Fatah says Hamas arrests members in Gaza ahead of rally

In this Nov. 20, 2018 file photo, Palestinians celebrate while waving yellow Fatah flags and a picture of late Palestinian leader and Fatah founder Yasser Arafat, during a rally to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the death of Arafat, in Gaza City. (AP)
Updated 31 December 2018

Fatah says Hamas arrests members in Gaza ahead of rally

  • Fatah and Hamas remain deeply divided and Abbas, based in the occupied West Bank, has sought to increase pressure on the Islamist movement

GAZA CITY: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party said Monday that its rival Hamas had carried out widespread arrests of its members in the Gaza Strip ahead of a rally marking the anniversary of the movement’s founding.
Hamas denied the accusation, with a spokesman for the enclave’s interior ministry saying 38 people had been held for questioning over concerns that opposing Fatah factions in Gaza would clash at the rally set for later in the day.
All had been released, said spokesman Iyad Al-Bozum.
Fatah and Hamas remain deeply divided and Abbas, based in the occupied West Bank, has sought to increase pressure on the Islamist movement in recent days.
“More than 500 of our members and sons have been arrested since last night by Hamas security forces in Gaza,” Atef Abu Saif, a spokesman for Fatah in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement.
Saif said the arrests were an attempt by Hamas to disrupt activities to mark Fatah’s 54th anniversary.
But there were also concerns over tensions between Fatah factions loyal to Abbas and his exiled rival Mohammed Dahlan, who is from Gaza and has a significant base of support there.
Repeated attempts to reconcile Fatah and Hamas have failed. A list of issues have kept them apart, including Hamas’s refusal to disarm its military wing.
Abbas moved earlier this month to dissolve the Hamas-controlled Palestinian parliament, which has not met since 2007, when the Islamist seized control of the Gaza Strip.
While the parliament has been largely defunct, Palestinian law allows for its speaker to act as interim president should 83-year-old Abbas die in office.
Abbas’s move came after the Palestinian Constitutional Court in Ramallah issued a ruling to dissolve the parliament and hold elections within six months.
Hamas has said it rejects the move by a court created by Abbas “to legitimize his arbitrary decisions.”
Hamas won the last parliamentary elections in 2006 in a landslide, resulting in an electoral dispute with Fatah.
The Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip the following year, and the split between them and Abbas’s Fatah has persisted.
Abbas has sought to pressure Hamas through other measures, including reducing salaries in Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade.
Abbas’s term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.