Syrians tear down poster of Assad in Sweida as protests swell

Syrians tear down poster of Assad in Sweida as protests swell
People take part in a protest against Syria’s President Bashar Assad in the southern Druze city of Sweida on Sept. 8, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 September 2023
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Syrians tear down poster of Assad in Sweida as protests swell

Syrians tear down poster of Assad in Sweida as protests swell
  • In footage posted on activist pages, a group of men could be seen ripping a banner portraying Assad’s face that was hanging above the local branch of the Farmers’ Union
  • Criticism of Assad has been growing in Sweida since demonstrations began in mid-August over the removal of fuel subsidies

BEIRUT: Demonstrators in the southern Syrian city of Sweida tore down a portrait of President Bashar Assad on Friday as anti-government protests that began three weeks ago swelled with crowds coming in from surrounding villages.
In footage posted on activist pages, a group of men could be seen ripping a banner portraying Assad’s face that was hanging above the local branch of the Farmers’ Union.
They then proceeded to weld shut the doors of the offices.
Criticism of Assad has been growing in Sweida since demonstrations began in mid-August over the removal of fuel subsidies, the latest in a string of measures that have put a strain on people suffering from an economic meltdown.
Sweida is capital of a province of the same name that is home to most of Syria’s minority Druze sect. The city remained in government hands throughout the civil war and was largely spared the violence seen elsewhere.
Open criticism of the government has been rare in government-controlled areas of the country, but the economic situation has prompted public discontent that is increasingly directed at Assad.
In Sweida city, hundreds gathered in Karama Square on Friday as the protests, carrying the multi-colored Druze flag.
“We raised our voices and Assad ran in fear!” the crowds chanted. “Hey Bashar, we don’t want you!“
Earlier this week, demonstrators tore down a portrait of Bashar’s father, former President Hafez Assad, that had been hanging on a government building and smashed a bust of his head, slapping it with their shoes.
Residents of other government-held parts of Syria — where restrictions are tighter — have made more discrete gestures of protest to avoid detection by government forces.


Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security
Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security
  • Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad
  • Trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran

Baghdad: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due Monday in neighboring Iraq for his first state visit there in years, with water, oil and regional security issues expected to top the agenda.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad before visiting officials in Irbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Iraq and Turkiye share a history and have similarities, interests and opportunities, but also problems,” Sudani said during an event at the Atlantic Council on the sidelines of a recent visit to Washington.
“Water and security will be at the top of the agenda,” he said of the upcoming meeting with Erdogan, who last visited Iraq in 2011.
The trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran.
Farhad Alaaldin, foreign affairs adviser to Sudani, told AFP that the main topics Erdogan will discuss with Iraqi officials include “investments, trade... security aspects of the cooperation between the two countries, water management and water resources.”
Alaaldin expects the signing of several memoranda of understanding during the visit.
The sharing of water resources is a major point of contention, with Baghdad highly critical of upstream dams set up by Turkiye on their shared Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which have worsened water scarcity in Iraq.
Erdogan said the issue of water would be “one of the most important points” of his visit following “requests” made by the Iraqi side.
“We will make an effort to resolve them, that is also their wish,” he said.
Iraqi oil exports are another point of tension, with a major pipeline shut down for over a year over legal disputes and technical issues.
The exports were previously independently sold by the autonomous Kurdistan region, without the approval or oversight of the central administration in Baghdad, through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The halted oil sales represent more than $14 billion in lost revenue for Iraq, according to an estimate by the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan which represents international oil companies active in the region.
Majid Al-Lajmawi, Iraq’s ambassador to Turkiye, hopes for “progress on the water and energy issues, and in the process of resuming Iraqi oil exports via Turkiye,” according to a statement published by the Iraqi foreign ministry.
The ambassador also expects the signing of a “strategic framework agreement” on security, economy and development.
Also on the agenda is a $17 billion road and rail project known as the “Route of Development” which is expected to consolidate economic ties between the two neighbors.
Stretching 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) across Iraq, it aims to connect by 2030 the northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south.
In the first quarter of 2024, Iraq was Turkiye’s fifth-largest importer of products, buying food, chemicals, metals and other products.
Regional security is another topic expected to be thrashed out during Erdogan’s meetings in Iraq.
For decades, Turkiye has operated from several dozen military bases in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkiye’s military activities to preserve their close economic ties.
But the operations, which sometimes take place deep into Iraqi territory, have regularly strained bilateral ties while Ankara has sought out increased cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the PKK.
However, in a televised interview in March, Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet Al-Abbasi ruled out “joint military operations” between Baghdad and Ankara.
He said they would establish a “coordination intelligence center at the appropriate time and place.”
Alaaldin, the Iraqi prime minister’s adviser, said security issues will be “highly featured in this trip.”
“There will be some sort of agreement... and perhaps arrangements to safeguard the borders between Iraq and Turkiye where no attacks and no armed groups infiltrate the border from both sides,” he said.
“It is something that will be discussed but the exact details have to be worked out.”


Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
Updated 22 April 2024
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Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer

AMMAN: Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.
The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” a statement said by the group said.
Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.
Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.
The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.
At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.

 


UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
  • Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday made a phone call to Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip, 10 Downing Street announced.
During the call, Sunak renewed the UK’s support for Jordan’s security and that of the region, saying a significant escalation is “not in anyone’s interests.”
He added that the UK’s focus remains on finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza.
The UK continues to work toward an immediate humanitarian truce to bring in much larger amounts of aid and return the Israeli hostages held by Hamas safely to their families, “leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire,” Sunak said.
The two leaders “discussed joint efforts to significantly step up aid to Gaza, with the UK taking part in Jordanian-led aid drops and a humanitarian land corridor to Gaza, as well as the maritime aid corridor from Cyprus,” Downing Street said.
Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. 
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of supporting a reformed Palestinian authority to deliver stability and prosperity across the Palestinian territories,” Downing Street said.
King Abdullah warned of the danger of regional escalation, which he said threatens international peace and security, Jordan’s official Petra news agency reported.
He renewed his call for the international community to intensify efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to alleviate the worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory, and warned of the dangerous consequences of an Israeli assault on Rafah.
The king stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
He pointed to the importance of continuing to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to enable it to provide its humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate.


Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
Updated 22 April 2024
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Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
  • The Iraqi military said its forces found the vehicle used by "outlaws" in the attack in northern Nineveh province
  • War monitor said the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, was behind the attack

BAGHDAD: Rockets were fired late Sunday from northern Iraq at a military base in Syria housing a US-led coalition, according to Iraqi security forces.
In response, the Iraqi forces launched a major search operation in northern Nineveh province and found the vehicle used in the attack, they said in a statement.
It is the first major attack against the coalition forces in several weeks.
It comes days after Israel reportedly responded to an Iranian attack with a drone strike on the Islamic republic, amid tensions fueled by the Gaza war.
The statement from the Iraqi security forces accused “outlaw elements of having targetted a base of the international coalition with rockets in the heart of Syrian territory,” at around 9:50 p.m. (1850 GMT).
The security forces burned the vehicle involved in the attack, the statement added.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said several rockets had been fired “from Iraqi territory at the Kharab Al-Jir base” in northeast Syria, where US forces are stationed.
He accused the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, of staging the attack.
The group has claimed most of the attacks on US forces carried between mid-October and early February.
Following a series of rocket attacks and drone strikes by pro-Iran armed factions against US soldiers deployed in the Middle East over the winter, there had been several weeks of calm.

*The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has said it is acting in solidarity with Palestinians and out of anger at US support for Israel in the Gaza war.
A January 28 drone attack killed three US soldiers in the Jordanian desert on the Syrian border.
In response, the US military struck dozens of targets in Syria and Iraq, aiming for pro-Iran forces, and drawing criticism from the governments of both countries.
The United States has around 2,500 soldiers stationed in Iraq and nearly 900 across the border in Syria as part of an international coalition created in 2014 to fight the Daesh group (IS).
Sunday night’s rocket attack came against the background of increasing tension in the region, with a flare-up between Iran and Israel.
Early on Saturday, an explosion at an Iraqi military base killed one person and wounded eight others.
Security forces said the blast hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where regular army, police and members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed Al-Shaabi, are stationed.
CENTCOM, the US military command in the region, denied involvement in a strike there. The Israeli army refused to comment.
 


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis
Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.