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Palestinian government quits
January 30, 2019
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RAMALLAH: The Palestinian government submitted its resignation Tuesday, a statement said, a move seen as a bid by president Mahmud Abbas to strengthen his position as a decade-old political split deepens.

Analysts view replacing prime minister Rami Hamdallah after five years as part of Abbas’s efforts to further isolate his political rivals Hamas, who run the Gaza Strip.

Hamdallah’s government will remain in place while a new administration is formed.

The new government is expected to be made up only of parties that are members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which does not include Hamas or its allies Islamic Jihad.

Hamas condemned the government’s resignation, saying Abbas was seeking to establish a “separatist government” to serve his interests.

“Our people need a national unity government,” spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement. Fatah officials said they had begun consultations regarding forming a new government, though no timeframe was announced.

Abbas has taken a series of punitive measures in recent years to try, in vain, to force Hamas to hand over the reins of power in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday asked the United Nations to deploy a permanent international force in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, after Israel announced it was suspending operations of an observer force that had been in the city of Hebron for more than 20 years.

The UN should “guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine” until “the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation,” said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat. Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war, and the Palestinian want both to be part of their future state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Monday it would not extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), saying “we will not allow the continuation of an international force that acts against us.”

TIPH has deployed unarmed civilian observers from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey in Hebron since 1997. They report on violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Hundreds of hard-line Jewish settlers guarded by thousands of soldiers live in the heart of the city, which has a population of over 200,000 Palestinians.

TIPH said they have yet to get an official request to leave, but the mayor of Hebron warned of dire consequences if they do.

Separately, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Tuesday appealed to nations to help it maintain a $1.2-billion budget in 2019 after it was hit last year by the withdrawal of US funding.

The organisation, known as UNRWA, was able to fully fund a budget of the same amount in 2018, despite a dramatic initial shortfall when the administration of US President Donald Trump announced it was withdrawing nearly all support.

“The campaign last year was successful,” agency chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told reporters in Geneva.

“We closed the entirety of the shortfall, which was an almost existential shortfall of $446 million,... thanks to the remarkable and generous mobilisation of member states” and others, he said.

The US, which was previously UNRWA’s largest contributor, last year cut a full $300 million in funding to UNRWA, and has said it will not repeat the $60 million it did provide.

In the void, the European Union, followed by Germany and Saudi Arabia were the biggest donors, with a total of 40 governments providing funds to the UN agency.

Agencies

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