Four Iraqi servicemen wounded by rocket attack on air base

In this Feb. 13, 2018 file photo, an Iraqi army soldier stand guard near a US- made Iraqi Air Force F-16 fighter jet at the Balad Air Base, Iraq. Iraqi security officials said on Jan. 12, 2020, four members of Iraq's military have been wounded by a rocket attack targeting Balad Air Base. (AP)
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Updated 12 January 2020

Four Iraqi servicemen wounded by rocket attack on air base

  • The air base hosts American trainers, advisers and a company that provides maintenance for F-16 aircraft
  • The attack came just days after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that house US forces

BAGHDAD: Four members of Iraq’s military were wounded Sunday in a rocket attack targeting an air base just north of Baghdad where American trainers are present, Iraqi security officials said.
The attack by at least six rockets came just days after Iran fired ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq that house US forces, causing no casualties.
Recent heightened tensions between the US and Iran were sparked last month when a rocket attack killed an American contractor at a base in Iraq. The US has blamed that attack and others on Iran-backed militias.
Sunday’s attack wounded an Iraqi air force officer and three enlisted men, Iraqi security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The rockets struck Balad air base, which hosts American trainers, advisers and a company that provides maintenance services for F-16 aircraft. Some rockets fell on a restaurant inside the air base, the officials said.
The base is located some 50 miles (80 kilometers) miles north of Baghdad.
A statement from the Iraqi army’s official media office confirmed the attack but said eight rockets hit the base, and that two officers had been wounded. The difference in accounts could no immediately be reconciled.
“There are American experts, trainers and advisers at the base,” said one defense official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media.
The US and Iran recently stepped back from escalating tensions following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in a US airstrike in Baghdad. A senior Iraqi leader of an Iran-backed militia was also killed.
Iran’s retaliatory attack for Soleimani’s death hit two Iraqi bases, Ain Al-Asad and Irbil, where American troops are based.
The limited Iranian strikes appeared to be mainly a show of force, and deescalated tensions that had threatened to turn Iraq into a proxy battlefield.

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British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 56 min 38 sec ago

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”