Israel vows not to negotiate with Palestinian hunger strikers

AFP , Tuesday 18 Apr 2017
Barghouti

File Photo: Jailed Senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti appears in a Jerusalem court (Photo: AP)

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed on Tuesday not to negotiate with hundreds of Palestinian detainees on the second day of a hunger strike led by popular leader Marwan Barghouti.

More than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons launched the hunger strike on Monday, issuing a list of demands ranging from better medical services to access to telephones.

Issa Qaraqe, head of prisoner affairs for the Palestinian Authority, said on Monday that around 1,300 prisoners were on hunger strike and the number could rise.

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club had put the number at 1,500.

A spokesman for the Israel Prisons Service said around 1,100 prisoners started the hunger strike and roughly the same number were believed to be continuing on Tuesday.

Erdan vowed that Israeli authorities would not negotiate with the prisoners and said Barghouti had been moved to another prison and placed in solitary confinement.

He said Barghouti had been placed in solitary confinement because calling for the hunger strike was against prison rules.

Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offences and alleged crimes.

Of those, 62 are women and 300 are minors.

Some 500 are held under administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge.

Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a large scale.

Barghouti’s call for the strike has given it added credibility, with the 57-year-old serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada or uprising.

He is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency.

“Decades of experience have proved that Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation,” Barghouti wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

“In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.”

*The Story was edited by Ahram Online.


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Syria evacuations resume after deadly bombing: AFP

AFP , Wednesday 19 Apr 2017

The evacuation of civilians and fighters from besieged Syrian towns resumed on Wednesday after a weekend bombing at a transit point killed 126 people, 68 of them children, an AFP correspondent reported.Dozens of buses from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya, which have been under crippling siege for more than two years, reached the edge of the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin outside government-held second city Aleppo, the correspondent said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the hard-won evacuation deal was back under way.

“The process has resumed with 3,000 people leaving Fuaa and Kafraya at dawn and nearly 300 leaving Zabadani and two other rebel-held areas,” the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.

Rashidin was the scene of Saturday’s deadly bombing. At least 109 of the dead were evacuees. The rest were aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy.

Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby rebel-held territory, while others were taken to Aleppo.

The evacuations were taking place under a deal between the government and the rebels that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out of Madaya and Zabadani, towns near Damascus that are surrounded by pro-government forces.

The agreement is the latest in a string of such deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war.

Rebels say they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday’s bombing.

Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, which has many fighters in the area, denied any involvement.

The government blamed “terrorists” — a catch-all term for its opponents.

The evacuation deal was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime supporter of the rebels, and Iran, a key regime ally. Its implementation had been repeatedly delayed.


Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:10AM
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

The Donald Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran has been compliant with its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement, and that the administration is reviewing whether a continued suspension of the sanctions serves the national interests of the United States.

In a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration has undertaken a full review of the nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led inter-agency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States,” Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday.

The White House must send certification of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA to Congress every 90 days, and it was the first issued by the Trump administration.

Tillerson, however, accused Iran of being “a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods,” and noted the administration would review the nuclear deal with that in mind.

Similar accusations leveled by US officials have in the past drawn strong reactions from Iranian authorities. Early this month, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi advised US Defense Secretary James Mattis against making such “unwarranted and malicious accusations against Iran.”

He said Washington should instead oblige its regional allies to halt their widespread financial, ideological, and military support for the terrorist outfits that have been plaguing several countries.

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump frequently criticized the JCPOA as “the worst deal ever negotiated,” but offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, renegotiate its terms or keep it in place.

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the US, France, Britain, Russia and China plus Germany – sealed the JCPOA in July 2015 following 18 months of intense negotiations.

A meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is pictured during its first meeting at the level of Political Directors at Palais Cobourg in Vienna, on October 19, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Under the deal, which took effect in January last year, Iran undertook to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against the Islamic Republic.

Iran has warned that it would restore its nuclear activities to the pre-JCPOA level, if the US fails to keep its end of the bargain.

Read more:

At an international conference on nuclear policy in Washington last month, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini strongly defended the JCPOA, pointing out that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had confirmed Iran’s compliance five times.

Opponents of the JCPOA, including Israel and its allies in the US Congress, accuse Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons and insist that the deal would not guarantee that the country was not striving to that end any longer.

Iran has always said that it seeks to allay international concerns about its nuclear program which is peaceful and civilian.

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