Arrests, injuries as baton-wielding police target Palestinian Al-Aqsa protest

Arrests, injuries as baton-wielding police target Palestinian Al-Aqsa protest
Two people lie on the ground during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians on May 5, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 05 May 2022

Arrests, injuries as baton-wielding police target Palestinian Al-Aqsa protest

Arrests, injuries as baton-wielding police target Palestinian Al-Aqsa protest
  • Israeli police dispersed Palestinian protesters with batons and rubber bullets
  • Protest came after at least 600 flag-waving settlers marched into the mosque courtyards earlier in the day

RAMALLAH: At least 16 Palestinians were injured when Israeli police broke up a protest at Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Thursday after the site had been occupied by extremist settlers who raised Israeli flags.

Police arrested about 50 men after scuffles broke out during the demonstration, which came after at least 600 flag-waving settlers marched into the mosque courtyards earlier in the day.

The incident follows the resumption of Jewish visits to the flashpoint site and coincided with the anniversary of Israel’s 1948 independence.

Israeli police dispersed Palestinian protesters with batons and rubber bullets, and held others inside the mosque until tensions eased.

Earlier, the extremist Temple Mount organization called on Jews throughout Israel to celebrate the national anniversary by occupying the mosque courtyards.

Hundreds of young Palestinians at the site performed prayers and chanted slogans in protest against the settler groups, which included heads of Jewish religious schools.

Israeli police blocked young men from entering Al-Aqsa and arrested others who were taken to interrogation centers.

Jewish visits to Al-Aqsa had been suspended from April 22 until Thursday. 

Mohammed Al-Khalayleh, Jordan’s Islamic affairs minister, described the repeated storming of Al-Aqsa by Jewish extremists as “provocation” for world Muslims and urged Israeli authorities to clamp down on future incursions.

Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that Palestinians had sent a message that “Al-Aqsa is for Muslims, and our presence and steadfastness will remain.”

He said that the mosque “will not be a theater for elections and political strife to be used by the occupation government,” and added: “Al-Aqsa is higher than that.”

Palestinian factions accused Jewish settlers of “fanning of the flames of war against the Palestinian people and their sanctities,” and warned the Israeli government against allowing extremist Jews to storm the site.

Tariq Salmi, spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, said that Al-Aqsa worshippers represent “the first wall” against Israeli attempts to divide the religious site.

In its monthly report, the Islamic Christian Commission for Jerusalem and the Holy Sites said that 4,700 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa in April, while Israeli police arrested 775 Palestinians, including 30 children.

More than 180 Palestinians were injured in clashes with police, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

In Hebron, settlers raised Israeli flags and set off fireworks at Al-Ibrahimi mosque on Wednesday to celebrate Israel’s independence.

The Israeli Air Force on Thursday staged a flypast over the mosque for the first time since the occupation of Hebron in 1967.

According to Israeli media, the army is preparing for possible rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli cities following the clashes at Al-Aqsa.

Ahmed Al-Ruwaidi, the Palestinian presidency adviser for Jerusalem affairs, blamed Israeli authorities for sponsoring settler incursions and warned of the threat of a religious war.

Observers believe that one of the goals of the Israeli escalation at Al-Aqsa is to weaken the Jordanian guardianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites, and keep Israel as the decision-maker.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas political bureau chief, said that the “Palestinian protectors of Al-Aqsa had forced Jewish extremists to lower their flags and to come out defeated.”

He added: “We will continue to face such situations on more than one front. Our people will not surrender, but will score more victories.”


Jordan’s King Abdullah pledges to hold those responsible for chlorine explosion to account

Jordan’s King Abdullah pledges to hold those responsible for chlorine explosion to account
Updated 6 sec ago

Jordan’s King Abdullah pledges to hold those responsible for chlorine explosion to account

Jordan’s King Abdullah pledges to hold those responsible for chlorine explosion to account

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak on Monday to be held accountable.

At least 13 people were killed and 250 were taken ill when a chlorine tank exploded at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, when a crane dropped it, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law,” the palace said in a statement. He also offered condolences to victims' families.

Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port had resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.

Al-Khasawneh said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.

A government spokesman, Faisal Al-Shboul, told state media that eight of the dead were Jordanian and five were foreigners. Among the injured were Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, hospital officials said.

Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.

The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.

State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.

Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.

Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.

(With AP)


US must ditch ‘Trump method’ in nuclear talks, says Iran

US must ditch ‘Trump method’ in nuclear talks, says Iran
Updated 8 min 17 sec ago

US must ditch ‘Trump method’ in nuclear talks, says Iran

US must ditch ‘Trump method’ in nuclear talks, says Iran
  • Iranian officials said they were hoping for progress in Qatar talks
  • The indirect talks come two weeks before US President Joe Biden's official visit to the region

DOHA: Iran warned the US to abandon the “Trump method” on Wednesday after the two sides opened indirect talks to revive a nuclear deal that was torpedoed by the former American president.
But Iranian officials said they were hoping for progress in the talks in Qatar, which come after international meetings to return to the deal hit a roadblock.
Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief in 2015, before then US president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal three years later.
“We hope that, God willing, we can reach a positive and acceptable agreement if the United States abandons the Trump method,” Iranian government spokesman Ali Bahadori-Jahromi said.
He described the “Trump method” as “non-compliance with international law and past agreements and disregard for the legal rights of the Iranian people.”
The indirect talks — with the rival delegations sending each other messages from different parts of the same hotel — come just two weeks before US President Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the region, with Iran high on his agenda.
Soaring oil prices and the lack of spare capacity could also make this an opportunity for Tehran to push for the lifting of sanctions on Iranian crude, said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran was open to a deal in Doha, but wouldn’t cross its “red lines.”
“We are serious” in our desire to finalize an agreement, he said, stressing that his country would not retreat from the “red lines” it has drawn.
“If the American side has serious intentions and is realistic, an agreement is available at this stage and in this round of negotiations,” he said, quoted by IRNA state news agency.
IRNA has previously described the “red lines” as lifting all sanctions as related to the nuclear agreement, creating a mechanism to verify they have been lifted, and making sure the US does not withdraw from the deal.
The indirect negotiations headed by US special envoy Robert Malley and Iran’s Ali Bagheri come after more than a year of European Union-mediated talks in Vienna on a return to the 2015 agreement.
The deal gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program to guarantee that Tehran could not develop a nuclear weapon — something it has always denied wanting to do.
It has been hanging by a thread since 2018, when Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and began reimposing harsh economic sanctions on America’s arch-enemy.


Syria seizes record 2.3 tons of captagon: ministry

Syria seizes record 2.3 tons of captagon: ministry
Updated 29 June 2022

Syria seizes record 2.3 tons of captagon: ministry

Syria seizes record 2.3 tons of captagon: ministry
  • Ten arrests were made and several vehicles confiscated in the crackdown

DAMASCUS: Syrian counter-narcotics units seized a record haul of 2.3 tons of the amphetamine-type stimulant known as captagon, the interior ministry announced Wednesday.
Law enforcement officers had earlier discovered 249 kilos of captagon hidden in steel machinery inside containers ready to leave the Mediterranean port of Latakia.
The ensuing investigation alerted the authorities “to the existence of a warehouse containing drugs on a farm” in the nearby province of Hama, a ministry statement said.
“The weight of the confiscated bags amounted to 2,103 kilos,” the statement said, adding that 10 arrests were made and several vehicles confiscated.
With a kilo of captagon estimated to amount to around 6,000 pills, the cumulated number of pills seized tops 14 million, the largest recorded haul by the Syrian government in years.
Several recent reports have accused senior members of President Bashar Assad’s government and security apparatus of being at the heart of the booming captagon trade.


Turkey to seek extradition of 33 suspects from Finland, Sweden

Turkey to seek extradition of 33 suspects from Finland, Sweden
Updated 29 June 2022

Turkey to seek extradition of 33 suspects from Finland, Sweden

Turkey to seek extradition of 33 suspects from Finland, Sweden
  • Extradition sought under a deal that paved the way for Ankara to back the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids

ITANBUL: Turkey said Wednesday it would seek the extradition of 33 “terror” suspects from Sweden and Finland under a deal that paved the way for Ankara to back the Nordic countries’ NATO membership bids.
“We will seek the extradition of terrorists from the relevant countries within the framework of the new agreement,” signed on Tuesday by the foreign ministers of Turkey, Sweden and Finland, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was quoted as saying by NTV television.


Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to hack UN Lebanon peacekeepers

Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to hack UN Lebanon peacekeepers
Israel has accused Hezbollah gunmen of setting up clandestine positions at the border in defiance of UNIFIL. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 June 2022

Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to hack UN Lebanon peacekeepers

Israel accuses Hezbollah of trying to hack UN Lebanon peacekeepers
  • The allegation — to which there was no immediate response from Beirut, Tehran or the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) — came as Israeli-Iranian tensions soar

JERUSALEM: Israel accused the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah on Wednesday of conducting a cyber operation designed to disrupt a UN peacekeeping mission on the border between the countries, and threatened harsh Israeli retaliation against enemy hackers.
The allegation — to which there was no immediate response from Beirut, Tehran or the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) — came as Israeli-Iranian tensions soar.
In what he termed a first public disclosure of the incident, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said “Iranian security institutions in cooperation with Hezbollah (recently) launched a cyber operation with the aim of stealing materials about UNIFIL activities and deployment in the area, for Hezbollah’s use.”
“This is yet another direct attack by Iran and Hezbollah on Lebanese citizens and on Lebanon’s stability,” he told a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University, without elaborating.
Established in 1978, UNIFIL patrols Lebanon’s southern border. It is charged with monitoring the ceasefire that ended the last war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006.
Israel has accused Hezbollah gunmen of setting up clandestine positions at the border in defiance of UNIFIL. Lebanese officials say Israel continues air force overflights of their territory in violation of the cease-fire.
Gantz said an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber unit called “Shahid Kaveh” had “conducted research to damage ships, gas stations and industrial plants in several Western countries including Britain, the US, France and Israel.”
Britain’s Sky News reported similar allegations last year, saying the Iranian embassy in London had not responded to them.
Gantz hinted that Israel — which is widely believed to have waged cyber war against Iran’s nuclear facilities and other infrastructure — may retaliate physically against enemy hackers.
“We know who they are, we target them and those who direct them. They are in our sights as we speak — and not just in the cyber-space,” he said. “There is a variety of possible responses to cyber-attacks — in and outside of the cyber-domain.”