The Gaza Gas Fields: A Factor in Washington’s Anti-Hamas Violence

August 2nd, 2007 - by admin

Genevieve Cora Fraser / The Peoples’ Voice & Walid Khadduri / Al Hayat – 2007-08-02 22:20:56

Gaza’s Gas Reserves and the
US-Israel-Sponsored “Palestinian Civil War” Tragedy

Genevieve Cora Fraser / The Peoples’ Voice

His name is Ibrahim. He is a Muslim and the 34-year-old Palestinian husband of an American, a Christian minister, Reverend Dr. Mary Ethridge, DTh, who is several years his senior. Their marriage took place by “power of attorney” because he was never able to come to her, or she to him. Mary calls him her heart, and Ibrahim calls her his soul. They shared a dream.

Until recently, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Majayda was the director of the American Cultural Center in Gaza City. “But now Ibrahim’s life is at stake because of the Center and his relationship to me,” Mary wrote me. She asked if I could petition government officials and write an article to help get Ibrahim out of Gaza to safety.

The American Cultural Center was Rev. Ethridge’s private project, funded from her own pocket. “Ibrahim was teaching English there and offering help for students and others who needed English for paperwork, letters, etc. And we were very slowly adding books to an English language library. And there had been computers there that were available to do research and contact universities,” she explained.

“But I had always planned to go there. And we had planned to work for peace and keep the center open for the benefit of the Palestinian people. I just did this for the love of the Palestinian people. I’m not rich, so it was proceeding slowly, but it was growing.” But since Hamas’ military victory over Fatah in Gaza, Ibrahim has been attempting to leave.

It was widely known that the CIA was involved in the unrest. The US, their Western allies, and Israel had successfully boycotted, sealed off, and starved Gaza since the Palestinian election in January 2006. And along with non-stop military assaults by Israeli Occupation Forces, the US and Israel have been funding, arming, and training Fatah to take on and destroy the popularly elected Hamas government.

For years, Mary received news on conditions in Gaza from her husband which she would relay to friends. “They are getting ready to spend $83,000,000 to support Fatah against Hamas,” Mary wrote in May. “They are helping support a training camp in Jordan for a group that can also help Fatah. That really means they are supporting and promoting civil war. The factions in Palestine are working hard to stop that. Fatah keeps denying they have received things but Israel announces what they send in and keep it stirred up.”

“They (the people of Gaza) are tired of all the corruption and really tired of the Gaza strong-man who walks next to the president everywhere and has been placed over security — Mohammed Dahlan. Dahlan has one hundred, 5-man death squads that rule Gaza, and he is well and rightfully hated and feared. He rewards his men with things like jeeps for jobs well done. A few years ago he was broke, now he is called a billionaire, but I have no knowledge how accurate that might be.”

Recently Dahlan, who is blamed by Abbas and his backers — the US and Israel — for Fatah’s defeat in Gaza, resigned his position as national security advisor to the Palestinian president.

Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada also warned his readers early on that “elements of the leadership of the long-dominant Fatah movement, including Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors had been conspiring with Israel, the United States and the intelligence services of several Arab states to overthrow and weaken Hamas.”

“This support has included funneling weapons and tens of millions of dollars to unaccountable militias, particularly the ‘Preventive Security Force’ headed by Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan, a close ally of Israel and the United States and the Abbas-affiliated ‘Presidential Guard.’ US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams — who helped divert money to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s and who was convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal — has spearheaded the effort to set up these Palestinian Contras,” Abunimah asserted.

Currently, Abrams is in charge of the ironically-named US Global Democracy Strategy that appears more intent on crushing the will of the people throughout oil and gas-rich regions than promoting it. As a result of the “Democracy Strategy” as it has played out in Palestine, the democratically-elected Hamas has been put in a position of kill or be killed, and any suspected collaborators might be subjected to torture and death. Despite Hamas’ violent overthrow of Fatah forces, former US President Jimmy Carter recently labeled the US policy toward Hamas as “criminal.”

But Palestine is not an oil or gas rich region, the public believes. Think again!! There is a large natural gas field off the coast of Gaza, and its 1.3 million population is systematically starved, subjugated to non-stop military assault, marginalized, and many liquidated for a reason. Israel intends to retain iron-clad control over this resource, judging from its policies. Gaza has been deliberately separated from the West Bank. Might this be because the legitimacy of Israel’s claims will be under-minded if the two territories remain governed as one — as Palestine?

One year ago, on 18 June 2006, Ha’aretz reported, “British Gas (BG) is likely to resume negotiations soon with Israel over natural gas supplies from its reserves off the Gaza coast. The subject was raised during talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.”

According to Ha’aretz, “BG has a joint franchise in the Gaza Marine gas field off the Gaza coast, which contains some 37 billion cubic meters of gas, with the Palestinian Authority, which has a 10 percent stake, and CCC (30 percent), which is owned by the Lebanese Khoury family. Lately, BG signed a memorandum with Egyptian company EGAS, which states that natural gas will be transferred from Gaza to Egypt, and from there, in liquefied form, to the U.S. However, senior Egyptian government figures have agreed that BG renew contacts with Israel, despite the signing of the memorandum.”

“BG ended its operations in Israel due to opposition by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, (who) was concerned that money paid by Israel to the PA would find its way to terrorist organizations.” Or as Jake Bower reported for the Electronic Intifada a month later, Hamas is holding the “Israeli” gas reserves hostage!

More recently, the Gulf Times reported (27 June 2007), “The Palestinian Hamas movement, which seized control of the Gaza Strip this month, intends to ask for changes in an agreement with BG Group, giving it a bigger slice of the proceeds from a pending natural-gas deal with Israel.

‘It is unreasonable that the owner of the gas, Palestine, gets 10% only,’ Mohamed al-Madhoun, the director of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya’s office, told the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas website. ‘The (Palestinian) government has no problem co-operating with the British gas company but only after modifying some points of the 1999 contract.’” No wonder former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been appointed Middle East Envoy! Britain has much to loose if the region isn’t secured. Perhaps he’ll do for Palestine what he has done for Iraq!!

As far back as January, Mary tried to sound the alarm. “My husband was ok when he left a message for me on the 13th… It is hard keeping contact at the current time. There has been so much unrest and infighting in Gaza that it has been extra hard. His cousin was kidnapped and he was part of the group who hunted for him and got him back. There are a lot of hard feelings on every side. The stress is very hard on the people there and that is adding to the problems.”

Ibrahim had volunteered to work with the negotiations team whenever Egypt was involved. But he had been having a back problem from an old injury. X-rays showed there was a splinter or sliver of broken vertebrae poking him. He needed emergency surgery that could not be performed in Gaza, so along with raising the $35,000 needed, he traveled to Jerusalem for the surgery which was performed by Israeli doctors. Shortly after returning, things began to heat up.

“He has about 30,000 clan and family members who have made him their leader and representative with the government. They have moved him into a home in the middle of their refugee camp where they can guard him (somewhat) hoping he will eventually be in their government. They sent several hundred representatives to him initially to ask him and then they came one day and announced he was being moved. They trust him for being honest and loving Palestine.”

But despite clan and family support, Ibrahim was concerned that the situation was irresolvable. He felt it would be easier to help family and friends if he were no longer in Gaza. “We are still working on ways to bring my husband here,” Mary wrote. “He would like to get into teaching languages if possible. He is fluent in Arabic, Farsi, French and Spanish as well as English which he has been teaching in Palestine, and he is conversant in several other Middle Eastern languages. I am always a bit afraid he is not ok when I do not hear from him for several days but there is nothing we can do about that.”

As the Director of the American Cultural Center, during the chaos of the Hamas-Fatah pitched battles, Ibrahim was feared to be an American-Israeli collaborator. His recent trip to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem added to the suspicion. To make matters worse, Ibrahim’s family has many ties to Fatah and the PLO through blood. Brig. Gen. Abdel Razeq el Majayda who was Chief of Staff in the West Bank and Gaza Strip under the Palestinian National Authority is a close relative on his father’s side.

Following the Hamas takeover, Mary wrote, “I am doing what I can about getting him out but the internal check points stop everyone from getting to the borders.” In describing the internal chaos, Mary explained that one of her friend’s sons was recently kidnapped to force the father to buy guns, but he has no money. “The son was returned but the demand still stands for money and weapons.” She still fears that there is nothing we can do from the outside other than writing and contacting embassies.

“My husband said he could get out IF he had $2000 and then travel money. The threat for all there is death… and it is threatened frequently and there are still killings going on. There are many government papers also. They are not good for the Fatah people left inside.”

Ibrahim’s father retired from government service last year. He was an emergency hospital administrator in charge of triage units set up where ever there was a sudden need. Mostly they cleaned up after Israeli bombings, incursions and sniper attacks. His mother had operated a sewing factory which closed several years ago. According to Mary, Ibrahim has hated the corruption and tried to get both sides to care for the people.

The couple often communicates via internet instant messaging. During the fighting, Ibrahim’s messages grew increasingly desperate.

Ibrahim: “Hi, Mariam.”

Mary: “Good to see you online. How are you doing? What is happening now?”

Ibrahim: “Shit is happening. They stopped me in the street today — told me they have files against me — and soon I’m gonna be in their court.”

Mary: “Wow. Hamas said that? In court for what?”

Ibrahim: “Do not ask. They have a lot of charges to stick over ppl ass.”

Mary: “There are some who are being allowed to go to the West Bank to get away from there. I guess not everyone is going to West Bank but some are being allowed out.”

Ibrahim: “Not really. Whomever could pass to border passed, but now f— Hamas ppl made many check points on the roads.”

Mary: “Yes, they learned well.”

Ibrahim: “I discovered a very serious problem today after what happened — They stole my passport.”

Mary: “When they robbed your house?”

Ibrahim: “Yes.”

Mary: “Was it made from Gaza?”

Ibrahim: “Yes. It was legal. Now any (passport) made in Gaza is not acceptable all over the world.”

Mary: “It was but not now, according to the news I have been reading. As of now it is nothing.”

Ibrahim: “My father is here. He refused to go home and insisted to stay with me. Like he can do anything if they come for me.”

Mary: “Please tell your Dad, Asalamu Alaykum for me. I worry for all of you. Lol. He is a father. I understand that.”

Ibrahim: “Damn it Mary. They will kill me. I know it now.”

Mary: “Is there any way to contact the government in the West
Bank to help to pass the border?”

Ibrahim: “What help?” Nobody can pass Hamas check points but the foreigners.”

Mary: “If there is permission to pass you can get out…. but to get to the border is the big problem before that I guess – yes — bus loads of foreigners have left.”

Ibrahim: “I do not know what to do. For the first time in my life I am real scared.”

Mary: “I do not know what to say. Since they know you already and have your passport… I could try to contact the West Bank and Egypt to help.
Is the website from the center still up? That is a good proof.”

Ibrahim: “Its down.”

Mary: “OK but what was it?”

Ibrahim: “They destroyed the company who publish it. was for TOEFL STUDY AND TESTS. It was for exchange youth, English issues and books for free.”

Mary: (Regarding the embassies) Do I tell (them) we have talked or ask them to contact you? Do I tell you were picked up and questioned? Do I tell you were robbed? Do I tell you have been threatened to go to court there?”

Ibrahim: “Tell everything. I was kidnapped, stolen (from), threatened…

Mary: “Full name — Al Majayda — date of birth?

Ibrahim: “Alright. Ibrahim Mohammed Al Majayda. I feel so down and bad. I go for now. I can not sit even.

Mary: “Are you eating anything? Drinking enough water?”

Ibrahim: “Yes I ate. Its just nervous. I love u thank you — by the way — you can tell your friends to write what happened with me now. Let the world see how they treat the international originations in Gaza under Hamas shadow. They closed it (the center) last Thursday. You can tell that Hamas kidnapped the manager of the American Cultural Center in Gaza and (robbed) all he has. They closed (the center) and destroyed it. Concentrate about what Hamas has done to the center please. It was in the U.N street behind the president house, Rimal, Gaza City.”

Mary: “When they took you … it was from your home…”

Ibrahim: Yes. They shot my main gate. It was 4 pm — in Khan Younis.

Mary: I’m glad you were home and not alone.

Ibrahim: “Everybody was home. They shot the door — then broke it — then came inside all masked and has that thing in the head saying they are
Hamas forces.

Mary: “OK a head band.”

Ibrahim: “then they took me under weapons threat outside.”

Mary: “What color is it?”

Ibrahim: “Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen. They are Hamas.”

Mary: “And the writing color?”

Ibrahim: “White.”

Mary: “OK. They took you outside?”

Ibrahim: “At gunpoint. Then they stole everything valued in my house. They took my car and used it in their military work and after 5 hours — they told me go now and later we will bring you again and if you mention that we took anything we stole then we gonna shoot you in your legs. They stole my licensed gun and when I said its licensed to the American Center — they said f— you and America and bosh (Bush). They stole my cell phones also and used them to call their members. Never forget they stole all my money and my PASSPORT.”

Mary: “Yes that is important.”

Ibrahim: “They destroyed many things in my house and made it real messy — and a lot of my papers. They took every valued thing.”

Mary: “OK.”

Ibrahim: “Mary. I count on you now — on my life.”

Mary: “I’ll find a way.”

Mary wrote to her friends, “He is still the center of all me attention. I work and go through the motions of living but he is always in my thoughts — wanting his advice on simple everyday things. When we can talk I do ask him many times for his advice and he gives it wisely. He talks and thinks about the future for my children as his children. The more I see into his heart and soul the more I care about him. He is a sweet wonderful person but living in hard times in a hard place.

Recently, Ibrahim wrote, “OK Mariam. Talk to whomever — see whomever. I am locked in Gaza — I will be killed any time — I mean it. Bad things keep happen(ing) to me.

The Conflict in Palestine and its Repercussions on Gaza Gas Export to Israel
Walid Khadduri / Al Hayat

BEIRUT (July 2, 2007) — Natural gas production and export in the Mediterranean waters off of the coast of Gaza strip bring an added dimension to the ongoing conflict between Fatah and Hamas over the political control of the strip.

The Gaza marine field was discovered in the late 90’s by the British Gas company BG Group, but its development was belated on account of the political complications and issues related to the Palestinian cause and the Israeli debate on the safety of gas installations from an Arabic source.

Upon the discovery of the gas field (with its estimated one trillion cu ft of gas reserves), Israel claimed that it extends to its regional waters; therefore it demanded its share in it, to co-develop it and to divide its gains with the Palestinian party. However, the geographical coordinates proved that it was entirely inside the Palestinian waters, thus rebuffing the Israeli claim.

Afterwards, the British BG began studying the possibilities of exporting the Palestinian gas to the nearby Israeli market (since Israel in particular lacks gas reserves and is trying to change fuel in its power stations from coal to gas, while according to MEES, its 2006 production of natural gas from a maritime field in its regional waters did not surpass 223 million cubic feet) in addition to providing fuel to the Gaza power station.

The preliminary negotiations between the British company and the Israeli infrastructure ministry were unsuccessful, due to political reasons (the second intifada and the necessary guarantees to constantly secure the pipelines) and to a disagreement over the costs. BG refused a primary Israeli offer of 3.10 $ per MBTU, taxing it as a non-commercial, very low price considering the worldwide rise in oil and gas prices. Instead, it decided to turn to the Egyptian market, where it exports liquefied gas from Idku, and supply it with additional quantities of gas.

Following strenuous negotiations, the Israeli cabinet headed by Ehud Olmert agreed, by a majority of 21 votes against 3 on 29 April 2007, to import Gaza’s marine gas for a higher price than initially offered, i.e. 4.50$ per MBTU, according to MEES.

Despite the official agreement, the signing ceremony still has not been organized between BG and the Israeli ministry of power, which plans to import 1.6 billion cu m of Palestinian gas yearly for 15 years, while the gas is supposed to reach the Israeli company’s warehouses in Ashdod through a sea pipeline by 2011 at the latest.

According to the London Times, the deal with Israel is estimated at around 4 billion dollars. If signed and executed, it is expected to provide the Palestinian National Authority with around 100 million dollars per year in royalties for its share in the project. The overall value of exports from Gaza to Israel is around 360 million dollars yearly, while exports from Israel to the Gaza strip reach 750 million dollars per year, as published in Yedioth Ahronoth, according to the Institute of Palestine Studies’ bulletin on excerpts from Hebrew newspapers.

There are many questions on the serious signing of the commercial contract, especially after Hamas’ military coup in the Gaza Strip. Will the Israeli government accept to deal with it instead of the Palestinian national authority, or will it continue to deal with the national authority in Ramallah?

How will Hamas react to this policy in Gaza? Will it accept the agreements reached by the Palestinian, Israeli and British parties so far? It is noteworthy that under the government of national unity, presided by Haniya and following the Mecca agreement, neither the prime minister nor the Hamas movement made any public objections to the project or the ongoing negotiations to put the final touches to the commercial agreement.

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