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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Hamas

WEST BANK: Israel expels Hamas lawmaker Muhammad Abu Tir from East Jerusalem

Israeli police Wednesday expelled Hamas lawmaker and East Jerusalem resident Muhammad Abu Tir to the West Bank city of Ramallah after an Israeli district court upheld a 4-year-old decision by the Israeli minister of interior declaring that Abu Tir's presence in Jerusalem was "illegal."

Palestinians fear the expulsion may set a precedent in which Israel will expel political activists not only from the Islamist Hamas, but from any political faction, including the mainstream Fatah, which has a number of ministers and lawmakers from Jerusalem.

Hatem Abdul Qadder, a former Fatah lawmaker from Jerusalem and former minister in Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government, expressed concern that Israel may apply the same law to any political activist in the city in an attempt to quell resistance to the Israeli occupation.

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MUSLIM WORLD: Poll shows majority want Islam in politics; feelings mixed on Hamas, Hezbollah

Meccaminihaj7 A majority of Muslims around the world welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries' political life, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, but have mixed feelings toward militant religious groups such as  Hamas and Hezbollah.

According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing the current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of Muslims polled in those countries reporting positive views of Islam's influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad.

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ISRAEL: WikiLeaks and Israel -- quiet relief, louder vindication, for now

The morning after the first disclosures of WikiLeaks' trove of diplomatic cables, buzz in Israel was somewhere between relief and vindication, and officials were being thankful by keeping quiet. Relations between Israel and the U.S. are based on a tight weave of shared interests, not local incidents, said deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon.

Gradually, more official voices were heard. The revelations show what some of us knew, said President Shimon Peres -- that the Arab countries know they have an enemy, "and it's not Israel."

A headline in Haaretz was more direct: "Everybody hates Iran."

If WikiLeaks didn't exist, Israel would have had to invent it, wrote Sever Plocker, noting the big leak backed Israel's foreign and defense policy and revealed "the shame" that many agree with Israel but "won't admit it openly."

"Sorry we were right," wrote columnist Dan Margalit.

Israel wasn't embarrassed "one bit" by the fiasco, writes Aluf Benn.  

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GAZA STRIP: Italian minister calls for Israel to relax border restrictions


Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini toured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and called on Israel to facilitate more movement of goods and people between the seaside enclave and the West Bank.

During a visit to a U.N. school in northern Gaza Strip, Frattini said Israel must do more to open the crossings.

"It is true that there have been improvements on the situation, but this is not enough."

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GAZA: Book explores vibrant, diverse graffiti-art scene in war-torn strip

Joy, sadness, dreams and politics are among the emotions and messages expressed in graffiti paintings and murals on the concrete walls of Gaza, captured in a recently published book on graffiti art in the strip.

"A thousand congratulations to the two bridegrooms," reads one graffiti painting in Arabic. Another hails the enclave's resistance fighters. "The martyr's stronghold" is written in broad Arabic letters on a wall in a similar black-and-white pattern as that of the Palestinian scarf, the Kuffiyeh. A third message written on a wall near a demolished building asks "Why??!!" in English.

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WEST BANK: Abbas tells Israelis peace more important than settlements


Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called on Israelis to choose peace over settlements, urging them not to waste this opportunity.

“To the Israeli people I say: Making peace is more important than settlements,” said Abbas as tens of thousands of Palestinians from all over the West Bank rallied at his headquarters to mark the sixth anniversary of the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, founder of Fatah movement.

“Let us make peace before this opportunity is lost,” he urged the Israelis. “We pray to God that they would take this opportunity, but hopefully not too late.”

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MIDDLE EAST: Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal says pressure should be increased on Israel

Khaled_mashaal_0102Enough with the pressure on the Palestinians to make concessions in peace talks, says Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

It's time for Israel to feel the heat.

"The pressure should now be redirected towards Israel," Mashaal said in an interview with Romanian researcher Manuela Paraipan last week. "It is immoral to keep pressuring the Palestinians simply because the Americans and the international community are failing in the face of [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu."

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Canada, UAE clash over mystery Mabhouh assassin

Mabhouh elevator

There is a diplomatic storm brewing between Canada and the United Arab Emirates, and the latest twist involves a mystery assassin.

On Tuesday, Dubai's chief of police, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan, slammed Canadian authorities for allegedly dragging their feet in investigating a suspect in their custody who had been linked to the asssassination of a Hamas official in Dubai in January.

But on Wednesday, the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail quote unnamed Canadian officials denying that Canada had made such an arrest and calling the Emirati assertion "baseless."

The current spat is set against a background of heightened tensions between the formerly friendly countries following Canada's refusal to grant the Emirates' two main airlines, Etihad and Emirates, increased access to its airports. Shortly after, the Emirates shut down what had been a secret Canadian air base, nicknamed "Camp Mirage," on its soil in what was widely viewed as a retaliatory measure.

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ISRAEL: Yom Kippur war protocols declassified, provoking debate

CrossingcanalA few months ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved new regulations allowing state archives to extend classification of material from a period of 50 years to 70.
The decision was made following pressure from Israel's security services and likely connected to an ongoing petition by journalists over access to archives kept by individual government bodies (in violation of the law, evidently) such as the Mossad and the Atomic Energy Commission. Documents whose due date was coming up cover Israel's first two decades but may now be released to scholars and the public in 2018.

But meanwhile, state archives released documents about the 1973 Yom Kippur War, opening a Pandora's box and unleashing high debates and deep emotions, and showing that the intensity of the experience -- trauma, really, for many -- hasn't dulled much depsite 37 years. 

The documents confirm what many knew or intuited about the war, including disagreements among the leadership, warring generals, desperate battles and long-shot situations. Nearly four decades later -- inexplicably tardy, commentators say-- the protocols shed light on the decision-making process, confirming some suspicions but busting a few myths too.

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IRAN: President Obama outlines position on Islamic Republic to BBC Persian


President Obama gave a much-anticipated interview to the BBC Persian’s Bahman Kalbasi on Friday in which he tackled Iran’s nuclear program, sanctions, Afghanistan, the Arab-Israeli peace process and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial comments blaming the American government for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“It was offensive. It was hateful, and particularly for him to make the statement here in Manhattan, just a little north of ground zero, where families lost their loved ones,” Obama said of Ahmadinejad's comments made during a speech on Thursday at the United Nations in New York. “It just shows once again the sort of difference between how the Iranian leadership and this regime operates and how I think the vast majority of the Iranian people -- who are respectful and thoughtful -– think about these issues.” 

Obama went on to respond to criticism that sanctions against Iran run counter to the message of diplomacy he offered in his first direct message to the Iranian people, which was broadcast last year on the occasion of the Persian new year.

“Iran has not been able to convince the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful,” Obama said. “This is not a matter of us choosing to impose punishment on the Iranians. This is a matter of the Iranian government, I think, ultimately betraying the interests of its own people by isolating it further.”

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WEST BANK: Israeli soldiers kill Hamas militant

Iyad Shilbayeh, 38, was asleep at his home in Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm Friday when he was awaken at the sound of heavy bounding at his front door.

“Who is there?” he shouted three times before he was quickly silenced by three bullets to the neck and chest.

According to Iyad’s brother, Muhammad, about 30 Israeli soldiers first came to his house in the camp at 2:30 in the morning local time. After questioning him for about 30 minutes, the soldiers ordered Muhammad to take them to Iyad’s house some 150 feet away.

“When we got to Iyad’s house, the soldiers ordered me to face the wall and keep quiet,” Muhammad said. The soldiers used a sledge hammer to knock down the front door to Iyad’s house.

“I heard Iyad yelling from inside three times ‘Who is there?’ Then I heard three shots and could not hear Iyad’s voice anymore. I called out Iyad’s name but the soldiers ordered me to be quiet,” he said.

Five minutes later, the soldiers appeared carrying Iyad’s body and took him away.

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ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responds to recent attacks

A rocket fired from Gaza on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, rockets fired from Sinai on Aqaba and Eilat, the Slipperyslope  Lebanese army opening fire on members of the Israeli Defense Forces along the border. The chain of seemingly unrelated recent trouble demonstrates the physics principle of connected vessels and how it applies to the Middle East. Efforts to resume direct Israeli talks with the Palestinians, the special tribunal for Lebanon and Iran's omnipresent nuclear program are bubbling away in the neighborhood cauldron that can spill in various directions when it boils over.

For the present, it suits most to contain things at a low simmer. Gaza and Lebanon are still smarting from previous wars with Israel, which hasn't entirely recovered publicly or diplomatically from the military misadventures either. Jordan and Egypt, Israel's neighbors in peace, need discreet industrial calm, each for their own reasons, and Israel too needs to conserve its energy for challenges around the corner, like the nearing end of the settlement freeze, which might entail a change in the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, are testifying next week before the Turkel commission investigating the events surrounding Israel's May 31 attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

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