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The News Line: Feature PRIME MINISTER HAMDALLAH AND EGYPTIAN DELEGATION ARRIVE IN GAZA! THE arrival of Prime Minister Ram Hamdallah and an Egyptian delegation as part of a fresh attempt to restore Palestinian national unity dominated the front page headlines in Palestinian Arabic dailies on Monday.


The dailies reported the national consensus government headed by Hamdallah was due to make its first visit to the besieged Gaza enclave to assume its responsibilities and hold a cabinet meeting the next day.

Hamdallah was reported in al-Hayat al-Jadida and al-Ayyam expressing his determination to assume his role in terms of supporting reconciliation efforts. The dailies reported an Egyptian security delegation headed by Egypt’s ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat, arrived to Gaza to oversee the implementation of Fatah-Hamas understandings regarding the planned hand-over of control of the besieged enclave to the national unity government.

Housing Minister Mufid Hasayneh was reported in al-Quds announcing President Mahud Abbas would arrive to Gaza soon. Al-Ayyam also reported in this context Hamas freed five prisoners belonging to the Fatah party, while the dailies added Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh called on Abbas on Sunday evening to discuss preparations for Monday’s visit.

Covering West Bank raids, al-Quds said Israeli forces shot and injured a number of Palestinians during separate raids into Dheisheh refugee camp and the town of Doha in Bethlehem. The dailies added Israel has imposed an 11-day closure on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from the start of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on Wednesday evening.

Al-Quds and al-Ayyam highlighted an Israeli plan to isolate East Jerusalem from the remainder of the West Bank. They added the plan would ensure a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and allow only 30,000 Palestinians to remain in the occupied city. Highlighting a survey conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, al-Quds reported Israel is systematically targeting over 60 per cent of the West Bank for annexation and settlement expansion.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida said Israeli forces prevented Palestinian farmers from the town of Azzun, east of Qalqiliya, from accessing their farms to pick up olives. Al-Quds reported the so-called Israeli Civil Administration plans to carry out infrastructure development projects at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque, while al-Hayat al-Jadida reported the Municipality of Hebron denying Israeli allegations that the municipality has refused to carry out such projects.

The dailies also reported Palestinian Orthodox Christians, who convened a conference in Bethlehem, withdrew recognition from Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III over sale of church property to Israeli Jewish settler groups.

• The Palestinian Prime Minister and other officials from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday, hours before official meetings regarding national reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, the de facto leaders of the besieged coast enclave, are set to begin.

The PA’s official news agency Wafa reported that Hamdallah arrived in Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing, to a ‘popular reception.’ Hamas police honour guard and hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving Palestinian flags, welcomed Hamdallah outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint down the road from the Erez crossing.

According to Wafa, Hamdallah’s delegation will visit a home in the al-Shujaiyya neighbourhood of central Gaza City that was destroyed during Israel’s 2014 offensive on the coastal enclave, before holding meetings with various political factions. On Tuesday, Hamdallah is scheduled to head the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting in the enclave, and after the visit, delegations will reportedly head to Cairo to continue reconciliation discussions.

Israeli news daily Haaretz reported on Monday that during their talks in Cairo, Hamas and Fatah officials are expected to discuss a number of issues central to the conflict, including control of border crossings and the future of Hamas’ military wing, which, according to reports, PA President Mahmud Abbas demands be disbanded.

Hamas recently agreed to allow the national reconciliation government to operate in the Gaza Strip and dissolved its administrative committee – formed earlier this year to the outrage of the PA, possibly putting an end to a national split in the Palestinian government since a bloody conflict broke out after Hamas won a landslide victory in legislative elections in 2006.

Hamas said the decision came in response to recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt to reconcile the rival factions, while Abbas has been calling on Hamas to relinquish control of the small territory to the PA. In recent months, the PA has been accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe – by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners – in order to pressure Hamas to give up control of Gaza.

After Hamas agreed to comply with Abbas’ key demands, Hamas called on Abbas to cancel all punitive measures and put an end to carrying out ‘political arrests’ in the occupied West Bank.

• Officials from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) started making their way to the Gaza Strip via the Israeli controlled Erez border crossing on Sunday, to pave the way for Hamas to handover its control over the territory to the Ramallah-based government.

An Egyptian security delegation headed by Hazem Khairat, Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, also arrived to the besieged coastal enclave through Erez on Sunday afternoon, to monitor the reconciliation process. The delegation was later received by Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.

PA Minister of Culture Ehab Bseiso, a native of Gaza, crossed into the territory with his team on Sunday afternoon. Before he was sworn in as minister in December 2015, Bseiso served as a Ramallah-based PA spokesperson. After being greeted by officials, Bseiso told reporters that ‘the national reconciliation government will overcome all obstacles toward unity.’

Spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry Iyad Buzm said in a statement the Hamas-run security services in Gaza completed procedures to secure the arrival of PA ministers and their delegations, the majority expected to arrive on Monday – their numbers expected to reach in the hundreds.

‘We are looking forward to turn the page on (the political) division and achieve comprehensive national reconciliation that enhances the steadfastness of our people and preserves their rights,’ he said. The Hamas-led interior ministry also said it released five ‘security detainees’ on Sunday as a gesture toward reconciliation.

Buzm identified the five detainees as Shadi Mahdi Abu Obeid, Fadi Salah Masleh, Taher Ali Abu Armana, Muhammad Nasr al-Kharaz, and Ibrahim Ismail Matar, and say they had been detained over ‘issues related to acting against internal security.’

On Tuesday, Hamdallah is scheduled to head the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting in the enclave, and after the visit, delegations will head to Cairo to continue reconciliation discussions.

According to reports, PA security officials, including the presidential guard – which is expected to take responsibility for managing Gaza’s border checkpoints with Israel and Egypt according to the potential reconciliation accord – have also arrived in Gaza.

Saturday evening, Haniyeh released an official statement saying that, ‘The reconciliation is a will and a decision, to prevent Israel from swallowing up the West Bank and continuing its siege of the Gaza Strip.’

According to a translation of the statement from Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, Haniyeh said, ‘We understand that the inner-Palestinian reconciliation process could be long, because of the setbacks along the way, and the fact that there are many issues that require brave decisions, but we are certain that we have started tearing down the wall of separation. We are in a situation of national, regional, and international changes in addition to the strong Egyptian backing which supports the end of the rift.’

The Hamas leader pledged that dialogue with Egyptian officials will continue to effectively implement all the agreements, build a national joint government, and prepare for elections for the parliament and the presidency.

Meanwhile, London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported over the weekend that PA President Mahmud Abbas has stipulated three conditions for reconciliation: that Hamas dismantle its military wing, that there be no foreign involvement in the administration of the Gaza Strip, and that any money for restoration and development only be channelled through the Palestinian government.

Israeli news daily Haaretz cited ‘Palestinian officials’ as saying these conditions were intended to block any involvement by former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan or countries like Qatar.

Haaretz quoted deputy head of Hamas’ politburo Moussa Abu Marzouk as saying, in response to the reports, that Hamas’ military wing is not a subject of discussion with the PA. Its weapons, Abu Marzouk added, ‘are weapons intended for the defence of the Palestinian people, and as long as the Palestinian people are under occupation, the weapons will continue to be ready for any scenario.’

Hamas recently agreed to allow the national reconciliation government to operate in the Gaza Strip, possibly putting an end to a national split in the Palestinian government since a bloody conflict broke out after Hamas won a landslide victory in legislative elections in 2006.

Hamas said the decision came in response to recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt to reconcile the rival factions, while Abbas has been calling on Hamas to relinquish control of the small territory to the PA.

In recent months, the PA has been accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe – by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners – in order to pressure Hamas to give up control of Gaza.

After Hamas agreed to comply with Abbas’ key demands, Hamas called on Abbas to cancel all punitive measures and put an end to carrying out ‘political arrests’ in the occupied West Bank.
 
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