Israeli armed police raze Jerusalem home in predawn raid, arrest residents

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Members of the Israeli border police stand guard near the demolished home of the Salhieh family, east Jerusalem, Jan. 19, 2022. (Reuters)
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Members of the Salhieh family on the roof of their home as they protest their eviction by Israeli police and the Jerusalem municipality, Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, Jan 18, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 19 January 2022

Israeli armed police raze Jerusalem home in predawn raid, arrest residents

  • Salhieh family had occupied property in Sheikh Jarrah for over 60 years
  • Peace Now denounces move as attempt to ‘rip apart the Palestinian culture’

AMMAN: Armed police on Wednesday morning tore down the home of a Palestinian family in an east Jerusalem neighborhood following a long-running dispute over their right to live in the property.

The Israeli-run Jerusalem Municipality sent a police team at 3 a.m., backed by a canine squad and army troops, to forcefully evict the Salhieh family from their home in Sheikh Jarrah.

The move came after Mahmoud Salhieh took to the roof of the house on Monday, threatening to blow it up with gas canisters if he and his family were forced out. Other family members and activists had been maintaining a vigil inside and on top of the building.

Several residents and their supporters were arrested before police moved in to raze the property that the family had lived in for more than six decades.

The municipality confiscated the land, reportedly to build a school for the disabled.

Dana Mills, director of development and external relations and interim executive director of Peace Now, told Arab News that there was an empty plot 500 meters away, which the municipality had promised to allot for a yeshiva (educational institution) for Haredi Jews.

“Peace Now sees this eviction as part of the attempt to allow increased Jewish presence in East Jerusalem and a cynical move in the attempt to prevent East Jerusalem from becoming the capital of the future Palestinian state,” she said.

She added that the municipality was “acting insincerely,” and with the support of the government, “to rip apart the Palestinian culture and everyday life.”

Fadi Hidmi, Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that the Israeli occupiers “continued their destructive policies based on flimsy allegations.”

Their goal, he said, was to change the political and demographic status of Jerusalem and “to fight the Palestinian Islamic and Christian presence in the city in defiance of international law.”

Palestinian Orthodox Bishop Atallah Hanna told Arab News that what was happening to the Salhieh family was a crime.

“Forcing an eviction of a family in this inhuman and barbaric way is a new crime committed against Palestinians in violation of international law. We declare our solidarity with the Salhieh family.”

Shihab Amjad, a political-science professor at Al-Quds University, told Arab News that the incident was linked to efforts to increase Jewish influence in Jerusalem.

“It hurts to see these things happening while the world is letting Palestinians face this (Israeli) might alone. The policy of making Jerusalem more Jewish was accelerated after the announcement to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.”

Ofer Kassif, a member of Knesset, described the predawn eviction as an act of “ethnic cleansing.”

Sami Abu Shehadeh, a parliamentarian from the Joint List, said the incident reflected the “ugly settlement mentality” of the Israeli government.

Human rights groups say 300 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are threatened with eviction. Palestinians who lost their homes in West Jerusalem have not been allowed to reclaim them.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, but Palestinians claim the east of the city as the capital of a future state.

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

Updated 3 sec ago

Lebanon MPs meet to elect new president amid economic crisis

  • Michel Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October
  • No candidate has emerged as a front-runner among the hopefuls
BEIRUT: The Lebanese parliament met Thursday to elect a new president, with no consensus on a successor to outgoing head of state Michel Aoun despite an unpredecedented financial crisis.
Deep divisions among MPs have raised fears Lebanon could be left without a president for months after Aoun’s mandate runs out at the end of October, further undermining creditor confidence.
The incumbent’s own election in 2016 came after a 29-month vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach consensus on a candidate.
Under Lebanon’s longstanding confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.
No candidate has emerged as a front-runner but among the hopefuls are Aoun’s own son-in-law Gebran Bassil, a former foreign minister who is under US sanctions, and veteran politician Sleiman Frangieh.
Ahead of Thursday’s session, it was not even certain enough MPs would turn up to allow a vote to go ahead but in the event quorum was achieved with 104 members of the 128-seat parliament attending, the state NNA news agency reported.
In the first round of voting, a two-thirds majority of 86 votes is required for a candidate to win, an unlikely feat in a divided legislature.
If the election goes to a second round, the required majority falls to 65, but few expect event that margin to be achieved either, fanning fears for the economy.
“If there is a political vacuum, the economic crisis would intensify and there is a clear risk of security incidents,” said analyst Karim Bitar.
The Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value on the black market since 2019 in a financial meltdown branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.
The crisis has plunged more than 80 percent of the population into poverty, as food prices have risen by 2,000 percent, the United Nations has said.
The international community has pressed Lebanese lawmakers to elect a new president in “timely” fashion to avoid plunging the country deeper into crisis
Last week, France, Saudi Arabia and the United States issued a joint statement urging MPs to “elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people.”
“As Lebanon’s parliament prepares to elect a new president, we stress the importance of timely elections in compliance with the constitution,” the statement said.

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Updated 29 September 2022

Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

  • A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone

BAGHDAD: Four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad on Thursday landed around the Iraqi capital’s Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions, police said, as political unrest intensified.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the strikes and no claim of responsibility, two police officers said. A number of Shiite Muslim militant groups have offices and supporters in eastern Baghdad.
A similar attack on Wednesday wounded seven members of the Iraqi security forces in the Green Zone, and appeared to add a new dimension to a contest among power-hungry politicians.
Rocket attacks on the Green Zone have been regular in recent years but they are normally directed at Western targets by Iran-backed militia groups.
Those attacks have been rare in recent months. Wednesday’s attack took place as parliament was holding a vote to confirm its speaker.
The political crisis has left Iraq without a government for nearly a year after elections last October.
The crisis broadly pits the powerful populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, a political, religious and militia leader, against an array of mostly Iran-aligned political and militant groups.
Sadr, the biggest winner of the election, withdrew all his lawmakers from parliament in June and has sworn not to let parliament convene, fearing other parties will form a government without him.
The standoff spiralled into street clashes killing dozens of people in central Baghdad in August. Many Iraqis fear the same could happen again.

Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike

Updated 28 September 2022

Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike

  • Salah Hamouri is protesting against his detention, which is based on evidence he is not allowed to see and has been extended until at least December
  • Israeli authorities transferred Hamouri to a maximum-security prison in July after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for help

LONDON: Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who has been imprisoned without charge by Israeli authorities for six months, has gone on hunger strike in protest.

Hamouri was arrested on March 7 at his home in East Jerusalem. No charges have been filed against him but his detention order has been extended until at least early December based on undisclosed evidence, The Guardian reported.

A member of the #JusticeforSalah campaign told the newspaper that negotiations with Israeli authorities on Wednesday for the lawyer’s release were unsuccessful.

Hamouri, along with 29 other detainees in Israeli prisons, reportedly began an indefinite hunger strike on Sunday to protest against administrative detention. This is an Israeli practice, commonly used against Palestinians who are subject to the military justice system rather than civil justice, under which suspects can be detained for renewable six-month terms without charge or any access to the evidence against them, on the grounds that they might break the law in future in released.

Israeli authorities say the practice is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and protect sensitive intelligence sources. However, human rights campaigners argue that Israeli authorities use it excessively and it violates the right of suspects to due process

Israel is currently holding 743 administrative detainees, the highest number since 2008, according to Israeli human rights group HaMoked.

In July, 37-year-old Hamouri was transferred to a maximum-security prison called Hadarim, where he was placed in a tiny isolation cell. It came after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for the help of the French government, according to #JusticeforSalah.

His wife, French national Elsa Lefort, and their two children, who live in France, have been prevented from visiting or even speaking to Hamouri on the telephone since his arrest.

Hamouri has been imprisoned by Israel a number of times, including a seven-year sentence between 2005 and 2011 for his alleged role in an assassination plot against a chief rabbi.

While he maintained his innocence throughout three years of pretrial detention, he eventually accepted a plea bargain to avoid a 14-year jail sentence or deportation to France, which would have probably have resulted in him losing his Israeli-issued right to residency in Jerusalem.

In 2016, Lefort, who was pregnant at the time, was deported after arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport and barred from entering Israel for 10 years.

Hammouri’s Jerusalem residency rights were revoked in October 2021. The reason given was a “breach of allegiance” to the Israeli state, based on undisclosed evidence. This was a legal first, according to the Guardian. The residency case is due to be heard again in February next year.

“Salah has never stopped being vocal about the occupation. He is always speaking at events in France and tours, talking about the conditions of political prisoners and other violations,” a spokesperson for #JusticeforSalah told the Guardian.

“Treating him like this is a way to try and silence him, to break him, and send a message to other human rights defenders.”

In recent years, several Palestinians have gone on long-term hunger strikes to protest against their administrative detention. In most cases, Israel eventually released them after their health deteriorated significantly.

The most recent high-profile Palestinian hunger striker was Khalil Awawdeh, who was at risk of dying and suffered neurological damage as a result of a near-six-month hunger strike. He ended his protest in August after Israel agreed to release him when his current administrative detention order expires.

Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan

Updated 28 September 2022

Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan

  • A barrage of missiles and drones on Wednesday claimed nine lives and wounded 32
  • Iraq’s federal government called in the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly strikes

ZARGWEZ, Iraq: Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed nine people in Iraq’s Kurdistan region Wednesday after accusing Kurdish armed groups based there of stoking a wave of unrest that has rocked the Islamic republic.
The September 16 death of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, 22, while in the custody of Iran’s morality police has sparked a major wave of protests and a crackdown that has left scores of demonstrators dead over the past 12 nights.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has in recent days accused the Iraq-based Kurdish groups of “attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest.”
After several earlier Iranian cross-border attacks that caused no casualties, a barrage of missiles and drones on Wednesday claimed nine lives and wounded 32, said the regional health minister in Irbil, Saman Al-Barazanji, while visiting the wounded in a hospital in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
“There are civilians among the victims,” including one of those killed, a senior official of the Kurdistan region earlier told AFP.
An AFP correspondent reported smoke billowing from locations hit, ambulances racing to the scene and residents fleeing, at Zargwez, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Sulaimaniyah.
In Baghdad, Iraq’s federal government called in the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly strikes, while the UN mission in Iraq deplored the attack, saying “rocket diplomacy is a reckless act with devastating consequences.”
“These attacks need to cease immediately,” the UN mission said on Twitter.
The United States said it “strongly condemns” Iran’s deadly strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan and warned against further attacks.
“We stand with the people and government of Iraq in the face of these brazen attacks on their sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Other Iranian strikes Wednesday destroyed buildings around Zargwez, where several exiled left-wing Iranian Kurdish parties maintain offices.
“The area where we are has been hit by 10 drone strikes,” Atta Nasser, an official from Komala, one exiled Iranian group, told AFP, blaming Iran for the strikes.
“The headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party has been hit by Iranian strikes,” Hussein Yazdan, an official from the party, told AFP, about the site in the Sherawa region, south of Irbil.
Another group, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, said its bases and headquarters in Koysinjaq, east of Irbil, were struck by “missiles and drones.”
“These cowardly attacks are occurring at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is unable to crack down on ongoing protests inside and silence the Kurdish and Iranian peoples’ civil resistance,” it tweeted.
Amini, 22, died in Tehran on September 16, three days after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women that demands they wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
Her death sparked Iran’s biggest protests in almost three years and a crackdown that has killed at least 76 people, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, or “around 60,” according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.
Protests have rocked especially Kurdish communities in western Iran that share strong connections with Kurdish-inhabited areas of Iraq.
Many Iranian Kurds cross the border into Iraq to find work, due to a biting economic crisis in Iran driven in large part by US sanctions.
Iranian state television had said Sunday about earlier attacks that the “Revolutionary Guards targeted the headquarters of several separatist terrorist groups in northern Iraq with missiles and precision-guided attack drones.”
Two days later the Guards’ General Abbas Nilforoushan, deputy for operations, said “the establishment of a base by the enemies of the Islamic Revolution in this region is not acceptable,” Tasnim news agency reported.
“For some time now, counter-revolutionary elements have been attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest.”
He added that several of “these anti-revolutionary elements were arrested during some riots in the northwest (of Iran), so we had to defend ourselves, react and bomb the surroundings of the border strip.”

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Updated 28 September 2022

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

  • Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks
  • Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion

RAMALLAH: Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured, some seriously, during an Israeli military raid early on Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp in in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks. Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the camp, apparently after an explosion. In the streets, men sheltered behind cars as heavy gunfire could be heard.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said one of the men killed in the clashes was Ahmed Alawneh, a 24-year-old intelligence officer.

The party added that the incursion was a “dangerous escalation.” It called for demonstrations to honor the “heroic martyrs” and “unify the battlefields against the Israeli occupation that is trying to single out and isolate Jenin.”

Thousands later participated in the funeral of the four dead amid chants calling for revenge.

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, Jenin’s governor, told Arab News that the Israeli army used excessive force and intended to kill.

He said the two wanted men died in the yard of a house that had been surrounded by Israeli soldiers, despite possessing no weapons and showing no resistance.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, called for the men’s killers to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Mosques announced mourning and a general strike in Jenin and Nablus.

Ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the killings showed that “this occupation, which practices terrorism in all its forms against our Palestinian people,” understands only force.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the “dangerous Israeli escalation” would not give legitimacy, security or stability to Israel.

He added that Israel is an international pariah and that the US, its principle ally, has lost credibility with its continued calls for calm while Palestinian lives, land and holy sites are being destroyed.

“The occupation still insists on crossing all red lines, whether in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the “terrorism of the occupation” would not break Jenin’s determination, and “the fall of the martyrs becomes fuel for the resistance.”

He added that the battle against Israel will continue until it is expelled from all Palestinian land.

Israel accused Hamas of stoking tensions in the West Bank, claiming that an explosive device was detonated when its soldiers tried to arrest the wanted men in Jenin and that both died in an exchange of fire.

Hamas was also accused by Israel of stoking Palestinian resistance at the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, which has been stormed by Jewish settlers for three consecutive days.