Mahmoud Abbas’ UN speech gets mixed response from Palestinians

Supporters applaud from the gallery as Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas ends his address to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2022

Mahmoud Abbas’ UN speech gets mixed response from Palestinians

  • Jenin man says address ‘conveyed the message of the suffering of the Palestinian people’
  • But Fatah member accuses president of ‘selling grief and begging’

RAMALLAH: Israel is deliberately impeding progress toward a two-state solution and can no longer be considered a reliable partner in the peace process, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the UN on Friday.

Israel had acted with “total impunity” against people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Palestinians’ trust in the prospects for peace was “regressing,” he said.

“(Israel) is, through its premeditated and deliberate policies, destroying the two-state solution,” the Palestinian Authority president said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

“This proves unequivocally that Israel does not believe in peace. Therefore, we no longer have an Israeli partner to whom we can talk.”

Many Palestinians told Arab News that Abbas was frank, straightforward and direct in his diagnosis of the suffering of Palestinians.

Walid Masharqa from Jenin said he was satisfied with Abbas’ speech, which “conveyed the message of the suffering of the Palestinian people due to the policies of the Israeli occupation.”

He added: “I did not expect from the president more than that. When he gives a yearlong deadline to end the Israeli occupation and threatens to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and stop security coordination with Israel, he uses that as a means to put pressure on Israel.”

Twelve months ago, Abbas addressed the UN by video link and said he was giving Israel one year to withdraw from occupied territory or he would no long recognize the Jewish state based on pre-1967 borders. He did not mention that ultimatum on Friday, but focused instead on the lack of international recognition of the Palestinian territories.

Nasser Odeh from the village of Arora, north of Ramallah, told Arab News: “What power does President Abbas have other than receiving the world’s sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians? The Palestinians do not have the slightest means to put pressure on the US and European countries.”

He also underlined the world’s bias in favor of Israel.

“The biggest threat to Israel is Abbas’ decision to dissolve the PA, but does dissolving the authority benefit the Palestinian cause and serve the Palestinian citizen? The PA, despite all its shortcomings, is a demand of the Palestinian people, and Abbas’ program remains better than that of his political opponents, especially Hamas,” Odeh added.

Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Al-Khatib told Arab News that he did not follow Abbas’ speech because he knew in advance that he would not say anything new.

Basem Naim, head of the Hamas political department in Gaza, said Abbas spoke logically and sensibly.

“Still, his words did not reflect a shift in his attitude toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He will not take decisions such as stopping security coordination with the Israeli occupation, improving relations with Palestinian factions, ending the Palestinian division, withdrawing recognition of Israel and holding general elections in the Palestinian Territories,” he said.

“As long as Abbas’ words are not translated into action, they will remain just media news for 24 hours. Israel will not change its position on the PA based on Abbas’ speech.

“Therefore, they should reconsider their relationship with Israel and the US, and implement the decisions of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which demanded the withdrawal of recognition of Israel and the cessation of security coordination with it,” Naim added.

Ahmed Ghuneim from the Fatah movement in East Jerusalem told Arab News that he was expecting Abbas’ speech to mention last year’s ultimatum to Israel, “but he never spoke about it.”

“He did not tell the Palestinians what they were waiting to know, namely what will Abbas do after the expiration of the deadline,” he said.

Ghuneim added that the president’s speech reflected the extent of Abbas’ frustration and despair.

He criticized him for “selling grief and begging instead of taking courageous and daring decisions that could embarrass Israel before the world.”

Israel has occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank since 1967, and since 2007 has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamists of Hamas.


Cricket flourishes among Qatar World Cup migrant laborers

Updated 26 November 2022

Cricket flourishes among Qatar World Cup migrant laborers

  • The sport that spread across the reaches of former British empire remains favorite of South Asian laborers
  • The need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades

DOHA: As dawn broke Friday in Qatar, the laborers who built this energy-rich country’s World Cup soccer stadiums, roads and subway filled empty stretches of asphalt and sandlots to play the sport closest to their hearts — cricket.

The sport that spread across the reaches of the former British empire remains a favorite of the South Asian laborers who power economies across the Arabian Peninsula, including more than 2 million migrant workers in Qatar.

It’s a moment of respite for workers, who typically just have Friday off in Qatar and much of the rest of the Gulf Arab nations. And it’s one they look forward to all week, batting and bowling before the heat of the day fully takes hold.

“It’s in our blood,” said laborer Kesavan Pakkirisamy as he coached his team at one sandlot, the skyline of Doha visible in the distance. “We’ve played cricket since a long time. It’s a happy journey for us.”

Laborer rights have been a focus of this World Cup since Qatar won the bid for the tournament back in 2010. Workers can face long hours, extortion and low pay. Qatar has overhauled its labor laws to put in a minimum wage and untie visas from employers, though activists have urged more to be done.

On Fridays, however, laborers control their day. Just down the road from the global headquarters of Qatar’s satellite news network Al Jazeera, workers gathered in a parking lot and another large desert expanse wedged between roads.

Some appeared nervous when Associated Press journalists stopped by their matches, with several asking if they’d be in trouble for playing cricket in vacant lots in this autocratic nation. Others, however, smiled and invited visitors to watch.

Hary R., an Indian from the southern state of Kerala, showed a reporter the mobile phone app he used to keep track of runs and overs. While Friday’s match was a friendly, there are tournaments organized among the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in Qatar to vie for supremacy.

“We are working throughout the week and we need to just get relaxed and meet our friends just for time pass and entertainment,” he said. His teammates on the Strikers, some of whom wore matching uniforms, shouted at him to keep track of the game.

Pakkirisamy, who shouted encouragement near two discarded couches used by players as a bench, praised his company for helping his colleagues take part in wider competitions.

“From my father and my grandfather, they have been playing in cricket since childhood age,” he said, describing a lifelong love of the game.

Pakkirisamy and his teammates, while lovers of cricket, still were excited about the World Cup being in Qatar.

“We are here for work, we are here for earning something for our family,” he said, adding that being in Qatar means, “It’s easy for us to be there, to see the game on ground, not only the TV.”

Cricket, with its lush green grass pitches, may seem like an anomaly in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, the need for migrant labor has seen Gulf Arab nations draw cricket-playing workers to their shores for decades.

The United Arab Emirates has a cricket team that qualified for the International Cricket Council’s T20 World Cup in Australia last month.

Dubai in the UAE is even home to the ICC’s headquarters and has hosted major cricket events, including the Indian Premier League, the Pakistan Super League and the T20 championships.

But for laborers in the region, any empty patch of ground can be turned into a pitch.

“You can be in any road. You can be in any place,” Pakkirisamy said. “Any small place, you can play cricket.”


Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

Updated 26 November 2022

Iran’s Khamenei praises Basij forces for confronting ‘riots’ — TV

DUBAI: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in “riots” sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September.
The Basij force, affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guards, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. “They have sacrificed their lives to protect people from rioters,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.


No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

Updated 26 November 2022

No injuries in rocket attack against forces in Syria — US military

Two rockets targeted a US patrol base in northeastern Syria but did not result in any injuries or damage to the base, the US military said on Friday.
US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces visited the origin site of the rockets and found a third unfired rocket, the US military said in a statement.
The base was located in Al-Shaddadi, Syria.


US official urges ‘de-escalation’ as Turkiye strikes Syria

Updated 25 November 2022

US official urges ‘de-escalation’ as Turkiye strikes Syria

  • Turkiye this week launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq
  • The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned,” said Granger

BEIRUT: A US official in Syria on Friday called for an “immediate de-escalation” following days of deadly airstrikes and shelling along the Syria-Turkiye border, saying the actions destabilize the region and undermine the fight against the Daesh group.
Turkiye this week launched a wave of airstrikes on suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in neighboring Syria and Iraq, in retaliation for a deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul that Ankara blames on the Kurdish groups.
The groups have denied involvement in the bombing and say the Turkish strikes have killed civilians and threatened the anti-Daesh fight.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said that 67 civilians, gunmen and soldiers, have been killed in Turkish attacks in northern Syria since the airstrikes began.
Nikolas Granger, the US senior representative to northeastern Syria, said Washington “strongly opposes military action that further destabilizes the lives of communities and families in Syria and we want immediate de-escalation.”
The developments are “unacceptably dangerous and we are deeply concerned,” said Granger, who is currently in Syria, and added that the strikes also endanger US military personnel there.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened a new land invasion of northern Syria targeting Kurdish groups. On Friday, he said Turkiye would continue its “struggle against all kinds of terror inside and outside our borders.”
Turkiye and the United States both consider the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a terror group for the decadeslong insurgency and attacks the group has staged within Turkiye’s borders.
But they disagree on the status of the main Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The Syrian Kurdish group has been a key US ally in the fight against Daesh.
Turkiye has carried out three major incursions into northern Syria since 2016 and its forces still control part of the country.
Kurdish officials in Syria have been warning that any new Turkish incursion would disrupt the fight against Daesh, which still has sleeper cells and has carried out deadly attacks in recent months against the Syrian Kurdish-led opposition forces as well as Syrian government forces.
“We take these threats seriously and prepare to confront any ground attacks,” Siamand Ali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press.


Iran bolsters border security to prevent ‘infiltration’

Updated 25 November 2022

Iran bolsters border security to prevent ‘infiltration’

  • Deployment aims to prevent infiltration and the smuggling of weapons in the north by Kurdish opposition groups exiled in Iraq
  • Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and forces have been present there on a rotating basis for decades

BAGHDAD: Iran has sent additional units of special forces to fortify its northern border with Iraq and clamp down on what it says is infiltration by Kurdish opposition groups, Iranian state media reported on Friday.
Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, chief of ground forces of the paramilitary Iranian Revolutionary Guard, said “armored and special forces” units had been deployed to west and north-west provinces to bolster existing border security, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The deployment aims to prevent infiltration and the smuggling of weapons in the north by Kurdish opposition groups exiled in Iraq that Tehran claims is orchestrating country-wide anti-government protests. It is a claim the Kurdish groups deny and to date Iran has not provided any evidence to support it.
Iran has several military bases near the Iraqi border and forces have been present there on a rotating basis for decades.
The troop movement also comes after Iraq issued directives for boosting security along its side of the border to prevent further bombardment by Iran, according to a statement issued by Iraq’s military spokesman Maj. Gen. Yahya Rasool. Kurdish opposition groups have bases in Iraq’s Kurdish-run northern region.
Earlier this week, Iranian officials were quoted in state-run media as saying they did not have plans to conduct a ground military operation to root out opposition groups from the bases, despite having reportedly threatened to do so during the visit by top general Esmail Ghaani to Baghdad last week.
Country-wide protests engulfed Iran in September following the death of a young woman in police custody for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. The protests have become one the greatest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated in police custody, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained.