Several injured in Al-Aqsa clashes on last Friday of Ramadan

Update Several injured in Al-Aqsa clashes on last Friday of Ramadan
Israeli police said they intervened when hundreds of people began hurling rocks and fireworks, including in the direction of the Western Wall, where Jewish worshippers gather. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 April 2022

Several injured in Al-Aqsa clashes on last Friday of Ramadan

Several injured in Al-Aqsa clashes on last Friday of Ramadan
  • There were around 160,000 worshippers in the Al-Aqsa compound on Friday
  • Almost daily confrontations at mosque this month when Ramadan overlapped with Jewish celebration of Passover

RAMALLAH: Fresh clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound left 42 people injured on the last Friday of Ramadan, following weeks of violence at the religious site. Twenty-two people were hospitalized.

There were around 160,000 worshippers in the Al-Aqsa compound on Friday. Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab News that the clashes took place after tightened restrictions at the Israeli military checkpoints leading to Jerusalem prevented thousands of worshipers from reaching the mosque. “We expected the number of worshippers to reach 220,000,” he said.

Hundreds of those who were unable to reach Al-Aqsa prayed in front of the Israeli military checkpoints at the entrances to the city of Jerusalem, he added.

The huge number of worshippers who prayed at Al-Aqsa during the previous three Fridays and Laylat Al-Qadr “is a clear message that Al-Aqsa Mosque is for Muslims alone, and it does not accept division and partnership for control with non-Muslims,” Al-Kiswani said.

Nearly 4,625 Jews entered Al-Aqsa compound last week to performing Talmudic prayer under police guard.

“The arrival — and (determination) — of the massive number of worshippers, despite the checkpoints and restrictions, confirm that the Palestinian people are ready to protect and defend Al-Aqsa Mosque against all the dangers facing it, no matter how great they are,” Al-Kiswani added.

The streets of East Jerusalem and the gates that lead to Al-Aqsa had been crowded since the early hours with worshippers from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Israeli police deployed 3,000 personnel in the Old City and the entrances to Al-Aqsa. Top Israeli police officers and the commander of Al-Quds Brigade — monitored the security situation until the end of Friday prayers.

Israeli police stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque in large numbers on Friday morning, surrounding worshipers and firing rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas, injuring several. They prevented ambulance crews from reaching the wounded before they withdrew.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s attempts to “impose a temporal division on the existing reality” in Al-Aqsa and restrictions that prevented some worshippers from reaching the mosque, denouncing the claims of Israeli officials that they are keen to maintain the status quo or are dealing “cautiously” with the situation.

The Israeli security services warned that the situation would be “very tense” until the end of May, when the provocative flag marches that take place to mark the anniversary of Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem according to the Hebrew calendar will end.

Meanwhile, an extremist Jewish group that advocates for Jews’ right to enter Al-Aqsa has announced the launch of an online course that teaches Jews how to disguise themselves as Muslims and infiltrate Al-Aqsa when it is closed to them.

In a post published on Twitter, the group said: “After the (Israeli) government’s surrender to ‘terrorism’ by its decision to close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors, we open a short path to enter the mountain through the remaining open doors by disguise and immersion in an Islamic environment.”

There has also been a video circulating on social media showing lessons held in an apartment in Jerusalem by leaders of the Return to the Mountain organization, teaching followers how to wear traditional Islamic dress, how to die their hair a darker shade, and advising them to carry prayer rugs, prayer beads, Arabic books and even the Qur’an to disguise themselves as Muslims.

Last week, a Jewish man was arrested trying to enter the mosque while wearing traditional Emirati dress — which is infrequently seen at the site. He was seen removing his shoes before reaching the entrance, which a true Muslim would be unlikely to do. He was also photographed carrying a kitchen rug wrapped around his arm, instead of the traditional prayer rug placed over the shoulder.


Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anniversary of 2019 anti-government protest

Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anniversary of 2019 anti-government protest
Updated 01 October 2022

Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anniversary of 2019 anti-government protest

Iraqis gather in Baghdad to mark anniversary of 2019 anti-government protest
  • In 2019, protests erupted against then prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government with demonstrators demanding an overhaul of political system

BAGHDAD: Hundreds of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Saturday to mark the anniversary of anti-government unrest that erupted in 2019, amid tight security and prolonged political deadlock in the country.
With concerns about the risk of street violence, security personnel deployed checkpoints across the city, closed off bridges and squares and erected walls across some of the bridges leading to the fortified Green Zone that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies. Protesters waved the Iraqi flag and chanted “we want to overthrow the regime.”
“We took part in today’s peaceful protests because we want our demands to be met... we want security, jobs and our simple rights ... we are not here to fight or shed blood,” said Laith, a young protester from Baghdad.
A few meters from the square, security forces fired teargas to disperse stone-throwing protesters who had tried to tear down a wall blocking the Republic Bridge leading across the Tigris to the Green Zone, according to a Reuters reporter who witnessed the incident.
A military statement said some “infiltrated elements” were assaulting security forces using Molotov cocktails and hunting rifles.
In 2019, protests erupted against then prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government with demonstrators demanding an overhaul of a political system they see as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.
More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also members of the security forces, were killed in the spate of popular unrest as Iraqi security forces and unidentified gunmen cracked down.
Mahdi quit under pressure from the protests with powerful Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr the biggest winner in an election last October.
Sadr in June withdrew all his lawmakers, nearly a quarter of parliament, and resorted to whipping up street protests after his movement failed to form a government, leading to some of the worst clashes the country has seen in years.
Saturday’s gathering raised fears of more unrest and tension among power-hungry politicians that could further delay the formation of a government after Sadr quit politics at the end of August.
Four rockets landed in the Green Zone on Wednesday during a partial lockdown as parliament was convening, wounding seven security personnel, and another four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad landed around the zone on Thursday.


Kuwait calls on international community to nudge Israel join NPT

Kuwait calls on international community to nudge Israel join NPT
Updated 01 October 2022

Kuwait calls on international community to nudge Israel join NPT

Kuwait calls on international community to nudge Israel join NPT
  • Egypt proposes draft resolution to apply IAEA safeguards in the Middle East

DUBAI: Kuwait has urged the international community to push Israel to join the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency’s experts to examine its nuclear installations, according to the Kuwait News Agency.
Kuwait’s ambassador to Austria, Talal Al-Fassam, who is also Kuwait’s permanent representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, was speaking at a debate regarding Israel’s nuclear capacities at the IAEA’s 66th annual conference, and stressed the need for the IAEA’s policy-making agencies to keep discussing the topic.
At the same conference, Egypt proposed a draft resolution that would apply the IAEA’s safeguard procedures to the Middle East. The resolution was adopted by the attendees with 117 votes in favor, seven abstentions and Israel’s opposition.
KUNA said the resolution underscored the urgent need for all Middle Eastern countries to accept the implementation of the safeguards to build confidence among regional countries, and to boost peace and security as a step toward ensuring that there are no nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Attendees also decided to step up international cooperation on the safe transfer of nuclear and radioactive waste. They also expressed support for the IAEA director general’s plan to safeguard the Ukrainian nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia.
The conferees also urged Iran to cooperate with the IAEA and acknowledge the presence of uranium residues, recently discovered by IAEA experts in the country.


British foreign secretary urges Houthis to engage in Yemen cease-fire extension

British foreign secretary urges Houthis to engage in Yemen cease-fire extension
Updated 01 October 2022

British foreign secretary urges Houthis to engage in Yemen cease-fire extension

British foreign secretary urges Houthis to engage in Yemen cease-fire extension
  • The UK commended the government of Yemen and its commitment to delivering the benefits of the truce

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called on Saturday for the Houthi militia to “engage constructively” with UN and regional efforts to extend the cease-fire in Yemen.

The UK commended the government of Yemen and its commitment to delivering the benefits of the truce, which has allowed Yemenis to move freely and safely around the country, to access fuel and healthcare and to fly in and out of Yemen, according to a Foreign Office statement.

These benefits, the statement added, would be lost beyond Sunday, Oct. 2, if the cease-fire was not extended.

“Yemen must not return to conflict. The truce expires tomorrow, but the Houthis continue to endanger the talks and deny Yemenis a peaceful future,” Cleverly said.

“The truce has brought tangible benefits to both Yemenis and regional security and we welcome the government of Yemen’s commitment to extend it further if an extension can be agreed.

“We call on the Houthis to engage constructively with UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg’s efforts to broker an extension to the truce, so that serious dialogue about achieving a peaceful, inclusive and Yemeni-led future can take place,” he added.

During the truce, brokered by the UN and accepted by both sides in the country’s conflict on April 2 this year, civilian casualties have fallen dramatically and cross-border attacks by the Houthis into Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stopped.


19 killed, including 4 IRGC members, in Iran attack

19 killed, including 4 IRGC members, in Iran attack
Updated 01 October 2022

19 killed, including 4 IRGC members, in Iran attack

19 killed, including 4 IRGC members, in Iran attack
  • The assailants in Friday’s attack hid among worshippers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan
  • Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini

TEHRAN: An attack by armed separatists on a police station in a southeastern city killed 19 people, including four members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday.
The assailants in Friday’s attack hid among worshippers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan and attacked the nearby police station, according to the report.
IRNA quoted Hossein Modaresi, the provincial governor, as saying 19 people were killed. The outlet said 32 Guard members, including volunteer Basiji forces, were also wounded in the clashes.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to nationwide anti-government protests gripping Iran after the death in police custody of a young Iranian woman.
Sistan and Baluchestan province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has seen previous attacks on security forces by ethnic Baluchi separatists, although Saturday’s Tasnim report did not identify a separatist group allegedly involved in the attack.
IRNA on Saturday identified the dead as Hamidreza Hashemi, a Revolutionary Guard colonel; Mohammad Amin Azarshokr, a Guard member; Mohamad Amin Arefi, a Basiji, or volunteer force with the IRG; and Saeed Borhan Rigi, also a Basiji.
Tasnim and other state-linked Iranian news outlets reported Friday that the head of the Guard’s intelligence department, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, was shot during the attack and later died.
It is not unusual for IRG members to be present at police bases around the country.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the morality police in the capital of Tehran for allegedly wearing her mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely.
The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.
The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in the northwest that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests first erupted in Kurdish areas.
Iranian state TV has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 demonstrators arrested.
Also on Friday, Iran said it had arrested nine foreigners linked to the protests, which authorities have blamed on hostile foreign entities, without providing evidence.
It has been difficult to gauge the extent of the protests, particularly outside of Tehran. Iranian media have only sporadically covered the demonstrations.
Witnesses said scattered protests involving dozens of demonstrators took place Saturday around a university in downtown Tehran. Riot police dispersed the protesters, who chanted “death to dictator.” Some witnesses said police fired teargas.
Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, meanwhile, reminded Iran’s armed forces of their duty to people’s lives and rights, the foreign-based opposition Telegram channel Kaleme reported.
Mousavi’s Green Movement challenged Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election in unrest at a level unseen since its 1979 Islamic Revolution before being crushed by authorities.
“Obviously your capability that was awarded to you is for defending people, not suppression people, defending oppressed, not serving powerful people and oppressors,” he said.


Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel
Updated 01 October 2022

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has received a letter from US mediator Amos Hochstein regarding proposals for the demarcation of a maritime border with Israel, the presidency said on Saturday on Twitter.
A deal could defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and the heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.