Four killed in attack on 'Al-Hal' Iraqi party headquarters in Anbar province

Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb explosion near Baghdad's Al-Shuhada Bridge. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 08 April 2018
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Four killed in attack on 'Al-Hal' Iraqi party headquarters in Anbar province

RAMADI: A suicide attack targeting a political party headquarters in western Iraq has killed four people and injured seven others, including a candidate in polls set for May, officials said Sunday.
On Saturday evening “two suicide bombers disguised as soldiers entered the Al-Hal Party headquarters,” one of most prominent parties in the Sunni-majority province of Al-Anbar, a local security official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
One of the attackers “detonated his explosive belt while political leaders held a meeting” at the campaign headquarters in the city of Hit, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Baghdad, General Qassam Al-Mohammadi, head of army operations in the area, told AFP.
“Three members of the security forces were killed and seven people, including candidate Zineb Abdel Hamid Al-Hiti, were wounded,” he said.
A municipal employee on Sunday also succumbed to injuries sustained in the attack, the anonymous official said.
He said the second attacker detonated his belt shortly after the first, but did not cause any casualties.
Medical sources confirmed the death toll of four and said Hiti had been hospitalized with light injuries.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place in the tribal desert province of Al-Anbar, primarily home to Sunni Muslims.
Sunnis are a minority in Iraq, where more than two-thirds of the population is Shiite Muslim.
For three years, the Sunni Islamic State jihadist group ruled over the province, which stretches from the western periphery of the capital to the border with war-torn Syria.
In December, Baghdad declared “victory” against IS after retaking the group’s last urban stronghold in Al-Anbar.
But according to experts, jihadists are still hiding along the porous border with Syria and in parts of the Iraqi desert.
Elections held in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime have all been marred by deadly violence.
But in the runup to the May 12 polls, the country has enjoyed a respite from violence which has significantly decreased in recent months.


In Jerusalem’s Old City, conflict means buyer and seller beware

Updated 56 min 13 sec ago
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In Jerusalem’s Old City, conflict means buyer and seller beware

  • ‘Can we be held accountable for something that was sold over two years ago?’
  • The land conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is also a battle over Jerusalem and its Old City

JERUSALEM: In an alley in Jerusalem’s Old City, a three-story building has become a symbol of Palestinian fears they are losing precious ground in the historic area.
Adeeb Joudeh Al-Husseini says he did nothing wrong, but even his status as a member of one of Jerusalem’s most prominent Palestinian families did not shield him from the blowback.
The 55-year-old was accused of being behind the sale of the Mamluk-style building in the Old City’s Muslim quarter to Israeli settlers — something most Palestinians consider treason.
“Can we be held accountable for something that was sold over two years ago?” he asks as he sits at the entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.
Joudeh, as his family is known, is one of the keepers of the keys of the church and has faced calls to relinquish that role over the sale.
He proudly brandishes the long, arrow-shaped key — which the Muslim family says it has handed down from father to son since the 13th century — as proof of his innocence.
Joudeh says he sold the property to another Palestinian in 2016 for $2.5 million and cannot be held responsible if it was passed on to settlers, who moved there in late 2018.
But the building he once owned is not the only one triggering Palestinian concerns.
The land conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is also a battle over Jerusalem and its Old City, home to sites holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Israel took over mainly Palestinian east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
It now considers the entire city its capital, citing the Jewish historical and biblical connection there.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, as the capital of their future state.
They consider each property sale to Israeli settlers there as another blow to their cause.
Some 320,000 Palestinians live in east Jerusalem, while the Israeli settler population there has now grown to 210,000.
Israel bars the Palestinian Authority from operating in Jerusalem, but it seeks to maintain influence, however limited.
Such sales can in theory carry the death penalty under PA law.
In one high-profile case in recent weeks, an American-Palestinian man, Issam Akel, was sentenced to life in prison by a PA court in the occupied West Bank over a property sale in the Old City.
Akel’s lawyer, Oday Nawfel, said he was simply trying to help another Palestinian family sort out inheritance issues with the building, down the street from the one Joudeh sold.
Akel’s case has drawn criticism from David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, who has been a supporter of settlements and has called for Akel’s release.
It also led to calls in Israel for authorities there to act.
Following Akel’s arrest, Israel detained the Palestinian governor of Jerusalem a number of times over suspicions of involvement in the affair.
Another 32 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli forces on similar grounds that they were supporting the PA in the matter, but eventually all were released.
Akel was reported to have been released this past week on condition he leaves for the US, though neither his lawyer nor the US embassy confirmed the deal.
In a separate case in November, the highest Muslim authority in Jerusalem, Grand Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, refused to allow a Palestinian killed in a car accident to be buried in a Muslim cemetery over suspicions he had once sold property to Jews.
Israeli settler groups push to make deals happen as part of their efforts to increase the Jewish population in east Jerusalem, sometimes offering exorbitant sums to pressure owners to sell.
The groups use a variety of means such as middlemen or shell companies, anti-settlement activists say.
“These are not open, transparent transactions,” said Yudith Oppenheimer, who heads Ir Amim, an Israeli anti-settlement NGO focused on Jerusalem.
Daniel Luria of Ateret Cohanim, which works to increase the Jewish population of east Jerusalem, defended its actions.
“Everyone should be able to buy and sell” in areas under Israeli sovereignty, said Luria.
Joudeh displays documents that he says show the PA validated the sale of his home to another Palestinian.
He says the buyer “betrayed me, betrayed the Palestinian Authority and Palestine.”
The Palestinian who in 2016 bought the house, Khaled Al-Atari, refused to speak with AFP citing an ongoing investigation on the Palestinian side.
Regardless of who was responsible, neighbors fear more such sales are ahead.