A summary of news stories published this week in the Arab English language press- December 30, 2008


Kidnapped Fatah Members: Between Israeli Fire and Hamas Threats

An Israeli attack on Al-Saraya security compound in the City of Gaza resulted in a number martyrs, all of whom are members of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) kidnapped and held in the compound by Hamas militants. As Al-Saraya, seized by Hamas militias in June 2007, was being shelled by Israeli warplanes, 51 kidnapped Fatah members tried to escape, but were violently faced by Hamas militants who forced them back into the compound. Hundreds of families hurried, Sunday, to the location to rescue their sons, but Hamas militants opened fire at them, and at the kidnapped men trying to escape death. Hamas had refused, Saturday night, to release fifty one kidnapped Fatah members from Al-Saraya Compound, they have been seen forcing 48 of them back by gun threats. The number of martyrs in the Israeli attack on Al-Saraya is still unknown because Hamas militants are forcefully preventing journalists from coming to the scene. They beat  up  journalists who approach the scene; they physically assaulted Ramattan photojournalist, Ahmad Abu-Ras. – Palestinian News Agency, December 28, 2008.

Increased security on Gaza border to prevent further breaches

Egypt sent 7,000 additional troops to man the border with Gaza Monday to prevent further breaches caused by Israeli air strikes aiming for the tunnels that run beneath it. Seven thousand soldiers were brought in from neighbouring governorates according to witnesses at the border who said the increased security presence had restored some semblance of calm to the area. This was after a breach occurred Sunday night due to the air strikes that hit the border fence. Palestinians on the run from the strike broke through and clashes ensued with Egyptian border guards. An Egyptian police officer died in the clashes after having been shot in the chest twice. One Palestinian was also killed by Egyptian security forces and four were wounded. Additionally, an eight-year-old Egyptian boy was wounded by a stray bullet. Clashes continued through the night as security forces attempted to reseal the breaches. Journalist and North Sinai Tagammu party member Mustapha Singer told Daily News Egypt that the area surrounding the Rafah border crossing was being bombed and orders were given via megaphones to evacuate the houses near the border. Singer added that 150 Palestinians managed to enter Egypt but 100 of them were caught and returned to Gaza, while the search continued for the remaining 50. – Daily News, Egypt. December 29, 2008.

Meshaal demands lifting of siege before signing truce agreement with Israel

 Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has said he is prepared to sign a ceasefire agreement for Gaza that would involve Israel ending its attacks and its blockade of the territory, Senegal’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday. According to Reuters, it said the proposal for a truce in Gaza was made in a telephone call to Meshaal late on Sunday by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, current president of the 56-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). “The Hamas leader said he was ready to sign such an accord in a place to be chosen by common consent between the two sides,” the ministry said in a statement. It added Wade was proposing “a definitive truce between Israel and Hamas through the signing of an agreement that engages Hamas in the immediate observation of a ceasefire in exchange for an immediate ceasefire by Israel accompanied by a total lifting of the blockade on Gaza”. – Al Bawaba, Amman/London, December 29, 2008.

Leading columnists differ over causes of Gaza attack

Political commentators and columnists were unanimous in condemning Israel’s “savage aggression on Gaza,” but differed over its causes, with some placing blame on infighting between Palestinian factions, mainly Fatah and Hamas. Saleh Qallab, of Al Rai newspaper, encouraged Palestinian factions to put their disagreements aside and learn a lesson from the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip. “It is unacceptable… it is an insult to the blood of those martyrs who were killed by Israel in Gaza to be busy accusing and targeting each other…We [Arabs and Palestinians] should learn a lesson from this,” Qallab said in his column yesterday. He also urged Fatah and Hamas to admit their mistakes and turn their attention to aiding and protecting the people of Palestine. Meanwhile, political analyst Tareq Masarweh directly blamed internal divisions for the ongoing violence, referring to it as an “accomplice” to the Israeli offensive in Gaza. He also described the current state of pan-Arabism as another contributing factor. “The actual accomplice to the offensive is pan-Arab relations, which have lost their spirit of nationalism and their awareness of the benefits of a unified destiny… now nationalism is only realised through mikes, cameras and satellite channels,” Masarweh said in his column in Al Rai yesterday- The Jordan Times, December 30, 2008.

Egypt responds to Hezbollah criticism over Gaza

Egypt hit back at the Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah on Monday in a war of words over Gaza, reflecting the divide between conservative Arab governments and popular forces willing to confront Israel. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, on a visit to Turkey, said that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah wanted to create trouble in Egypt in the service of outside interests, apparently a reference to Iranian support for Hezbollah. “The honourable (Egyptian) armed forces are capable of defending this homeland from people like you. You want to create chaos in this region as a service to interests that are not for the good of this region,” Aboul Gheit said. He was quoted by the Egyptian state news agency MENA. – Egypt Daily News, December 30, 2008

Kuwaitis have mixed views on Gaza attacks

Kuwaitis are mixed about what’s happening in Gaza. Some support the Palestinians and want to go fight against the Israelis. Others don’t want to be involved at all. “What we need is action. We need to protect our Palestinian brothers. If Kuwait will allow us to go over there and fight I will be the first to go,” said Bader, a 30-year-old Kuwait. But another young Kuwaiti, who asked that his name be withheld, holds a different view. “Palestinians are killed by Israelis every day. So what is the difference now? Nearly a thousand protestors gathered Sunday night in front of parliament to protest against the Israeli attacks against Gaza. But Kuwait has a love and hate relationship with the Palestinians. The deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat backed Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait and many Kuwaitis have yet to forgive Palestinians for it. Many young Kuwaitis have let go of the past but they also feel that Palestinians should solve their own internal problems rather than looking to the rest of the Arab world for help. – Kuwait Times, December 30, 2008


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