‘PA not strong enough to lead Gaza reconstruction,’ US senator says after visit

Chris Murphy says he raised US objection to terror stipends with PA premier, discussed possible path forward on issue; Democratic lawmakers express optimism after Bennett meeting

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-C.T., center, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., right, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-C.T., hold a press conference at the military airbase in Beirut airport, Lebanon, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. A delegation of four U.S. senators visiting Lebanon promised to work on easing Lebanon’s crippling economic crisis. They later traveled to Israel and Tunisia. (AP Photo/ Hassan Ammar)

The Palestinian Authority is not strong enough to play a major role in the ongoing Gaza reconstruction efforts, a senior Democratic senator said during a Friday briefing on the recent Congressional delegation trip he led in the region.

“My sense is that the PA is not in a strong enough of a position in Gaza right now to be able to administer the reconstruction in the way they had been in the past, so we’re gonna have to put together some international consortium,” said Chris Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism.

The PA has had almost no influence in Gaza since the Hamas terror group violently seized the territory in 2007 from PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, leading Israel and Egypt to institute a stifling blockade which they say is to prevent the smuggling of weapons, but has also decimated the economy.

Murphy noted that Egypt — which is brokering ongoing indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Cairo to solidify a long-term ceasefire following the last major conflict in May — has also been involved in reconstruction efforts, but lamented that this has largely been limited to “clearance of debris and rubble” from the Strip.

“It’s taken too long for the international community to come to the table with a workable plan on Gaza reconstruction,” Murphy said.

He added that part of what he and the three other Democratic senators with him did during their meetings in Israel last week pushed Jerusalem to “get creative” about how the effort can be advanced and how more humanitarian aid can be allowed into the enclave without strengthening its Hamas rulers.

Members of Palestinian security forces stand guard at the closed-off Rafah border crossing to Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 23, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Murphy also noted the “donor fatigue” in the international community where countries are wary of coughing up billions of dollars to reconstruct, only to see buildings in the enclave leveled by Israeli strikes in subsequent rounds of fighting.

The Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip, Mohammed al-Emadi, speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, on May 14, 2019. (Mohammed Abed/AFP)

Hours earlier on Friday, Qatar’s envoy to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi announced that efforts to send aid from his country to the Strip, including to employees of the Hamas government, had failed after the PA backed out of an arrangement that would see them play a role in the transfer of the money.

Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that began with intense rocket fire into Israel and prompted heavy Israeli retaliatory raids.

Al-Emadi said that a mechanism agreed earlier in the week where PA banks would transfer the money to Hamas employees was no longer an option. He said the banks had refused to take part, fearing they could be targeted by sanctions for transferring money to a terror group.

The collapse of the deal was likely to further inflame tensions between Israel and Hamas, which has frequently stepped up provocations in a bid to pressure Israel to allow in money.

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Heading home, Bennett says all goals ‘achieved and surpassed’ during US trip

Premier touts progress on Iran, visa waivers for Israelis; report says leaders agreed to disagree on settlement construction, Blinken opposes linking Gaza aid to return of captives

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett boards a plane at Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington on August 29, 2021. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

WASHINGTON — Departing the US in the early hours of Sunday morning, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touted his “warm” and “successful” meeting with President Joe Biden on Friday, saying all of his goals had been achieved during his trip.

“We’re about to take off from a successful visit to Washington — the peak of which was meeting Biden,” Bennett said in a statement shortly before leaving the US capital. “We had a particularly warm and helpful meeting. Biden and I have developed a direct and personal relationship built on trust.”

Bennett and Biden met in the White House on Friday, after the meeting was delayed by 24 hours due to the deadly bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday, which killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US military personnel.

Following the two leaders’ 50-minute meeting, Biden reiterated the US “commitment to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon… We’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”

Departing on Sunday, Bennett said that he had “achieved and surpassed all the goals we set for ourselves for the meeting. We agreed on joint strategic cooperation to halt Iran’s nuclear race.”

He also noted advances toward Israel joining the US visa waiver program: “For the first time, Biden instructed to move forward and close the deal as quickly as possible,” said Bennett. The prime minister said he wanted to “thank Biden for the very warm welcome.”

He also addressed the IDF strikes on Gaza overnight in response to violent border riots and multiple incendiary balloon attacks. “As I have said: We will operate in Gaza according to our vested interests,” he said. “The responsibility [for activities] in Gaza has been and continues to be Hamas.”

Palestinian protesters burn tires following a demonstration along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel east of Gaza City on August 28, 2021. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

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IDF fires mysteriously timed flares near Gaza, Lebanon border – reports

IDF artillery allegedly fired flares near the borders with both Lebanon and Gaza around the same time on Monday evening, according to reports by Israeli and Arab media.
 
At 9:30, the Palestinian Safa Press Agency tweeted a picture of an alleged flare which their correspondent claimed was fired toward the Kissufim area of southern Israel, east of the Gaza city of Khan Younis.
 
Fewer than 10 minutes later, a reporter for the Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar tweeted a picture of his own, which he claims fell near the Israel-Lebanon border.
 
According to Israeli media, the flares in northern Israel were fired due to fears of an intrusion into Israeli territory in the area of the Manara Cliff in the Upper Galilee, to aid the soldiers conducting searches.
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Netanyahu assures Biden that Israel is seeking to limit Gaza civilian casualties

President backs Israeli self-defense; stresses need for journalists’ safety, after IDF blows up media tower it says also served Hamas; says Palestinians deserve security, freedom

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with US President Joe Biden on Saturday about the ongoing escalation in violence between Israel and terrorists in the Gaza Strip and said the IDF was doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians, according to an Israeli statement on the call.

Biden, for his part, said he was worried about the safety of journalists in the conflict zone, after Israel demolished a Gaza tower where foreign journalists had offices. The IDF had warned occupants that it was going to demolish the tower, which it said was used as a Hamas intel HQ.

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5-year-old boy killed, dozens others injured as Gaza rockets pound Israel

Fresh volleys target south, center of country; Ido Avigal, 5, fatally struck by shrapnel that penetrated window of fortified room in Sderot during major Hamas barrage

A five-year-old boy was killed and at least 20 Israelis were hurt as Gaza-based terrorists fired fresh salvoes of rockets at Israel, setting off warning sirens Wednesday night in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and cities in the south.

In the Gaza border town of Sderot, seven people were hurt in a direct hit on a building. The boy’s mother grabbed him and took him to the fortified room when the incoming rocket sirens sounded, according to Hebrew media reports. But in a rare incident, rocket shrapnel punctured the shelter’s window, critically injuring him and also wounding his mother. He was pronounced dead several hours later.

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ISRAEL PREPARING FOR GROUND WAR IN GAZA AS TERRORISTS FIRE 1,000+ ROCKETS IN 36 HOURS – MOST SEVERE ATTACKS SINCE 2014 ROCKET WAR

After taking out several top Hamas, Islamic Jihad terrorist leaders in airstrikes, IDF now moving battle tanks into position, mobilizing combat units

IDF Artillery Corps seen firing into Gaza, near the Israeli border with Gaza on May 12, 2021, following heavy rocket and missile barrage fired into Israel by militants in Gaza. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JERUSALEM – When my family and I made Aliyah in August 2014, we arrived amidst one of the worst rocket wars in Israel’s modern history.

Over the course of seven weeks, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired 4,564 rockets at Israel.

That was an average of 93 rockets a day.

Compare that with the past 36 hours.

More than 1,000 rockets have been fired at Israel.

That is an average of 28 rockets every hour.

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Prisoner swap said snagged: 2 Golan residents refuse to leave Israel for Syria

Jerusalem is reportedly ready to deport the two security prisoners in return for release of Israeli woman held by Damascus; officials believe matter will be resolved in days

Nihal Al-Maqt, a Syrian woman held by Israel, as shown in Syrian media on February 17, 2021 (Channel 12 screenshot)

A Russian-brokered prisoner exchange between Israel and Syria is being held up by the refusal of two Syrian security prisoners in the Jewish state to be deported to Damascus, Israeli officials told Hebrew media Wednesday.

Israel is seeking the release of an Israeli woman who recently crossed the border and was arrested. The woman, who hasn’t been identified, is reportedly a 25-year-old from Modiin Illit who left the ultra-Orthodox community. It is unclear why she entered Syria.

In return for her release, Israel is expected to free incarcerated Golan Heights residents Nihal Al-Maqt and Dhiyab Qahmuz. However, the two are refusing to be sent to Syria as part of the deal, holding up the completion of the exchange, according to Hebrew media reports.

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After years of talks, a plan to provide Israeli gas to Gaza nears approval

EU wants to allocate at least $5 million to the project, while Qatari envoy says Doha will fund construction of part of a gas pipeline inside Israel

Palestinian boats participate in a protest against the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade of Gaza, in Beit Lahya on the border with Israel in the northern Gaza strip on August 11, 2018. The Israeli Rutenberg power station can be seen in the background. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

An agreement to provide Israeli natural gas to Gaza in an attempt to solve the coastal enclave’s electricity crisis is likely to be approved within the next six months, Qatari envoy Mohammad al-Emadi said in a statement on Sunday.

Gaza has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit for more than a decade. The coastal enclave has only one power plant — which runs on imported diesel fuel — and experiences daily blackouts of between eight and 12 hours.

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Qatar raises annual aid to Gaza to $360 million

Increase said to be around 50 percent, although no official statistics available; Qatari envoy al-Emadi enters Hamas-run enclave to announce new aid projects

Palestinians receive their $100 financial aid as part of the aid allocated by Qatar to poor families, through a post office, in the town of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on December 3, 2020. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Qatar will raise its yearly aid to Gaza to $360 million, the conservative Gulf monarchy’s government announced on Sunday.

“This grant…will be used to pay employees’ salaries, provide financial aid to needy families, and operate power stations to limit the worsening of the humanitarian situation, and difficult living conditions in the Strip,” the Qatari government said in a statement carried by its state-owned mouthpieces.

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Uproar as US Ambassador to Israel Twitter account temporarily adds West Bank and Gaza too

The account has been changed back to say only ‘U.S. Ambassador to Israel’

President Joe Biden’s administration quickly came under criticism on Inauguration Day, after the Twitter page for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel was modified during the transition on Wednesday.

The account was temporarily updated to say “U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza” from “U.S. Ambassador to Israel,” which some thought might indicate a massive policy change suggesting the new administration did not count any territories in the West Bank as under Israel’s control.

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