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Entries in Hamas (40)


The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (24 February)

abbas-haniyaAfternoon Update (11:30 a.m. GMT): Both Israel and Hamas have rejected Amnesty International's call for an arms embargo.

Morning Update (8 a.m. GMT; 10 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Hamas and Fatah are manoeuvring for position ahead of Wednesday's "reconcilation" talks in Cairo. On Monday, Hamas criticised Fatah for the continued detention of its members in West Bank jails and released videos which it claims proved that Fatah members spied for Gaza during the recent Gaza War.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has named two senior officials to replace Amos Gilad, the Israeli representative at the Cairo talks on Gaza. Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet internal intelligence agency, and Shalom Turjeman, a senior Olmert aide, will take over from Gilad, who was fired after he criticised the Olmert Government's "inconsistency" on the talks.

Israel-Gaza-Palestine Alerts (23 February): Amnesty Criticises Israel and Hamas, Calls for Arms Embargo

Related Post: Has the Obama Administration Brought Hamas into A Palestine Unity Government?
Related Post: Text of the Amnesty International Report


Evening Update (8:30 p.m. GMT): Even as the Obama Administration opens up the possibility of accepting Hamas in a Palestinian government (and thus meaningful truce talks with Israel), it is trying to keep up pressure on the Gazan leadership and re-insert Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. US officials said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce more than $900 million in aid 0f at a donors' conference next week, however, ""This money is for Gaza and to help strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It is not going to go to Hamas."

Afternoon Update (3:15 p.m. GMT): Ehud Barak, leader of the Israeli Labor Party, has rejected Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to join a coalition government. The two had met this morning to discuss possible terms.

Egyptian authorities, despite the limited opening of the Rafah crossing, are blocking the movement of most Gazans. Among those refused exit from Gaza was photojournalist Sameh Habeeb, whom we have featured on Enduring America. Habeeb was travelling to Europe for a speaking tour.

7 a.m. GMT (9 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Amnesty International has released a report on the misuse of US weapons by Israeli forces during the Gaza war, calling on the United Nations to launch an investigation:
Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes. Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians, and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure.

Amnesty also asked the UN to consider Hamas rocket attacks as a war crime.

Israel Radio reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended Amos Gilad, his envoy to the Egypt-brokered talks with Hamas. As we reported last week, Gilad had criticised the Olmert Government over its "inconsistent" position, notably its insistence on the pre-condition of a prisoner swap including Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Olmert has also asked the Civil Service Commission to check if his envoy's published remarks amounted to insubordination.

After their meeting Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, the leaders of the top two parties in this month's Israeli elections, have agreed to further talks on a Government coalition, although Livni said "substantial differences" remained.

Has the Obama Administration Brought Hamas into A Palestine Unity Government?

Last Thursday George Mitchell, the US envoy in the Middle East, in a conference calls with Jewish-American leaders, stated the full support of the Obama Administration for a Palestinian unity government. That in itself is a long-standing American policy; what was significant was that Mitchell indicated the unity government could include not only Fatah, the party behind the Palestianian Authority, but also Hamas.

The timing of Mitchell’s intervention was even more important. As of last Thursday, Egypt’s efforts to bring Fatah and Hamas together in “reconciliation” talks, scheduled for 22 February, appeared to be going nowhere. Although Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas had praised Cairo’s initiative but Hamas had refused unless the Palestinian Authority released its members from jails in the West Bank. This weekend, after Mitchell’s statement was widely publicised by the Obama Administration (and after British and French delegations had met with Hamas representatives in Beirut and Damascus and after three US Congressmen visited Gaza), Egypt was able to announce that the talks would proceed on Wednesday.

Of course, Mitchell continued to emphasise the long-standing conditions of the “Quartet” of the US-European Union-United Nations-Russia for Hamas’ political participation: halting violence, recognizing Israel, and accepting previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements. But these demands have already been accepted, at least in their rhetoric, by the officials of Hamas, as the organisation moves away from its 1988 Charter. What has been needed, given the double standards applied to Israeli behaviour and that of Hamas, has been some sign of goodwill which would permit legitimacy for the Hamas leadership.

It is unclear what that sign, for Mitchell, was. On the surface, there was no need to recognise a “victorious” Hamas, because the party has been weakened by the Gazan conflict. While Hamas was not defeated militarily by Israel or even significantly damaged, and while it has had a short-term political boost --- especially compared with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority --- as the defender of Palestinians, it cannot turn this to a decisive advantage against Tel Aviv, as Hezbollah did in the Lebanon War in 2006. Politically, with its ostracism by the West, it still lacks the image of an established “authority”, in contrast to that given to the Palestine Liberation Organization from the 1980s.

However, Hamas’ inability to project “victory” --- at least to the West and Israel, if not its own people --- may have actually worked to its advantage and brought Mitchell’s signal. Because the group might be represented as needing to moderate its views in order to get any role in the peace process, the Obama Administration can contain the notion of Hamas as imminent threat to a new Israeli Government.

Indeed, with Israel itself in transition, Mitchell could put the challenge to Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu rather than Khaled Meshaal or Ismail Haniya: “Form a government that is ready for dialogue and cooperation in solving the Palestinian-Israeli problem.”

So the hand has been extended, very indirectly and at a distance but still extended, to Hamas by Obama. The 44th President of the United States of America, unlike his predecessor, has given priority to an meaningful peace process rather than the rigid mantra of “Israeli security”. If Hamas got the second of its nine lives through survival in the Gaza War, it now has a third political life. Whether that continues may be conditioned on whether it can find some consensus with Fatah now.

Text: The Amnesty International Report on Weapons in the Gaza War

NEW Video and Text: Amnesty International Report on Gaza “War Crimes" (2 July)
Related Post: Israel-Gaza-Palestine Alerts (23 February) - Amnesty Criticises Israel and Hamas, Calls for Arms Embargo

Inevitably, there is already a lot of "spin" over the Amnesty International report on the Gaza War. Critics of Israel are playing up Amnesty's highlighting of the misuse of US-supplied weapons by Israeli forces while Israeli officials are all over television and radio denying any illegal activity and blaming Hamas for all the civilian deaths.

Solution? Read the report, which is posted on the Internet for all to consider. Amnesty's summary:
Both Israel and Hamas used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians. This briefing contains fresh evidence on the munitions used during the three-week conflict in Gaza and southern Israel and includes information on the supplies of arms to all parties to the conflict. It explains why Amnesty International is calling for a cessation of arms supplies to the parties to the conflict and calling on the United Nations to impose a comprehensive arms embargo.

The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (20 February)

shalit2Evening Update: The wrangling over the formation of a new government in Israel continues. Meanwhile in the UK it has emerged that 400 BBC staff have signed a petition in protest at BBC Director General Mark Thompson's decision not to air the DEC's Gaza appeal.

3.30 p.m. GMT / 5.30 p.m. Israel/Palestine: A spokesman for Hamas has denied that it gave a letter for President Obama to Senator John Kerry yesterday, but at the same time stressed that Hamas is "open to hold dialogue with any country and our only enemy is the Zionist occupation."

Afternoon Update : The BBC reports that Likud's Benjamin Netanyahu will form the new Israeli cabinet. CNN also carries the story, and suggests that the support of other right-wing parties such as Yisrael Beytenu and the Orthodox Shas movement will allow Netanyahu to build a coalition.

Netanyahu has told reporters he wants to form a unity coalition with Kadima and Labour: "I call on Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni and Labour Party chairman Ehud Barak and I say to them -- let's unite to secure the future of the State of Israel. I ask to meet with you first to discuss with you a broad national unity government for the good of the people and the state."

Morning Update (8 a.m. GMT; 10 a.m. Israel/Palestine): No progress in Israel-Gaza talks with the continuing stalemate over the precondition of a prisoner swap including Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (pictured). Senior Hamas official Mahmoud az-Zahar has tried to press Tel Aviv and secure Hamas' relations with Egypt, claiming that Cairo and the Gazan leadership are in agreement over the prisoner issue.

Two rockets landed near Sderot in southern Israel on Thursday night.

In an interesting intervention over recent Israeli-Turkish tensions, Congressman Robert Wexler visited Turkish officials and, on CNN-Turk, underlined the importance of Turkish-American relations. He warned Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to leave behind his criticism of Israel's Gaza policy at the Davos Summit. Wexler said, “The close relationship with Israel is not going to change after taking over of the administration by President Obama. In the Middle East, whether in humanitarian or in security areas, Washington is going to continue standing by Israel.”

We remember Mr. Wexler in 2006 when Erdogan met with Hamas officials in Ankara. He urgently came to Turkey and warned Ankara in order to stop that unilateral political initiative that was not approved by American, European and Israeli leaders. This time, his warning is perceived as a much significant one, especially by the bureaucratic circles whilst anti-Israeli discourses backed up by the walkout in Davos may lead to a crisis among Israel, American, Turkey, and American Jewish lobbies in prior to the coming of a proposal concerning 'the approval of Armenian genocide' to the House of Representatives.