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.


France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
Updated 05 July 2022

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps

France repatriates 35 children, 16 mothers from Syria camps
  • Minors were handed over to child protection services while the mothers would face judicial proceedings

PARIS: France has repatriated 35 children and 16 mothers from camps in Syria where family members of suspected Daesh terrorists have been held, the foreign ministry said in Paris.
“France has today undertaken the return to the country of 35 French minors who were in camps in northeast Syria. This operation also includes the return of 16 mothers from these same camps,” a statement said, adding that the minors were handed over to child protection services while the mothers would face judicial proceedings.


Israel PM visits France with Lebanon gas row topping agenda

Israel PM visits France with Lebanon gas row topping agenda
Updated 47 min 11 sec ago

Israel PM visits France with Lebanon gas row topping agenda

Israel PM visits France with Lebanon gas row topping agenda
  • Yair Lapid took over the premiership on Friday following the collapse of Israel’s coalition government

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid departed on his first foreign trip in office Tuesday to France, where he will ask for backing on a gas dispute with Lebanon that days ago saw Israel shoot down three Hezbollah drones.

Lapid took over the premiership on Friday following the collapse of Israel’s coalition government, which will see the country return to the polls in November for its fifth election in less than four years.

The new leader was confronted with his first test a day later, when Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement launched three drones toward an offshore gas field in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking before his departure from Tel Aviv, Lapid said he will raise the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“We will also discuss of course what has occurred recently off the coast of Lebanon,” Lapid said.

“There have been repeated attacks on Israeli gas rigs. Israel will not accept this type of attacks on its sovereignty.”

Lebanon rejects Israel’s claim that the Karish gas field lies within its territorial waters.

Israel and Lebanon resumed negotiations on their maritime border in 2020, though the Karish site sits outside of the disputed area and is marked as Israeli on previous United Nations maps.

The US-backed talks have been stalled by Beirut’s demand that the UN maps must be modified.

Hezbollah’s backers Iran will also be on the agenda at the bilateral talks in Paris, as Israel stands firmly opposed to international efforts to revive a nuclear accord with Tehran.

“It’s important that our position against this agreement is heard,” Lapid said Tuesday.

Israeli officials fear that giving Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program could allow Tehran to boost funding to Hezbollah, as well as the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

A senior Israeli official said the Lebanon gas issue will be high on agenda during talks at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

“We will ask France to intervene to secure the negotiations that we want to lead until the end of the gas issues,” the official told journalists traveling with the premier.

Lapid’s Paris visit comes days ahead of US President Joe Biden traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories, before flying to Saudi Arabia for energy talks.

Washington is seeking to stabilize the global energy market following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which led Moscow to cut its gas supplies to some European countries.

Israel and Egypt signed a deal last month to boost gas exports to the European Union, as the bloc attempts to end its dependency on Russian energy.

“The Lebanon issue is essential and Lapid will come back to the Israeli position, according to which Hezbollah is first and foremost a threat to the future of Lebanon,” said the Israeli official, who requested anonymity.

Israel and Lebanon remain technically at war but agreed to talks aimed at delineating their maritime border to allow both countries to boost gas exploration.


Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council
Updated 04 July 2022

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

Egypt FM in London to inaugurate partnership council

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry headed to London to inaugurate the first partnership council between his country and the UK.

The council will be co-chaired by Shoukry and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. It will include political consultations and discussions on economic and trade issues, with the participation of British Trade Policy Minister Penny Mordaunt.

A spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the launch of the council comes in light of strengthening cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

While in London, Shoukry met with Lord Tariq Ahmad, British minister for South Asia, North Africa, the UN and the Commonwealth, to discuss bilateral relations.


Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
Updated 04 July 2022

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan

Woman stabbed by husband in front of court in Jordan
  • The woman, who was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit, was listed in fair condition.

AMMAN: A woman was stabbed by her husband in a public street in Karak in front of the Karak Sharia Court on Monday, according to a Jordanian security source.

The unidentified man pulled out a knife and stabbed his wife in the back, chest and right hand, according to a source at Al Karak Public Hospital.

She was rushed to the hospital shortly after and admitted to the intensive care unit. She was described as in fair condition.

The attacker has since been apprehended, and police are currently investigating the incident.

According to eyewitnesses, family disputes between the couple led them to review the case at Sharia court before the situation escalated and the husband attacked the victim.

Following the death of 18-year-old Iman Ersheid, who was shot dead on campus, public outrage in Jordan has fueled calls for the death penalty to be enforced in such cases.

Last week, the High Criminal Court in Jordan sentenced a 50-year-old to death for stabbing his ex-wife before the Northern "Rusaifa" Sharia Court in a similar incident.


US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
Updated 05 July 2022

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling

US offers cash rewards to curb Iran smuggling
  • Navy targets weapons and drugs in Arabian Gulf and Red Sea

JEDDAH: The US Navy is offering cash rewards of up to $100,000 for information leading to the interception of smuggled weapons and narcotics in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

The initiative by the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet does not directly name Iran but analysts said it was clearly aimed at curbing the flow of Iranian arms to the Houthi militia in Yemen and restricting the lucrative regional drugs trade operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Any destabilizing activity has our attention,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Timothy Hawkins said. “Definitely we have seen in the last year skyrocketing success in seizing both illegal narcotics and illicit weapons. This represents another step in our effort to enhance regional maritime security.”
Operators fluent in Arabic, English and Farsi will staff a phone hotline, and the Navy will also take tips online in Dari and Pashto. Payouts can be as high as $100,000 or the equivalent in vehicles, boats or food for tips that include information on planned attacks targeting Americans.
Asked whether new seizures could increase tensions with Iran, Hawkins listed the weapons and drugs the Navy hoped to intercept under the program. “That’s what we’re after,” he said. “That’s not in the interest of regional stability and security.”

Opinion

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The fleet and its allies seized $500 million in drugs alone in 2021, more than the four previous years combined, and intercepted the shipment of 9,000 weapons, three times the number in 2020.
Despite a UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen, Tehran has long been transferring rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, missiles and other weapons to the Houthis in Yemen. UN experts have examined missiles aimed at civilian targets and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and traced the components back to Iran.
The rewards program is the latest initiative under 5th Fleet Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who also launched a drone task force last year amid rising tension with Iran. The US Navy and Revolutionary Guard naval forces have had several encounters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The Houthis said last week they were monitoring increased US activity in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.“Because of this, defense and confrontation options are open,” a spokesman said.