Iraqi government cancels permission for anti-Daesh coalition to fly in Iraqi air space

The German air force has 4 Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and an Airbus A-310 aerial refueling tanker aircraft operating out of the base as part of the “Counter Daesh operation.” (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 16 August 2019

Iraqi government cancels permission for anti-Daesh coalition to fly in Iraqi air space

  • Mahdi’s move follows weapons cache blast that rocked Baghdad on Monday
  • Preliminary probe by Iraqi military suggest that it was carried out ‘deliberately’ by an ‘external act”

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has cancelled airspace access for the international anti-Daesh coalition and several armed factions.

Air defense will treat any breach as “hostile aviation” and respond to it, Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement on Thursday.

The restriction includes armed and unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters, fighter jets and all types of drones that have been used by the US-led international military coalition, Iraqi security forces and Shiite paramilitary troops.

All of these groups have had full access to Iraqi airspace since October 2014, when Baghdad launched military campaigns to liberate territories seized by Daesh militants in the northern and western parts of the country.

Mahdi’s decision is part of a series of measures taken to deal with the repercussions of the Camp Falcon weapons cache explosion that rocked Baghdad on Monday evening.

Short-range Katyusha rockets and shrapnel from the blast killed a civilian and wounded 37 others. The attack destroyed a weapons cache belonging to the pro-Iran Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada group and partially damaged a nearby cache belonging to federal police.

An expert at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense estimated that the damage to the two stores cost at least $109 million (SR409 million).

“All approvals to fly in Iraqi airspace for all Iraqi and none Iraqi parties are cancelled. No flights are allowed without the exclusive consent of the General Commander of the Iraqi Armed Forces or his authorized representative,” said Iraqi Joint Operations Command.

“All parties shall strictly abide by this directive and any traffic in contravention of it shall be deemed to be a hostile aviation handled immediately by our air defenses.”

Mahdi’s decision aims to stop the repeated destruction of equipment belonging to pro-Iran armed factions after Shiite commanders claimed that most attacks were carried out by drones, Iraqi security officials told Arab News.

The Falcon Camp explosion was the 16th of its kind in less than three years in the country. Most of the bombings have targeted weapons depots belonging to Iranian-backed armed factions and were mysteriously targeted, security officials said.

Initial investigations by Iraqi military authorities to determine the reasons behind the camp bombing suggest that it was carried out “deliberately” by an “external act.”

Commanders of Kataib Sayaad Al-Shuhadaa and other Shiite armed factions insist that “it was an unidentified armed drone that hit the first store with a mortar shell, which led to the explosion of ammunition.

“We believe that the US and Israel were behind these explosions,” a Shiite commander told Arab News.

“Both of them have threatened to target and destroy the weapons of the armed factions. We have proof of the presence of drones in these areas (where the explosions happened), but the government refuses to take any official position.”


Virus pandemic hits Egypt’s Ramadan preparations, prayers

Business of lantern dealers have been badly hit by the virus outbreak. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 April 2020

Virus pandemic hits Egypt’s Ramadan preparations, prayers

  • The government restrictions have affected the flow of trade in Cairo’s Taht Al-Raba area, which usually draws big crowds during and prior to Ramadan with its distinctive lantern displays

CAIRO: Measures taken by Egypt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have affected preparations for Ramadan, which starts later this month, as well as public prayers and gatherings.
The government has imposed a nighttime curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., the closure of all shops, restaurants, cafeterias and malls starting at 5 p.m., and a complete shutdown on Thursdays and Fridays.
Last Friday the Health Ministry said the number of cases in Egypt stood at 985 and that the total number of deaths was 66, Reuters news agency reported.
The government restrictions have affected the flow of trade in Cairo’s Taht Al-Raba area, which usually draws big crowds during and prior to Ramadan with its distinctive lantern displays.
“There are barely any sales taking place,” Sayed Al-Kilani, a vendor at Taht Al-Raba, told Arab News. “People are afraid to come here. They are afraid to deal with sellers, and they are afraid to touch the lanterns, thinking they might be a carrier of the virus. We are mainly lantern dealers, and our work begins about 45 days before Ramadan starts, and ends with the end of the holy month, but coronavirus has erased the season in which our business booms.”
The vendor was abiding by government rules, shutting up shop at 5 p.m. every day and staying closed on Thursdays and Fridays. Although sales have come to almost a complete halt, he and other lantern vendors insisted on showcasing their goods.
“What can we do? I hope we return to our normal lives,” Al-Kilani added. “We adhere to the government’s decisions, and there is no one in the market who violates them. We hope that the matter ends in peace.”
University student Hala Galal stood in front of a lantern vendor, flipping through goods while wearing gloves.
“I set aside half an hour to buy lanterns for my younger siblings, as well as Ramadan linens with cartoon drawings that reflect the Ramadan spirit such as Fatuta, Bouji, Tamtam,” she told Arab News.
She lives near the Taht Al-Raba neighborhood and said her decision to buy lanterns was not easy, especially in the current climate.
“I used to buy Ramadan decorations from this area because it is the main market. The pandemic has made my family and I fear leaving our homes especially after the imposition of the curfew. But I had to do it since this is my annual visit. Ramadan without lanterns and decorations isn’t the same. Depriving people of them will prevent them from feeling the Ramadan spirit. Prices are almost the same as the last season, given the recession in the market.”
At one popular Cairo supermarket salesman Mohamed Zainhom was standing in front of a display of yamish (dates, licorice and other dried fruit).


• Trade of traditional Ramadan items like lanterns has been badly hit.

• Iftar gatherings including public meals during Ramadan have also been banned to check the spread of the virus.

He expressed his surprise at the large crowds forming over basic commodities in comparison with the few people who were buying yamish.
“At this time of the year, I usually need two helpers to meet the needs of customers, but these days I barely get a customer or two a day,” he told Arab News.
Zainhom said he did not think there was a difference between buying basic commodities and buying yamish, but that this year’s Ramadan spirit may be dampened because of coronavirus.
“I expected that there would be some kind of dates named after the virus, and I expected that there would be a lantern in the form of a virus, but this did not happen,” he added.
The meal at the end of the fasting day, iftar, is a time for families and friends to come together and eat. Duck is usually served in Egypt for this evening meal. In a market near the center of the capital Hajj Jalal, who owns one of the most famous poultry shops in the area, was busy selling his wares. There were crowds in front of poultry markets, unlike the lantern shops and yamish stalls.
“People have not stopped coming since the imposition of the curfew,” Jalal told Arab News. “Customers are telling me that they are trying to buy their needs before the month of Ramadan.”
Ramadan sees the country’s mosques packed with worshippers but Minister of Awqaf Muhammad Mukhtar Jumaa said mosques would not reopen during Ramadan unless no more cases of the virus were recorded.
Mosques and churches have been closed in Egypt for the last few weeks because of the pandemic.
The Central Operations Room at the Ministry of Awqaf confirmed that all religious gatherings in Ramadan were canceled due to the pandemic, including group, Friday and taraweeh prayers.
They also banned iftar gatherings including public meals during Ramadan, in which tables and chairs are set up on sidewalks with meals prepared by charities mainly in low-income neighborhoods.