Monday, 22 July 2013

Hamas reeling from Egyptian crackdown on Gaza tunnels


Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are reeling from another devastating blockade but this time they are blaming Egypt, the neighbouring Arab power they once hoped would end their isolation, rather than their old foe Israel.

In a few weeks of digging, dynamiting and drenching, Cairo's troops have destroyed many of the smuggling tunnels that ran under the Egypt-Gaza border and which had provided the cramped coastal enclave with commercial goods as well as weaponry.

The Islamist Hamas government, which taxes much of the traffic through the underground passages, has been hit hard by the losses. Ordinary Palestinians, many of them dependent on U.N. aid handouts, have seen prices for staple goods skyrocket.

"There is a difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza because of the Egyptian measures on the borders," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. "Most of the tunnels were demolished and the few that remain open are paralysed."

He likened the crisis to 2007, when Israel, responding to the Hamas takeover of Gaza in a brief civil war with Western-backed Palestinian rivals, clamped down on the territory. more

Israel to free 'around 80' Palestinian prisoners


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is set to decide on the release of around 80 long-serving Palestinian prisoners ahead of renewed peace talks, an Israeli official said on Monday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had agreed to meet to prepare a resumption of direct peace talks, stalled since 2010.

"The prisoner releases will start when talks commence," the Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We're talking about releasing them in stages."

There were "some 80 prisoners" set to be released, all of them "pre-Oslo," the official added, referring to Palestinians imprisoned before the 1993 Oslo peace accords. more