Dozens arrested in protests against fifth term for Algeria president

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Riot police hold back demonstrators during a demonstration to denounce President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, in Algiers, Algeria, Friday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP)
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Protesters shout slogans against riot police during a demonstration to denounce President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's bid for a fifth term, in Algiers, Algeria, Friday, Feb. 23, 2019. (AP)
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A protester holds up a sign reading “the people will not leave it’s up to you to get out” during a demonstration to denounce President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s bid for a fifth term, in Algiers, Algeria, Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. (AP)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Dozens arrested in protests against fifth term for Algeria president

ALGIERS: Security forces arrested 41 people during angry protests that rocked Algeria's capital against ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika seeking a fifth term, authorities said Saturday.
Police fired tear gas on Friday to block a protest march on the presidential palace, prompting demonstrators to respond with stone-throwing.
The Directorate General for National Security (DGSN) said Saturday it had detained 41 people over "public disorder, vandalism, damage to property, violence and assault".
Despite the arrests, protests around the country were largely tolerated by authorities, even in the capital, where demonstrations have been strictly banned since 2001.
The police did not give an estimate of the number of protesters, but a security official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP some 20,000 people had demonstrated nationwide, around a quarter of them in Algiers.
The official said 38 of the arrests were in the capital, and that no security personnel had been wounded.
Some demonstrators in Algiers scaled the outside of a building and tore down a poster bearing the portrait of Bouteflika, the country's 81-year-old president.
French-language daily El Watan said crowds also gathered in the city of Ouargla where "thousands of demonstrators chanted 'the people want the fall of the regime'," the slogan of the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
Activists had used social media to call for nationwide protests against Bouteflika after Friday's weekly Muslim prayers.
Analysts on Saturday played up the scope of the demonstrations in several cities as unprecedented as well as the absence of any serious incidents.
"At the national level and with this size, taking place simultaneously and with the new use of social media, I think it's a first," said Louisa Dris-Ait Hamadouche, a professor of political science at Algiers University.
A foreign diplomat posted in Algiers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the scale of the demonstrations in defiance of the ban signalled "a change in the political order".
Dris-Ait Hamadouche praised both the demonstrators and the security forces for their apparent restraint.
"Algerians have shown that they can demonstrate without turning it into a riot," she said. As for police, "they were no doubt given instructions to avoid any escalation".
The authorities must have wanted "to avoid any spillover that could damage Algeria's image as a stable state", she said.
Bouteflika, who uses a wheelchair and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, announced on February 10 that he will run for another term in an April presidential election.
He spoke of an "unwavering desire to serve" despite his health constraints and pledged to set up an "inclusive national conference" to address political and economic reforms.
The president's office has announced that Bouteflika will travel to Switzerland on Sunday for "routine medical checks" ahead of the April 18 election.
He has had a long battle with illness and has frequently flown to France for treatment.
Bouteflika is Algeria's longest-serving president and a veteran of its independence struggle, who has clung to power since 1999 despite his ill health.
When the Arab Spring erupted in January 2011, Bouteflika rode out the storm by lifting a 19-year state of emergency and using oil revenues to grant pay rises.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 45 min 29 sec ago
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.