TUNIS – Head of Tunisia’s al-Nahda party Rashid al-Ghannoushi revealed on Monday night that Egypt has refused to receive a Tunisian plane bound for Gaza loaded with medicines and medical supplies.
Al-Ghannoushi told Al-Jazeera TV network that the Egyptian authorities had refused to allow the plane to land at the airport nearest to the Gaza Strip, pointing out that it was carrying medical supplies badly needed in the beleaguered Strip.
The plane was supposed to fly back injured people who sustained serious wounds during the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza to receive treatment in Tunisia, he explained.
Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki had declared a week ago his country’s intention to send a plane carrying medicines and medical supplies for Gaza Strip.
Along the same line, the Egyptian authorities continued to prevent a team of European specialized surgeons from having access to Gaza despite possessing the needed papers for that.
Dr. Mohammed Abu Nada, coordinator for the Forum of Palestinian Doctors in Europe, told Quds Press on Tuesday that they have been prevented by Egyptian army from entering into Gaza for the fifth day despite having official permits allowing their access.
The FPDE delegation includes a number of general surgeons in addition to surgeons specialized in vascular surgery and pediatric surgery.
583 Palestinians were killed and 3640 injured in 15 days of Israeli ferocious pounding of the besieged enclave. Hundreds of homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools were demolished during the Israeli airstrikes, navy shelling, and artillery bombardment.
Forty members of the UAE “aid convoy” which entered the Gaza Strip last week have been revealed as intelligence agents. They were, it is believed, trying to collect information about Hamas and its infrastructure in the besieged territory.
According to one informed source, a local Palestinian recognised one of the agents as a soldier in the UAE armed forces. He contacted the security forces in Gaza who took the agent in for questioning.
Other members of the “aid convoy” then made contact with officials in the United Arab Emirates. In turn, they asked disgraced Fatah official Mohamed Dahlan, who now lives in and is sponsored by the UAE government, to try to secure a safe and swift exit for the agents.
“Dahlan called one of his followers from Fatah who spoke with Hamas officials and they agreed to let the convoy leave immediately,” the source said.
Palestinians in Gaza were surprised by the sudden exit of the UAE personnel on Saturday. The field hospital that they had ostensibly arrived to set-up was left uncompleted.
Commentators say that suspicions should have been aroused when the convoy was allowed by the Egyptians to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing, as no other convoys have been allowed to enter since the start of the Israeli attack and invasion. Media reports on Saturday said that the Egyptian army has banned and attacked three international aid convoys trying to enter the enclave.
Egypt has closed Rafah and does not allow wounded Palestinians to travel abroad for treatment or let much-needed medicine and medical equipment to be taken into Gaza.
A Gaza-bound Egyptian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for the war-ravaged, besieged Palestinian enclave has been halted by the country’s security forces in Sinai.
Activists travelling with the convoy on Saturday afternoon said the vehicles carrying humanitarian supplies to the people in the Israeli-blockaded territory had been stopped at a Sinai checkpoint by Egyptian forces and not allowed to pass due to alleged “security reasons,” Ahram Online reported.
The development comes as Gaza is entering the twelfth day of an Israeli military onslaught that has left more than 312 Palestinians dead, including many women and children.
The report further cites Egyptian political activist Zizo Abdo as saying that the convoy was halted at Balooza checkpoint, the first military checkpoint in North Sinai.
Abdo also stated that the convoy consists of 11 buses and a medical convoy, totaling over 550 people including students, workers, and various political figures.
According to the report, if the convoy is allowed to pass through the checkpoint, it is set to pass through Sinai’s al-Arish city, an already troubled area where Egyptian security forces are battling an anti-state militancy that has surged since the military ouster of the country’s first freely elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
After al-Arish, the convoy will move directly to the Rafah border crossing.
Egypt’s authorities have largely kept the critical border crossing for the besieged Palestinians living in Gaza shut over the past year, claiming security concerns over the surge of militancy in the Sinai region.
However, the crossing has been opened a few times since the start of the massive Israeli offensive as an “exceptional” measure to transport injured Palestinians to Egyptian hospitals and deliver Egyptian as well as Arab aid to Gaza.
Similar Egyptian convoys were able to cross into Gaza during the Israeli assault on the strip in 2012.
The Israeli security cabinet reportedly agreed to a ceasefire agreement on Tuesday proposed by the Egyptian government, but leaders with the Palestinian resistance said that no one had contacted them to negotiate any ceasefire.
According to Israeli military reports, the alleged ceasefire proposal would require the Israeli military to end its aerial and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip that has been constant for the past week, while Palestinian armed factions would be required to stop firing homemade shells into Israel.
Despite claims of having agreed to a ceasefire, Israeli bombardment continued to pound Gaza on Tuesday morning.
The armed wing of the Hamas party, the Izz-al Deen al-Qassam Brigades, claimed that the ceasefire agreement amounted to a ‘surrender’, and that no representative of Hamas or any other armed resistance group had been involved in the negotiations. Therefore, the group said, they would continue their resistance to Israeli aggression in Gaza.
The supposed agreement does not meet the four key elements reiterated by Hamas leaders in recent days. These requirements include the lifting of the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, which has led to the unemployment rate of 80%, the sealing of all borders and the prevention of aid, construction materials and fuel, as well as staple goods, from entering Gaza.
Ismail Haniyeh, the elected Prime Minister of the Palestinians people who has not been recognized by Israel because of his association with the Hamas party, said on Monday, “The Gaza blockade must be lifted so that our people live in freedom like all other peoples around the world.”
Egyptian officials negotiated with Israel, apparently without involving Palestinians in the negotiation of the proposed ceasefire. Despite the lack of involvement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Fateh party urged rival parties to accept the agreement.
Hamas officials stated over the weekend that Egypt was an unacceptable negotiator for any ceasefire negotiations, and only Turkey or Qatar could be considered as potential negotiators of a ceasefire.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has kept the Egyptian border with Gaza closed over the last week, apart from one opening to allow critically wounded patients through. This has led to widespread disapproval of Egypt as a negotiator among the Palestinian populace of Gaza, who have not had any way to escape the near-constant bombardment that began on July 8th.
In the two weeks prior to July 8th, 13 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
In the week since, 195 Palestinians have been killed, including three babies under age two, and several families that were totally wiped out.
2 Israeli girls were wounded on Monday night by a Palestinian shell, the first such injuries in the week of escalation. One of them, age 10, was wounded critically, according to Israeli sources.
Over the past week of escalation, at least 1,385 Palestinians have been wounded, many with head injuries, amputated limbs, permanent disabilities and embedded shrapnel. They include a four-day old infant, who was critically wounded by Israeli forces on Tuesday morning.
More than 180 Palestinians have been killed and 1,385 injured since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza exactly a week ago.
Early on Tuesday evening, as Operation Protective Edge entered its second week, Israeli air strikes and rocket continued to strike Gaza even while reports of the ceasefire began to emerge.
Hamas rockets also continued to fly toward Israel where they have largely caused minor injuries and damage. Monday evening saw the most serious incident of the week-long conflict so far with two sisters – aged 10 and 13 – being hospitalised following a rocket attack. The younger sister, 10-year-old Maram Wakili remains in critical condition.
GAZA CITY – Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah crossing with Gaza on Friday, having opened it for one day to allow Palestinians injured in Israel’s military assault to seek treatment.
“We received orders from the Egyptian authorities to close the Rafah crossing after we partially opened it on Thursday,” spokesman for Gaza’s interior ministry Iyad al-Buzm told Ma’an.
The ministry strongly condemned the decision by Egypt as it had prepared buses and ambulances to take wounded Palestinians to the crossing.
Only 11 Palestinians were able to cross Rafah on Thursday when Egypt opened the crossing, al-Buzm added.
Over 600 Palestinians have been injured in Israel’s assault on Gaza with hospitals in the besieged enclave struggling to cope with the amount of casualties.
During Israel’s 2012 assault on Gaza, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi condemned “Israeli aggression” and sent his prime minister to Gaza in a show of support for the Palestinians.
Since the military overthrew him in July 2013, Cairo has cracked down on smuggling tunnels to the Gaza Strip and accused Hamas of aiding the Brotherhood in militant attacks inside Egypt.
Tony Blair has reportedly agreed to advise coup-appointed Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as part of a United Arab Emirates-funded program which promises lucrative “business opportunities” to those involved.
Blair is set to give Sisi advise on economic reform in tandem with a UAE financed taskforce in Cairo, the Guardian reported on Wednesday. According to the daily, the taskforce is being run by the management consultancy Strategy&, formerly Booz and Co, now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers. The group hopes to attract foreign direct investment to Egypt’s crisis racked economy at an upcoming Egypt donors’ conference, which is being sponsored by oil-rich UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The former prime minister and Middle East peace envoy supported the coup against Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi last July and continues to generate controversy with his complicated dealings in the region.
A spokeswoman for Blair told the Guardian that his attempts to garner support for Egypt from the international community were not being done “for any personal gain whatsoever.”
“He is giving advice, he will have meetings, that’s all,” she said, stressing that neither Blair nor any organizations associated with him would make money out of Egypt.
She added that he believes the Sisi government “should be supported in its reform agenda and he will help in any way he can, but not as part of a team.”
When pressed on the lucrative “business opportunities” the Egypt project and its Gulf backers promised, she said: “We are not looking at any business opportunities in Egypt.”
A former close political associate, however, told the Guardian that Blair’s role in advising the Egyptian regime would cause “terrible damage to him, the rest of us and New Labour’s legacy.”
The associate said that Blair was able to kill two birds with one stone in Egypt, battling the threat of Islamism while sinking his teeth into “mouth-watering business opportunities” in return for Bush-era advocacy.
He added that it would be a very lucrative business model, but one Blair should not be involving himself with.
“He’s putting himself in hock to a regime that imprisons journalists. He’s digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself and everyone associated with him.”
Alastair Campbell, Blair’s former press secretary who resigned in 2003 over the Iraq Dossier scandal, is also a paid advisor consulting the Sisi government on its public image. When asked by the Guardian on Wednesday if he had been working with Strategy&, Campbell refused to say who he had been working with. Like Blair, Campbell also visited Cairo earlier this year as part of the Gulf-funded program to prop up the regime. Another former Blair employee, Darren Murphy, a so-called special advisor in the Blair government who has traded off the former PM’s name for years, has also been working on the program.
In June, Sisi, Egypt’s former army, won 96.9 percent of the votes in a presidential poll that had all the hallmarks of a dictatorial election.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was the first international leader to congratulate Sisi on his election victory.
King Abdullah hailed Sisi’s ’win as a “historic day” for Egypt, calling for donors a donors conference to help Egypt through its economic troubles.
“To the brothers and friends of Egypt… I invite all to a donors conference… to help it overcome its economic crisis,” he said.
Since the Morsi government was toppled, hundreds of alleged supports of the ex-president and his Muslim Brotherhood movement have been sentenced to death. The persecution of political opponents and crackdown on journalists has pushed US congressional leaders to consider withholding $1.3 billion in military support to Cairo.
Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, Blair and his companies have worked with a variety of repressive and dictatorial regimes across the world. Blair’s Middle East interest appear to be expanding, with aids confirming last month he was considering opening an office in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. His work in Egypt could be viewed as even more contentious, due to the bloody nature of the coup and his work as a mediator in the region.
In June, retired diplomats and political enemies came together to demand that Blair be fired as the envoy to the Quartet on the Middle East– the UN, US, Russia and EU – after failing to bring Israel and Palestine closer to a peace deal.
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby which is based in Washington, has begun a lobbying campaign to stop US lawmakers from cutting military aid to Egypt.
The group already said in public that it wanted aid to Egypt to continue flowing.
“In light of the treaty’s achievements and resilience,” AIPAC said in a March 27 memorandum, “The United States should continue its strong support for the treaty and back Egypt as it works with Israel to combat the threats of extremists within its borders who would seek to undermine it.”
On Tuesday, an amendment from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. was defeated in the House of Representatives. The amendment called for a cut in US military assistance to Egypt by $300 million – from $1.3 billion down to $1 billion.
Tuesday’s vote was partly due to pressure by AIPAC, Schiff said as reported by Al-Monitor.
“I didn’t know that AIPAC was weighing in at all on this until after the vote,” Schiff said. “But members did communicate to me after the vote that they had been persuaded by AIPAC not to support this.”
According to the report, Israel was a main topic of discussion during the debate of Schiff’s amendment as part of Tuesday’s markup of the State and Foreign Operations spending bill for FY2015.
Pro-Israel representatives argued the new government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was doing a better job fighting Israel’s “enemies,” the report said.
“The aid we provide for the military also provides for Israel’s security,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chairwoman of the State and Foreign Operations panel.
Egyptian authorities yesterday seized two supermarket chains owned by two prominent Muslim Brotherhood members.
Judge Wadee Hanna, the secretary of a government committee charged with identifying and managing Brotherhood assets, said the committee had decided to seize the supermarket chain Zad, which is owned by the detained Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat Al-Shater. The committee also seized Seoudi, another chain owned by businessman Abdulrahman El-Seoudi.
The government formed this committee after a decree declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and ordered the confiscation of its assets.
“The decision to seize [the two chains] came after it was proven that the two businessmen who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood are involved in funding the group’s activities,” Hanna said.
“We received an order from the committee to seize the chains, Zad and Seoudi, and we just went and took them,” a security source said.
Al-Shater’s daughter Aisha said a large number of security forces stormed all the branches of the chain that her father owns as well as the chain owned by the Seoudi family yesterday.
“They confiscated all contents of some of the stores and emptied other stores of their goods,” Aisha told Anadolu Agency.
Anadolu could not obtain an immediate response to these accusations from the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Members of the Seoudi family could not be reached for comment.
Ali Kamal, a member of the legal committee of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, told Anadolu that “confiscation should be done at a legal level, not by damaging the contents inside the stores”.
Kamal noted that the stores are owned by individuals, not by the Muslim Brotherhood as an organisation.
Al-Shater has been in jail since July 6, 2013, on various charges, including inciting violence.
Before the January 25 revolution erupted in 2011, Al-Shater had been detained for six months for a total of 12 years.
In September, an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood and all affiliates in Egypt and ordered the confiscation of all of its assets.
An Egyptian court on Saturday referred ten Muslim Brotherhood leaders charged with inciting violence to Egypt’s grand mufti, the country’s highest religious authority, to consider possible death sentences against them.
The ten are part of a group of 48 defendants, including Brotherhood Supreme Guide Dr Muhammad Badie, who are standing trial on charges of inciting violence in the Qalioubiya province last year.
The defendants face charges of blocking roads, inciting violence and attacking security forces on July 22 – some three weeks after the ouster of elected president Muhammad Morsi by the military.
Among the defendants referred to mufti – who were all tried in absentia – was senior Brotherhood leader Abdel-Rahman al-Bar, who is known as the Brotherhood mufti.
The same court also set July 5 as a date for issuing a final verdict in the case, the judicial source said.
Among other Brotherhood leaders charged in the same case are senior Brotherhood leader Muhammad Beltagi, former youth minister Osama Yassin, and former supply minister Bassem Ouda.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which Morsi hails, have been the target of a mounting crackdown since Morsi’s ouster by the army in July last year.
The army-backed interim government late last year designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
Thousands of Brotherhood members have been arrested on charges of incitement-to-violence and joining a “terrorist” group.
The defendants, however, deny the accusations, which they describe as “politically motivated”.
According to Ahmadi Hamoudi, spokesperson of the Students Against the Coup movement, the students are Anas Al-Sayed, a freshman student at the School of Business, Zagazig University, and Anas Mousa, a student at the Higher Engineering Institute in 10 Ramadan city. The two disappeared from their detention center after reportedly being brutally tortured.
Hamoudi said on his Facebook page that the two students were rounded up in the early hours of Sunday morning from their homes in Zagazig, Sharqeya governorate.
Anas Moussa, one of the disappeared students, had lost his left eye after being shot at during his participation in an anti-coup protest on 6 October. There are unconfirmed reports, however, that the two students were transported to the Azouli military prison.
Egyptian comedian and TV satirist Bassem Youssef said Monday his show has been cancelled, citing pressures faced by the Saudi-owned MBC group to suspend his show.
According to producers of the show, as quoted by Reuters, the latest episode poked fun at the latest presidential elections, particularly the staggeringly low turnout and the resulting pro-Al-Sisi media panic.
MBC spokesman Mazen Hayek said that his group “had no hand” in the decision to suspend the show, saying the channel “did its best” to keep the show on air.
He refused to respond to questions regarding Saudi government pressures to cancel the show.
The Saudi government is one of the main backers of the former army chief Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who led the July 3 military coup against elected President Mohamed Morsi. Al-Sisi won a controversial presidential election last week in what has been internationally denounced as an illegitimate and unfair process.
Award-winning photojournalist Khalil Abdel-Kader Abu Hamra
The Egyptian cabinet decided Sunday to revoke the Egyptian citizenship from a Palestinian Associated Press photojournalist on charges of membership in a foreign militant group.
Award-winning AP photojournalist Khalil Abdel-Kader Abu Hamra said in statements Sunday that he had lived in Egypt for a long time, and was never harassed by authorities whenever he travelled abroad. The Ministry of Interior stated that Hamra left Egypt on November 27, 2013 and never came back. It accused him of “membership in a foreign militant group that aims at disrupting social and economic order of the Egyptian state.”
Hamra, whose mother is Egyptian and his father Palestinian, obtained Egyptian citizenship since 2012 in accordance with Egyptian law, which allows Palestinians with Egyptian mothers to receive citizenship.
Hamra said he has been in vacation in Jordan for few days, and travelled from Egypt and returned without facing any problems by airport authorities.
He added that he has no political affiliations, and that he is merely a journalist by profession.
Hamra said he will take necessary legal measures to appeal the “unjustified” decision.