US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

Opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold a protest outside the Iranian embassy in Rome, Italy, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 January 2018
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US calls for emergency UN session as Iran protests continue unabated

JEDDAH/WASHINGTON: Anti-regime protests continued in Iran on Tuesday for the sixth consecutive day, as the US piled pressure on Tehran by calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said: “The UN must speak out in the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
The Donald Trump administration is also considering slapping sanctions on individuals who are behind the crackdown on Iranian protesters.
In an interview with the state-backed broadcaster VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Andrew Peek, said Washington was mulling targeted sanctions among a package of measures, which includes working with global partners to censure Tehran.
“From our part, we will hold accountable those people or entities who are committing violence, from the top to the bottom, against the protesters,” Peek said. “That involves examining actions we can take against those individuals, like sanctions and other means.”
Trump tweeted again on Tuesday in support of the demonstrators.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” he said. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”
France expressed concern over the “number of victims and arrests” during the protests. “The right to protest freely is a fundamental right,” said the French Foreign Ministry.
More than 20 people have been killed since the protests began last week, the Associated Press reported. Footage on social media showed riot police out in force in several cities as security forces struggled to contain the unrest.
Tehran’s deputy provincial governor was quoted by Reuters as saying more than 450 protesters had been arrested in the capital over the last three days. Hundreds of others have been detained around the country.
Nine people were killed in Isfahan province during protests on Monday night, including two members of the security forces, state television reported.
As the demonstrations showed no signs of abating, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Musa Ghazanfarabadi, said protesters would face harsh punishments.
Detainees would be put on trial soon, and ringleaders could be charged with “moharebeh” — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty, Ghazanfarabadi said.
Shahriar Kia, a human rights activist and member of the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, told Arab News that the “inhumane regime,” which has ruled the country since the 1979 revolution, is on the verge of being ousted.
The protests are a result of “over three decades of crackdowns and the plundering by the clerics of the Iranian people’s property and wealth,” he said.
The regime has spent “billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s money to spread its fundamentalism and terrorism across the Middle East, and to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad,” Kia added.
Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said: “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
Kia said: “I believe strongly that peace and stability in the Middle East and the world will be possible only through regime change in Iran.”


Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

Updated 54 min ago
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Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

  • At least 33 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the ‘Great March of Return’ began last month
  • Gaza suffers from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces

GAZA: A tent consisting of nine beds and some basic medical equipment is all that will serve as a field hospital in the Zeitoun area of Gaza when Palestinians gather at the Israeli border to take part in a mass protest against the occupation on Friday.

Eleven doctors and 12 nurses work at the facility during what has become a weekly ritual of defiance and bloodshed for the people of this besieged coastal enclave. With access to only rudimentary supplies, the staff must deal with injuries caused by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

When Arab News visited the hospital southeast of Gaza City last week the sound of ambulances rushing back and forth was almost non-stop as the medics worked tirelessly amid the chaos. But no one expects any respite in the month ahead, with the protesters due to return every Friday until mid-May.

“In one hour we have received more than 30 injuries, about 26 of which are to the lower limbs and from live bullets,” said Khalil Siam, a doctor who works at the hospital from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Gaza’s “Great March of Return” began on March 30, when tens of thousands of protesters traveled in buses from across the strip to five locations along the Israeli border. 

The demonstration was timed to coincide with “Land Day,” an annual event when Palestinians remember the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976. It is due to continue until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe — the creation of
Israel.

On the first day of the protest at least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were injured as Israeli troops opened fire on the huge crowds, causing the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for “an independent and transparent investigation.”

Then on April 6 several more Palestinians were killed as protesters threw stones and set fire to piles of tires at the border, sending thick clouds of black smoke spiralling into the air.

A handful of field hospitals run by both volunteers and government doctors have been set up to deal with the constant stream of casualties each Friday, but they struggle to cope. Protesters critically wounded in the upper part of the body are rushed straight to Gaza’s main hospitals but staff here also find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the bloodshed.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 33 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 have been injured between the start of the protests last month and April 14. Thirteen of the casualties have required amputations.

Even before the demonstrations began, Gaza suffered from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces and ongoing divisions between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Arab News that all hospitals were facing a situation of “severe attrition.”

“A large number of drugs and medical items have been drained from emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units due to the large number of casualties,” he said.

The Israeli government initially refused to allow injured protesters to be moved to the occupied West Bank until Israel’s High Court ruled unanimously on Monday that Yousef Al-Karnaz, a 19-year-old Palestinian, should be allowed to receive urgent medical care in Ramallah.

Al-Karnaz was shot and wounded by Israeli troops on March 30 but was not allowed to leave the strip. As a result, his left leg was amputated.

Ismail Al-Jadbah, director of the vascular department at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, told Arab News that the strip had enough doctors to cope with the casualties but lacked the necessary resources to give them the best possible care.

“In addition to a shortage of medicine, the large number of injured has put a great burden on us. Treating injuries in the right way, and in the right time, is very difficult,” he said.