Eid prayers return to Mosul mosque ruined in Daesh war

An aerial view shows Iraqi worshippers taking part in the Eid Al-Fitr prayer on Thursday in the courtyard of the damaged Umayad mosque in the Old City of Mosul. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2021

Eid prayers return to Mosul mosque ruined in Daesh war

  • Groups of men entered silently and sat down to listen to religious recitals in the building

MOSUL: As dawn broke over Mosul on Thursday, worshippers knelt between piles of rubble while Eid Al-Fitr prayers took place in the city’s oldest mosque for the first time since Daesh was driven out of the area in 2017.

Groups of men entered silently and sat down to listen to religious recitals in the building, which dates back to the Umayyad period in the 7th century and remains largely in ruins following heavy fighting in Mosul’s Old City.

“The message is clear. The Al-Masfi Mosque is the Islamic epicenter and symbol of the area. It is not only Islamic, but also a symbol of the city,” said Ahmed Najem, a local academic, after prayers.

The mosque was partially destroyed during the brutal occupation by Daesh, which proclaimed Mosul the capital of its self-styled caliphate, and an intense campaign of airstrikes to liberate the city from the militants.

Like many other heritage and religious buildings in the Old City, it has been left in disrepair, with collapsed walls and mounds of rubble. Local campaigners say this is due to insufficient public funding allocated to reconstruction in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province.

“We need to accelerate its reconstruction,” said Najem.

Volunteers from a local group campaigning for the renovation of the Old City swept the floor and put down rugs ahead of the prayers for Eid, a holiday which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

“We are happy about Eid and other celebrations, but there is also heartbreak because of great destruction in Mosul until this day,” said Ayyub Dhanun, one of the volunteers.

Volunteer groups have sprung up in Mosul since its liberation, with many campaigning for funds to rebuild the city’s architectural heritage and identity.

They have organized events at mosques, churches and recently Mosul’s Spring Theatre, cleaning and tidying damaged buildings as best they can, often with no financial or other support.

“This is an invitation to rebuild this monument and to compensate Mosul residents by rebuilding their houses in old Mosul,” said Dhanun after prayers at the Al-Masfi Mosque.

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Updated 51 min 14 sec ago

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials

  • The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said
  • The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it had imposed sanctions on eight Syrian prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence apparatus and five senior officials who control the sites, where human rights abuses have taken place.
The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, which operates in northern Syria, for abuses against civilians, as well as on two of the group’s leaders, it said in a statement.
“Today’s designations promote accountability for abuses committed against the Syrian people and deny rogue actors access to the international financial system,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Andrea Gacki. “This action demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to targeting human rights abuses in Syria, regardless of the perpetrator.”
The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said. It accused Ahrar Al-Sharqiya of numerous crimes against civilians, especially Syrian Kurds, “including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property.”
In a separate statement, the Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on one Turkey-based Al-Qaeda financial facilitator for materially assisting the militant group as well as one Syria-based terrorist fundraiser and recruiter for providing material support to Hay’et Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a militant group previously sanctioned under US counter-terrorism authorities.


Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Updated 28 July 2021

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  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said he hoped to form a government in the "near future"

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees.
Mikati, a businessman, is the third potential prime minister to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion in Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city. He spoke to reporters after meeting Aoun.
Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
"I gave my proposals, President Aoun approved most of them and he made some remarks which are acceptable; God willing ... we will be able to form a government soon," Mikati said.
Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty.
Like the previous nominee, Saad Al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states. 


Daesh attack kills seven Syrian troops: Monitor

Updated 28 July 2021

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BERLIN: Daesh group militants killed at least seven soldiers and militiamen in eastern Syria on Wednesday, the latest in a series of deadly attacks, a Britain-based war monitor said.
Several government positions came under attack in a desert area of Deir Ezzor province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Several troops were also wounded, some of them critically, while five militants were also killed.
A Kurdish-led offensive overran the last patch of Daesh-held territory in Syria in March 2019 but sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in the vast desert that stretches from central Syria east to the Iraqi border.


Iran’s supreme leader criticizes US as nuclear talks stalled

Updated 28 July 2021

Iran’s supreme leader criticizes US as nuclear talks stalled

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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks come as his hard-line protege, President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, is posed to be sworn in next week as the head of the country’s civilian government and as talks on reviving the deal remain stalled in Vienna.
While Raisi has said he wants to return to the accord, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions, Khamenei seemingly called for a more-adversarial approach in his remarks. They also appeared to describe outgoing President Hassan Rouhani’s eight-year government as naive for its approach in reaching the 2015 agreement as its officials sat before him.
“Others should use your experiences. This experience is a distrust of the West,” Khamenei said in remarks broadcast by state television. “In this government, it was shown up that trust in the West does not work.”
He added: “Westerners do not help us, they hit wherever they can.”

Israel to issue 16,000 more work permits for Palestinians

Updated 28 July 2021

Israel to issue 16,000 more work permits for Palestinians

  • The new permits will bring the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel to 106,000
  • The COVID-19 pandemic prompted Israel to suspend the 7,000 permits previously granted to workers

JERUSALEM: Israel announced Wednesday it is to issue 16,000 more permits for Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to work in its construction and hotel industries, taking the total to over 100,000.
“Israel intends to increase by 15,000 workers the quota of Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria (the southern and northern West Bank) working in the field of construction,” the Israeli military body responsible for civil affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, COGAT, said.
Another 1,000 permits will be issued to Palestinians working in Israeli hotels, it added.
The new permits will bring the number of Palestinians allowed to work in Israel to 106,000, with another 30,000 Palestinians authorized to work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.
The announcement followed discussions between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. The Israeli government is expected to approve it next week, the security source said, adding: “We want to apply it as fast as possible. It’s in the interest of both sides.”
Jobs in Israel offer higher wages than those in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank but Palestinians complain they do not get paid as much as their Israeli counterparts or enjoy similar labor protections.
The head of COGAT, Major General Rassan Alian, said the additional work permits “will strengthen the Israeli and Palestinian economies, and will largely contribute to the security stability in the area of Judea and Samaria.”
No Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip are currently permitted to work in Israel, the security official said.
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted Israel to suspend the 7,000 permits previously granted to workers from the impoverished territory of some two million people which has been under Israeli blockade since 2007.