IS militants destroy ancient mosque in Mosul

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Updated 25 July 2014
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IS militants destroy ancient mosque in Mosul

BAGHDAD: Islamic extremist militants blew up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, on Thursday, residents of the city said.
The residents said the Islamic State militants, who overran Mosul in June and imposed their harsh interpretation of Islamic law on the city, first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younes, or Jonah, then blew it up.
The mosque was built on an archaeological site dating back to 8th century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an is swallowed by a whale.
It was renovated in the 1990s under Iraq’s late dictator Saddam Hussein and until the recent militant blitz that engulfed Mosul, remained a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world.
Several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast, said the residents, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared for their own safety.
The residents told The Associated Press that the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy, not prayer. The extremists also blew up another mosque nearby on Thursday, Imam Aoun Bin Al-Hassan mosque, they said.
The attack came hours after Iraqi lawmakers elected veteran Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum as the nation’s new president, as they struggle to form a new government amid the militant blitz that has engulfed much of northern and western Iraq.
Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops amid the blitz offensive last month by Al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State group that captured large swaths of land in the country’s west and north, including Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul. The militants have also seized a huge chunk of territory straddling the Iraq-Syria border, and have declared a self-styled caliphate in the territory they control.


Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

Updated 20 June 2018
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Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.