Israel lifts Gaza fishing ban as calm returns

A tentative truce was reached on Monday with Palestinian officials saying Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 May 2019
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Israel lifts Gaza fishing ban as calm returns

  • The measure is seen as a first step in implementing a fragile truce meant to avert a new conflict between the army and Palestinian militants
  • The Israeli navy often fires on Gazan boats it says have exceed the limits it enforces

GAZA CITY: Israel lifted a ban on Friday on Palestinian fishing boats putting to sea off Gaza, an Israeli military body said, ending a measure imposed during a deadly flare-up of violence earlier this month.
The measure is seen as a first step in implementing a fragile truce meant to avert a new conflict between the army and Palestinian militants.
“Friday, the Gaza Strip fishing zone is expected to reopen at a range of up to 12 nautical miles,” the Israeli military body responsible for the Palestinian territories, COGAT, said.
“Application of the measure is conditioned on the Gaza Strip fishermen respecting the agreements.”
The Israeli navy often fires on Gazan boats it says have exceed the limits it enforces.
The fishing union in Gaza confirmed the lifting of the ban.
Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel on Saturday and Sunday, with the army striking dozens of targets in Gaza in response.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up.
COGAT closed the fishing zone and the border crossings for both people and goods between Israel and Gaza in response to the rocket fire.
A tentative truce was reached on Monday with Palestinian officials saying Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.
Israel did not publicly confirm the deal.
COGAT’s statement late on Thursday did not mention any reopening of the border crossings.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gaza’s militant rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents.


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

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)
Updated 52 min 52 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."