Al-Aqsa worshippers enjoy peaceful Friday prayer amid Tel Aviv attack tensions

Palestinian Muslim worshippers attend Ramadan Fridays prayers near the Dome of the Rock mosque in the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 8, 2022. (AFP)
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Palestinian Muslim worshippers attend Ramadan Fridays prayers near the Dome of the Rock mosque in the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 8, 2022. (AFP)
Al-Aqsa worshippers enjoy peaceful Friday prayer amid Tel Aviv attack tensions
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Thousands of Muslims from the West Bank and Israel flocked to the mosque early in the morning after passing through Israeli military checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem. (AP)
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Updated 09 April 2022

Al-Aqsa worshippers enjoy peaceful Friday prayer amid Tel Aviv attack tensions

Palestinian Muslim worshippers attend Ramadan Fridays prayers near the Dome of the Rock mosque in the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 8, 2022. (AFP)
  • Palestinian gunman who shot dead two at a bar was killed in Jaffa in exchange of fire
  • The recent attacks in Israel constitute a ‘pivotal shift,’ with attackers switching from knives to guns, ‘which causes more victims and spreads a state of terror in the Israeli street’

RAMALLAH: About 50,000 Palestinians peacefully performed the first Friday prayer of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tightened Israeli security procedures in the wake of Thursday’s Tel Aviv violence that left two Israelis killed.

Four of the 15 people injured in the attack are in a serious condition, according to Israeli medical sources.

Thousands of Israeli citizens and Palestinians from the West Bank flocked to the mosque early in the morning after passing through Israeli military checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem.

About 3,000 Israeli policemen were deployed throughout East Jerusalem, the Old City and at the gates leading to the mosque. There was no untoward incident.

Ikrima Sabri, the imam at Al-Aqsa, praised the worshipers who came to the mosque from far away places facing Israeli checkpoints and urged Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa regularly, with special emphasis on the nightly taraweeh prayer.

HIGHLIGHT

President Abbas said the cycle of violence confirms that ‘permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest and correct way to provide security and stability for the Palestinians, Israelis and people of the region.’

Ibrahim Al-Anbawi, 53, from the Anata refugee camp near Jerusalem, told Arab News that the prayer took place “quietly and without tension.” There were fewer worshippers because of Thursday’s Tel Aviv attack and fears of consequences, he added.

Al-Anbawi, who offers Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa every week, said the sermon was confined to religiosity, without any reference to the current political situation to avoid stirring up feelings.

Meanwhile, the Tel Aviv shooting attack in which a Palestinian gunman shot dead two people at a bar continues to cast a shadow over life in both the West Bank and Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack and stressed the dangers of “continuing the repeated incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque and the provocative actions of extremist settler groups.”

However, the attack was praised by several Palestinian factions and much of the public.

The officers found the shooter hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said. During an exchange of fire, the attacker was killed, the agency added.

A son of a retired Palestinian security officer, attacker Ra’ad Hazem, 29, was from the Jenin refugee camp in the north of the West Bank.

A high-ranking Palestinian security officer, who preferred anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, told Arab News that the recent attacks in Israel constituted a “pivotal shift,” with attackers switching from knives to guns, “which causes more victims and spreads a state of terror in the Israeli street.”

He said these attacks “reflect the state of anger in the hearts of the Palestinians against the continued Israeli oppression and the absence of any political or economic horizon.”

Palestinian factions said the Tel Aviv attack represented a natural response to the “crimes of the Israeli occupation and the continuation of its violations in occupied Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Thirteen Israelis have been killed, and more than 20 others wounded in four attacks carried out by Palestinians in less than a month.

The Israeli Channel 12 said the demand for psychological help in the country has increased tenfold over the past two weeks after the Beersheba and Tel Aviv strikes.

Condemning the attack, Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett said: “Our war on deadly terrorism is long and difficult, but we will win it.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said: “We will fight terrorism together, strike the resistance fighters wherever they hide, find their senders and collaborators anywhere, and not rest until calm returns to the streets.”

In contrast, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said: “We will expand our operations against the wave of attacks. The price we will exact from the perpetrators of the attacks and their senders will be heavy.”

Gantz said that Israel arrested 200 Palestinians, and “if necessary, we will arrest thousands more.”

Abbas said the killing of Palestinian and Israeli civilians “only leads to a further deterioration of the situation, as we all strive to achieve stability, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, and the upcoming Christian and Jewish holidays.”

Abbas warned against “exploiting this condemned incident to carry out attacks against our Palestinian people.”

He stressed “the danger of the continued and repeated incursions into Al-Aqsa and the provocative actions of extremist settler groups everywhere.”

He said the cycle of violence confirms that “permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest and correct way to provide security and stability for the Palestinians, Israelis and people of the region.”

Gantz praised Abbas’s condemnation of the attack.


Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority
Updated 6 sec ago

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority
BEIRUT: The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged his party and its allies had lost their parliamentary majority in elections but said no single group had taken it, in his first televised speech since Sunday’s elections.
“Unlike the situation in parliament in 2018, no political group can claim a majority,” he said.
Hezbollah and its allies scored 62 seats during Sunday polls, according to a Reuters tally, losing a majority they secured in 2018, when they and their allies won 71 seats.
Hezbollah and its ally Amal held on to all of parliament’s Shiite seats. But some of its oldest allies, including Sunni, Druze and Christian politicians, lost theirs.
The elections saw gains by the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces party and more than a dozen reform-minded newcomers, as well as a smattering of independents.
The results mark a blow for Hezbollah, though Nasrallah declared the results “a very big victory.”
Nasrallah called for “cooperation” between political groups including newcomers, saying the alternative would be “chaos and vacuum.”
The results have left parliament split into several camps, none of which have a majority, raising the prospect of political paralysis and tensions that could delay badly needed reforms to steer Lebanon out of its economic collapse.

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder
Updated 48 min 18 sec ago

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder
  • The defendant was found guilty of voluntary homicide
  • A court-ordered psychological assessment found him "responsible for his actions"

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced to death a man accused of the murder last month of a Coptic priest in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, judicial sources said.
The Alexandria court’s ruling is subject to approval by the mufti of the republic.
The sources said the defendant was found guilty of voluntary homicide after a court-ordered psychological assessment found him “responsible for his actions.”
Father Arsanios Wadid died of his wounds in hospital after being stabbed on April 7 on Alexandria’s seafront promenade as he accompanied a group of young parishioners.
The assailant was grabbed by passers-by and handed over to police, who detained him in a psychiatric hospital because of doubts over his mental health.
Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up roughly 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of more than 100 million.
The community has long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation.
In February, however, Egypt for the first time swore in a Coptic judge to head its constitutional court.
Copts were targeted in a series of sectarian attacks after the military in 2013 deposed Islamist president Muhammad Mursi. Such attacks focused largely on remote villages in southern Egypt.


Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
Updated 18 May 2022

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge

Lebanon reformists weigh choices after election surge
  • Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings

BEIRUT: Newly elected reformist MPs in Lebanon are planning strategies following election breakthroughs that grant them significant sway in the parliamentary balance of power.

Thirteen reformist MPs in Lebanon who entered the legislative race on the values of the 2019 anti-establishment uprising, as well as 21 independent MPs, have entered the newly elected Lebanese Parliament.

Analysts have added up MPs to figure out the size of the parliamentary blocs, which are divided between sovereign blocs and pro-Hezbollah groupings.

Figures show that elected MPs may be positioned within 13 blocs divided into two opposite larger camps, forming the 128-MP Parliament.

The sovereign MPs can be classified based on their previous positions. A total of 68 MPs are opposed to Hezbollah. They include members from the Lebanese Forces Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Islamic Group and the Lebanese Phalanges Party, as well as independents and reformists.

Meanwhile, the pro-Hezbollah camp includes the party itself, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Marada Movement, the Tashnaq Party and Al-Ahbash, for a total of about 60 MPs.

There is much speculation about how the new independent MPs will deal with upcoming events, and how they will position themselves on the parliamentary map.

A political observer told Arab News: “We will see the true colors of every MP when topics related to core issues are discussed.”

The observer added: “Will these MPs change their stance regarding Hezbollah’s illegal weapons, although some have avoided addressing this sensitive issue in the past? Will these MPs be able to form a unified bloc that can influence decisions within Parliament, or will they remain independent, each working alone?”

Suleiman Franjieh, head of the Marada Movement and a candidate for the Presidency, appealed to reformist MPs, saying: “Do not place strict conditions on yourselves so that you do not become isolated, because theory is one thing, and practice is another.”

Fouad Siniora, former Lebanon PM, who backed a list in Beirut and whose candidates all failed to reach parliament, said: “Sovereign MPs must develop a correct vision for the future on how to confront Hezbollah’s domination and control in order to restore the Lebanese state.”

He added: “In 2008, the sovereign forces had won 72 seats in parliament, but Hezbollah at that time refused to form a majority government.”

Siniora warned against backing down as the March 14 forces did in 2009, which cost them their power.

A video shared on social media shocked voters in Tripoli and around the country. The elected MP Firas Salloum, who was on the Real Change list with the Islamic Group, was filmed celebrating his victory by dancing to a song supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The video prompted the Islamic Group to issue a statement renouncing Salloum. It said: “He does not represent us as he seemed proud of his affiliation to the criminal tyrant, who blew up the Al-Taqwa and Al-Salam Mosques in Tripoli, and killed our people in Syria.”

The statement demanded that Salloum resign “because he does not represent the city and does not resemble its people.”

Reformist MP Elias Jarada said: “Taking the revolution from the street to the Parliament necessitates adopting a policy of reaching out to all for dialogue so that the 17 October revolution becomes a model for dynamic political action. It is important to be realistic because parliament includes groups that represent other categories of the Lebanese people.”

Several reformist MPs rushed to convene with their groups to determine their next steps in Parliament.

Elected reformist MP Ibrahim Mneimneh, whose list won three parliamentary seats in Beirut’s second constituency, said: “The reformist MPs will be the revolutionary voice in parliament. We will not compromise with the criminal regime that destroyed our lives, and we will not compromise in the face of intimidation with weapons, nor over the sale of state assets, the money of depositors, or the path of justice with the Beirut port blast and the explosion in Akkar.”

Leaked news suggested that reformist MP Melhem Khalaf, former head of the Beirut Bar Association who took part in protests against state corruption and helped release detained protesters, could possibly be elected deputy parliament speaker, succeeding Elie Ferzli, who has held the position since 2000, but failed to reach Parliament in the recent elections.

Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who is seeking a new term, is reportedly making efforts to win over civil society, and supports having Khalaf as his deputy.

Major challenges await the newly elected house, the first of which is electing a speaker and a deputy speaker, followed by parliamentary consultations to assign someone to form a new government, then electing a new president in September or October after Michel Aoun’s term ends.

There are also significant legislative obligations, within the framework of reforms required by the international community to extricate Lebanon from its worsening economic crisis.


Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2022

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa

Pope Francis sends condolences to UAE for Sheikh Khalifa
  • Pontiff joins the people of the Emirates in ‘mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership’
  • Head of the Catholic church praises the late leader for promoting religious understanding as contained in the historic Abu Dhabi Document and Zayed Award for Human Fraternity

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis has said that he is “saddened” by the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, former president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi.

In a message, the leader of the Catholic church sent his condolences to newly appointed UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and to the country’s people, invoking “an abundance of divine blessings.”

The Pope expressed his “heartfelt condolences and the assurance of my prayers for his eternal rest.”

“I likewise join the people of the Emirates in mourning his passing and paying tribute to his distinguished and far-sighted leadership in the service of the nation.”

The Catholic leader said he was “particularly grateful for the solicitude shown by His Highness to the Holy See and to the Catholic communities of the Emirates, and for his commitment to the values of dialogue, understanding and solidarity between peoples and religious traditions solemnly proclaimed by the historic Abu Dhabi Document and embodied in the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.”

“May his legacy continue to inspire the efforts of men and women of good will everywhere to persevere in weaving bonds of unity and peace between the members of our one human family,” he added.

Francis also offered prayers for Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed as he takes up the responsibilities of the UAE presidency.

“Upon you, the members of your family, and upon all the beloved people of the United Arab Emirates, I cordially invoke an abundance of divine blessings.”

Friar Giuseppe Ciutti, an Italian priest who spent time in Iraq, told Arab News that this message from the Pope was “a clear sign of the personal (and) great respect he felt for Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.”

“Pope Francis visited Abu Dhabi in 2019; that was the first visit of a Roman Catholic Church (leader) to the Arab Peninsula. During that trip the Pope … promoted values of fraternity, peace, and peaceful coexistence.”

On that visit, Francis paid tribute to the UAE as “a land that is trying to be a model of coexistence, of human brotherhood, and a meeting place among diverse civilizations and cultures.”

“Pope Francis always refers to that trip every time he talks about the progress in interreligious dialogue. His message can be read as a new sign of friendship by the Catholic (church) towards the Arab world,” he said.

The UAE is home to nearly a million Roman Catholics, most of them from the Philippines and India.


Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
Updated 18 May 2022

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem

Israel approves ultranationalist Jewish march in Jerusalem
  • The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate
  • Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Wednesday said they have given the go-ahead for flag-waving Jewish nationalists to march through the heart of the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City later this month.
The decision threatens to re-ignite violence in the holy city.
The office of Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev said the march would take place on May 29 along its “customary route” through Damascus Gate.
Each year, thousands of Israeli nationalists participate in the march, waving Israeli flags, singing songs and in some cases, chanting anti-Arab slogans, as they pass by Palestinian onlookers and businesses.
Barlev’s office said the decision was made after consultations with police.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Last year’s Gaza war erupted as the march was just getting underway, even after authorities changed the route at the last moment to avoid Damascus Gate.
The Old City, located in east Jerusalem, has experienced weeks of violent confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators, and the march threatens triggering new unrest.
Tensions also have been heightened by an Israeli police crackdown during the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last Friday. As the funeral procession got underway, police pushed and beat mourners, causing the pallbearers to lose control of the coffin and nearly drop it.
Abu Akleh, a well-known journalist, was fatally shot while covering an Israeli military raid in the occupied West Bank last week. The Palestinians, including witnesses who were with her, say she was shot by Israeli troops. Israel says that Palestinian gunmen were active in the area, and it is not clear who fired the deadly bullet.