Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, left, speaking in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018, and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid delivering a speech in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 24, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt

Israel lawmakers to vote Sunday on anti-Netanyahu govt
  • If the pivotal vote confirms the fragile eight-party alliance it would spell the end of an era, after Netanyahu dominated Israeli politics for more than a decade
  • Naftali Bennett would serve as premier for the next two years, after which the ‘change’ coalition’s centrist architect, Yair Lapid, would take over

JERUSALEM: After weeks of political wrangling the Israeli parliament will vote Sunday on whether to install a “change” coalition and end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12 consecutive years in power.
Announcing the date for the confidence vote on Tuesday, speaker Yariv Levin, a Netanyahu ally, said “a special session of parliament” would debate and vote on the fragile eight-party alliance.
If the crunch vote hands a majority to the coalition, which is united only by hostility to Netanyahu’s rule, it would spell the end of an era.
The divisive incumbent has dominated Israeli politics for more than a decade, pushing it firmly to the right.
Since the coalition was announced last week, Netanyahu has lived up to his reputation as a ruthless political operator, piling pressure on right-wingers within its ranks to reject this “dangerous left-wing government.”
The anti-Netanyahu bloc includes three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party.
On paper it commands a wafer-thin majority, but Netanyahu has urged his supporters to shame right-wing lawmakers in its ranks into returning to the fold under his leadership.
If the new government is confirmed, Netanyahu’s right-wing opponent Naftali Bennett would serve as premier for two years, after which the “change” coalition’s centrist architect, Yair Lapid, would take over.
“The unity government is on the way and ready to work on behalf of all the people of Israel,” Lapid, a former television presenter, said in a statement following the announcement of the vote.
Netanyahu, who faces corruption charges that could result in jail time, has refused to go without a messy fight.
Bitter recriminations within the Israeli right and far right prompted Israeli security services to issue a rare warning against incitement online, which Netanyahu’s opponents say was a warning to the prime minister.

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Alarm has grown over angry rallies by supporters of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, including protests outside the homes of right-wing lawmakers accused of “betrayal” for joining the coalition. Security has been stepped up for some of the MPs.
The 71-year-old prime minister has rejected allegations of incitement, saying “there is a very thin line between political criticism and inciting violence.”
Bennett, who served as Netanyahu’s aide before turning against him, has urged his former boss to “let go.”
Should 11th-hour defections torpedo the fledgling coalition, Israel would likely have to return to the polls for a fifth election in just over two years.
The Israeli political drama is playing out as tensions with the Palestinians smolder, with police cracking down on demonstrations over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.
And a planned flag march by Jewish nationalists was scrapped after police refused to authorize its contentious route through east Jerusalem citing a high risk of friction with residents — though some far-right politicians said they would demonstrate anyway.
A top Hamas official, Khalil Al-Hayya, warned Israel Monday “against letting the march approach east Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.”
“We hope the message is clear so that Thursday doesn’t become (a new) May 10,” he said, in reference to the start of the 11-day war which Hamas launched in response to tensions at the mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site, which is also revered by Jews.
Netanyahu convened a late-night meeting Monday with senior government officials to discuss alternatives that could allow the march to proceed — a move that saw his opponents accuse him and his allies of working to ratchet up tensions as his grip on power grows increasingly shaky.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a Likud member, said the final decision on the march would rest with him, and not the police, according to Israeli media.
Labor MP Gilad Kariv, a supporter of the coalition, called the move “another chapter in the outgoing government’s attempt to leave a scorched earth.”


Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
Updated 12 min 27 sec ago

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise

Egyptian, Russian navies launch joint exercise
  • Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries

CAIRO: The Egyptian and Russian navies have launched the joint exercise Friendship Bridge 4, which will last for several days in the Mediterranean.

It began with a ceremony welcoming Russian forces at the Alexandria Naval Base in the presence of Lt. Gen. Ahmed Khaled Hassan Saeed, who delivered a speech in which he stressed the importance of cooperation between the two countries’ navies.

Friendship Bridge 4 is part of Egypt’s plan to carry out joint military training with friendly countries.

 Meanwhile, the armed forces of Egypt and Jordan concluded their joint exercise Aqaba-6. The training, which took place in Jordan, included a joint operation to eliminate an armed terrorist outpost inside a border village, and the interception of a merchant ship.


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 07 December 2021

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials

BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.


Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 07 December 2021

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.