Saturday, 28 July 2012

Brothers jailed by US and expelled to Gaza speak out

By Joe Catron

When Basman Elashi reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas, Texas on 9 July, he expected nothing unusual. He had visited the federal agency regularly since his release from its custody in March 2009.

"At first I was only reporting every six months," he said over tea in his family's Gaza home. "Then they reduced it to three months. Then, the last time, they asked me to report the following month."

"They held me for three hours," he said of his final visit. "I asked them why they were holding me so long. As it turns out, they were waiting for [my brother] Bayan to come in the afternoon. Then five people surrounded me, told me they were deporting me, and handcuffed me. I didn't see Bayan until we were in the van."

Unlike his brother, Bayan Elashi had been forced to wear a monitoring anklet and report every week after his April 2009 release. "When I reported to them on Monday, 9 July, as I always do, they arrested me and said that I would be leaving the country within 24 to 48 hours," he said.

"At the detention center, they said we had two hours to call our families to bring us anything we needed for our deportations," Basman said. "This was the only window we had to call or see them."

The brothers' ordeal began much earlier, when the US government arrested them on 18 December 2002. "The [US] government actually indicted us on three counts: a sealed one; the second one, based on which they arrested us; and a third one after it was finalized," Bayan recalled. more

Hamas invites Egypt's Mursi to visit Gaza

Hamas on Saturday invited newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to visit the Gaza Strip.

The invitation was relayed to Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who is currently visiting Egypt for the first time since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

The PA leadership in the West Bank, meanwhile, has expressed disappointment with Mursi for inviting the Hamas Prime Minister to Cairo.

The PA position was delivered to the Egyptians through their envoy to Ramallah, a PA official told The Jerusalem Post. more

Haniyeh: Egypt agrees to Rafah crossing opening for 12 hours each day

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egypt will follow a new policy on the Rafah crossing between it and the Gaza Strip, and the people of Gaza will experience changes in travel procedures and times, says prime minister of the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh.

Speaking to the Gaza-based Hamas-affiliated Palestine newspaper following a meeting with Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, Haniyeh said that the crossing would operate 12 hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Further, the number of travelers leaving the enclave will rise to 1,500 a day, and all arrivals from abroad will be let in. “Sixty percent of the Gazan citizens blacklisted by Egypt and denied entry have been removed from the list,” Haniyeh added.

In addition, he said, an agreement has been reached that any Palestinian citizen who arrives in Egypt from other countries will be granted a 72-hour visa, so as to make travel arrangements and avoid been deported.

The electricity crisis was also discussed, he said.

“Three major steps will be carried out to solve the power crisis starting with an increase in the amount of fuel to Gaza’s power plant in tandem with amplifying the power grid from Egypt to Gaza from 22 to 30 megawatt. After that, a gas pipeline will be built to provide Egyptian natural gas to the sole power plant in the coastal enclave. Then, the Gaza Strip will be connected to the joint Arab grid known as the 8th grid.” more