Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas orders release of Hamas woman prisoner

Palestinian Tamam Abu Suud is greeted by her family after her release from jail in Nablus. Abbas on Wednesday ordered the release of Abu Suud, jailed over her alleged ties to a political murder plot, security sources said.

Jan 20 (KATAKAMI.COM / FRANCE 24 / AFP ) — Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday ordered the release of a Hamas woman jailed over her alleged ties to a political murder plot, security sources said.

Abbas “decided to free Tamam Abu Suud in response to her request to be released and pardoned,” a Palestinian Authority security source told AFP.

Abu Suud was arrested in November in connection with what Abbas’s security forces said was an alleged plot by the Islamist movement Hamas to assassinate the governor of Nablus, Jibrin al-Bakri. She was never charged.

“Her release was agreed after Abu Suud admitted preparing plans targeting Palestinian national institutions and leaders as part of a Hamas cell,” the source said.

She was freed on Wednesday afternoon.

Her release was a humanitarian gesture, the source said, while warning Hamas “against the exploitation of Palestinian women and children to carry out its agenda which targets national interests and principles.”

Abu Suud, 52, thanked Abbas during a press conference with the governor she was accused of trying to help kill.

“I thank president Abu Mazen, who generously took the decision to free me even though I was accused and should have been tried,” she said, using Abbas’s nom-de-guerre.

“I offer my apologies to the Palestinian people and to the governor,” she added, flanked by Bakri.

Abu Suud, who preaches to Muslim women in the northern West Bank town of Nablus, called on the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, “to reconcile with the Fatah brothers so we can live in peace.”

Bakri accused Hamas of having “abused” Abu Suud “in the name of religion.”

“We call on Hamas to stop their destructive plans, which exacerbate divisions,” he said.

In November, Palestinian Authority officials said a number of suspects from Hamas had been arrested in connection with the plot, in a charge strongly denied by the rival faction which rules Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah are bitter opponents which have carried out periodic arrests of each other’s members, often holding detainees without charge or trial and routinely trading allegations of prisoner abuse.

Their ties have been tense for several years. But resentment boiled over after Hamas won elections in 2006 and, a year later, seized control of the Gaza Strip after deadly streetfighting with Fatah.

Since then, the Palestinian territories have been effectively split in two, with Abbas’s rule confined to the West Bank. The parties held reconciliation talks last September and November but without any progress.

Relations were further frayed after the revelation in leaked US diplomatic cables that Fatah had urged Israel to attack Hamas in 2007.  (*)

Egypt’s Islamists Call on Mubarak to Dissolve Parliament

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attends the opening session of the Arab League Second Economic Forum, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih


Jan 20 (KATAKAMI / VOA) — Egypt’s largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, has demanded that President Hosni Mubarak dissolve the country’s newly elected parliament and hold fresh elections, a move that appears to mirror the demands for change sparked by Tunisia’s popular uprising.

In a statement posted on its website Wednesday, the Brotherhood called the Tunisian upheaval “a cornerstone for the rest of the Arab and Islamic world.” It said the revolt sends a message to “all despotic leaders and corrupt regimes that they are not safe.”
The Islamist group called for an end to Egypt’s 30-year-old emergency law that bans political rallies and demanded sweeping constitutional amendments to allow free and fair presidential elections.

The Brotherhood also urged Egypt’s government to fight graft and put corrupt officials on trial, warning that if it does not move fast “stability might not last for long.”

The group failed to win a single seat in last year’s elections after taking home a fifth of the parliamentary seats five years earlier. The Brotherhood – which is banned but runs candidates as independents – and other opposition parties say the vote was rigged.

Opposition movements elsewhere in the region have also seized on events in Tunisia.

The Jordanian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood Tuesday demanded King Abdullah II dissolve that country’s parliament and remove Prime Minister Samir Rifai’s government, saying it has failed to implement needed political and economic reforms.

Islamic Action Front leader Hamza Mansour said elections held November 9 were marred by fraud. In a protest Sunday, thousands of Jordanians called for the downfall of the government, pointing to Tunisia as an example.

The political pressure has been accompanied by a wave of self-immolation protests throughout north Africa.

This week, four Egyptian men attempted to set themselves on fire. One of the men died Tuesday from severe burns. Other recent acts of self-immolation or attempted burnings have been reported in Algeria and Mauritania.

The desperate protests appear to be copying last month’s fatal self-immolation of a 26-year-old unemployed university graduate in Tunisia that triggered widespread riots over unemployment, high food prices and the country’s authoritarian government.

The resulting upheaval forced Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to flee abroad last Friday, amid calls for his resignation.  (*)

UN : Middle East Talks Deadlocked

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe (file photo)

Jan 20 (KATAKAMI.COM / VOA) — A senior United Nations official says Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are deadlocked, adding that Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank continues to undermine trust.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, told the U.N. Security Council that he is seriously concerned at the continuing lack of progress in the search for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. He warned that peace and Palestinian statehood cannot be further delayed. Pascoe was critical of Israeli settlement activity.

“Further settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues to undermine trust and prejudices final status discussions,” said Pascoe. “The sharp increase in Israeli settlement construction activity recorded at the end of the settlement moratorium on 26 September 2010 has continued, with construction work beginning on up to 2,000 units in the West Bank since that time.”

Pascoe called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity. He also condemned what he called the indiscriminate firing of projectiles towards Israeli civilian areas by Palestinian militants.  (*)

The U.N. official spoke during a Security Council discussion of the situation in the Middle East. Lebanon has drafted a Security Council resolution, reportedly co-sponsored by more than 120 other countries that would declare the Israeli settlements illegal. However, the representative of the United States, Rosemary DiCarlo, said the U.S. does not believe a resolution on Israel’s settlements would be helpful.

“As we have consistently said, permanent-status issues can be resolved only through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the Security Council,” said DiCarlo. “We therefore consistently oppose attempts to take these issues to this Council and will continue to do so, because such action moves us no closer to the goal of a negotiated final settlement. Rather, we believe it would only complicate efforts to achieve that goal.”

The U.S. representative, in her remarks to the Security Council, urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to good-faith, direct negotiations. She also said that continued settlement expansion is corrosive, not only to peace efforts and the two-state solution, but to Israel’s future itself.

Riyad Mansour, the representative of the Palestinian Authority, called on the Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities and said Israel must be compelled to cease all settlement activities in the Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

Israeli representatives did not participate in the Security Council’s discussions because of a labor dispute in Israel involving its foreign service employees.


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