Uproar over Israeli FM’s ‘provocative’ visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem

Uproar over Israeli FM’s ‘provocative’ visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem
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Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid visits Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. (@yairlapid)
Uproar over Israeli FM’s ‘provocative’ visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem
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Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid visits Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem. (@yairlapid)
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Updated 04 April 2022

Uproar over Israeli FM’s ‘provocative’ visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem

Uproar over Israeli FM’s ‘provocative’ visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem
  • Both sides resisting a new cycle of extreme violence despite rippling tensions across the West Bank and East Jerusalem

RAMALLAH: Palestinians have strongly condemned the Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid’s provocative visit to Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem.

Violent clashes erupted after Lapid visited the area on Sunday evening, leading to the injury of 19 youths and the arrest of 11 Palestinians by Israeli police.

Violent clashes occurred at the same place during last year’s Ramadan season, which coincided with evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, with the combined tensions leading to 11 days of conflict between Hamas and Israel.

Following his visit to East Jerusalem, Lapid tweeted in Hebrew: “I participated today in assessing the situation in Jerusalem with the Commissioner, Yaakov Shabtai, and then I patrolled the Nablus Gate. This is a tense period, but we have a police force that can be trusted.”

Lapid added: “We give the security forces full backing; they work professionally. Impossible; we are committed to them and will give them all the necessary resources.

“When we are all with our families on Seder night, about 8,000 police officers will be outside guarding the lives of Israeli citizens; I am proud of our police officers, of the Border Police, of the IDF, of everyone who guards us in these tense days — take care of yourselves.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemned Lapid’s storming of Bab Damascus Gate, describing his words as an embodiment of the apartheid regime.

The ministry also derided promises made by Lapid to domestic extremists to deploy more forces and police in Jerusalem under the pretext of protecting them during the Jewish holidays.

It said that Lapid’s promises are an incitement against the Palestinians and described Lapid’s actions as an “embodiment of the worst forms of the Israeli apartheid regime that the occupation imposes on the Palestinian citizen by force within the framework of its expansionist colonial system.”

This system restricts and confiscates the freedom of the Palestinian person, as if there are only Jewish holidays that need protection, in complete disregard for the existence of Muslim and Christian holidays, the ministy added.

It said that the Israeli apartheid regime is embodied by Lapid’s actions in Jerusalem, adding that he completely ignores the fact that it is occupied land, and storms it as an occupier to make sure that his security measures have been completed to suppress the Palestinian citizens.

The dozens of police and security forces that Lapid is trying to protect are only conclusive proof that he is an occupier and is afraid to walk on occupied land, the ministry said.

Lapid’s visit also inspired a reaction from Israeli far-right politician MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, who tweeted: “Do you remember Lapid, who shouted that I was igniting the Middle East? I set up a bureau in Shimon the Tzaddik (Sheikh Jarrah); there is peace there; I went up to the Temple Mount (Al-Aqsa Mosque) and passed in peace. 

“He ‘toured’ the Damascus Gate riots all night. The matter is simple: He who shows the determination and courage of the rioters respects him. Those who show weakness — get into it.”

Ben-Gvir added: “I spoke at the (parliament) Foreign Affairs and Security Committee and said that whoever attacked the police at Damascus Gate should have been shot.”

Meanwhile, with the start of Ramadan, Israeli police turned East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque into military barracks.

They tightened its procedures and restrictions on Palestinian worshipers, coinciding with the approaching Jewish holidays.

Israeli political analyst Yoni Ben-Menahem told Arab News: “I do not think that the clashes between Palestinian youths in Bab Al-Amud Square and the Israeli police are linked to Lapid’s visit to the area, which turned a year ago into an arena of daily clashes between the youth of Jerusalem and the police, where the youths provoke their personnel.”

Ben-Menahem continued: “It was assumed that the Minister of Internal Security and Police Omer Bar-Lev would take that tour yesterday, not Lapid, who went there looking for headlines in the Israeli press.”

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, former president of Al-Quds University, told Arab News that things will not get out of control, despite the bubbling tensions.

He stressed that the presence of the occupation creates causes for anxiety. Still, it will not be an extraordinary and usual tension this time.

Prof. Nusseibeh added that increased security will help to secure the prosperity of the economic situation for the merchants of the old city, who have been waiting for Ramadan to improve their trade.

“There is a consensus among the Old City of Jerusalem merchants on the necessity of maintaining calm and discipline during Ramadan.”

Hamas spokesperson in Jerusalem Mohammed Hamada said in a statement that:

“The raid by the Israeli occupation Foreign Minister Yair Lapid into the Bab Al-Amud (Damascus Gate) area, which was followed by Israeli occupation forces opening fire toward the Palestinian people in occupied Jerusalem, is strongly evident that the Israeli occupation is insisting on implementing its malicious schemes targeting Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Hamada said the visit was “a grave escalation and a provocation to the feelings of Palestinians and Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan."

He added: “We hold the Israeli occupation leaders fully responsible for the repercussions of this move. We, alongside the Palestinian people, are committed to protecting Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque with all means possible.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of the Islamic Awqaf and Religious Affairs Hatem Al-Bakri said that Israel desecrated Al-Aqsa Mosque through 20 invasions throughout March. He said that Israeli authorities allowed the entry of more than 4,200 Jews, including officers, soldiers and students of biblical institutes, who intended to perform Talmudic prayers in the mosque while a Jewish cleric performed.

The staff of the temple servants, in their priestly attire, performed Talmudic rituals in front of the Dome of the Rock, while some of them chanted the “Israeli national anthem” in the mosque, as part of their attempts to confirm that the mosque is under Israeli sovereignty.

Ben-Gvir was among the participants in the raids on March 31, which the Palestinians described as a provocation.

Despite the waves of small acts of violence and tension rippling across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both sides are resisting a new cycle of mass violence.


France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
Updated 10 sec ago

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
  • Announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia

YEMEN: French naval forces seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles earlier this month in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran heading to Yemen’s Houthi militia, officials said Thursday, the latest such interdiction amid the Mideast nation’s long-running war.
While Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure, images of the weapons released by the US military’s Central Command showed them to be similar to others captured by American forces in other shipments tied back to Tehran.
The announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia during its war on Ukraine, as well as for its violent monthslong crackdown targeting protesters. Regional tensions also have heightened after a suspected Israeli drone attack on a military workshop in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Previous cycles of violence since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers have seen the Islamic Republic launch retaliatory attacks at sea.
The seizure occurred Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through to the Arabian Sea and onto the Indian Ocean. US Central Command described the interdiction as happening “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”
A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who took the country’s capital in late 2014 and have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government since March 2015.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the seizure, identifying the forces involved as elite French special forces. A regional official with knowledge of the interdiction, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to not having permission to speak publicly on the operation’s details, similarly identified the French as carrying out the seizure.
The French military did not respond to requests for comment about capturing the weapons. US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about the seizure, nor did Iran’s mission to the United Nations. While France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, it typically takes a quieter approach in the region while maintaining a diplomatic presence in Iran.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, though Western nations, UN experts and others have traced weaponry ranging from night-vision scopes, rifles and missiles back to Tehran. In November, the US Navy said it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound to Yemen from Iran. Houthi ballistic missile fire has targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the past.
Images taken Wednesday by US Central Command, analyzed by the AP, showed a variety of weapons on board an unidentified ship apparently docked at a port. The weapons appeared to include Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us and PKM-pattern machine guns. All have appeared in other seizures of weapons attributed to Iran.
Central Command said the seizure included more than 3,000 rifles and 578,000 rounds of ammunition. The released images also showed 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, which also have turned up in other shipments tied to Iran.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including over 14,500 civilians.


Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
Updated 25 min 22 sec ago

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
  • 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized

Dubai:  Jordanian police busted a drugs supply ring in the capital Amman, state news agency PETRA reported.

In the raid 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized, and four people were arrested, the report added, citing a public security department spokesman.

During the raid one of the suspects opened fire on police, who managed to arrest him with three others.

One other suspect remains at large, the spokesman added.

Three weeks ago Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi in a meeting with Russian President's Special Envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev stressed Jordan focused efforts to prevent the smuggling of drugs from Syria into Jordan, and to bring down drug rings.


Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
  • Primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible for the attack, says Iran's UN envoy
  • Attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity

DUBAI: Iran blamed Israel for a drone attack on a military factory near the central city of Isfahan, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Thursday, vowing revenge for what appeared to be the latest episode in a long-running covert war.
The attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and its supply of arms — including long-range “suicide drones” — for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.
In a letter to the UN chief, Iran’s UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, said “primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible” for Saturday night’s attack, which Tehran had said caused no casualties or serious damage.
“Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right to defend its national security and firmly respond to any threat or wrongdoing of the Zionist regime (Israel) wherever and whenever it deems necessary,” Iravani said in the letter.
“This action undertaken by the Zionist regime (Israel) goes against international law.”
Arch-foe Israel has long said it is willing to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or missile programs, but does not comment on specific incidents.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.
Iran has accused Israel in the past of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory.
In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a “sensitive” defense industry center in Isfahan.
“The equipment and explosives used in the Isfahan attack were transferred into Iran with the help of anti-revolutionary groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region under orders by a foreign security service,” Iran’s Nournews said on Wednesday.
Several nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.


Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
Updated 02 February 2023

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles

Yemenis elated as 5 Taiz policewomen handed key security roles
  • The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul
  • The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz

AL-MUKALLA: Five Yemeni policewomen were appointed to key security posts for the first time in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, sparking excitement among gender equality advocates and the media.

The five were given roles at sites and police stations in the Taiz Security Department as part of a security overhaul that saw the appointment of 12 new security heads, said local officials.

The appointments were intended to empower women in security roles as part of a push to end the disorder and lawlessness that has plagued Taiz for years.

Second Lt. Amera Al-Bukaili, who was recently elevated to the role of deputy director of training for Taiz security, told Arab News that women’s fight for empowerment and senior positions had finally borne fruit.

“I am so delighted today. The appointments have restored a portion of our rights, which is something that should have occurred a long time ago,” she said.

A holder of a master’s degree in social science, Al-Bukaili has almost two decades’ experience in the security field. She was made second lieutenant in 2019, while her male counterparts with similar levels of experience and education were promoted to higher ranks, she added.

“When women hold positions of authority, they will have the capacity to influence and innovate. This is an opportunity to get more rights.”

The appointments have been welcomed by both men and women who have long advocated for the promotion of women to positions of power in the country.

Sara Qassem, a human rights activist from Taiz, characterized the appointments as “special milestones” toward granting women greater rights, urging other Yemeni provinces to follow suit by appointing women to crucial posts.

“We applaud this action, which is in response to efforts to empower women in politics, human rights, security and other areas,” Qassem told Arab News, adding that the move would improve security in Taiz at a time when the city is teetering on the brink of chaos and facing a renewed Houthi siege.

Journalist Zakaria Al-Sharabi agreed, saying that deploying policewomen to key security positions will enable operations in areas that are inaccessible to men due to social barriers. The appointees will also help in combating sexual harassment and other crimes against women, she added.

“Without a doubt, the participation of women in the police force is critical, since many police duties and services, particularly those involving women, children, harassment offenses and juvenile protection need the presence of women,” Zakaria said.

Human rights and gender equality campaigners in Yemen say that women’s rights have been trampled upon and abandoned throughout the country’s civil war, particularly in Houthi-controlled regions, where the militia restricts women’s freedom of movement and other rights.

The Houthis have prohibited women from traveling between Yemeni cities without a male companion or mahram, according to observers in Sanaa.

Women also report that some service departments no longer assist unaccompanied women.

Angela Abu-Asba, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Sanaa, said that a technician at an auto repair shop in Sanaa refused to fix her vehicle because she was unaccompanied by a male guardian.

“He said that women are not permitted to enter without a mahram. Bring your mahram and come. I told him, oppressively and bitterly, that my father was in Ibb and my brother was at work,” Abu-Asba said on Facebook.

She later deleted the social media post over fears of Houthi reprisal, with the militia frequently targeting critics from the public sector and elsewhere.


Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
Updated 01 February 2023

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
  • The fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood
  • Firefighters were able to put out the blaze

CAIRO: A fire broke out Wednesday at a hospital in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, killing at least three people and injuring at least 32 others, health authorities said.
The Health Ministry said the fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood. The facility is run by a charity.
The ministry said in a statement that flames broke out at the hospital’s radiology department without elaborating on what caused it. Provincial authorities said firefighters were able to put out the blaze.
Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said the injured patients suffered from burns, fractures and smoke inhalation. They were transferred to other hospitals in Cairo.
He said the causality tally was a preliminary one, suggesting it could increase.
Safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced in Egypt and have been linked to many deaths. A 2020 fire at an intensive care unit at a private hospital in Cairo killed seven coronavirus patients.