda of President Abbas, Abu Yousif said, ‘We hope all obstacles will be overcome.

‘We are optimistic about that, and we hope Hamas will allow updating the electoral register in the Gaza Strip and put into effect the recommendations of the public freedom committee, so that reconciliation can move forward.’

Palestinian leaders will also address the future strategies after both the international Quartet and the Jordanian efforts through exploratory negotiations in Amman failed to get the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume peace negotiations.

The expected Palestinian decision will be to urge the international community and signatories of the Geneva Convention to apply international law on all the occupied Palestinian territory.

Abbas will ask the Arab League’s council to prepare for an international conference aimed at implementing previously signed agreements and getting Israel to comply with international resolutions.

Barakat al-Farra, Palestine’s ambassador to Cairo and the permanent representative of Palestine to the Arab League, announced on Wednesday that Abbas would start a three-day visit to Cairo.

PLO official Saeb Erekat, Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad, and presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeina will accompany Abbas in his Cairo visit, al-Farra said.

The chair of the Palestinian Authority energy authority Omar Kittana claims the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip is politicising the electricity crisis in an attempt to score political points.

Asked about accusations that he threatened employees at the energy authority in Gaza, Kittana said: ‘I refuse to comment on this as we have reached an impermissible point. I was afraid of politicisation of this issue.

‘We have been exerting efforts with the Egyptians for the sake of serving our people in the Gaza Strip, to provide them with electricity rather than serving the interests of any party.’

He added that his department’s efforts were focused only on solving the electricity crisis regardless of any political considerations and bickering.

The population of the coastal enclave, he said, has experienced very tough and unbearable conditions, and the role of the energy authority is to help them by providing electricity.

Kittana says he expects the crisis in Gaza to come to an end very soon, and he highlighted that a joint committee of Egyptians and Palestinians has been appointed to discuss the possible mechanisms for shipping fuel from Egypt to the Strip.

A draft agreement has been put forward according to which Gaza’s power plant will receive fuel. Shipment will be from Suez ‘through official crossings,’ he said.

Currently the only terminals designated for fuel are via Israel, but the Hamas government in Gaza has been bypassing them for over a year by pumping gas through tunnels from the Sinai. The draft agreement would resume transferring fuel through the Israeli crossings, which are more stable than the tunnels.

Kittana noted that Egypt agreed to increase power to Gaza from 17 to 22 Megawatt starting next week.

Furthermore, Kittana said an agreement was reached to start amplifying the Sheikh Zweid power plant near the Egypt-Gaza border. Experts who examined the issue reported that it would be possible to enlarge the power plant to be able to provide the Gaza Strip with 40 additional Megawatt.

The enlargement costs approximately $1 million, and work will start within two months, he said.

• Russia has once again warned Israel of the ‘catastrophic consequences’ of a military attack against Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.

‘The scenario of military action against Iran would be catastrophic for the region and possibly the whole system of international relations,’ Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Wednesday.

‘Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences . . . and they should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves,’ the Russian official added.

Gatilov’s remarks came as Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said on Sunday that attacking Iran is ‘not prudent at this point’ as it ‘would be destabilising’.

‘I’m confident that they (Israel) understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,’ Dempsey added.

Israeli officials have recently ramped up their war rhetoric, threatening Iran with military strikes in case the US-engineered sanctions against the country fail to force Tehran into abandoning its civilian nuclear programme.

The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear programme, using this pretext to impose sanctions against Iran and threaten the country with military attack.

Iran has refuted the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful use.

The IAEA has never found any evidence indicating that Tehran’s civilian nuclear programme has been diverted towards nuclear weapons production.