Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
Jordan on Wednesday condemned Israeli police for sabotaging door locks at four Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets in a bid to silence the Muslim call to prayer. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 15 April 2021

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets

Jordan slams Israeli police bid to silence call to prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets
  • Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places

AMMAN: Jordan on Wednesday condemned Israeli police for sabotaging door locks at four Al-Aqsa Mosque minarets in a bid to silence the Muslim call to prayer.

The move came after waqf officials, who oversee Jerusalem’s holy sites, refused to turn off loudspeakers on the first day of Ramadan. They said the Israelis had wanted it quiet while new soldiers prayed at the Buraq (Western) wall.

Jordanian officials claimed employees of the Jordan-run Jerusalem waqf and Al-Aqsa affairs department were harassed during the police operation.

Daifallah Al-Fayez, spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, described the Israeli actions as a provocation against Muslims around the world and a violation of international law and the historical status quo.

He said that Al-Aqsa Mosque was a “pure” Islamic holy site and that the Jerusalem waqf department was “the sole authority” tasked with supervising all of its affairs.

A source at the Jerusalem Waqf Council told Arab News: “This is the first time since 1967 that Israeli occupiers have sabotaged locks in order to enter the minarets and physically cut off the electricity to the loudspeakers. And they pursued waqf officials and staff who refused to carry out their demands.”

Israel is a signatory to numerous international treaties obliging it to respect the sanctity of holy places.

An Israeli siren was sounded in Jerusalem at 8 p.m. on Tuesday as a tribute to the country’s 23,928 fallen soldiers with that day’s call for isha prayer in the city being at 8:29 p.m.

Hanna Issa, head of the Islamic-Christian Committee for Jerusalem, told Arab News that the Israeli action had been a violation of the 1998 Rome Convention and called on the international community to hold Israel to account.

Dimitri Diliani, president of the National Christian Coalition in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the incident was an attempt to stifle religious freedoms and represented an attack against Islamic holy places.

“In addition, this is a reflection of a racist policy of the Israeli occupiers that can’t accept anyone who is not Jewish,” he said.

Ahmad Tamimi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, urged international action to put an end to Israeli violations of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.


China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
Updated 17 May 2021

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
  • ‘We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position’
  • China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause
BEIJING: China on Monday renewed calls for the US to play a constructive role in ending the conflict in Gaza and stop blocking efforts at the United Nations to demand an end to the bloodshed.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China, as rotating head of the Security Council, has urged a cease-fire and the provision of humanitarian assistance, among other proposals, but that obstruction by “one country” has prevented the council from speaking with one voice.
“We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position to support the council and play its due role in cooling down the situation and rebuilding trust for a political solution,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
China “strongly condemns” violence against civilians and calls for an end to air strikes, ground attacks, rocket fire and “other actions that aggravate the situation,” Zhao said.
Israel should “exercise restraint, effectively comply with the relevant United Nations resolutions, stop demolishing Palestinian people’s houses, stop expelling Palestinian people and stop expanding its settlement program, stop threats of violence and provocations against Muslims, and maintain and respect the historical status quo of Jerusalem as a religious holy site,” Zhao said.
Calls have grown for the Biden administration to take a more active stance on the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Thus far, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has blocked efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities.
China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, while building closer political, economic and military links with Israel.

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah
Updated 17 May 2021

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

DUBAI: Yemen's information minister Moammar al- Eryani has said he condemns in the strongest terms a Houthi attack on a crowded market in Al-Durayhimi district, south of Hodeidah province.   
Eryani said the attack on a market filled with hundreds of civilians by an “Iranian-made” drone killed one person and wounded five others. 
He told the Yemeni News Agency (SABA) that the attack was an extension of a series of crimes and violations committed by the Houthi militia against civilians in liberated areas of Hodeidah.
Eryani also called on the UN envoy and the United Nations mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement, to condemn the attack and to consider it a war crime.


Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
Updated 17 May 2021

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
  • Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave
  • The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said

GAZA CITY: Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip pre-dawn Monday, after a week of violence between the Jewish state and Islamist militants left more than 200 people dead as international calls for de-escalation went unheeded.
Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said. No casualties were immediately reported.
West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught.
“There have never been strikes of this magnitude,” he said.
In a statement just before 2:00 am (2300 GMT Sunday), the Israeli army said its fighter jets were “striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.”
Gazan Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realize we’re civilians, not fighters.”
“I felt like I was dying.”
The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.
In total, 197 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets. The heaviest exchange of fire in years was sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.
In Israel, 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 282 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.
Israel’s army said about 3,000 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza toward Israel — the highest rate ever recorded — but added the Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.
Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s “campaign against the terrorist organizations is continuing with full force” and would “take time” to finish.
The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and armed group Islamic Jihad, including a vast tunnel system, weapons factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
Balls of flame and a cloud of debris shot into the sky Saturday afternoon as Israel’s air force flattened a building housing Al Jazeera and AP news agency, after giving journalists an hour to evacuate.
Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.
“It is a perfectly legitimate target,” he said.
The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.
The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
Opening the first session of the UN Security Council on the renewed violence on Sunday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fighting “utterly appalling.”
“It must stop immediately,” he said.
But the UN talks, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action, with Washington opposing a resolution.
President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes and that a Security Council statement could backfire.
Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank, where 19 Palestinians have been killed since Monday, according to a toll from Palestinian authorities.
Major clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — on May 7 following a crackdown against protests over planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Sheikh Jarrah has been at the heart of the flareup, seeing weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
On Sunday, a car-ramming attack in Sheikh Jarrah wounded seven police officers, police said, adding that the attacker had been killed.
Police also said “a number of suspects” had been arrested during clashes in another east Jerusalem neighborhood overnight Sunday to Monday.
Guterres warned the fighting could have far-reaching consequences if not stopped immediately.
“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”


Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
Updated 17 May 2021

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
  • Public figures say Beirut must not let itself be used as Iran’s pawn in fight against Israel

BEIRUT: Demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians were held for the third day at the southern Lebanon border on Sunday as political and civil figures continued to call for Lebanon not to be involved in the developments in the region.

The Israeli soldiers across the border in the town of Abbasiya have been on high alert during the demonstrations and removed Palestinian flags that were raised on the barbed wire in the village of Adaisseh village on Saturday. The Lebanese army also remained on alert on the Lebanese side, conducting patrols along the border.

A number of Lebanese Future Movement supporters went to the border town of Marwahin to declare their solidarity with the Palestinians. MP Walid Al-Baarini said they had the support of the prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri.

A Lebanese youth was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as a group of young men stormed the barbed wire fence on Friday, carrying the flags of Palestine and Hezbollah. Rockets were fired from Lebanese territory toward Israeli settlements on Thursday night, but no party claimed responsibility for the incident.

Former MP Marwan Hamadeh said on Sunday: “It shows that Hezbollah is not in a hurry to abandon its cards, and Lebanon has become hostage to a decision that comes from Tehran.”

In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi called on “the authorities in Lebanon to control the southern Lebanese border and prevent the use of Lebanese lands as a missile launch pad.”

Al-Rahi said: “Be careful not to have some people involved directly or through auxiliary parties in what is happening, as this would expose Lebanon to new wars. These uncontrolled conflicts have cost all the Lebanese people enough. The Lebanese people are not ready to destroy their country again more than it has already been destroyed. There are peaceful ways to show solidarity with the Palestinian people without getting involved on a military level. Lebanon is committed to supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.”

He said that “what is happening between Israel and the steadfast Palestinian people is a dangerous qualitative shift in the course of the struggle over land and identity.

“We call on Israel to seriously and explicitly acknowledge that there are rights for the Palestinian people and that it is impossible for it to live in peace without accepting a viable Palestinian state. There is no peace without justice, and no justice without rights.”

Hamas official Ali Baraka said in a statement on Sunday that Hamas “does not need to launch rockets from southern Lebanon.”

“We call on everyone to stand with us, but we do not ask anyone to open fronts and expose their country to danger,” he added.


Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout
Updated 17 May 2021

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout
  • Reformist media is particularly worried, arguing that a low turnout would favor the conservative camp

TEHRAN: Iranian newspapers voiced concern on Sunday about the potential turnout for next month’s presidential poll, a day after candidate registration ended with several heavyweights joining the race.

The reformist press was particularly worried, arguing that a low turnout would favor the conservative camp as in legislative elections last year.

According to the election committee, close to 600 hopefuls including 40 women have registered for the June 18 vote to elect a successor to moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.

But only a handful will be allowed to run after vetting by the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated, unelected body in charge of overseeing elections.

According to the reformist Shargh daily, “various polls” show that “more than half” of eligible voters are expected to stay away.

The election is already widely viewed as a likely showdown between conservative Ali Larijani, a former parliament speaker, and ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

A record 57 percent of Iranian voters stayed away from the February 2020 legislative elections.

This was attributed to the disqualification of thousands of candidates, many of them reformists and moderates, as well as voter disappointment with the economy and Rouhani’s performance.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers was expected to rejuvenate Iran’s economy by lifting punishing sanctions.

But those hopes were dashed three years later as the US pulled out and unilaterally reimposed sanctions, leaving much of Rouhani’s second term tainted by a battered economy and unfulfilled promises.

The government-run Iran daily called for authorities to “guarantee the presence of candidates from (different) political orientations” to promote a “formidable turnout.”

It warned that Guardian Council disqualifications run a risk of fueling public “frustration” when the country needs a high “level of turnout.”

The ultraconservative daily Javan called the election “more important” than previous polls due to the economic and social crises and the ongoing talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

It also called for a big turnout to show “strong support for the system.”

But the reformist publication Etemad, quoting analysts, voiced “concern” about the level voter confidence at a time of “economic suffering and political discontent.”