Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

Sadok Belaid, head of Tunisia’s constitution committee, submitting a draft of the new constitution to President Kais Saied at the Carthage Palace in Tunis. (AFP/File)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Tunisians firmly backed new constitution: final results

  • The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board's president Farouk Bouasker told reporters
  • The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup

TUNIS: The final results of a controversial referendum granting unchecked powers to the office of Tunisia’s President Kais Saied showed 94.6 percent of votes in favor, the electoral authority said Tuesday.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the new constitution, the electoral board said, officially announcing definitive results from the July 25 poll.
The charter was approved by just over 2.6 million people, the board’s president Farouk Bouasker told reporters.
Turnout was considered very low at 30.5 percent.
The referendum came a year to the day after Saied sacked the government and froze parliament in what rivals have branded a coup.
Despite the low turnout, Saied’s move against a system that emerged after the 2011 overthrow of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was welcomed by many Tunisians.
Many people were fed up with high inflation and unemployment, political turmoil and a system they felt had brought little improvement to their lives.
However, opposition politicians and human rights groups have warned of a return to dictatorship under the new constitution.
“The constitution comes into force with the announcement of the final results, its promulgation by the president and its publication in the official journal,” Bouasker said on Tuesday.
He said the fact that appeals against the referendum process had been rejected “confirmed the integrity and transparency of ISIE,” the North African country’s electoral commission.
Bouasker said ISIE had been subjected to “an unprecedented wave of allegations by certain political parties and civil society groups.”
The new text puts the president in command of the army, allows him to appoint a government without parliamentary approval and makes it virtually impossible to remove him from office.
He can also present draft laws to parliament, which will be obliged to give them priority.
A second chamber is created within parliament to represent the regions and counterbalance the assembly itself.
Tunisia is mired in crisis with growth of just three percent, nearly 40 percent of young people jobless and four million people out of a population of nearly 12 million in poverty.
For weeks the heavily indebted country has been negotiating a new loan with the International Monetary Fund, hoping to obtain $4 billion, and also the chance to open other avenues of foreign aid, mainly European.

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Rockets hit central Baghdad for second day in escalating unrest

Updated 33 min 42 sec ago

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.


US condemns ‘brazen’ Iran strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

Updated 28 September 2022

US condemns ‘brazen’ Iran strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

  • Sullivan also called out Iran’s supply of armed drones to Russian forces invading Ukraine
  • Britain urged Iran to end what it called “indiscriminate bombardment” in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, after 13 people were killed

WASHINGTON: The United States said Wednesday it “strongly condemns” Iran’s deadly bombardment in Iraqi Kurdistan and warned against further attacks, amid a crackdown by Tehran in its own Kurdish areas.
“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.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan condemned “these attacks as an assault on the sovereignty of Iraq and its people. Iranian leaders continue to demonstrate flagrant disregard not only for the lives of their own people, but also for their neighbors and the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter.”
Sullivan also called out Iran’s supply of armed drones to Russian forces invading Ukraine, saying this and the “flagrant” bombing of neighbors by Iran “should be universally condemned.”
“The United States will continue to pursue sanctions and other means to disrupt Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East region.”

Meanwhile, Britain urged Iran to end what it called “indiscriminate bombardment” in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, after 13 people were killed.
“These attacks are a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and are wholly unacceptable,” junior foreign minister Tariq Ahmad said.
“They demonstrate a repeated pattern of Iranian destabilising activity in the region,” he added, pledging London’s support for Iraq.