Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid
Palestinians burn tires and wave the national flag during a protest against Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 27 January 2023

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

Israel, Gaza fighters trade fire after deadly West Bank raid

JERUSALEM: Gaza militants fired rockets and Israel carried out airstrikes early Friday as tensions soared following an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank that killed nine Palestinians, including at least seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.
It was the deadliest single raid in the territory in over two decades. The flare-up in violence poses an early test for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government and casts a shadow on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s expected trip to the region next week.
Palestinian militants fired five rockets at Israel, the military said. Three were intercepted, one fell in an open area and another fell short inside Gaza. Israel carried out a series of airstrikes at what it said were militant targets. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Thursday’s deadly raid in the Jenin refugee camp was likely to reverberate on Friday as Palestinians gather for weekly Muslim prayers that are often followed by protests. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, had earlier threatened revenge for the raid.
Raising the stakes, the Palestinian Authority said it would halt the ties that its security forces maintain with Israel in a shared effort to contain Islamic militants. Previous threats have been short-lived, in part because of the benefits the authority enjoys from the relationship and also due to US and Israeli pressure to maintain it.
The Palestinian Authority already has limited control over scattered enclaves in the West Bank, and almost none over militant strongholds like the Jenin camp. But the announcement could pave the way for Israel to step up operations it says are needed to prevent attacks.
The Israeli strikes early Friday targeted training sites for Palestinian militant groups, the military said. Witnesses and local media reported that Israeli drones fired two missiles at a Hamas militant base before fighter jets struck it, causing four large explosions.
Air raid sirens went off in southern Israel as the initial two rockets were fired and then again after the airstrikes, when the militants fired the other three rockets.
On Thursday, Israeli forces went on heightened alert as Palestinians filled the streets across the West Bank, chanting in solidarity with Jenin. President Mahmoud Abbas declared three days of mourning, and in the refugee camp, residents dug a mass grave for the dead.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Abbas had decided to cut security coordination in “light of the repeated aggression against our people.” He also said the Palestinians planned to file complaints with the UN Security Council, International Criminal Court and other international bodies.
Barbara Leaf, the top US diplomat for the Middle East, said the Biden administration was deeply concerned about the situation and that civilian casualties reported in Jenin were “quite regrettable.” But she also said the Palestinian announcement to suspend security ties and to pursue the matter at international organizations was a mistake.
Thursday’s gunbattle that left nine dead and 20 wounded erupted when Israel’s military conducted a rare daytime operation in the Jenin camp that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack on Israelis. The camp, where the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group has a major foothold, has been a focus of near-nightly Israeli arrest raids.
Hamas’ armed wing claimed four of the dead as members, while Islamic Jihad claimed three others. An earlier statement from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a militia loosely affiliated with Abbas’ secular Fatah party, claimed one of the dead was a fighter named Izz Al-Din Salahat, but it was unclear if he was among those seven militants.
The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the 61-year-old woman killed as Magda Obaid, and the Israeli military said it was looking into reports of her death.
The Israeli military circulated aerial video it said was taken during the battle, showing what appeared to be Palestinians on rooftops hurling stones and firebombs on Israeli forces below. At least one Palestinian can be seen opening fire from a rooftop.
Later in the day, Israeli forces fatally shot a 22-year-old and wounded two others, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, as Palestinians confronted Israeli troops north of Jerusalem to protest Thursday’s raid. Israel’s paramilitary Border Police said they opened fire on Palestinians who launched fireworks at them from close range.
Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the West Bank last spring, following a series of Palestinian attacks.
Israel’s new national security minister, far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who seeks to grant legal immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinians, posted a video of himself beaming triumphantly and congratulating security forces.
The raid left a trail of destruction in Jenin. A two-story building, apparently the operation’s target, was a charred wreck. The military said it entered the building to detonate explosives.
Palestinian Health Minister May Al-Kaila said paramedics struggled to reach the wounded during the fighting, while Akram Rajoub, the governor of Jenin, said the military prevented emergency workers from evacuating them.
Both accused the military of firing tear gas at the pediatric ward of a hospital, causing children to choke. Video at the hospital showed women carrying children into a corridor.
The military said forces closed roads to aid the operation, which may have complicated rescue efforts, and that tear gas had likely wafted into the hospital from nearby clashes.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem said Thursday marked the single bloodiest West Bank incursion since 2002, at the height of an intense wave of violence known as the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which left scars still visible in Jenin.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said he was “deeply alarmed and saddened” by the violence. Condemnations came from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Turkiye, which recently reestablished full diplomatic ties with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries also condemned the Israeli raid.
The Islamic Jihad branch in Gaza has repeatedly fought against Israel, most recently in a fierce three-day clash last summer that killed dozens of Palestinians and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Hamas, which seized power from the Palestinian Authority in Gaza in 2007, has fought four wars and several smaller skirmishes with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem last year, making 2022 the deadliest in those territories since 2004, according to B’Tselem. So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed.
Israel says most of the dead were militants. But youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed. So far this year, not including Thursday, one-third of the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or civilians had ties to armed groups.
Last year, 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
Israel says its raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks. The Palestinians say they further entrench Israel’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of the West Bank, which Israel captured along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim those territories for their hoped-for state.
Israel has established dozens of settlements in the West Bank that now house 500,000 people. The Palestinians and much of the international community view settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace, even as talks to end the conflict have been moribund for over a decade.


Violence in Tunisia prompts increase in migrants heading for Europe

Violence in Tunisia prompts increase in migrants heading for Europe
Updated 20 March 2023

Violence in Tunisia prompts increase in migrants heading for Europe

Violence in Tunisia prompts increase in migrants heading for Europe
  • Sub-Saharan migrants cross Mediterranean after President Saied blames them for crime, demographic change
  • Italian PM Meloni warns Europe faces ‘invasion’ if more not done to halt flow of people

LONDON: Migrants from the Ivory Coast and other sub-Saharan countries are attempting to flee to Europe after an uptick in violence against them in Tunisia.

North Africa has long been used as a staging post for people desperate to leave the continent and travel northward, but numbers have increased after Tunisian President Kais Saied blamed migrants for an increase in crime in his country, and claimed their presence was part of a plot to “change the demographic makeup” of Tunisia.

That has led to a number of migrants facing violence or eviction from their accommodation. Some have even been shot at.

One Ivorian migrant, 30-year-old Noela, told The Times: “My husband was arrested, I have been robbed at knifepoint and I am scared to leave home. People here were nice, but now things have changed.”

Many are now buying boats in order to strike out for Italy, despite efforts by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to curb the number of migrants traveling to the peninsula.

An activist in the Tunisian port town of Sfax, which is seeing the bulk of the traffic, said: “Sailings are linked to that speech (by President Saied) and Ivorians are the biggest group among those leaving.”

Meloni claims charity organizations running boats in the region are helping migrants to make dangerous crossings, and has warned Europe faces “an invasion” if more is not done to stop the flow. So far this year 20,000 people have successfully made the journey to Italy, with 12,000 of those coming from Tunisia.

At least 80 people died in the Mediterranean last month on the way to Italy from Turkey, while 30 more drowned off the coast of Libya last week.

Between March 6 and 12, Ivorians, whose country has seen a number of civil wars since the turn of the century, made up the largest single group among the 3,300 people who made the trip to Italy, most via the island of Lampedusa. Another 1,500 people, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were turned back by the Tunisian coast guard.

A Tunisian people smuggler told The Times that many were making the trip now as it was “the last chance for them” amid Tunisia’s increasing hostility and Italy tightening its rules.

Another smuggler added that Tunisians were increasingly refusing to travel with sub-Saharans across the sea so as not to give away their identity on account of their skin color, leading to migrants buying vessels to pilot themselves.

“They have no jobs, no food, nothing. This has convinced them to go as soon as possible,” he told The Times. “They are good — they don’t steal boats, but they buy them.”

Ivorian DJ Dobe Aboubacar, based in Tunis, said most of his countrymen in Tunisia planned to leave for Germany or France.

“Because of the poor economy in Tunisia — and then because of the president’s speech — even more now want to leave,” Aboubacar, who runs a Facebook page for migrants in Tunisia, added.


Palestinian PM blasts ‘racism’ of Israeli minister

Palestinian PM blasts ‘racism’ of Israeli minister
Updated 28 min 36 sec ago

Palestinian PM blasts ‘racism’ of Israeli minister

Palestinian PM blasts ‘racism’ of Israeli minister
  • Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich: ‘There are no Palestinians, because there are no Palestinian people’

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday blasted as “inflammatory” remarks made by far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that Palestinians do not exist.
“There are no Palestinians, because there are no Palestinian people,” Smotrich said Sunday, quoting French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfer, speaking at an event in Paris according to a video circulating on social media.
“After 2,000 years of exile, the prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Isaiah are beginning to come true and God is gathering his people, the people of Israel are returning home,” Smotrich said.
“There are Arabs around who don’t like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement,” he added.
Smotrich last year became a minister in the cabinet of Israel’s veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which analysts have called the most right-wing government in the country’s history.
“It is the historical truth, it is the biblical truth... the Arabs in Israel must hear it, as well as certain Jews who are confused in Israel, this truth must be heard here at the Elysee Palace (in Paris), and at the White House in Washington, and everyone must hear this truth,” Smotrich continued.
Shtayyeh, speaking before a cabinet meeting of the Palestinian Authority on Monday, said the “inflammatory statements are consistent with the first Zionist sayings of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.”
He said the comments were “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology... of the current Israeli government.”
Smotrich and his Religious Zionism group have a history of making incendiary remarks about Palestinians.
In February, Smotrich called for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the occupied West Bank to be “wiped out” after two Israelis were shot dead by an alleged Hamas militant.
Hundreds of rampaging Israeli settlers later torched Palestinian homes and cars in the West Bank town.

Anatomy of a disaster
Two decades later, Iraqis are still paying the price for Bush's ill-judged war
Enter
keywords

Iraq to hold provincial elections on November 6

Iraq to hold provincial elections on November 6
Updated 20 March 2023

Iraq to hold provincial elections on November 6

Iraq to hold provincial elections on November 6
  • Elections for the councils, the first in a decade, will take place in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s parliament has set November 6 as the date for elections for provincial councils, powerful bodies that were dissolved amid anti-government protests in 2019.
“Provincial elections will take place on November 6, 2023,” a statement from parliament said Monday, after lawmakers agreed on the date overnight.
The elections for the councils, the first in a decade, will take place in 15 of 18 Iraqi provinces, excluding the three provinces in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
The provincial councils, created by the 2005 constitution following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, carry relatively significant power in federal Iraq, including allocating the budgets for health, transport and education.
The last provincial elections took place in 2013, when loyalists of then prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki came out on top.
The next provincial elections should have taken place in 2018, but were postponed.
A year later, amid vast anti-government rallies, protesters demanded and obtained the dissolution of the provincial councils, in part because critics accused them of being rife with corruption.
Alaa Al-Rikabi, an independent MP who emerged in the aftermath of the October 2019 protest movement, condemned the return of the councils.
“We refuse to allow them to be reinstated,” he said, adding that they “open the door wide to corruption.”


Iraq PM to hold Turkiye talks on water, Kurdish rebels

Iraq PM to hold Turkiye talks on water, Kurdish rebels
Updated 20 March 2023

Iraq PM to hold Turkiye talks on water, Kurdish rebels

Iraq PM to hold Turkiye talks on water, Kurdish rebels
  • Shia Al-Sudani to meet Turkiye’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his first visit to Iraq’s northern neighbor since he came to power in October
BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani will visit Turkiye on Tuesday for talks including on scarce water resources and the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a government source said.
Sudani is set to meet Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his first visit to Iraq’s northern neighbor since he came to power in October, an adviser to the head of the Iraqi government said, speaking anonymously.
“The two main issues are water and the presence of the PKK in northern Iraq,” he added, referring to the rebel group that has been fighting the Turkish army for decades.
War-scarred Iraq is now digging ever deeper for water as a frenzy of dam-building, mainly in Turkiye, sucks water out of the region’s two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Tigris and the Euphrates both have their sources in Turkiye, and Baghdad has long accused Ankara of withholding water in dams that choke the rivers, dramatically reducing flows into Iraq.
According to official Iraqi statistics from last year, the level of the Tigris entering Iraq has dropped to just 35 percent of its average over the past century.
Declining river flows have been made worse by a dire lack of rainfall in recent years, coupled with poor irrigation practices in Iraq that see excessive exploitation of water from the rivers.
Amid criticism, Turkiye’s ambassador to Iraq, Ali Riza Guney, ruffled feathers last July when he said, “water is largely wasted in Iraq” and called on people to “use the available water more efficiently.”
Sudani will also discuss with Erdogan the presence of rear bases of Kurdish fighters from the Turkish PKK rebels in northern Iraq, which Ankara has repeatedly sought to root out in air and ground operations.
The rebels have kept up a deadly insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkiye since 1984.
Turkiye has dozens of military facilities in northern Iraq for use in its war against the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies blacklist as a “terrorist” group.
In July 2022, Iraq blamed Turkiye for artillery strikes on a park in Iraqi Kurdistan that killed nine civilians, including women and children.
Turkiye denied its troops were responsible and accused the PKK.

Kuwait Oil Company declares ‘state of emergency’ after oil spill on land

Kuwait Oil Company declares ‘state of emergency’ after oil spill on land
Updated 20 March 2023

Kuwait Oil Company declares ‘state of emergency’ after oil spill on land

Kuwait Oil Company declares ‘state of emergency’ after oil spill on land
  • No injuries or disruption to production had been reported

KUWAIT: The Kuwait Oil Company declared a “state of emergency” on Monday after an oil spill on land in the west of the country, according to a statement posted on the company’s Twitter account.

However, no injuries or disruption to production had been reported, said Qusai Al-Amer, head of admin support at the company.

“No toxic fumes have been detected on site,” he added.

Teams have been dispatched to determine the source of the leak and contain the incident, Al-Amer said.

The Kuwait Oil Company has previously reported oil leaks in its fields in 2020 and 2016.

In 2017, Kuwaiti authorities reported two slicks off the Gulf’s state’s shores over the span of a few days.

With AFP