Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Hamas demands alternative after Egypt army closes Gaza tunnels

Hamas spokesman Ehab Al-Ghaseen said on Wednesday that the Egyptian army has initiated a campaign to close smuggling tunnels to Gaza.

"These campaigns were initiated for specific political reasons," added the spokesman.

Al-Ghaseen stressed the need for a formal commercial alternative before the tunnels are closed, saying that calls to Egypt have been made concerning the matter.

The suspension of smuggling activities has led to a serious gas shortage, added Al-Ghaseen, who underlined the tunnels' importance to the Strip.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian NGO Network issued a joint press statement condemning Egyptian media incitement against Palestinians, aimed at "defaming Palestinian citizens." more

NGO: Israel set to approve another 1,000 settler homes

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli authorities are expected on Wednesday to give the green light for the construction of 1,071 new homes in six West Bank settlements, watchdog Peace Now said in a statement on Tuesday.

The news came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan at the start of a sixth round of intense diplomacy to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, with Israel's settlement building a key sticky point.

It also came as the European Union was due to publish on Friday guidelines barring member states from funding projects in Jewish settlements.

Peace Now said that a government committee was expected to grant initial approval for plans to build 339 homes at Galgal and Almog settlements in the Jordan valley, Kfar Adumim northeast of Jerusalem and at Kochav Yaacov and Shilo near Ramallah. more

Hamas official: Egypt not participating in Gaza siege

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The government in Gaza is in constant talks with Egyptian officials to open the Rafah border crossing regularly, but does not consider Egypt a party to the siege, a senior minister said Tuesday.

Ziad Thatha, deputy premier of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, said Israel bore sole responsibility for the closure of the enclave.

"There is only one siege not two in Gaza and it is imposed by the Israeli occupation with the go-ahead from the US," Thatha told Ma'an.

Israel maintains a blockade on the Gaza Strip, closing its land border to most residents, limiting imports and exports and banning air or sea travel.

Most of Gaza's 1.7 million residents can only use the Rafah crossing on Egypt's border to enter or leave the enclave.

Egypt abruptly closed the Rafah terminal for five days in June after a rise in militant attacks in Sinai following the army's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. It partially reopened the border on June 10.

Egypt has also cracked down on cross-border smuggling tunnels, which have provided a lifeline to residents of Gaza under the siege. more