Middle East US gets tough on Palestinian terrorism

US gets tough on Palestinian terrorism
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 13, 2017. (Photo: AP)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – The US has adopted a tough new policy on Palestinian terrorism judging from the statements of two senior State Department officials on Tuesday.

When Mahmud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), visited Washington last month, President Donald Trump told him that the PA had to stop "inciting terrorism," including making payments to the families of suicide bombers, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Subsequently, Tillerson had “a much more detailed bilateral [meeting] later that day” with Abbas where he told him “You absolutely must stop making payments to family members of ‘martyrs.’”

“It is one thing to help orphans and children,” Tillerson said to Abbas, “but when you designate payment for that act, that has to stop.”

Tillerson also explained to the Senate Committee that even with money donated for genuinely humanitarian purposes, such as rebuilding schools and hospitals, “there is always a lot of leakage.” The US is “working carefully with others” to address the problem, he said.

The PA pays for the electricity in Hamas-controlled Gaza. However, the PA recently cut the money it provides Israel for Gaza’s electricity. Consequently, Gaza’s already limited supply has been reduced by 40%. The PA blames Hamas for this situation.

Egypt has offered to provide electricity, if Hamas cooperates on security issues, including putting an end to weapons smuggling and extraditing some 17 men wanted on terrorism charges.

When asked about the sharp cut in Gaza’s supply of electricity, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed concern about the humanitarian situation there.

“We continue to underscore the need for international support for Gaza’s recovery and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.” However, she also affirmed “Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current situation.”

Michael Pregent, a senior Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, explained to Kurdistan24 that the Trump administration was applying “smart power to pressure political parties and governments that sponsor and support terrorist groups.”

“Both Qatar and the Palestinian Authority are feeling this pressure to back away from groups like Hamas,” Pregent said, adding that it is a “good thing.”

The press in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is aligned with Saudi Arabia in regional disputes, including against Qatar, carried a telling report recently on Hamas’ actions in Gaza.

As the UAE paper, The National, reported, the Secretary General of the local Red Crescent organization revealed on Monday how Hamas had betrayed his organization in 2014, during the most recent fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

This was the first time that Mohammed al-Falahi, head of the UAE’s Red Crescent, told the story.

As al-Falahi explained, his organization was distributing aid from a field hospital that the UAE had constructed in Gaza. But Hamas launched rockets from the hospital!

The Israelis hit back, as was to be expected.

“This shows their [Hamas’] wicked intentions and how they sacrificed us," al-Falahi said. “They always claim that the enemy targets humanitarian envoys, but the betrayal came from them.”

Perhaps, it is just coincidence that this story appears, as the Trump administration pushes its Arab allies to do much more to fight terrorism. Equally possible, however, is that it is one small outcome of the administration’s much more vigorous efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism.

 

Editing by G.H. Renaud