Israelis stage mass protest against judicial reform plan

People block the highway during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition government's judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
People block the highway during a demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his nationalist coalition government's judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 3, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 June 2023
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Israelis stage mass protest against judicial reform plan

Israelis stage mass protest against judicial reform plan
  • On Friday, several hundred Israelis had protested outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea north of Tel Aviv in a demonstration police labelled as unauthorized

TEL AVIV: Tens of thousands of demonstrators thronged Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities on Saturday for the 22nd consecutive week to protest against a controversial plan to reform Israel’s judicial system.
The government’s reform proposals would curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and give politicians greater powers over the selection of judges.
In March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had announced a “pause” to allow for talks on the reforms, which were moving through parliament and split the nation.
Israeli media said nearly 100,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv for Saturday’s protest. The police do not supply official figures for the number of demonstrators.
On Friday, several hundred Israelis had protested outside Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea north of Tel Aviv in a demonstration police labelled as unauthorized. There were at least 17 arrests.
“We will keep demonstrating to show them that even if they have paused in the reform plan we will stay mobilized — they will not be able to pass laws on the sly,” said 55-year-old dentist Ilit Fayn at Saturday’s Tel Aviv protest.
“It’s important for us to eliminate the possibility of Israel becoming a dictatorship,” added Arnon Oshri, a 66-year-old farmer.
Netanyahu’s government, a coalition between his Likud party and extreme-right and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, argues that the proposed changes are needed to rebalance powers between lawmakers and the judiciary.
But opponents of the plan believe it could open the way to a more authoritarian government.
“This corrupt government is full of outlaws who are degrading our country to the level of a third world country,” Oshri said.
“It took 2,000 years for the Jewish people to have a state, and we cannot lose it because of a bunch of fanatics.”

 


Qatar Airways executive says invasive gynecological examinations of passengers won’t be repeated

Qatar Airways executive says invasive gynecological examinations of passengers won’t be repeated
Updated 12 sec ago
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Qatar Airways executive says invasive gynecological examinations of passengers won’t be repeated

Qatar Airways executive says invasive gynecological examinations of passengers won’t be repeated
CANBERRA, Australia: A senior Qatar Airways executive told an Australian Senate inquiry on Wednesday there would be no repeat of an incident at Doha’s international airport in 2020 in which female passengers were subjected to invasive gynecological examinations.
Australian Transport Minister Catherine King said three weeks ago that the examinations of 13 Australian women who had boarded a Qatar Airways plane to Sydney were a factor in her decision in July to refuse the Qatar government-owned airline additional flights to Australia.
Qatar Airways Senior Vice President for Global Sales Matt Raos described the incident, which occurred when authorities were looking for the mother of a newborn baby found abandoned in a Hamad International Airport trash can, as “a one-off incident, a very extreme incident.”
“We’ve had nothing like it previously in our history and we’re completely committed to ensuring nothing like this ever happens again,” Raos told the committee.
Raos was responding to government Sen. Tony Sheldon, who had asked for a guarantee on behalf of female passengers who feared they would be subjected to such treatment.
The Doha-based executive declined to detail the incident because five women are suing the airline in Australian Federal Court.
“We are participating in that process. We think it’s a very important process and we need to honor it and respect it. It does preclude us from going further into this topic today,” Raos said.
“The outcome of that Federal Court case is something that we will honor and abide,” Raos added.
The five Australian women, whose names are suppressed by a court gag order, say they were taken off the flight to Sydney at Doha at gunpoint by guards and were searched without consent.
Qatar Airways provided no response to their complaints and offered no apology, the women said.
They wrote to Catherine King through their lawyer in June urging that Qatar Airways not be allowed to double its number of Australian services from the current 28 flights per week.
“It is our strong belief that Qatar Airways is not fit to carry passengers around the globe let alone to major Australian airports,” they wrote.
“When you are considering Qatar Airways’ bid for extra landing rights, we beg you to consider its insensitive and irresponsible treatment of us and its failure to ensure the safety and dignity of its passengers,” they said.
Raos said Qatar was “surprised and shocked” that Australia had rejected without explanation its application for additional services to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth which was made on Aug. 22, 2022.
Qatar Senior Vice President Fathi Atti told the inquiry that the airline learned of the decision through the news media on July 10 and did not receive official notification from the Australian government until 10 days later.
The airline said it calculated that the additional services would have provided Australia with 3 billion Australian dollars ($1.9 billion) in economic benefits over five years.
Earlier this month, King said her decision was made in the “context” of women’s complaints about their treatment.
“There is no one factor that I would point to that swayed my decision one way or the other,” King told reporters.
The committee is examining a number of Australia’s bilateral air service agreements.

Small fire at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel extinguished; occupants have returned to rooms - official

Small fire at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel extinguished; occupants have returned to rooms - official
Updated 27 September 2023
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Small fire at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel extinguished; occupants have returned to rooms - official

Small fire at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel extinguished; occupants have returned to rooms - official

BAGHDAD: A small fire that led to guests and diplomatic personnel being evacuated from Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed hotel has been brought under control, an official at the hotel told Reuters via phone early on Wednesday.

The hotel houses several envoys from Gulf states.

The small fire occurred in kitchen, and an official described the evacuation as a routine precautionary measure, saying guests had safely returned to their rooms.

The hotel is in Iraq’s highly fortified Green Zone which hosts parliament, many government buildings and foreign embassies.


Iraq wants to overcome dispute with Kuwait over maritime waterway, PM says

Iraq wants to overcome dispute with Kuwait over maritime waterway, PM says
Updated 27 September 2023
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Iraq wants to overcome dispute with Kuwait over maritime waterway, PM says

Iraq wants to overcome dispute with Kuwait over maritime waterway, PM says
  • Kuwait’s prime minister has described the Iraqi court ruling on the waterway as containing “historical fallacies,” calling on Iraq to take “concrete, decisive and urgent measures” to address it

Iraq is keen to overcome a dispute with Kuwait on maritime navigation in the Khor Abdullah waterway between the two countries, Iraq’s prime minister said on Tuesday.
In comments carried by Iraq’s state news agency, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said the country wants a solution that does not conflict with its constitution or with international law.
Iraq respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kuwait and is committed to all its bilateral agreements with countries and to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, a statement from the prime minister’s media office said on Tuesday after Al-Sudani’s meeting with the state’s administration coalition.
“Such crises are resolved through understanding and reliance on rationality, away from the language of emotion and convulsive populist statements that only produce more crises and tension,” Al-Sudani was quoted as telling his cabinet.
Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court ruled this month that a bilateral agreement regulating navigation in the waterway was unconstitutional. The court said the law ratifying the accord should have been approved by two-thirds of parliament.
The countries’ shared land border was demarcated by the United Nations in 1993 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, but it did not cover the length of their maritime boundaries. This was left for the two oil producers to resolve.
A maritime border agreement between the two nations was reached in 2012 and ratified by each of their legislative bodies in 2013.
Kuwait’s prime minister has described the Iraqi court ruling on the waterway as containing “historical fallacies,” calling on Iraq to take “concrete, decisive and urgent measures” to address it.


More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno

More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno
Updated 52 min 41 sec ago
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More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno

More than 100 dead, scores more injured in Iraq wedding inferno
  • The fire ripped through a large events hall after fireworks were lit during the celebration

Qaraqosh, Iraq: At least 100 people were killed and more than 150 injured when a fire broke out during a wedding at an event hall in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, officials said early Wednesday.
At the main hospital in the predominantly Christian town east of Mosul, an AFP photographer saw ambulances arriving with sirens blaring and dozens of people gathering in the courtyard to donate blood.
Others could be seen gathering in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck loaded with black body bags.
Citing a “preliminary tally,” Iraq’s official INA news agency reported that health authorities in Nineveh province had “counted 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire at a marriage hall in Hamdaniyah,” as the town is also known.
The casualty toll was confirmed to AFP by health ministry spokesman Saif Al-Badr.
Badr said most of the injured were being treated for burns or oxygen deprivation, adding that there had also been crowd crushes at the scene.
In a statement, civil defense authorities reported the presence of prefabricated panels inside the event hall that were “highly flammable and contravened safety standards.”
The danger was compounded by the “release of toxic gases linked to the combustion of the panels,” which contained plastic.
“The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials,” the statement said, with “preliminary information” suggesting fireworks were to blame for the blaze.
Wedding guest Rania Waad, who sustained a burn to her hand, said that as the bride and groom “were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling (and) the whole hall went up in flames.”
“We couldn’t see anything,” the 17-year-old said, choking back sobs. “We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.”
Emergency crews were seen sifting through the charred remains of the event hall early Wednesday, inspecting the scene by flashlight.

The couple were having their first slow dance when the fire started. (AFP)


In a brief statement, Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called on the health and interior ministers to “mobilize all rescue efforts” to help the victims of the fire.
The health ministry said “medical aid trucks” had been dispatched to the area from Baghdad and other provinces, adding that its teams in Nineveh had been mobilized to care for the injured.
Safety standards in Iraq’s construction sector are often disregarded, and the country, whose infrastructure is in disrepair after decades of conflict, is often the scene of fatal fires and accidents.
In July 2021, a fire in the Covid unit of a hospital in southern Iraq killed more than 60 people.
And in April of the same year, exploding oxygen tanks triggered a fire at a hospital in Baghdad — also dedicated to Covid patients — that killed more than 80 people.
Like many Christian towns in the Nineveh Plains, northeast of Mosul, Qaraqosh was ransacked by jihadists of the Daesh group after they entered the town in 2014.
Qaraqosh and its churches were slowly rebuilt after the group’s ouster in 2017, and Pope Francis visited the town in March 2021.


Morocco calls for resumption of Western Sahara talks

Morocco calls for resumption of Western Sahara talks
Updated 27 September 2023
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Morocco calls for resumption of Western Sahara talks

Morocco calls for resumption of Western Sahara talks
  • Permanent representative to UN calls for solution to ‘fabricated regional conflict’
  • ‘Climate change continues to represent the biggest challenge to humanity in the globe’

NEW YORK: Morocco’s permanent representative to the UN on Tuesday called for a resumption of negotiations over the situation in Western Sahara.

Speaking on the final day of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, Omar Hilale said Morocco is resolute in finding a solution to the “fabricated regional conflict” as an aid to promoting peace and stability in the region and Africa more widely. 

“Morocco continues to support the efforts of the UN to relaunch roundtables with the same format and the same participants, especially Algeria, the main party to this conflict, in line with its Security Council resolution 2654,” he added.

“We reaffirm, the solution can only be politically realistic and practical, based on consensus. The initiative for autonomy as part of the toolkit of Morocco’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty remains the solution to this regional conflict. There’s no alternative.”

The Western Sahara conflict dates back to 1975, after the withdrawal of colonial occupier Spain, sparking a 15-year war between the Algeria-backed Polisario Front and Morocco for control over the territory.

A 1991 ceasefire deal brought fighting to an end, with Morocco in control of 80 percent of the resource-rich desert region and the Polisario Front clinging to hopes of a UN-supervised referendum on independence provided for in the deal.

Alongside calling for further work on bringing an end to the near half-century conflict, Hilale provided an update on efforts being undertaken by Moroccan authorities to respond to the devastating earthquake that struck at the start of the month.

“We’ve faced the repercussions of this earthquake, which led to the death of 3,000 people and injured 5,700 others, alongside grave material losses, but we face these repercussions with determination, seriousness and solidarity,” he said.

“We established an inter-ministerial committee to develop an urgent program for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected areas, and located about $12 billion for this program from our budget for the next five years.

“This shows climate change continues to represent the biggest challenge to humanity in the globe. This is why today, more than ever, there’s a need to promote prevention, resilience, and international cooperation as part of the international community’s priorities.”