Dignitaries gather in Kurd city for Iraq ex-president’s funeral

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, attends a ceremony at the airport in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah following the arrival of Iraqi ex-president Jalal Talabani’s coffin on October 6, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Dignitaries gather in Kurd city for Iraq ex-president’s funeral

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi Kurdish leaders were joined by representatives of the Baghdad government Friday for the funeral of Iraqi ex-president Jalal Talabani, a veteran of the struggle for Kurdish self-rule, an AFP journalist reported.
Talabani died in Germany on Tuesday aged 83, barely a week after an Iraqi Kurdish vote for independence sparked a crisis in the autonomous Kurdish region’s relations with Baghdad.
His body was flown home from Germany to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, his longtime fiefdom, where a red carpet and a guard of honor awaited on the tarmac.
During a decades-long political career, Talabani was a key figure in Iraqi Kurdish politics before becoming Iraq’s first federal president of Kurdish origin from 2005 to 2014.
As Talabani’s widow Hero and sons stepped off the plane, Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, a longtime rival, and prime minister Nechirvan Barzani awaited the coffin.
Iraqi President Fuad Massum, also a Kurd, Interior Minister Qassem Al-Araji, a Shiite, and parliament speaker Salim Al-Juburi, a Sunni Arab, represented the Baghdad government.
They were joined by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as well as Kurdish representatives from Iran, Syria and Turkey.
The dignitaries placed wreathes on Talabani’s coffin, which was draped in the red, white, green and yellow colors of the Kurdish flag, as the Iraqi national anthem and then the Kurdish anthem was played.
The coffin was then taken to the city’s grand mosque.
In Sulaimaniyah, Talabani was known affectionately as Mam (Uncle) Jalal.
Earlier this week, Barzani said he had lost “a friend and a brother” and announced a week of mourning during which Kurdish flags would be flown at half-mast.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, a fierce opponent of last week’s referendum, hailed Talabani for his role in “building a federal Iraq.”
Talabani “described Iraq as a bouquet made up of several flowers,” he said, referring to the country’s different communities.
Talabani’s death, following a decades-old struggle for Kurdish statehood, came after Iraq’s Kurds voted 92.7 percent in favor of independence in the September 25 referendum.
The vote was rejected as illegal by the federal government in Baghdad as well as by Iraq’s neighbors.
Baghdad retaliated last week by banning all international flights in and out of the Kurdish autonomous region except for humanitarian cases.


Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

Updated 19 July 2018
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Israeli air strike kills Hamas man in Gaza

GAZA: An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed a member of the militant Hamas group on Thursday and wounded three others, Hamas sources and medical officials said.
The Israeli military confirmed it had carried out an air strike targeting Hamas militants who were about to launch balloons rigged with flammable material over the border into Israel.
Hamas sources said the casualties were security men working at an observation post near Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Fires caused by incendiary helium balloons and kites launched by Palestinians in Gaza have ravaged tracts of farmland in Israel in recent months. Israel has vowed to stop the attacks, even at the risk of wider conflict.
Weekly clashes at the Israel-Gaza border have kept tensions at a high for months. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during protests at the frontier held every week since March.
Israel says Hamas has been orchestrating the demonstrations, dubbed The Great March of Return, to provide cover for militants' cross-border attacks. Hamas denies this.
Cross-border violence surged on Saturday when Palestinian militants fired more than 100 rockets into Israel and the Israeli military carried out dozens of air strikes in the Hamas-ruled enclave.