Saudi Arabia to allocate $1.5 billion for Iraq reconstruction, trade

Iraq says it will need more than $88 billion to rebuild the country, after more than three years of devastating conflict with Daesh. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia to allocate $1.5 billion for Iraq reconstruction, trade

KUWAIT CITY: Saudi Arabia allocated $1.5 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq as foreign donors pledged billions of dollars at a conference in Kuwait on Wednesday. 
The pledge from Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir included a $1 billion loan through the Saudi Fund for Development and $500 million in export credit. 
Kuwait said it would provide $1 billion in loans from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and $1 billion in direct investments. 
Turkey said it would give Iraq $5 billion in credit lines and Qatar announced $1 billion in loans and investments. 
The United Arab Emirates pledged $500 million for rebuilding, Germany said it would provide $350 million in assistance and Britain pledged up to $1 billion annually in export credit over 10 years.
Iraq said it needs $88 billion to rebuild areas of the country decimated by the Daesh occupation and the battle to defeat the extremists.
“Our meeting today is a continuation to our pursuits to counter and combat terrorism and counter the dangers and challengers it brings,” the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, said. 
“The stability and security of Iraq means the stability and security of Kuwait and the whole region.”
The donations on the third day of the conference still fell far short of the overall figure required by Iraq to rebuild.
Iraqi officials estimate that $17 billion needs to go toward rebuilding homes. The United Nations estimates 40,000 homes need to be rebuilt in Mosul alone.
“We look at the future of Iraq with confidence…we are determined to succeed to create the inclusiveness (of the Iraqi people) despite the challenges that we face today and will face in the future,” Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi, said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Iraqi people were finally united for a common purpose, which is the defeat of Daesh and the rise of a new Iraq.
“Despite years of conflict, there is still a common identity that binds together the people of Iraq,” she said.
“We have to ensure that the dark days of Iraq are gone for good. Investing in infrastructure is essential, so is investing in human capital.”
Mogherini said the European Union aid would go towards humanitarian development and stabilization.
Millions of Iraqis have returned to their homes to rebuild their lives, but 2.5 million remained displaced, according to the UN.
UN Secretary General, António Guterres, on Wednesday launched a program focussed on revitalizing areas of Iraq most at risk of violence and supporting an inclusive political process.
“Iraqis are building a new Iraq,” Guterres said. “An Iraq that is ready for wide-ranging reforms, including to its public finance and security sectors. The UN system will do its part and stand with you every step of the way.”
Other pledges came from Japan, which said it would contribute $100 million this year through UN agencies and international organisations. Daesh seized large areas of north and west Iraq in 2014. Baghdad finally announced the extremist’s defeat in December.
Cities like Mosul and Ramadi suffered the worst destruction during the group’s violent occupation. Extensive damage was also done to the country’s infrastructure, including the oil and gas sectors.

(With AP and Reuters)


Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.