Shiite militias launch operation near Mosul

Shiite militias launch operation near Mosul
Iraqi families who were displaced by the ongoing operation by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Mosul gather in an area near Qayyarah on Friday. (AFP / BULENT KILIC)
Updated 29 October 2016

Shiite militias launch operation near Mosul

Shiite militias launch operation near Mosul

IRBIL, Iraq: State-sanctioned Shiite militias launched an assault on the Daesh group west of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday but reiterated that they would not enter the Sunni majority city.
Jaafar Al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, said they launched an offensive Saturday along with other large militias toward the town of Tel Afar, which had a Shiite majority before it fell to the Daesh group in 2014. Iranian forces are advising the fighters and Iraqi aircraft are providing airstrikes, he said.
Iraq launched a massive operation to retake militant-held Mosul, its second largest city, last week. The involvement of the Shiite militias has raised concerns the battle could aggravate sectarian divisions.
The Mosul offensive involves more than 25,000 soldiers, Federal Police, Kurdish fighters, Sunni tribesmen and the Shiite militias, which operate under an umbrella organization known as the Popular Mobilization Units.
Many of the militias were originally formed after the 2003 US-led invasion to battle American forces and Sunni insurgents. They were mobilized again and endorsed by the state when Daesh, a Sunni extremist group, swept through northern and central Iraq in 2014, capturing Mosul and other towns and cities.
A US-led coalition has been providing airstrikes and ground support to Iraqi forces in the Mosul offensive, but Al-Husseini said it had no involvement in the Iran-backed militias’ advance on Tel Afar.
He said the militias will focus on Tel Afar and on securing the western border with Syria. Daesh still controls territory on both sides of the border, where it shuttles fighters, weapons and supplies between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of its self-styled caliphate.
Iraqi forces advancing toward Mosul from several directions have made uneven progress since the offensive began. Iraqi forces are 4 miles (6 kilometers) from the edge of Mosul on the eastern front, where the elite special forces are leading the charge. But progress has been slower in the south, with Iraqi forces still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city.
There have been no major advances over the past two days, as Iraqi forces have sought to consolidate their gains by clearing explosive booby-traps left by the extremists and uncovering tunnels they dug to elude airstrikes.
___
Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss in Baghdad contributed to this report.


Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions
Updated 3 min 6 sec ago

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions
  • New Iran president Ebrahim Raisi: Government would try to improve living conditions which have suffered under the sanctions

DUBAI: Iran will take steps to lift “tyrannical” sanctions imposed by the United States, hard-line Shiite cleric Ebrahim Raisi said on Tuesday after winning the endorsement of the country’s supreme leader to become president.
Former US President Donald Trump ditched Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers three years ago and reimposed sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
“We will seek to lift the tyrannical sanctions imposed by America,” Raisi, who takes office on Thursday, said in a televised speech, adding that his government would try to improve living conditions which have suffered under the sanctions.
Iran and six powers have been in talks since April to revive the nuclear pact. But Iranian and Western officials have said that significant gaps remain.
The sixth round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington adjourned on June 20, two days after Raisi was elected president. Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to announce when the next round of talks in Vienna will resume.
The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters of state, but the change of president will remove the moderating influence on policy-making exercised by Raisi’s pragmatist predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, since 2013.


Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
Updated 10 min 55 sec ago

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
TUNIS: Tunisia — which has seen the world’s worst Covid-19 death toll — may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations, the WHO said on Monday.
“The epidemiological data are going in the right direction,” World Health Organization representative in Tunisia Yves Souteyrand told a press conference.
“We have the feeling that the peak of the epidemic may have passed.”
But with vaccines in short supply, overwhelmed hospitals, shortages of oxygen and the highly contagious Delta variant rampaging through the country’s 12 million population mean the risk of a health disaster remains, the WHO warned.
The Delta variant was responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases, and the impact of family gatherings during a recent religious holiday was hard to evaluate but could set back progress made, Souteyrand said.
“The challenge is to speed up the vaccination campaign,” he said.
The country had “in 10 days received around seven million vaccine doses and will receive perhaps two or three million more” soon, he said.
The WHO has also provided 400 oxygen concentrators and four oxygen generators to Tunisia, where the government has been in crisis after President Kais Saied suspended parliament and took direct power — a move his critics said was a coup.
Since the shock move late last month, Saied has established a coronavirus crisis unit, supervised by a high-level military official, to help manage the country’s outbreak.
Souteyrand said that “relations between the WHO and the health ministry have not been affected by the political crisis.”
The health ministry on Monday announced the start of a mobile vaccination campaign in several regions.
Authorities have also announced a vaccination drive across the country on Sunday for Tunisians aged over 40.
Over the past seven days, the North African country has registered the worst official Covid-19 mortality rate in the world, with 10.64 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, an AFP tally based on officially reported data shows.
On the other hand, Tunisia shares its coronavirus data more transparently than many other countries, the WHO said.

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
Updated 21 min 48 sec ago

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
  • By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said

DUBAI: Iraq called on Syria to increase water releases to compensate for the lack of rainfall and high temperatures that have caused a shortfall in revenues, Iraq’s state media reported on Monday.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said he “held a closed-circuit televised meeting with the Syrian Minister of Water Resources, Tammam Raad, to review the measures taken regarding the signed accord during Al-Hamdani's visit to Syria”

Last month, both countries signed a joint agreement to exchange data related to the imports of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers “periodically and in emergency situations."
The pact also includes the creation of technical committees and the unification of positions regarding the quantities of water received at the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Syria expressed willingness to attend joint meetings with Iraq and Turkey, Hamdani said, adding that the Syrian side's agreement is a development in the field of joint cooperation in the water file.”

By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said, adding that the meeting emphasized the need to continue coordination and joint cooperation with regard to training, studies and exchange of data.

Syria will participate in the research center to be established in Iraq, according to Hamdani.


UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
Updated 03 August 2021

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
  • The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates
  • Abut 79 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

DUBAI: The UAE’s education ministry has advised all students 16 years old and above to receive their COVID-19 jabs before the school year reopens, as only vaccinated pupils would be allowed entry into campuses.

“The Ministry of Education encourages all individuals (aged 16 and above) to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is a mandatory requirement for entering educational facilities,” the ministry said in a social media post.

Dubai students are not affected by the requirement as the emirate has a separate COVID-19 policy body and private schools are regulated by its own education authority.

The ministry also asked other stakeholders in the education sector – teachers, administrative staff, support services and parents – to get themselves vaccinated against coronavirus.

Health officials on Monday allowed the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine for the 3 to 17 age group as part of efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates, with 79.04 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 70.69 percent are already fully vaccinated.

The total number of doses that has been administered is now at 16,810,996, for a vaccine distribution rate of 169.97 doses per 100 people.


Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
Updated 03 August 2021

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
  • Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support

Turkey has requested assistance from the EU as it struggles to battle the unprecedented deadly wildfires that have swept the nation, revealing the government’s poor preparation for the natural disaster.

Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support.

Brussels has sent some firefighting aeroplanes, including one Canadair plane from 
Croatia and two Canadairs from Spain as part of rescEU, the European reserve of civil protection assets.

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time.”

He added: “I thank all the countries which have offered help. Our thoughts are with the Turkish people who have lost their loved ones and with the brave first responders who are doing their best to battle the deadly fires. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia are considered the most fire-prone countries in Europe. Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden have provided 11 firefighting planes and six helicopters for the use of other EU Member States in case of an emergency.

The response to the wildfires has revealed that Turkey — which boasts 13 airplanes in the presidential fleet — does not possess a single firefighting plane. The EU’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Center is holding regular contact with the Turkish authorities to observe the situation and effectively guide its assistance.

Cigdem Nas, secretary-general of the Economic Development Foundation of Turkey, told Arab News that it is an important show of solidarity in these difficult times. 

“As countries in the Mediterranean region, Turkey shares similar effects of climate change with EU member states such as Greece and Italy. Therefore it is important to increase the capacity to deal with such natural disasters in a joint manner,” she said.

Nas added that the EU and Turkey can reinforce and strengthen their cooperation in response to natural disasters, especially in the Mediterranean region. 

“This may constitute a pool of resources including planes, human power and other necessary equipment that may be jointly used by the countries in the region which will be sponsored by Turkey and the EU,” she said.

Despite being offered help by the EU, Turkey has continued its skepticism about some EU members.

Meanwhile, confusion has sparked conspiracy theories behind the causes of the sudden fires.

Pro-government figures have blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for starting the fires on orders from Athens.

On July 29, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias telephoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to express his condolences over the lives lost due to the wildfires.

“I also expressed Greece’s readiness to provide assistance if requested,” he tweeted. 

Turkey, however, rejected the offer of firefighting help from Greece.

Turkey and Greece are expected to feel the effects of the hottest temperatures of the ongoing intense heatwave this week, reaching European record levels.

Separately, Turkey’s exiled mafia boss Sedat Peker warned against any provocation after the fires as they could be used for stoking ultranationalist people to attack Kurdish citizens. 

Seven members of a Kurdish family in the Central Anatolian province of Konya were recently killed following months of threats and a knife attack by the same offenders in May.

Elsewhere, a new law giving the Ministry of Culture and Tourism the authority to open forest areas for construction has attracted significant criticism. 

The law — that came into force with presidential signature — is being challenged over the possibility of it opening the recently burned areas to new developments.