Fatah calls for protests against Pence's Jerusalem visit

A Palestinian woman and child bid farewell through the window of a bus in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza strip on Saturday prior to their departure for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. (AFP)
Updated 16 December 2017
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Fatah calls for protests against Pence's Jerusalem visit

RAMALLAH: The Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday called for demonstrations next week when US Vice President Mike Pence visits Jerusalem, after Washington’s policy shift on the holy city.
Breaking with decades with US policy, President Donald Trump announced on Dec. 6 his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he would move the US Embassy to the city.
The move has stirred global condemnation and sparked angry protests across Arab and Muslim countries, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied territories between Palestinians and Israeli forces.
It also prompted Abbas to cancel a meeting with Pence, who arrives Wednesday in Jerusalem, and warn that Washington no longer had a role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Fatah called for a day of “protests” on Wednesday near Jerusalem and the Old City “against the visit of the American vice president and Trump’s decision” to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a statement said.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the most controversial issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.
The call to protest came as thousands of Palestinians took part in funerals for two of four men killed Friday in clashes with Israeli forces during protests in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
Mourners chanted anti-Trump slogans and masked men fired into the air during one of the ceremonies in the village of Beit Ula, located between Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
Funerals were also held for the two other Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, where the enclave’s Hamas rulers had on Friday called for a “day of rage.”
Meanwhile, Egypt opened its largely sealed border with Gaza on Saturday for only the second time since the Palestinian Authority took control of the crossing from Hamas.
The Hamas-run Interior Ministry, which was organizing departures from the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis, said the crossing would stay open for four days but, in the Egypt direction, for humanitarian cases only.
Those include people needing medical treatment unavailable in Gaza as well as students enrolled at Egyptian universities and Gazans with jobs abroad.
There were tearful scenes at the makeshift departure point as families said their farewells.
Rafah is Gaza’s only border crossing not controlled by Israel.
Hamas handed control of the Gaza side to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority on Nov. 1 as the first part of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal designed to end a bitter decade-long split.
That was supposed to have been followed by the handover of full civil control in Gaza by Dec. 1.
But the target date was missed amid differences over the future of tens of thousands of civil servants recruited by Hamas since it seized control of the territory in 2007.
Egypt opened the border for three days last month — the first time it had done so since the reconciliation deal.
Prior to that, the crossing had been open for just 14 days this year, according to the Hamas-run Interior Ministry.
Up to 20,000 Gazans have applied to enter Egypt, far more than are able to cross during the brief openings.
Some 200 people passed through on Saturday morning, 10 of them medical cases, the ministry said.
Both Israel and Egypt have maintained blockades of Gaza for years, arguing that they are necessary to isolate Hamas.


Amnesty says Daesh group decimated rural Iraq

Updated 42 min 12 sec ago
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Amnesty says Daesh group decimated rural Iraq

  • Amnesty reported Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards, sabotaged wells and stole or destroyed vital farming equipment
  • The extremists seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014

BAGHDAD: The Daesh group’s deliberate destruction of agriculture in northern Iraq has hindered the return of hundreds of thousands of residents, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
The New York-based rights group said Daesh fighters burnt or chopped down orchards and sabotaged wells by filling them with rubble, oil or other materials. The militants also stole or destroyed pumps, cables, generators, transformers and vital electricity lines.
Amnesty called on the Iraqi government to repair rural infrastructure and compensate the displaced so they can return to their homes.
Daesh seized control of much of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. US-backed Iraqi forces gradually drove the militants from all the territory under their control, declaring victory a year ago after a costly campaign that destroyed entire neighborhoods and towns.
“The damage to Iraq’s countryside is as far-reaching as the urban destruction, but the consequences of the conflict on Iraq’s rural residents are being largely forgotten,” said Richard Pearshouse, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty.
He said the report focuses on the “deliberate, wanton destruction” around the area of Sinjar, where the extremists massacred and enslaved thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority. About half of Sinjar’s residents have returned, with many others saying they have nothing to go back to.
Beyond Sinjar, Amnesty’s report gave sobering figures for all of Iraq.
“The conflict against IS eviscerated Iraq’s agricultural production, now an estimated 40 percent lower than 2014 levels,” it said. “Before IS, around two-thirds of Iraq’s farmers had access to irrigation — only three years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Around 75 percent of livestock was lost, spiking to 95 percent in some areas.”
Syrian and Iraqi forces have gradually driven Daesh out of nearly all the territory it once held. But the group still maintains a presence in the Syrian desert and remote areas along the border. Many have warned it could stage a comeback if economic grievances are not addressed.
“Unless there is urgent government assistance, the long-term damage inflicted on Iraq’s rural environment will reverberate for years to come,” Pearshouse said. “When IS tore through Iraq in 2014, it thrived off rural poverty and resentments, so Iraq’s government should be concerned that something similar could happen again.”