Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says
Excavators of the Israeli army demolish two Palestinian houses in the Jabal Johar area of Hebron city, near the Kiryat Arba Israeli settlement, in the occupied West Bank, on November 28, 2022. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 28 November 2022

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says

Palestinians stand ready to confront policies of new right-wing Israeli government, PM says
  • Key security role reportedly handed to extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir in cabinet being assembled by Benjamin Netanyahu fuels concern

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are ready to confront the policies and actions of the Israeli occupation forces with widespread displays of resistance and steadfastness, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said on Monday.

His comments, at the start of a cabinet session on Monday in Ramallah, came amid growing Palestinian alarm over a key role promised to far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir in the next Israeli government. Ben-Gvir, a settler living in the West Bank who has long been a fierce opponent of Palestinian statehood, will reportedly have an expanded national security portfolio in the new administration, including responsibility for border police in the West Bank.

More generally, concerns are growing by the day among Palestinians about the likely threats posed by the extreme right-wing Israeli coalition government being formed under the leadership of Likud leader Netanyahu, which will include members of radical religious parties.

Prominent extremist leaders such as Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have openly stated the policies they intend to impose on Palestinians upon the formation of a government in which they are involved.

As a sign of the growing threat, their supporters among the settler population in the West Bank, and some Israeli army soldiers, reportedly have already begun to display more aggressive behavior toward Palestinian civilians.

Israeli sources said one of the plans of the Netanyahu government will be to legalize 60 settler outposts in the West Bank, built by Hilltop Youth extremists on large areas of confiscated Palestinian land. There are said to be plans to allocate money for the modernization and development of the outposts, and to expand the powers of the Israeli Civil Administration to approve the allocation of land for settlement expansion, according to the sources. The new Israeli government will allocate about $52 million annually for development of infrastructure for the “new small settlements” and outposts, they said.

On Monday, Shtayyeh said that the intentions of the next Israeli government had started to become clear, along with its “aggressive and colonial programs and its plans to erase the 1967 borders and to strengthen colonial outposts and turn them into new colonies, and provide them with what they need, covering it legally, materially and politically.”

He said the aggression continues despite “our realization that all settlements are illegal and illegitimate according to international law.”

Shtayyeh added that the next Israeli government will form settler militias, under the protection of the Israeli army, and had vowed to further escalate an already tense situation. However, the threats and intimidation will not frighten the Palestinians, he said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has stated its opposition to settlement expansion in the West Bank on the grounds that it threatens the two-state solution that Washington supports.

The Palestinians fear continuing settlement expansions will destroy their dream, for which they have fought for 55 years, of a contiguous Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Khalil Al-Tafakji, director of the maps department and an expert on settlement affairs at the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem, told Arab News that Ben-Gvir is a settler from the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron who ideologically considers the West Bank to be part of Israel. He will not accept that there is any state other than Israel between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and does not believe in the existence of a Palestinian state.

Israeli political and religious parties on the left and right and in the center have differing opinions on many matters, Al-Tafakji said, but they all agree on the issue of settlements and opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“The legalization of settlement outposts in the West Bank will make these outposts a national priority in terms of allocating funds to them, paving roads linking them to neighboring settlements and main streets, exempting them from taxes, and transforming them in the future to be part of a large settlement close to them,” he said.

Al-Tafakji said that what concerns him most is that because a significant part of the new government is likely to include extreme right-wing politicians such as Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, who hail from settlement backgrounds, Netanyahu might appear more moderate.

There are 145 settlements in the West Bank, in which about 550,000 settlers live, 15 settlements in East Jerusalem that are home 230,000 settlers, and 170 illegal outposts. All settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. Most of the settlement outposts are in the Jordan Valley or the Hebron area in the southern West Bank, Al-Tafakji said, and they represent a clear existential threat to the Palestinian dream of a state of their own

Younes Arar, director of international relations at the Settlement and Wall Resistance Commission, told Arab News that the growing threat of legalization of settlement outposts comes amid an increase in the pace of demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank in recent days. This is in addition to moves to return settlers to outposts previously vacated by an Israeli political decision, including Avitar, south of Nablus, and Tarslah, near Jenin, he said.

Benny Gantz, who was defense minister in the previous coalition government, strongly criticized the plans to place Ben-Gvir in control of the Border Guard as part of the coalition agreement with Netanyahu.

Gantz, who has accused Ben-Gvir of establishing a private militia, warned against the politicization of the army. There is a consensus among the public on this issue, he told Channel 12 news on Monday.

“I am confident that the leaders and the Israeli army will not acquiesce in the illegal demands in the army,” he said.

Gantz also criticized a reported agreement to transfer the oversight unit in the Israeli Civil Administration that handles civilian and humanitarian affairs of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party.

Meanwhile, Israel has announced that it will now be an offense punishable by three years in prison for Arab-Israelis or Israelis to take their vehicles to Palestinian garages in the West Bank for repair. Dozens of garages in the West Bank, especially in towns and villages close to the border with Israel, are popular with Jews and Israeli Arabs because they are relatively cheap.

The crackdown follows a recent incident in which an Israeli Druze teenager, Tiran Fero, died as a result of a car accident when he took his car to a garage in Jenin for repair.

After his death, Palestinian gunmen took the body, which threatened to cause a major security crisis in the Jenin camp as tensions rose between the Druze community and Palestinians. The body was subsequently handed over following intervention from officials on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Iran jails couple in viral dancing video: activists

Updated 16 sec ago

Iran jails couple in viral dancing video: activists

Iran jails couple in viral dancing video: activists
Paris — FRA
Paris, Jan 31, 2023 Agence France Presse: An Iranian court has handed jail sentences of over 10 years each to a young couple who danced in front of one of Tehran’s main landmarks in a video seen as a symbol of defiance against the regime, activists said on Tuesday.
Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, had been arrested in early November after a video went viral of them dancing romantically in front of the Azadi Tower in Tehran.PARIS: An Iranian court has handed jail sentences of over 10 years each to a young couple who danced in front of one of Tehran’s main landmarks in a video seen as a symbol of defiance against the regime, activists said on Tuesday.
Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, had been arrested in early November after a video went viral of them dancing romantically in front of the Azadi Tower in Tehran.
Haghighi did not wear a headscarf in defiance of the Islamic republic’s strict rules for women, while women are also not allowed to dance in public in Iran, let alone with a man.
A revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced them each to 10 years and six months in prison, as well as bans on using the Internet and leaving Iran, the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said.
The couple, who already had a following in Tehran as popular Instagram bloggers, were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” as well as “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security,” it added.
HRANA cited sources close to their families as saying they had been deprived of lawyers during the court proceedings while attempts to secure their release on bail have been rejected.
It said Haghighi is now in the notorious Qarchak prison for women outside Tehran, whose conditions are regularly condemned by activists.
Iranian authorities have clamped down severely on all forms of dissent since the death in September of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the headscarf rules, sparked protests that have turned into a movement against the regime.
At least 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations, ranging from prominent celebrities, journalists and lawyers to ordinary people who took to the streets.
The couple’s video had been hailed as a symbol of the freedoms demanded by the protest movement, with Ahmadi at one moment lifting his partner in the air as her long hair flowed behind.
One of the main icons of the Iranian capital, the gigantic and futuristic Azadi (Freedom) Tower is a place of huge sensitivity.
It opened under the rule of the last shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the early 1970s when it was known as the Shahyad (In Memory of the Shah) Tower.
It was renamed after the shah was ousted in 1979 with the creation of the Islamic republic. Its architect, a member of the Bahai faith which is not recognized in today’s Iran, now lives in exile.


Haghighi did not wear a headscarf in defiance of the Islamic republic’s strict rules for women, while women are also not allowed to dance in public in Iran, let alone with a man.
A revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced them each to 10 years and six months in prison, as well as bans on using the Internet and leaving Iran, the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said.
The couple, who already had a following in Tehran as popular Instagram bloggers, were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” as well as “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security,” it added.
HRANA cited sources close to their families as saying they had been deprived of lawyers during the court proceedings while attempts to secure their release on bail have been rejected.
It said Haghighi is now in the notorious Qarchak prison for women outside Tehran, whose conditions are regularly condemned by activists.
Iranian authorities have clamped down severely on all forms of dissent since the death in September of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the headscarf rules, sparked protests that have turned into a movement against the regime.
At least 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations, ranging from prominent celebrities, journalists and lawyers to ordinary people who took to the streets.
The couple’s video had been hailed as a symbol of the freedoms demanded by the protest movement, with Ahmadi at one moment lifting his partner in the air as her long hair flowed behind.
One of the main icons of the Iranian capital, the gigantic and futuristic Azadi (Freedom) Tower is a place of huge sensitivity.
It opened under the rule of the last shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the early 1970s when it was known as the Shahyad (In Memory of the Shah) Tower.
It was renamed after the shah was ousted in 1979 with the creation of the Islamic republic. Its architect, a member of the Bahai faith which is not recognized in today’s Iran, now lives in exile.
sjw/ah/kir

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  
Updated 31 January 2023

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

Heads of Arab and pan-African parliament discuss cooperation on mutual interests  

The President of the Arab Parliament, Adel bin Abd al-Rahman al-Asoumi, met with the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Chief Fortune Charumbira on Tuesday.  

The officials met on the sidelines of the Conference of the Union of Councils of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Algeria, a statement by the Arab Parliament said. 

The two sides reviewed regional and international interests, and agreed on full coordination in international forums in support of all Arab and African matters.  

The Speaker of the Arab Parliament affirmed that the Arab and African regions possess many common denominators that contribute to supporting Arab and African matters, especially the Palestinian issue and the Libyan crisis.


Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
Updated 31 January 2023

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials

Three Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Yemen drone strike: officials
  • The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province

YEMEN, Marib: Three alleged Al-Qaeda militants were killed in a suspected US drone strike in northeastern Yemen on Monday, local government officials said.
The attack was carried out on a car in Marib province, the scene of heavy fighting in 2021 in Yemen's long-running civil war, the officials said.
“Three Al-Qaeda members were killed in a strike by a drone that is believed to be American,” a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The three were in a car in Wadi Obeida when they were targeted by the suspected US strike that killed them immediately.”
A second Marib government official confirmed the strike on Al-Qaeda militants and the death toll. There was no immediate comment from Washington.
The United States considers Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch - Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) - among the most dangerous branches of the global jihadist network.
AQAP, and other militants loyal to Daesh, have thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war.
AQAP has carried out operations against both the Houthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad.
Its leaders have been targeted by a US drone war for more than two decades, although the number of strikes has dropped off in recent years.
The conflict in Yemen has since killed tens of thousands of people and triggered what the United Nations terms the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people displaced.


After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands
Updated 31 January 2023

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands

After drought, winter rains revive Iraq’s famed marshlands
  • raq has faced three consecutive years of severe drought and scorching heat, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees Celsius

Chibayish: Black buffaloes wade through the waters of Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes, leisurely chewing on reeds. After years of drought, winter rains have brought some respite to herders and livestock in the famous wetlands.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the marshes were parched and dusty last summer by drought in the climate-stressed country and by reduced flow from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers due to dams built upstream in Turkiye and Iran.
Winter brings seasonal rains, offering relief in marshes like those of Huwaizah — which straddles the border with Iran — and Chibayish, located in nearby Dhi Qar province.
Among the reeds of Chibayish, buffalo farmer Rahim Daoud now uses a stick to punt his boat across an expanse of water.
“This summer, it was dirt here; there was no water,” said the 58-year-old. “With the rain that has fallen, the water level has risen.”
Last summer, photographers traveled to the Huwaizah and Chibayish marshes to document the disappearance of large portions of the wetlands, observing vast expanses of dry and cracked soil dotted with yellowed shrubs.
In October, an official in the impoverished rural province of Dhi Qar said that in the previous six months, 1,200 families had left the marshes and other agricultural areas of southern Iraq and more than 2,000 buffaloes had died.
Iraq has faced three consecutive years of severe drought and scorching heat, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees Celsius during the summer of 2022.
“There is a gradual improvement,” Hussein Al-Kenani said after the recent rains.
Kenani, who heads the governmental center in charge of protecting the wetlands, said rainwater collected in canals and rivers has been redirected to the marshes.
“The water level in Chibayish’s swamps has increased by more than 50 centimeters compared with December and by more than 30 centimeters for the Huwaizah swamps,” Kenani said.
In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization deplored the “unprecedented low water levels” in the marshes, highlighting “the disastrous impact” for more than 6,000 families, whose buffaloes and livelihoods were being lost.
The relief of rainfall early this month was welcomed by the UN agency, which noted in a statement that in the Chibayish region “salinity levels decreased” to the point where people and animals could again drink the water.
“This has had a great positive impact, especially on buffalo herders,” it said.
While the crisis has been relieved for now, there are fears about the longer-term fate of the threatened wetland habitat.
“There is not enough water coming from the Turkish side,” said Jassim Assadi, head of environmental group Nature Iraq, who added that Iraq’s dams upstream from the marshes “do not have an adequate and sufficient reservoir for the rest of the year.”
“The rains alone are not enough,” he said, voicing fears about another looming “problem next summer.”


Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran
Updated 31 January 2023

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran

Sunni cleric’s aide arrested in restive southeast Iran
  • Abdolmajid Moradzehi was accused of “manipulating public opinion”

TEHRAN: An aide to Sunni Muslim cleric Molavi Abdol Hamid, an influential leader of Iran’s ethnic Baluchi minority, was arrested in the restive southeastern city of Zahedan late Monday, state media said.
Abdolmajid Moradzehi was accused of “manipulating public opinion” and “communicating on several occasions with foreign individuals and media outlets,” the official IRNA news agency said.
Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province, which is home to the ethnic Baluch minority and had been the site of often deadly violence even before nationwide protests erupted in September over the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.
On September 30 last year, dozens of people, including members of the security forces, were killed when thousands took to the streets after Friday prayers at the city’s Makki mosque, headed by Abdol Hamid.
They were protesting the alleged rape of a 15-year-old-girl in custody in the port city of Chabahar by a local police commander.
As the protests raged on for weeks and months, Iranian officials were critical of Abdol Hamid, describing his prayer sermons as “provocative.”
“If there were no provocative remarks in the sermons, we would have seen peace in Zahedan,” Iran’s deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi said in late October when asked about the persistent unrest.
State media characterised the unrest as attacks by “extremists” on police stations. Abdol Hamid said security forces “shot at people” around the mosque, amid public anger over the alleged rape.
Zahedan is one of the few cities in Shiite-majority Iran which is mainly Sunni.