UN expands civilian camps as Mosul airstrikes resume

UN expands civilian camps as Mosul airstrikes resume
A member of the Iraqi forces adjusts a mortar launcher at a position in western Mosul on Tuesday, during an offensive to retake the city from IS jihadists. (AFP)
Updated 05 April 2017

UN expands civilian camps as Mosul airstrikes resume

UN expands civilian camps as Mosul airstrikes resume

IRBIL: The UN said on Tuesday it is expanding camps for displaced people around Mosul, as airstrikes resumed on Daesh positions in Iraq’s second largest city.
More than 300,000 people have fled Mosul since the start of the US-backed campaign in October, the office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said in a statement.
Mosul had a pre-campaign population of about a million and half, split more or less evenly between the sides lying east and west of the Tigris river that runs through the middle.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side in January and in February launched a second phase to take the western side, with air and ground support from a US-led coalition.
They are now battling to take the northwestern part, but the civilian death toll has mounted in the densely populated Old City, where the militants are dug in among residents.
More people are expected to flee the fighting and camps for the displaced north and east of Mosul are expanding, the UN statement said.
Airstrikes on the city by the Iraqi air force resumed on Tuesday as the sky cleared after several days of bad weather, the Iraqi military said.
A number of Daesh commanders were killed in an airstrike on a position in Hay Al-Tanak, a stronghold of the group in the west of Mosul, the Iraqi military said in statement.
Among those killed were commanders in charge of booby traps, of Arab suicide fighters and child recruitment, the statement added, without identifying them by name.
Daesh media outlets did not mention the strike.
The improved weather should also allow ground forces to resume their advance toward the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque, where the militants’ leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, declared a “caliphate” nearly three years ago over parts of Iraq and Syria.
The current phase of the campaign is the most difficult as narrow alleyways in the densely populated old city limit the use of artillery, air power and armored vehicles.
An explosion in western Mosul last month killed between 60 and 240 people, according to various accounts.


Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
Updated 16 January 2021

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
  • The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide
  • The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Friday announced dates for the first Palestinian elections in more than 15 years, setting legislative polls for May 22 and a July 31 presidential vote.
Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the Palestinian Authority based in the occupied West Bank, and the Hamas group, who hold power in Gaza, have for years expressed interest in taking Palestinians back to the polls.
A long-standing rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions was seen as a leading factor in stalling progress toward a new vote.
But Fatah and Hamas have lately been engaged in unity talks, reaching an agreement in principle in September to hold elections in 2021.
Hamas on Friday welcomed Abbas’s announcement.
“In recent months, we have worked to overcome obstacles in order to reach this day,” it said in a statement.
It added that it looked to “free elections in which voters can express themselves without pressure and without restrictions, in all fairness and transparency.”
A statement on the official Palestinian Wafa news agency said Abbas has signed “a presidential decree concerning elections,” specifying the May and July dates.
“This announcement was eagerly awaited,” Palestinian analyst Arif Jaffal, head of the Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor, told AFP.
“It is a very important step,” he said.
The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat.
There has been no indication from Fatah as to whether the 85-year-old Abbas intends to seek re-election.
A rare poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research carried out last year said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Abbas in a presidential election.

The statement from Abbas said he expects polls will be held “in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War but is considered occupied territory.
Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem, and there was no indication the Jewish state would allow a Palestinian vote within the city.
Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces his own re-election contest in March, describes Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said his government “was ready to get things going to facilitate the electoral process, in total transparency, while waiting for pluralism.”
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, while the densely populated Gaza Strip is home to two million.
The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide.
The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed and in 2007, bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.
Numerous attempts at reconciliation, including a prisoner exchange agreement in 2012 and a short-lived coalition government two years later, have failed to close the rift.
But experts have said intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks have taken on greater urgency following a series of US-brokered normalization agreements signed between Israel and four Arab states.
The deals to normalize ties with Israel signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan were condemned across the Palestinian political spectrum.
They also broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognition of Israel until it reached an agreement to end the Palestinian conflict that included the creation of Palestinian state, with a capital in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders have also voiced hope that the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden will lead to renewed diplomacy on the Palestinian cause.
The PA cut ties with President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing it of egregious bias toward Israel.