Sunday, 30 September 2012

Qatar opens diplomatic office in Gaza in boost for Hamas

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — In a boost to Gaza’s Hamas government, the Gulf state of Qatar said on Sunday it opened the first diplomatic office in the isolated territory since the Islamic military group took power five years ago.

Qatari officials said the office is not a formal embassy. Instead, it will oversee hundreds of millions of dollars in aid projects Qatar is funding.

Nonetheless, it is headed by an ambassador and marks a key stamp of legitimacy for Hamas, whose takeover of Gaza in 2007 has never been internationally recognized.

Hamas’ rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, who lives in the West Bank, is seen internationally as the Palestinian leader. more

Gaza protests against tunnel closures by Egypt

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Dozens of Palestinians gathered near Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday morning to protest against their neighbor shutting down a tunnel network under the border.

Hamas leaders, local officials and residents held Egyptian and Palestinian flags, urging Egypt to protect the entry of goods into Gaza.

The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli land and sea blockade, and its sole border crossing not controlled by Israel, Egypt's Rafah terminal, is not equipped for the passage of goods.

To circumvent the blockade, a vast underground tunnel network into Egypt was established, with the oversight of the Hamas-run government.

After years of turning a blind eye, Egypt started closing the tunnels after the Aug. 5 attack in Sinai when gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. Egypt suspects the tunnels were used by some of the militants, while Hamas says no-one from Gaza was involved in the attack. more

Palestine’s Mahmoud Sarsak ‘rejects’ FC Barcelona invite to match with Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit

Palestinian prisoner Mahmoud al-Sarsak in Gaza City on 10 July 2012 (Wissam Nassar / ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Palestinian national footballer and hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak has, according to several reports, rejected an invitation by the FC Barcelona football club to watch its El Clásico game against Real Madrid on 7 October, along with Israeli occupation soldier and ex-prisoner of war Gilad Shalit.

In a 27 September statement, FC Barcelona invited Sarsak, along with two Palestinian Authority officials, in a bid to placate the growing anger over the invitation to Shalit, which has been condemned by dozens of Palestinian football clubs and sporting associations, and by Palestine solidarity activists in Spain.

In response to the move, Sarsak told EI blogger Shahd Abusalama that he rejected the offer. After speaking to Sarsak this morning, Abusalama tweeted that Sarsak “told me his definite denial of going [to FC Barcelona’s] match if Shalit is there calling this normalization.” more

'Miles Of Smiles 16' convoy enters Gaza with medical supplies

The “Miles Of Smiles 16” Solidarity Convoy arrived in the Gaza Strip on Saturday carrying 38 solidarity activists and medical supplies urgently needed in the besieged coastal region.

Dr. Isam Yousef, coordinator of the Miles of Smiles convoy stated all convoy members from Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon and South Africa, managed to enter Gaza through the Rafah Border Terminal between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Yousef added that medical supplies and medications, worth a million US Dollars, will be handed to hospitals and medical centers; all supplies and medications have been purchased from Egypt.

Convoy members will be staying in Gaza for several days in order to distribute the medical supplies.

Ahmad Al-Kurd, former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs in Gaza, stated that the repeated solidarity convoys are a clear indication that the Arab people and the international activists insist on challenging the illegal Israeli siege imposed on the coastal region.

Al-Kurd added that Miles Of Smiles is a main contributor in aiding the Palestinians in Gaza, “and managed to draw a smile on the faces of thousands of residents suffering under constant Israeli attacks, and Israel’s illegal siege”. more