Posted by: noticeable | December 14, 2006

International Herald Tribune: Israel blocks Palestinian prime minister from returning home

This story illustrates well the degree of control Israel has retained over the Gaza Strip. While some celebrated the Israeli “withdrawal” from the territory, they failed to consider that control of the border remains in the hands of Israel. Gaza is still occupied. Also note that, in essence, Israel controls the funding of the current Hamas government.

There is no symatry in this conflict. Therefore, there can be no “dialog” as we understand it. While the Israeli government is well-funded from U.S. taxpayers, the same right to solicit from foreign allies is not granted to the Hamas government. Please read on.

International Herald Tribune: Israel blocks Palestinian prime minister from returning home by: Greg Myre

JERUSALEM: Israel blocked the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya, from returning home to the Gaza Strip on Thursday, asserting that he was carrying tens of millions of dollars in cash that could be “used for terror.”

After hours of negotiations, a Palestinian official said, Haniya left the money in El Arish, Egypt, with officials of Hamas, the Islamic faction led by Haniya. After further negotiations aimed at allowing him to return to Gaza, he re-entered shortly thereafter, The Associated Press quoted witnesses and officials as saying.

The Israeli move had sparked an angry outburst from Hamas members. After word of the action spread, dozens of gunmen descended on the Rafah border crossing at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, along the border with Egypt, and began firing, although no Israelis were near the border terminal, only the Palestinian security forces and European Union monitors who assist them.

A second round of intense shooting began several hours later as the Hamas gunmen attempted to force their way to the Egyptian side of the border to reach Haniya. More than 10 Palestinians were wounded in confrontations with Egyptian forces, Palestinian officials said.

Gunfire erupted again as Haniya’s convoy sped into Gaza, but it appeared that the prime minister was unharmed, The AP quoted witnesses as saying. A Palestinian official said Haniya’s son had been shot and wounded.

It was not clear how much money Haniya had been carrying, although the Israeli media and some Palestinian officials put it at $35 million packed in several suitcases. Several Hamas officials have brought in large sums of cash since the group came to power early this year, saying the money is used to pay government salaries following the cutoff of Western assistance.

Israeli officials had said that they were determined to prevent the money from reaching Gaza, but that they would allow Haniya to return with empty pockets.

Haniya spent more than two weeks traveling in the Middle East, including a stop in Iran, which pledged $250 million to the Palestinian government. He flew from Sudan to Egypt and then began traveling overland Thursday afternoon toward the Gaza border. But before he arrived, Defense Minister Amir Peretz of Israel ordered the crossing closed.

Israel has no troops at the border crossing or anywhere else in Gaza. Its forces pulled out on Nov. 26, when a cease-fire was declared in the territory. But Israel does have forces in southern Israel, just a few kilometers away from the Rafah crossing, and they could move into Gaza quickly if any of the parties tried to defy the Israeli order.

Egypt closed its side of the border, and the Palestinian side shut down when the clashes erupted between the Hamas gunmen and the Palestinian security forces, who are loyal to the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, from the rival Fatah movement.

A senior Israeli security official said Israel acted because “we have reason to believe the money will be used to strengthen Hamas and will be used for terror.” The official spoke on the condition that his name not be used.

Hamas members of the Palestinian government have carried tens of millions of dollars in cash when returning to Gaza in recent months, Palestinian officials say. Mahmoud al-Zahar, the foreign minister, reportedly brought in $20 million in June when he returned from a trip to sympathetic Muslim states.

Israel and Western countries cut the flow of money to the Palestinian government after Hamas came to power early this year. The Hamas officials have sought to make up at least a small fraction on their journeys abroad.

The Hamas government has not been able to pay salaries in full to government workers since coming to power in March, but it has paid partial salaries on a number of occasions.

While Iran and other Muslim countries have offered some money, it has been difficult if not impossible to transfer the money to the Palestinian areas.

The United States has warned banks not to conduct transactions with Hamas, which Washington classifies as a terrorist group.

Because banks worldwide need at least some level of access to the U.S. banking system, they have been unwilling to handle transfers for a Palestinian government led by Hamas.

When the Palestinians took control of the Rafah crossing in November 2005, it was the first time ever that the Palestinians were in charge of a border. It allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel to Egypt and on to the wider world without having to go through Israeli security.

In addition, there is no limit to the amount of cash a Palestinian can bring in, as long as the money is declared at the border.

However, Israeli forces returned in June to Gaza after an Israeli soldier was seized and taken to the territory. The soldiers remained for five months before leaving in November.

And the episode on Thursday demonstrated the ability of Israel to shut down the border even when its security forces are not present in Rafah.

In Israel, the High Court of Justice ruled that targeted killings of Palestinian militants are legitimate in some circumstances. But the court said that the Israeli military must exhaust other options first, such as arresting suspects, and take into account the possibility of harming innocent civilians.

The court, in a unanimous ruling by three judges, addressed one of the most contentious issues during the past six years of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

“It cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law,” the judges said. The judges said the legality would depend on the circumstances in each individual case.

The Israeli government and the military says targeted killings are often the only way to get at Palestinians who orchestrate suicide bombings and other lethal attacks against Israelis.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, contend that such actions amount to extra- judicial assassinations that often kill civilians as well.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: