BAGHDAD: Three protesters were shot dead and 14 were wounded on Saturday during clashes between ethnic groups in the northern Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk that broke out after days of tensions, security forces and police said.
The dispute centers on a building in Kirkuk that was once the headquarters for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) but which the Iraqi army has used a base since 2017.
The central government plans to return to the building to the KDP in a show of goodwill but Arab and Turkmen opponents set up a camp outside the building last week in protest.
The violence was sparked when a group of Kurdish protesters approached the camp on Saturday, police said.
Police and hospital sources had said earlier that one Kurdish protester was killed. The death toll rose after two more Kurdish protesters died in hospital from bullets wounds, they said.
Security officials and police in the city say they were investigating the circumstances of the deaths, including who opened fire. People from both protest groups were wounded as stones were thrown and metal bars used to attack, Kirkuk police said.
Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Sudani ordered a curfew in the city to prevent an escalation of the violence, calling on “political parties, social organizations, and community leaders to play their part in preventing strife and preserving security, stability, and order.”
Kirkuk, an oil-rich province in northern Iraq along the fault lines between the Kurdish autonomous region and areas controlled by Iraq’s Shiite-dominated central government, has been the focus of some of the country’s worst post-Islamic State violence.
Kurdish forces controlled the city after driving Islamic State out in 2014 but were ejected by the Iraqi army in 2017.
Since Sudani took power last year, he has worked to improve relations between his government and the KDP. But Arab residents and minority groups who say they suffered under Kurdish rule have protested the KDP’s return.
Wounded and dead overwhelm southern Gaza hospital as Israelis step up attacks
Palestinian Health Ministry says 316 have been killed since Friday in Gaza since the truce expired
Updated 13 sec ago
GAZA: In southern Gaza’s Nasser Hospital, a young man cradled the lifeless body of his brother and then reached out to try to grab a medic running past him in the corridor.
“My brother!” the man yelled out, crying and slapping the floor as others crowded around him, seeking treatment for their wounded and mourning their loved ones on Sunday, the third day of renewed warfare and Israeli bombardment.
The hospital is one of only a handful operating in Khan Younis, a southern city that residents say is one of the focuses of the Israeli offensive that resumed on Friday after the collapse of a truce with Hamas.
Nearby, doctors stepped over bodies and pools of blood as they rushed to their next case, and relatives brought more dazed and sometimes unconscious children through the main doors.
Footage taken by Reuters showed about a dozen young people needing treatment, several of them with what looked like serious injuries.
The UN and aid groups say dozens of medics have been killed since the war began and basic supplies, including fuel to run generators, are running short in hospitals and clinics.
More than 15,500 people have been confirmed killed in Gaza since the start of the conflict, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday that 316 had been killed since Friday in Gaza since the truce expired following the breakdown in talks over an exchange of prisoners and hostages.
There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reports of Sunday’s strikes.
The Israeli military earlier ordered Palestinians to evacuate several areas in and around Khan Younis and posted a map highlighting shelters they should go to.
But residents said that areas they had been told to go to were themselves coming under attack.
One man at Nasser Hospital told Reuters that an air strike had hit a house in the city, and he had carried a young boy who was injured to the hospital, but the boy had died in his arms on the way.
Elsewhere in Khan Younis, families gathered at funerals.
One man, Akram El-Rakab, said he was burying his son as well as a sister and a nephew.
Palestinian man killed in West Bank in settler raid
Updated 4 min 19 sec ago
RAMALLAH: Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank, killing one man and torching a car, Palestinian authorities said.
The Palestinian ambulance service said a 38-year-old man in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, in the northern West Bank, was shot in the chest and died as residents confronted settlers and Israeli soldiers.
The Israeli military said soldiers arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal means and live fire to break up the confrontation between residents and settlers.
It said Palestinians shot fireworks in response, and an Israeli and four Palestinians were injured.
It said the incident was being examined and handed over to police.
In another incident, Wajih Al-Qat, head of the local council of the village of Madama near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, said a group of about 15 settlers burned the car and broke the windows of a house with stones.
The attacks are the latest in a series of similar incidents involving settlers that have drawn condemnation from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, whose administration is set to impose visa bans on extremist settlers.
The West Bank, which the Palestinians want as part of a future independent state, has seen a surge of violence in recent months as Jewish settlements have continued to expand and US-backed peacemaking efforts have stalled for nearly a decade.
The violence, at a more-than-15-year high this year, surged further after Israel launched an invasion of the separate enclave of Gaza in response to an attack by Hamas in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Yesh Din, a human rights group that monitors settler violence, said there had been at least 225 incidents of settler violence in 93 Palestinian communities since the war started.
Before Saturday’s incident, it said at least nine Palestinians had been killed in such attacks.
In a separate incident near Nablus, Palestinian authorities said a 14-year-old boy died of his wounds after he was shot during an incident in which the Israeli military said he brandished a knife at soldiers on a checkpoint.
Saudi FM, Gulf ministers take part in GCC Summit preparatory meeting in Doha
Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session
Updated 03 December 2023
RIYADH: Saudi minister of foreign affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan was among ministers who met at a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday for the upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeting was chaired by Qatar’s Prime Minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, who is also chairman of the current session of the ministerial council.
Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session.
During the meeting, they discussed a number of reports on the follow-up to the implementation of decisions made at the previous GCC Supreme Council summit in Riyadh.
They also discussed relations between member states, memoranda and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees as well as the Secretariat General.
Frankly Speaking: How Saudi aid is making a difference to Gaza
KSrelief supervisor general describes record Saudi donations via Sahem platform as proof of Arab world’s commitment to helping Palestinians
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah decries "exhausting" processes placed by Israel for aid delivery, lauds "instrumental" cooperation of Egyptian authorities
Updated 03 December 2023
DUBAI: The outpouring of support to Gaza from both the Saudi government and people has demonstrated the Arab world’s commitment to helping Palestinians, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of Saudi aid agency KSrelief, has said.
He suggested one need look no further than the figure of more than SR536.25 million ($143 million) already collected in donations for the beleaguered Gaza Strip through Saudi Arabia’s Sahem platform, which allows Saudis to donate directly to KSrelief’s projects.
“Nobody can deny the evidence and the numbers, and I think the Sahem platform is seen by the world,” Al-Rabeeah, who is also a skilled pediatric surgeon and adviser to the Saudi Royal Court, told the latest episode of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News’ weekly current affairs show.
The chronically poverty-stricken and food-insecure Gaza Strip was in serious need of humanitarian and development aid even before the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in early October.
Bombardment of the region by Israeli forces began on Oct. 7 after a series of Hamas attacks on and kidnappings in Israel. According to health officials in Gaza, more than 15,000 people, most of them civilians, have lost their lives in the enclave since that day.
With Israeli airstrikes showing no signs of abating and the humanitarian situation deteriorating, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Nov. 2 the start of a fundraising campaign for Gaza via Sahem.
In just five days, the donations had exceeded SR375 million. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman themselves donated SR30 million and SR20 million, respectively.
The sheer amount of donations — “one of the largest and quickest fundraising campaigns” in the long history of Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts — flies in the face of many media reports that suggest that the Arab world does not care about Gaza.
“We haven’t stopped yet,” Al-Rabeeah told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” on the subject of giving. “We have exceeded 1 million donors, which reflects the response of the people and their passion about the civilian situation and humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
The donations will continue to increase over the coming period, he said, adding that the record-breaking amount does not include in-kind donations.
He said: “Our businessmen have donated ambulances, medical equipment, food supplies, nutritious food and formula for children. These are not reflected on the platform, so we’re talking about a lot of donations.”
The first batch of Saudi aid arrived in Port Said on Nov. 25, with more than 1,000 tons of food, medical supplies, and shelter materials making its way towards Gaza.
The third relief ship departed from the Jeddah Islamic Port on Saturday, carrying 300 large containers, or 1,246 tons, of food, medical help, and supplies for shelter.
The first Saudi relief plane left Riyadh for Egypt’s El-Arish Airport on Nov. 9, carrying 35 tons of aid. By Dec. 1, KSrelief had operated its 24th aid relief flight for Gaza, which carried 31 tons of food and shelter materials.
While there is certainly no shortage of material support for the people of Gaza, Al-Rabeeah has denounced the processes that Israeli authorities have imposed before aid deliveries reach the Gaza Strip.
“The situation is challenging,” he said, drawing on his observations during recent visits to El-Arish Airport, where Saudi aid destined for Gaza arrives, and the Rafah crossing, the only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
He noted that aid trucks “have to go more than 50 kilometers to be examined and cleared by the Israeli forces, and then come back 50 kilometers.”
He added: “The assessment takes days to clear each truck. And then they must go through the Rafah corridor. This by itself is a significant challenge. It’s delaying the aid for those who are in extreme need.”
Al-Rabeeah said that despite the UN saying that Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks of aid per day, Israeli authorities were only allowing a maximum of about 140 each day.
These obstacles can be a matter of life and death, he said, pointing out that particularly vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly and the injured, cannot afford delays.
He said: “We’re talking about life by the minute. So, any delay means, as far as I’m concerned as a doctor, a risk of death.
“We have to gain every minute, we have to gain every hour, and we have to allow as many trucks (as we can) that are carrying nutrition for children, food for adults, and also medications that will maintain life.”
A more severe and obvious danger is present on the ground, one which Al-Rabeeah said is preventing Saudis from doing more to aid Palestinians.
Multiple reports from academics, humanitarian aid agencies and media groups have accused Israeli forces of killing healthcare and aid workers in Gaza, by targeting shelters, refugee camps, hospitals and ambulances.
Not even the UN has been spared Israeli targeting, with the organization reporting the deaths of more than 100 workers from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees since the Israeli military operation began in October.
Al-Rabeeah said: “For me, it is (painful) to see anybody attack and deliberately actually kill aid workers or health workers, or attack hospitals or even mosques, churches — you name it.
“Those acts are against all rules that we know of, against international humanitarian law, against also the principles of human beings. We hope that those attacks will stop immediately and no civilian, or health worker, or humanitarian worker is attacked or targeted.”
If their safety is guaranteed, he said, KSrelief was ready to send volunteer healthcare workers to help save lives in Gaza.
He added: “If the security situation allows, my team will be more than happy to go to Gaza and ensure that those people who are in dire need will receive the aid. We also want to see that the distribution (of aid) is appropriate.”
Despite the hurdles to be overcome, local and regional authorities are doing their best to facilitate humanitarian deliveries, according to Al-Rabeeah.
KSrelief has signed agreements with multiple international agencies, including UNRWA, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He added: “We have teams also in El-Arish who are located there to coordinate with the UN agencies, international agencies and regional agencies such as the Egyptian Red Crescent and the Palestinian Red Crescent.
“The flights are continuing from Riyadh to El-Arish daily, as are the shipments by sea. We have plans to keep those ships going on, and the flights going on, to ensure that we have enough supplies close to the corridors so that we can access them as quickly as we can.”
KSrelief and the Egyptian Red Crescent on Nov. 23 signed a memorandum of understanding for the cooperation of aid delivery to Gaza, facilitating the sending of aid by land and air routes.
Al-Rabeeah said: “The Egyptian authorities have been very cooperative. They have been instrumental to our work, and they have helped us a lot, either at El-Arish Airport or at the sea port of Port Said.”
He added that KSrelief had held multiple virtual meetings with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and UNRWA “to ensure that their … logistic needs are met.”
In addition to coordinating the massive undertaking of supporting Gaza with aid, Al-Rabeeah has a personal connection to the region.
He has performed dozens of operations in the last 30 years to separate conjoined twins as part of the Saudi Program for the Separation of Conjoined Twins, and in the process has helped make the Kingdom the world’s leader in such surgeries.