Main Iraqi port closed as one dies, 25 injured in Basra protests

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Iraqi protesters watch on official building in flames as they demonstrate against the government and the lack of basic services in Basra on September 6, 2018. One protester was killed in the oil-rich southern Iraqi city of Basra, an official said on September 5, after security forces fired live ammunition to stop the latest in two months of demonstrations. / AFP / Haidar MOHAMMED ALI
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An Iraqi ambulance leaves during a protest against the government and the lack of basic services outside the regional government headquarters in the southern city of Basra. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Main Iraqi port closed as one dies, 25 injured in Basra protests

  • Residents in Basra say the water supply has become contaminated with salt
  • Public anger has grown at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government

BASRA: Iraq's main seaport closed down on Thursday following clashes between protestors and security forces in the nearby southern city of Basra in which one demonstrator died and 25 were injured the previous night.
Southern Iraq, heartland of the country's Shi'ite majority, has erupted in unrest in recent weeks as protesters express rage over collapsing infrastructure, power cuts and corruption.
Port employees said that all operations had ceased on Thursday morning at Umm Qasr port - the main lifeline for grain and other commodity imports that feed the country - after protestors blocked the entrance. Trucks and staff were unable to get in or out of the complex.
Officials announced a citywide curfew would be in place after 3 pm local time, but cancelled it just as it was due to come into force.

Iraqi protesters also stormed and set fire to a provincial government building in the southern city of Basra on Thursday.

Later on Thursday, protesters in Basra set fire to the headquarters of the ruling Dawa Party, the Islamic Supreme Council and the largest Iran-backed Shiite militia group in the country, the Badr Organization, local security sources said.
They also attacked the local offices of the state-run Al-Iraqiya TV channel, in the fourth consecutive night of violent unrest.
Residents in Basra, a city of more than 2 million people, say the water supply has become contaminated with salt, making them vulnerable and desperate in the hot summer months. Hundreds of people have been hospitalised from drinking it.
A Health Ministry spokesman told a news conference in Baghdad that 6,280 people had been recently hospitalised with diarrhoea due to the oversalinated water.
The protesters began blocking the entrance to Umm Qasr port, which lies about 60 km (40 miles) from Basra, on Wednesday. They also blocked the highway from Basra to Baghdad and set fire to the main provincial government building where they had been demonstrating for a third night.
Public anger has grown at a time when politicians are struggling to form a new government after an inconclusive parliamentary election in May. Residents of the south complain of decades of neglect in the region that produces the bulk of Iraq's oil wealth.
Leading political figures, embroiled in government formation negotiations in Baghdad, have scrambled to respond to the intensifying crisis, condemning rivals for inaction.
Incumbent Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi convened an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss the unrest and ordered the Interior Ministry to conduct an immediate investigation into the protest.
At a news conference on Thursday, Moqtada Al-Sadr, a populist Shiite cleric whose electoral bloc came first in May's national election, called for an emergency televised session of parliament to discuss the crisis in Basra, a city "without water, electricity or dignity".
Iraq's second biggest city, Basra is a stronghold of Sadr who has recast himself as an anti-corruption campaigner and has allied himself with Abadi.
The prime minister said he would be ready to attend a meeting of parliament with the ministers and officials concerned to try to find a resolution.


Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

Updated 18 September 2019

Jordan king says Israeli annexation would be a disaster

  • Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Tuesday that if Israel went ahead with the idea of annexing all the settlements in the West Bank it would be a “disaster” for attempts to find any two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Abdullah said he was “extremely concerned” about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to annex all the West Bank settlements.

He said it will “directly impact” the relationship between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and Egypt, and that “these types of statements are ... a disaster to any attempt to move forward to the two-state solution.”

Merkel agreed, calling Netanyahu’s vow “unhelpful.” The German government backs an internationally negotiated peace solution in the sense of a two state solution ... annexations are always detrimental to peace solutions. They do not help and therefore we do not agree, said Merkel

Abdullah said “we’re looking on this with tremendous concern.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Netanyahu’s career was on the line on Tuesday as Israel held its second national election this year, with voters deciding whether to give him another term in office despite a likely indictment on corruption charges.

The longest serving leader in Israeli history was seeking a fourth consecutive term in office and fifth overall. 

But he faced a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu’s Likud. 

Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government.