Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in Gaza border clashes

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Palestinians flee from tear gas during a protest by the barbed-wire fence with Israel east of Gaza City on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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Palestinians protest with Palestinian flags by the border fence with Israel east of Gaza City on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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Palestinians flee from tear gas during a protest by the barbed-wire fence with Israel east of Gaza City on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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An Israeli soldier looks through the scope of his rifle behind a barbed-wire fence during a protest by Palestinians by the border with Israel east of Gaza City on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 24 March 2019
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Israeli forces kill two Palestinians in Gaza border clashes

Gaza City: Two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in renewed clashes along the Gaza border Friday, the health ministry in the enclave said.
The clashes took place a week before the first anniversary of the weekly protests, when organisers have pledged larger than usual demonstrations.
Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra told AFP the two men, aged 18 and 29, were shot in separate incidents along the fractious border.
The teenager was shot in the head east of Gaza City, while the older man was hit in the chest near the Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, Qudra told AFP.
He did not name them but said at least 55 other people were shot.
The Israeli army did not comment on the deaths but said "approximately 9,500 rioters and demonstrators" gathered in various locations, "hurling explosive devices, hard objects and rocks" at troops.
Troops were "firing in accordance with standard operating procedures," a spokeswoman said.
At least 257 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since protests began on March 30 2018.
Most have been killed during protests, though others have died in airstrikes and by tank fire.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed.
The often violent protests are demanding Palestinian refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to former homes now inside Israel.
Israeli officials say that amounts to calling for the Jewish state's destruction, and accuse Hamas of orchestrating the protests.


Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 30 sec ago
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Iraqi cleric Al-Sadr threatens to withdraw support for Abdul Mahdi’s government

  • “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations”

BAGHDAD: Moqtada Al-Sadr, the powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric, on Monday threatened to withdraw his support for the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi if the prime minister fails to finalize the formation of his Cabinet within 10 days.
Al-Sadr is one of the most influential clerics in the country, with millions of followers, a large armed faction and a parliamentary bloc. He is the official sponsor of the Reform Alliance, the second-largest parliamentary coalition, which is overseeing the formation of the government following the national parliamentary elections in May last year. The removal of his support for Abdul Mahdi’s government might take the form of an announcement that he no longer has confidence in the Parliament, or the organization of mass demonstrations.
Abdul Mahdi, who became prime minister in October, formed his government with the support of Reform and the pro-Iranian Construction coalition. The latter is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, one of the most powerful Shiite armed factions. However, disputes between the two alliances over some of the candidates erupted at the last minute, as a result of which four ministries remain vacant: Interior, defense, education and justice.

Monday’s statement, which was signed by Al-Sadr and described as his “last call,” was addressed to his Saeiroon parliamentary bloc, the leaders of all political blocs, and Abdul Mahdi. It was issued in response to criticism on social on Monday because of the vote by members of the parliamentary blocs, including Al-Sadr’s MPs, the day before to grant all the privileges enjoyed by the former MPs to the deputies who ruled out by the Federal Supreme Court due to the error of counting their votes.
“All the political blocs must authorize the prime minister to complete his ministerial Cabinet within 10 days…and he (Abdul Mahdi) must choose (the ministers) according to the standards of integrity, efficiency and specialization, or I will not support him,” Al-Sadr’s statement read.

His position is the latest in a series of events that have put pressure on Abdul Mahdi in recent weeks. These include efforts by some political blocs, including Saeiroon, to dismiss a number of ministers under the pretext of failure to improve services and inability to combat the financial and administrative corruption that is rampant in their departments.
While most political leaders believe that reaching a political agreement on candidates to fill the vacant ministries within 10 days “will be very difficult” and predict “this may be the end of the government of Abdul Mahdi,” some believe that Al-Sadr’s goal is to pile more pressure on Abdul Mahdi as a way to obtain certain concessions.

“Saeiroon is still negotiating with the prime minister and the other political partners to obtain some key government posts that its rivals are looking to get, and Abdul Mahdi refused to give them to the Saeiroon candidates, so this could be a part of this,” said a prominent Shiite negotiator who asked not to be named. “No one can predict what Al-Sadr thinks and even his MPs do not know what the man thinks, so it is likely that this threat is part of the ongoing negotiations."