One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Iraq protesters demanding better public services and jobs run from tear gas fired by security forces, during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 20, 2018. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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One dead in new protests in southern Iraq: medical source

Diwaniyah, Iraq: A man was killed Friday during a protest outside the headquarters of an armed group in southern Iraq, a medical source said, as authorities push to contain social unrest.
"A civilian around 20 years old was shot dead," a medical source in the city of Diwaniyah told AFP, as fresh rallies were held across southern Iraq against social and economic woes.
Shots were fired by a guard from the local headquarters of the Badr organisation, a powerful Iranian-backed armed group, where hundreds of people were protesting, the source said.
The latest death brings to nine the number of people killed in the protests, according to multiple sources, while authorities earlier this week said more than 260 security personnel have been wounded.
The unrest erupted in Basra province on July 8 when security forces opened fire, killing one person as protesters demanded jobs and basic services including electricity.
Others killed during the protests were shot by unknown assailants.
The Iraqi government swiftly denounced "vandals" it accused of infiltrating the protests.
The latest demonstrations saw thousands of people gathering across the south and also in the capital Baghdad, where a heavy security presence saw demonstrators dispersed by water canon and tear gas.
The crowds were broken up as they headed towards the fortified Green Zone, a high-security area of Baghdad where the government is headquartered.
In oil-rich Basra, people shouted slogans against the authorities as thousands gathered peacefully outside government headquarters.
Shouting "no to corruption", hundreds of people rallied in Nasiriyah, 160 kilometres (100 miles) northwest of Basra, chanting the anti-graft message which has characterised nearly two weeks of protests.
Demonstrators also surrounded the home of Nasiriyah's governor where security forces responded with tear gas.


Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

Updated 10 December 2018
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Work underway to clear land mines from Jesus baptism site

  • Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry
  • Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites, organizers said

QASR AL-YAHUD, Palestinian Territories: Efforts to clear thousands of land mines and other ordnance around the site where many believe Jesus was baptized have reached a milestone and officials allowed a rare glimpse Sunday of abandoned churches there.

The church grounds around the site in the occupied West Bank have sat empty and decaying for around 50 years, though pilgrims have been able to visit a nearby restricted area at the traditional baptismal spot on the banks of the River Jordan.

Work at the site just north of the Dead Sea is being overseen by Israel’s Defense Ministry, de-mining charity Halo Trust and Israeli firm 4CI.

According to the ministry, the project covers around 1 square kilometer (250 acres) as well as some 3,000 mines and other explosive remnants.

It is expected to cost 20 million shekels ($5.3 million, €4.7 million).

The work began in March and would require another eight months to a year to complete, said Moshe Hilman of Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Mines and other ordnance have been cleared from Ethiopian and Greek Orthodox monastery sites as well as a Franciscan chapel, organizers said.

Other grounds belonging to Russian, Syrian, Romanian and Coptic Orthodox churches are yet to be cleared.

The plan once complete is to return the plots to the various church denominations and allow visits. At the crumbling, brick-and-concrete Ethiopian monastery on Sunday, a fading fresco of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist could still be seen inside.

Signs hung on the walls with notifications that the location had been cleared of explosives.

A collection of pieces of mortars and other explosive remnants sat alongside a nearby roadside as a demonstration of some of what had been found.

“The Halo Trust has reached a pivotal point in our work to clear the baptism site of land mines and other remnants of war,” the charity’s CEO James Cowan said in a statement.

He added that “we have completed clearance of the Ethiopian, Greek and Franciscan churches.”

The majority of the mines were laid by Israeli forces after the country seized control of the West Bank in 1967 from Jordanian troops. Other unexploded ordnance from both Israel and Jordan has remained lodged in the ground, including around the churches, which were evacuated by Israel in the 1970s.

Israel’s control of the West Bank has never been recognized by the international community, which considers the land occupied Palestinian territory.