Palestinian Authority PM leaves Gaza after reconciliation visit

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Gaza Strip — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah left the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day visit aimed at reconciliation with the Hamas group, an AFP journalist said.

Hamas agreed to hand over power to a unity government last month and Hamdallah’s visit, the first since 2015, saw his ministers take control of ministries in Gaza.

The move is part of wider attempts to end a decade-long split between the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza.

The two sides are set to meet for further talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Tuesday.

Before leaving on Thursday morning, Hamdallah and a number of his ministers visited the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, as well as a desalination plant.

He then left with his ministers through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, which is controlled by Israel, an AFP videographer said.

He is due to return to Ramallah in the West Bank where a meeting of senior members of Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority, will be held Thursday evening.

Hamas, in a statement, said: “The Gaza Strip and its ministries are under the administration of the national reconciliation government. Hamas will work to support and strengthen its role.”

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it seized it from the Palestinian Authority in a near civil war, and multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

One of the main stumbling blocks to reconciliation is likely to be Hamas’s armed wing, with senior officials rejecting the idea of disarming.

Two million people live in Gaza, which is blockaded by Israel and Egypt and suffers from poverty and electricity shortages.

Israel maintains the blockade is necessary in order to prevent arms from falling into the hands of the terror group that could be used to launch attacks on the Jewish state. afp

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Israel to ease holiday restrictions for Palestinians

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Israel on Friday (Oct 6) decided to ease restrictions on Palestinians entering during the Jewish Sukkot holiday, which began on Wednesday, the army said.

On Tuesday, the army said crossings from the West Bank and Gaza into Israel would be closed to Palestinians for 11 days until midnight on Oct 14.

But on Friday they decided those with pre-existing work permits would be allowed in “according to the needs of the market”, an army spokesman told AFP.

The decision applies to Palestinians working in agriculture and hospitals, according to media reports.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians work inside Israel, where they can find higher salaries.

Israel, which controls access to the Palestinian territories, regularly closes them off during Jewish holidays, citing security fears. But the closure announced on Tuesday was unusual in its length.

Israeli media saw it as a reaction to a Sept 26 attack at the entrance of a West Bank settlement in which three people were killed.

The Palestinian attacker, who was shot dead, had a permit to work inside the settlement and the incident raised fear of attacks during the holiday period.

Sukkot, which continues until Oct 12, commemorates the Jewish journey through the Sinai after their exodus from Egypt. This year, it is followed by a weekend.

The holiday sees thousands of worshippers head to the Wailing Wall, one of the holiest sites for Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem, to pray.

The location is close to Islam’s third holiest site, the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to the Jews as the Temple Mount, which was the focus of angry protests in July after Israeli forces limited access over the killing of two police officers.afp

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Shame and anti-Semitism. Kokorev Case is under EP’s control

 

On 28 September, a roundtable event titled Justice and the rule of law in the EU – the case of Vladimir Kokorev was held at the European Parliament in Brussels, under the patronage of Fulvio Martusciello, member of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and Chairman of the Delegation for EU-Israel relations.

The roundtable was attended by experts, journalists, lawyers as well as friends and family members of Vladimir Kokorev, a Spanish citizen of Russian-Jewish origin who have been kept at prison on the Canary Islands for two years now, with his wife and son.

The family were detained in Panama in September 2015 based on the international warrant issued by Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano of Las Palmas Court No 5, on suspicion of having laundered money on behalf of Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the President of Equatorial Guinea.

The Kokorevs have been in prison for 24 months despite documentary evidence of their innocence submitted by their defense and full transparency of their companies. The case was classified, which prevented their attorneys-at-law from getting access to case materials.

The case was declassified in February 2017, following an official inquiry from members of the European Parliament to Spanish regulatory authorities to clarify the factual background of the case. The attorneys-at-law were astonished to see that the prosecution failed to seize evidence of Kokorevs’ guilt not only for two years of their imprisonment but during the entire “investigation” since 2004.

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Spanish attorneys for Kokorev family believe that the bias in the investigation comes from political motivations, and a recent resolution of judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano on extending the pre-trial detention for two more years raises major concerns about her true motives.

Ilya Weisberg, Israeli attorney to Kokorev family, stated the case itself and investigation methods had nothing to do with legal practices, and pointed at a few major violations of the Spanish law.

Everyone was touched by an emotional speech delivered by Inna, Vladimir Kokorev’s niece, who arrived from Israel to take part at the roundtable. She gave us an interview and expressed her opinion on the judge’s resolution to prolong the period of detention for two more years:

“Around two months ago, the judge resolved to continue Kokorevs’ detention for another two years instead of closing the case and releasing them with apologies. Why? What is the reason? Does she want them to die in prison?

My uncle is 66 years old. He suffers from heart diseases. He had a heart attack and a stroke, and underwent surgery two years ago. We know he is barred from professional healthcare at prison, and his wife Yulia has health issues, too. Fortunately, their son Igor is sound but this is because of his young age. Igor, during his imprisonment, has become a father but, thus far, has been unable to see his young daughter who is 18 months old now.

I am not a judicial expert. Suppose, lawyers will tell you the unbiased information about the case. I just hope that you, dear members of parliament, are going to study the materials and give your fair opinion on the current situation on the case.

We used to count on Spanish justice two years ago. But now we cannot believe that a European court of today can be driven by some reasons other than law. Are they driven by the same reasons as the magistrates of the Canary Islands court who labeled all Russians as gangsters and Romanian women as prostitutes, in their private talks? The record of their conversation made the headlines and created a scandal in Spain but the involved judges escaped any prosecution. Is judge Ana Isabel de Vega Serrano who serves justice in the Canary Islands guided by the same reasons?

If my uncle were an Israeli citizen, Israel would stand up for him; however, Kokorev is a citizen of Spain, which ranks as the most anti-Semitic country in the European Union and where some judges still have the attitudes that were typical for the 15th century.

Spain proposes citizenship for Sephardic Jews whose ancestors were forced to flee from Spain 500 years ago. The applicants who can prove their Sephardic descent receive the Spanish passport. By doing this, Spain seeks to enhance its image of a European democratic country. I wish I knew how many people took advantage of that opportunity to claim Spanish citizenship and I want to give advice to those who are not sure whether to apply: Watch out for the country where you would be deprived of any rights and be made whipping boys at any time.

We are not going to accept the situation that our relatives are in prison for no fault of theirs, and we ask European bodies for help and support. Not only are the rights of a single family trampled underfoot on the Canaries, but the European values are also trampled, especially a human right to due process.”

A day before the roundtable in Brussels, it became known that Yulia, Kokorev’s wife, was reportedly released from the Las Palmas prison and that the amount of bail for Kokorev himself was cut down to €600 000, from €2 million. Their defense attorneys believe that even if the Kokorev family are finally released, they would resemble people placed under house arrest as they would be forbidden to leave the Canaries, and the islands would be a new big prison for them.

In his official statement on the results of the roundtable, Fulvio Martusciello said:

“As a member of European Parliament, I speak for justice and the supremacy of law. As chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Israel, I advocate the Jewish belief and legacy. This is my mission. And for both reasons, I am deeply concerned about the Kokorev Case.

It is not for us to decide if Mr. Kokorev is guilty or innocent of the charges against him. But what should concern us all is the fact that he, his wife and son are being denied justice and due process of law. Two years in detention without specific charges with the prospect of a further two years for no good reason is an affront to all that we Europeans believe in.

Being able to answer charges and defend oneself in court are the basic human rights. I am taking the case under special control and propose that the case be reviewed at a European Parliament session as part of the independent investigation.

We encourage and give our full support to Kokorev family’s defense attorneys in order to bring any relevant actions in this matter against Spain before the European Court of Human Rights, and place The Kokorev Case in the High Courts of Madrid. The treatment of Vladimir Kokorev is shameful, anti-Semitic and an affront to the basic values of the EU.”

 

 

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Qatari female jockey gallops into male-dominated world

 

A Qatari woman who created ripples by appearing on television without a headscarf has broken new ground as a jockey in the conservative Gulf country, where men usually hold the reins.

Maryam al-Subaiey has defied expectation and tradition — as well as any fear of controversy — to pursue her “dream” of racing horses, which even a nasty fall this year could not crush.

“I don’t have to do things that society expects from me as a woman,” Subaiey, 31, told AFP.

“I am expected to be a businesswoman and eventually get married and have kids.”

She adds: “But being a female athlete, this is not something that is considered Qatari.

“It’s just not expected. It’s very different.”

Racing against tradition

Subaiey’s dream came true on February 24 at Qatar’s pastoral Racing and Equestrian Club, a green oasis on the western fringes of the capital Doha.

There, on the undercard of an eight-race meeting, she took to the track for the very first time.

Subaiey didn’t win — she finished eleventh out of 14 runners in the “Thoroughbred Handicap” on her mount “Comedy Night.”

But more notable than her final position was the fact she competed at all.

 

Women have raced before in Qatar — indeed there was another non-Qatari female jockey in the same handicap and there are local media reports dating back to 2008 about a 14-year-old amateur riding at the equestrian club.

But although records are not conclusive, officials told AFP that Subaiey was the first ever Qatari female jockey to take part in such a ranking event.

“I still can’t believe that I am here,” she said immediately afterwards.

“The importance of my presence here isn’t just the fact that I am the first female Qatari jockey — I am here for all female Qataris and all female Khaleejis,” she said, referring to women from the Gulf.

Backlash

Her groundbreaking ride also took many in attendance by surprise.

“To be honest, I didn’t think there were female jockeys here,” said one Western racegoer.

Subaiey is well-known among some Qataris.

Last year, she appeared on France 24 Arabic television to discuss how Qatari women view their role in society.

Disaster strikes

As part of her training to become a jockey, Subaiey has trained with noted British jockey Steve Smith Eccles at his school in the British “racing capital,” Newmarket.

She was training hard for up to six hours a day.

However, disaster struck in her second race back home in March.

She fell from her horse, sustaining severe injuries, including a double fracture to her pelvis.

“My family was so devastated, but they know I am going to go back to racing. They know I am stubborn and they know I can never say no,” she said.

Subaiey plans to get back in the saddle and continue her training in Newmarket in October.

“If anything, more than ever before, I have something to prove.”afp

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Fired German soccer champions’ coach now teaching kids in Jerusalem

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Carlo Ancelotti is in Jerusalem coaching children for a coexistence group just days after being fired from Bayern Munich.

Asked about his dismissal by the German champion, Ancelotti said on Monday he “feels good.”

Ancelotti is training Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youth as part of Assist for Peace, a group trying to open a sports center in the Old City for kids of all religions and ethnicities.

Bayern fired Ancelotti as coach on Thursday, a day after losing to Paris Saint-Germain 3-0, its heaviest defeat in the Champions League group stage. But Ancelotti was on borrowed time from April when Real Madrid outclassed Bayern in the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

Hired after Pep Guardiola, Ancelotti’s less rigid ways began to grate on the team, whose senior players openly rebelled.afp

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Palestinians slam ‘false’ comments by US Israel envoy

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The US ambassador in Tel Aviv has angered Palestinians with a comment downplaying Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank, the second such spat in a month.

In a video interview with Israeli news site Walla, broadcast in full on Friday, ambassador David Friedman said the Jewish state is “only occupying two percent of the West Bank”.

It brought an angry response from Palestine Liberation Organisation secretary general Saeb Erekat after an excerpt from the interview was aired on Thursday evening.

“Israel is internationally recognised as the occupying power over 100 percent of Palestine, including in and around occupied east Jerusalem,” Erekat said.

He said Friedman’s latest comment was “not only false and misleading but contradicts international law, United Nations resolutions and also the historical US position”.

“It is not the first time that Mr David Friedman has exploited his position as US ambassador to advocate and validate the Israeli government’s policies of occupation and annexation,” Erekat added.

- Settler praise -

The Yesha Council, which represents settlers across the occupied West Bank, welcomed the ambassador’s comments.

“Ambassador Friedman should be commended for using facts to describe the reality” in the West Bank, it said in a statement.

It said that the area taken up by settlements and their roads totalled less than two percent of the ground, but it did not refer to the military occupation which covers the entire territory.

Early in September, Friedman caused a stir when in an interview with the Jerusalem Post he referred to the “alleged occupation”.

A US official told AFP then that the ambassador’s comment “does not represent a shift in US policy”.

This time too, the State Department appeared to distance itself from its envoy.

“His comments… should not be read as a way to prejudge the outcome of any negotiation that the US would have with Israel and the Palestinians,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

“It should not be read as a change in US policy.”

Israel occupied the West Bank in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognised by the international community.

More than 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the territory which are regarded as illegal by most of the international community.

US President Donald Trump is seeking to restart frozen peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Friedman said the president remained committed to a peace agreement but had not set any formal timeframe.

“I would expect (a deal) within months,” he said. “But we’re not going to limit ourselves to any hard deadline. We’re trying to get it done right, not done fast.”

The Palestinians have grown increasingly concerned by Trump and his team — including Friedman — who have yet to publicly commit to the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called “two-state solution.”

“I think that phrase has lost its meaning,” Friedman told Walla. “It means different things to different people.”

Asked by the interviewer what the phrase meant to him, Friedman replied, “I’m not sure. I’m not focusing on labels I’m focusing on solutions.”afp

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