- - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

GAZA STRIP

Hamas considers Gaza military draft

GAZA CITY | The top security official in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Tuesday he is considering setting up a bigger military force, first with volunteers and eventually with conscripts as well.

Such a step could further tighten Hamas‘ control of Gaza and deepen the rift with the group’s Western-backed rivals in the West Bank. Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007, wresting control from forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Currently, Hamas has a paid security force of about 18,000.

Interior Minister Fathi Hamad raised the idea of a broad-based force during the inauguration Tuesday of a new police building. He said his ministry is “open to the idea of voluntary recruitment and then going to conscription.” He gave no details.

Mr. Hamad’s spokesman, Ehab Ghussein, said the ministry currently is looking only at voluntary recruitment, not at a possible draft, and that the final decision would be up to the Hamas government.

“We deny that the Interior Ministry will impose a draft” on the residents of Gaza, Mr. Ghussein said in a statement.

A security official in Gaza said conscription would be too expensive because of the large number of potential recruits. More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are under age 18.

However, joining the security services for a limited period, with minimal pay and on a voluntary basis could benefit some of Gaza’s young men, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with reporters.

About one-third of the labor force is unemployed. Such a system would also give Hamas direct access to a wider segment of the population.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO recovers remains of missing U.S. sailor

KABUL | NATO said Tuesday the remains of a U.S. sailor had been recovered in Afghanistan and confirmed that a second was held captive, four days after the pair vanished in an area largely controlled by the Taliban.

The sailor’s remains were recovered Sunday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. The search for the second missing sailor is continuing in Logar province, south of Kabul.

“ISAF holds the captors accountable for the safety and proper treatment of our missing service member,” NATO said.

It marked the first time ISAF conceded the Americans had been held captive.

The two Navy sailors went missing late Friday after leaving a military compound in Kabul in an armored but unmarked vehicle, ISAF officials said.

TURKEY

Cameron visit focuses on Iran, Gaza

ANKARA | British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Turkey on Tuesday, saying the world needs Turkey’s help in pushing Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program and harshly criticizing Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla that killed nine Turkish activists.

Mr. Cameron, addressing Turkish businessmen, also declared that Britain was a staunch backer of Turkey’s troubled bid to join the European Union. The visit — coming early in his term — was a measure of Britain’s acknowledgment of Turkey as a critical ally in a conflict-prone region.

Mr. Cameron’s strong reference to the Turkish aid flotilla was likely to please his Turkish hosts, though he said an Israeli inquiry into the May 31 incident should be swift and transparent. Mr. Cameron later also backed Turkey’s demand for an international inquiry into the raid, saying a U.N.-led process is “right.”

“The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable,” Mr. Cameron said. In a reference to the Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory, he said: “Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Man to be whipped for drinking, driving

ABU DHABI | An Emirati was sentenced on Tuesday to 80 lashes, in addition to a fine of $7,084, for drunken-driving offenses, the National daily reported in its online edition.

The man, identified only as KHS, had crashed into another car on May 25 in Abu Dhabi. Traces of alcohol were found in his system when he was tested at a police station, the daily said.

He was convicted at the criminal court of a first instance of driving under the influence of alcohol, consumption and possession of alcohol, as well as violating public decency, sudden swerving and not abiding by traffic rules, the Abu Dhabi newspaper added.

Consumption of alcohol in the United Arab Emirates is officially allowed only for licensed non-Muslims. But in practice, everyone can consume alcohol at licensed hotels and clubs.

However, authorities apply a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to drinking and driving.

Whipping is a punishment derived from Islamic Shariah law, which is a major source for laws in the United Arab Emirates.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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