November 25, 2014

In Blog News

Sisi offers to send troops to future Palestinian state to ‘reassure Israelis

The daughters of Fadel Mohammed Halawa, 32, who was shot dead by Israeli forces near the border in northern Gaza, react upon hearing the news of their father’s death as they return home from school in Gaza City on November 23, 2014. AFP/ Mahmoud Hams

Published Monday, November 24, 2014

Egypt is prepared to send troops to a future Palestinian state to help stabilize it, Egyptian president said Sunday, as the country’s authorities try to work out a solution for Palestinians stranded on the border with Gaza.

Meanwhile in Gaza, a Palestinian teenager was seriously injured and two others were arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces on Sunday, only hours after a Gazan farmer was shot dead near the northern border.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi begins his first European trip on Monday, which will include a meeting with Pope Francis.

The Egyptian leader told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he would send forces to a future Palestinian state in agreement with Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“We are ready to send military forces into a Palestinian state,” he said.

“We would help the local police and reassure the Israelis through our role as guarantor. Not forever, of course. For the time necessary to reestablish confidence. But first a Palestinian state must exist where troops can be sent to.”

Sisi said he had discussed the idea with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking of neighboring Libya, Sisi described the country as having descended into “chaos” and said “extremely dangerous jihadist bases” were being established there.

“The international community must make a very clear and joint choice in favor of the Libyan national army and no one else. Aid, equipment, training must be sent to it exclusively,” Sisi said.

Sisi also said Egypt did not intervene militarily in Libya, denying reports that the country facilitated airstrikes by the United Arab Emirates, a close ally, against militias in Libya.

Egypt has been hit by a wave of bombings and shootings since the military ousted then-President Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013.

On Sunday, a police officer was killed, another injured, when an explosive device went off on the al-Arish-Qantara road in the Sinai Peninsula, a security source said.

The incident came one day after the Egyptian army killed “seven terrorists” and arrested 67 others during raids in the northern quarter of the Sinai Peninsula.

“Seven terrorist elements were killed in shootouts with army troops in northern Sinai during Thursday and Friday,” army spokesman Mohammed Samir said in a Facebook statement, adding that the army arrested 67 militants, destroyed “112 of their hotbeds” and also seized 22 vehicles and 146 motorcycles.

Egypt has been cracking down on militancy in Sinai, which shares borders with the Gaza Strip, for more than a year now amid, a rise in militant attacks against army personnel, policemen and security sites.

Egypt could open Rafah crossing this week

As part of the crackdown, Egypt began early November setting up a one kilometer-deep buffer strip along the border with Gaza by clearing more than 800 houses and destroying subterranean tunnels that the Egyptian government claims are being used to smuggle arms from the Gaza Strip to militants in Sinai.

It comes in the wake of a suicide car bombing which killed 30 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai last month, the deadliest attack on the military since the ousting of Mursi.

Following the bombing, Egypt immediately closed the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, the principal connection between Gaza’s 1.7 million people and the outside world.

Despite the lack of a clear relationship between the incident and the Strip, Egypt decided to keep the crossing closed, stranding more than 6,000 Palestinians on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing into Gaza for more than three weeks.

“We have been stuck in Egypt for 20 days, but no one has helped us or even talks about us,” Talal Salim, one of those stuck at the crossing, told Ma’an news agency on Thursday.

On Thursday, the Deputy Minister of the Interior in Gaza, Kamel Abu Madi, called upon Egypt to open the Rafah crossing permanently, arguing that “there is no excuse for its closure.”

On Sunday, a high-profile Egyptian official told Ma’an that Egypt’s political leadership is coordinating with the country’s national security to try and work out a solution for more than 6,000 Palestinians stuck in Egypt due to the ongoing closure of the Rafah crossing.

“The dire security conditions in North Sinai district prevented the Egyptian authorities from opening the Rafah crossing,” the source claimed, adding that armed clashes and road ambushes along the road between Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid cities could pose real danger to Palestinians seeking to cross into Gaza.

The source concluded by saying that Egypt might open the Rafah crossing Wednesday and Thursday.

Gaza violence resumes

In Gaza, a Palestinian teenager was seriously injured and two others were arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces on Sunday, only hours after a Gazan farmer was shot dead near the northern border.

Medical sources said a Palestinian identified by the initials A.K., 17, was shot by Israeli forces near the crossing and taken to Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital in a serious condition.

Israeli forces opened fire at three Palestinians who approached the border, injuring one and detaining two, witnesses said, adding that Israeli forces then fired stun grenades in the area and performed thorough searches.

Meanwhile, Israeli army confirmed Sunday that its troops shot a Palestinian farmer early Sunday for “approaching the security fence” between the Israeli-occupied territories and northern Gaza Strip.

“Two Palestinian suspects approached the security barrier, and soldiers asked them to go back,” an army spokesperson, who asked to remain unnamed, told Anadolu Agency, claiming that the soldiers shot at the Palestinians after “repeated warnings.”

Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said Fadel Mohammed Halawa, 32, was killed after being shot in the back by the Israeli army.

The incident is the first of its kind since Israeli and Palestinian negotiators signed an August 26 cease-fire deal in Cairo, ending Israel’s seven-week military onslaught on the coastal enclave.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea.

More than 2,160 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed – and 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks in July and August.

The ceasefire agreement calls for reopening Gaza’s border crossings with Israel, which, if implemented, would effectively end the latter’s years-long blockade of the embattled territory.

Both sides were also supposed to have resumed talks on some of the thornier outstanding issues within a month, but the deadline has been repeatedly delayed.

(AFP, Ma’an, Anadolu, Al-Akhbar)