International aid pledged to new Palestinian government

The EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said the EU will resume direct aid to the Palestinian Autonomy to support Mahmoud Abbas' newly sworn-in emergency government. Western countries imposed the aid embargo after the Hamas movement refused to reco

Mr Solana's comments come after many countries have come out in support for the new government.

Thus Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert voiced his country’s readiness to co-operate with the new Palestinian government. He says Israel will release tax revenue collected on behalf of the Palestinian Autonomy that was previously withheld because of Hamas' presence in government.

“I promise the Palestinians that we will co-operate with the new Palestinian government, we will defreeze money that we kept under our control because we did not want this money to be taken by Hamas in order to be used as part of terrorist action,” stated the Israeli Prime Minister.

The United States also supported the new cabinet, promising to lift the 18-month-long embargo on international aid, which ruined the Palestinian Autonomy’s economy and intensified tensions between the rival factions.

The new Palestinian cabinet is headed by Salam Fayyad replacing the outgoing Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. The government comprises 11 ministers, the majority of whom are independent politicians not belonging to either Hamas or Fatah.

The move is hoped to stop the violence surge which claimed over 100 lives during the more than week-long battle for control over the Gaza Strip, which resulted in Hamas completely overtaking the area and driving the rival Fatah to the West Bank.

“I want to say a few words for the people in Gaza, and I say to them; you are in our hearts and our number one priority and still in our plans. (Despite) all these images, dark images of suffering and shame, which are far from our Palestinian traditions and the struggle which Gaza has endured for years, all the time under fire but strong and prevailing, the people of Gaza should remain united,” said Salam Fayyad.

Though, Hamas has condemned the new Palestinian government saying it violates the principles of democracy and the wishes of the Palestinian people.

But speaking on Rusiya Al-Yaum – Russia Today's sister channel, broadcasting in Arabic – political analyst Muhammad Abdel Hamid says that while Hamas has called Fatah's actions illegal, they also consider themselves above the law.

“Hamas has put itself above the law. The movement staged a military coup lead by parliament members elected in a democratic way. The have put the law aside. The interim Palestinian constitution has it that the head of the state is authorized to dismiss the government and also call a state of emergency. The government denies this law. Hamas has its own budget and its own military police for a long time. Following their victory in the parliamentary election Hamas refused to incorporate their institutions into the existing structures so that Palestine could have united power and the united army. The Israeli government put a blockade around Palestine. Their promises are mere words. We have to get back more than $US 7 MLN which have been stolen. Our nation has been impoverished and our infrastructure has been ruined. The Israeli government continues to carry out its aggressive raid every day. They break agreements, they ignore the law as well as the Quartet resolutions and the will of the international community. This blockade has made things even worse,” the political analyst says.

Meanwhile, over 100 Russian women are awaiting evacuation from the Gaza Strip. The only checkpoint on the border has been closed by Israel following clashes between Hamas and Fatah.

The head of the Russian mission in Palestine, Aleksey Pogodin, says the situation is further complicated by the fact that Israel treats the women family members as Palestinians even though they have Russian passports.  

“We have a list of 120 names of people who wish to leave the country. But there's another aspect here – it is not just Russian women with their children, but also their husbands, who, according to Russian law in act prior to 2002, had received Russian passports after marrying Russian citizens. We consider these men our citizens, but Israeli authorities see them as Palestinians, saying it does not matter what passports they have.  What it is now is a case of whom the Israelis will let leave,” explained Mr Pogodin. “Russian women say they won't leave their husbands behind. We had approximately the same situation last summer during the Israeli attack on Gaza territory. We had received about 100 applications, but as soon as applicants learned the Israeli government wouldn't allow their husbands to go with them, they stayed back and we only had 30 people eventually leaving”.

Russia says it fully supports Mahmoud Abbas' new emergency government.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mikhail Kamynin, says the new cabinet should take responsibility for the region now.

“Russia, together with the other members of the Middle East Quartet, supports the decision by the head of the Palestinian national administration, Mahmoud Abbas, to form a new government. We think that the new cabinet should immediately take all steps needed to ease the crisis, to improve the humanitarian situation and to start an inter-Palestinian dialogue which will include Hamas,” Mikhail Kamynin stressed.

Meantime Israel's Ambassador in Russia says the current situation in the Middle East shows that policy of dialogue with Hamas is wrong.

However, Tatyana Karasova from the Institute of Oriental Studies says failure of the talks shows that Hamas missed a chance to settle the crisis.

“Previous meetings between Russian officials and Hamas show that Russia has always been ready to use every means possible to settle the conflict peacefully. The Russian side tried to convince the political leaders of Hamas to accept the three international demands – to stop terrorist activity, to recognise the state of Israel and to honour all the previous agreements between the two sides. During the talks Moscow fully complied with the stance agreed by the Middle East Quartet. When no progress was achieved at those talks I think Hamas lost its opportunity to get peaceful control of the situation,” she explained.

However, Hamas is threatening to use force against those who abducted BBC journalist Alan Johnston if they don't release him by the end of Monday. Hamas says it is ready to use all means to preserve Mr Johnston's life and to free him.

Both Hamas and Fatah condemned Alan Johnston's abduction shortly after he was captured in March by a little-known group called Army of Islam.