Visits to Israel by Iraqi officials stir controversy

The ministry said the Iraqi travelers had visited “Israeli officials and universities,” as well as the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem pictured above. (Getty Images)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Visits to Israel by Iraqi officials stir controversy

  • Baghdad does not recognize Israel, and is technically in a state of war with it
  • A significant Iraqi Jewish community lives in Israel and regularly calls for a normalization of ties between Baghdad and the Jewish state

BAGHDAD: Visits by Iraqi officials to Israel announced by the Jewish state stirred controversy Monday in Iraq, where the deputy parliamentary speaker demanded a probe to identify those who crossed a “red line.”
Israel’s foreign ministry said on Twitter on Sunday that three Iraqi delegations visited Israel in 2018, and details were also later released by media.
Baghdad does not recognize Israel, and is technically in a state of war with it.
First deputy speaker of parliament Hassan Karim Al-Kaabi called in a statement for “an investigation... to identify those who went to the occupied territory, particularly if they are lawmakers.”
“To go to the occupied territory is a red line and an extremely sensitive issue for all Muslims,” the statement said.
Kaabi is close to Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, whose bloc won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s legislative election last year.
Israel’s foreign ministry said on Twitter that the 15 Iraqi visitors were “influential Shiite and Sunni personalities in the country,” but did not give names.
The ministry said the Iraqi travelers had visited “Israeli officials and universities,” as well as the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
A spokesman for the memorial told AFP that “a group of 10 Iraqis” had “undertaken a guided tour in late December.”
He said he was not able to give details on the identity and roles of the Iraqis.
Private Israeli TV station Hadashot, which described the Iraqis as “local leaders,” said Sunday that they had stressed they were not taking part in an official visit and that secrecy was paramount.
A significant Iraqi Jewish community lives in Israel and regularly calls for a normalization of ties between Baghdad and the Jewish state.
But the question remains sensitive and Israel’s support for an independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan in late 2017 provoked Iraqi officials’ ire.
Israel was the only country to back the vote, which Baghdad deemed illegal.
In 2017, a former Miss Iraq sparked a storm when she took a selfie with Miss Israel.


Yemeni troops stop Houthi advances, inflict further casualties

Updated 26 min 13 sec ago
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Yemeni troops stop Houthi advances, inflict further casualties

  • The Yemeni army halted Houthi advances in a strategic district in Taiz
  • The army also liberated an important range of mountains in Saada

DUBAI: Eight Houthis were killed Tuesday during clashes with the Yemeni national forces in Taiz, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The militants were killed while trying to infiltrate sites in Tabab, a strategic route into Taiz, southwestern Yemen, the Yemeni military website 26 September News reported.

But the Houthi’s advance was halted by the army, which killed eight of the militia, the source added.

Al-Shaqb front is the main route to Sabr Al-Mawadem district in Taiz province.

Meanwhile members of the army took control of the route connecting the northern city of Saada with Kitaf and Albuqa districts after heavy clashes with Houthis, SPA reported.

The army took full control of the strategic mountain range in Kitaf and advanced towards Saada, inflicting heavy casualties on the Houthis.

Army units found and destroyed a large cache of weapons, 26 September News added.