World anger mounts over Gaza deaths

Palestinians who live in Greece wave Palestinian flags atop a police bus during an anti-Israeli rally in Athens. (AP)
Updated 16 May 2018

World anger mounts over Gaza deaths

  • Almost 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during protests to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba
  • Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem

AMMAN: Israel faces mounting regional and international pressure over the deaths of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border, with South Africa, Turkey, Belgium and Ireland withdrawing their ambassadors from Tel Aviv and the UN Commission on Human Rights calling for an independent inquiry. 

Almost 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli troops during protests to mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba — the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes — and the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s rejection of the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a day after its official opening.

“This step represents a significant bias against the historical, permanent rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem,” an official statement said.

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinian leadership would file a legal case against Israel with the International Criminal Court over settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory.

Former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher, now senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News that the killing of Palestinian protesters, coupled with the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, shows why “Israel cannot be trusted” to bring about peace in the region.

“I believe Jordan’s preferred course of action is the adoption of a policy that would keep Palestinians on their soil and that would not cooperate with Israel in any way,” he said.

Nour Al-Emam, a lawyer and member of the Palestine National Council, said the US was now complicit in the killings of unarmed Palestinians by the Israeli occupiers.

Media coverage of the killings in Gaza has also been criticized. Writing on his personal Twitter account, media specialist Mureed Hammad said that the “world media has shown a different face to dealing with Palestinian blood.”

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, condemned The New York Times for saying that Palestinians had “died” rather than Palestinians were “killed.”

Some Arab voices are also objecting to the silence of many Arab leaders. Mohammad Ersan, the host of a Radio Al-Balad talk show in the Jordanian capital, ended his program on Tuesday by asking if the Israeli ambassadors in neighboring countries would be sent home. His comment followed a decision by Turkey to order Israel’s ambassador to leave.

Veteran Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin told Arab News that the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem “is harmful to chances of peace and goes against international accepted positions that the future of Jerusalem must be decided and resolved by Israel and Palestine together.” 

Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Updated 22 May 2018

Iran faces ‘strongest sanctions in history’

  • US Secretary of State laid out Trump administration’s strategy for constraining Iran’s nuclear program
  • US threatens "strongest sanctions in history" if Iranian government does not change course

WASHINGTON: The US told Iran on Monday to drop its nuclear ambitions and pull out of the Syrian civil war in a list of demands that marked a new hard-line against Tehran and prompted an Iranian official to warn that Washington seeks regime change.

Weeks after US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran on a deeper course of confrontation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded sweeping changes that would force Iran effectively to reverse years of its foreign policies.

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran,” Pompeo said in his first major speech since becoming secretary of state.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” he added.

Pompeo took aim at Iran’s policy of expanding its influence in the Middle East through support for proxy armed groups in countries such as Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

He warned that the US would “crush” Iranian operatives and allies abroad and told Tehran to pull out forces under its command from the Syrian civil war where they back President Bashar Assad.

Iran is unlikely to accede to the US demands. Tension between the two countries has grown notably since Trump this month withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account.

“Our demands on Iran are not unreasonable: Give up your program,” Pompeo said, “Should they choose to go back, should they begin to enrich, we are fully prepared to respond to that as well,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Pompeo said if Iran made major changes, the US was prepared to ease sanctions, re-establish full diplomatic and commercial relations and support the country’s re-integration into the international economic system.

The speech did not explicitly call for regime change but Pompeo repeatedly urged the Iranian people not to put up with their leaders, specifically naming President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“At the end of the day the Iranian people will get to make a choice about their leadership. If they make the decision quickly, that would be wonderful, if they choose not to do so we will stay hard at this until we achieve the outcomes I set forward,” said Pompeo.