Protests against powerful group persist in Syria’s last major rebel stronghold

Militants of the Al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham block a road in front of demonstrators protesting against them in Binnish town, in Idlib province, on May 17, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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Protests against powerful group persist in Syria’s last major rebel stronghold

  • Protests took place Friday in several areas, including the provincial capital of Idlib and major towns such as Jisr Al-Shughour, Binnish and Sarmada
  • Officials at one hospital in Binnish said they had received 36 people who suffered bruises and tear gas inhalation

IDLIB, Syria: Members of a powerful insurgent group in Syria ‘s rebel-held northwest fired into the air and beat protesters with clubs Friday, injuring some of them as protests intensified to demand the release of detainees and an end to the group’s rule.
Protests took place Friday in several areas, including the provincial capital of Idlib and major towns such as Jisr Al-Shughour, Binnish and Sarmada.
They came days after Abu Mohammed Al-Golani, the leader of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, or HTS, described the demonstrators as anarchists and told dignitaries in Syria’s Idlib province to persuade them to stop protesting.
The protests, which are calling for the ouster of Al-Golani, broke out in late February following the death of a member of a rebel faction, allegedly while being tortured in a jail run by HTS, which previously had links to Al-Qaeda. Since then, HTS released hundreds of detainees, but many remain in jails run by the group’s so-called General Security Agency.
“I came out against injustice. We don’t want Al-Golani and we don’t want the security fist. We want the prisoners of opinion to be out” of jails, protester Mazen Ziwani told The Associated Press.
Officials at one hospital in Binnish said they had received 36 people who suffered bruises and tear gas inhalation.
After more than 13 years of civil war and more than half a million deaths, Idlib is the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.
On Tuesday, HTS members attacked protesters with clubs and sharp objects outside a military court in Idlib city, injuring several people.
Anti-HTS sentiments had been rising since a wave of arrests by the group of senior officials within the organization, which was previously known as the Nusra Front, when it was Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, before changing its name several times and distancing itself from Al-Qaeda.
Over the years, Al-Golani’s HTS crushed many of its opponents to become the strongest group in the rebel-held region that stretches to the western parts of Aleppo province.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said HTS fighters closed major roads leading to Idlib city Friday to prevent the demonstrators from reaching the provincial capital.
Over the past years, HTS has been trying to distance itself from Al-Qaeda and market itself as a more moderate Syrian opposition group after years of strict religious rule.
In 2017, HTS set up a so-called “salvation government” to run day-to-day affairs in the region. At first, it attempted to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Religious police were tasked with making sure that women were covered, with only their faces and hands showing.
The police would force shops to close on Fridays so that people could attend the weekly prayers. Playing music was banned, as was smoking water pipes in public.


Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says

Updated 3 sec ago
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Palestinian Authority at risk of collapse, Norway says

  • Norway chairs the international donor group to the Palestinians and is a backer of the Palestinian Authority
OSLO: The Palestinian Authority could collapse in the coming months, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said on Monday, citing a lack of funding, continuing violence and the fact that half a million Palestinians are not allowed to work in Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority, with whom we work closely, are warning us that they might be collapsing this summer,” Barth Eide said.
Norway chairs the international donor group to the Palestinians and is a backer of the PA.

Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

Updated 7 min 34 sec ago
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Jordan braces for scorching heatwave as temperatures soar

  • The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius
  • Temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting

AMMAN: The Jordan Meteorological Department forecast extreme heat for Monday, with most regions of the country — particularly the desert areas, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea and Aqaba — experiencing intense temperatures.

The Gulf of Aqaba reached highs of 45 celsius, the Southern Jordan Valley 44 celsius, Dead Sea 43 celsius, while the Desert Regions and the Northern Jordan Valley reached highs of 41 celsius. 

Cloud cover at medium and high altitudes is expected in the south and east of the Kingdom, state news agency Petra reported, with moderate northwesterly winds occasionally becoming brisk.

The JMD cautioned people against prolonged sun exposure, which could lead to dehydration, especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those with health conditions. It also highlighted the risk of forest fires and the dangers of leaving children or flammable items, like perfumes and sanitizers, inside vehicles.

Looking ahead to Tuesday, temperatures in Jordan are set to rise slightly, with the heatwave persisting. Most areas will remain hot, the JMD said, and desert regions will face sweltering conditions. Northeasterly winds will prevail, shifting to moderate northwesterly by evening.

The heatwave will continue into Wednesday, with another slight increase in temperatures. Conditions will be blistering and dry across the highlands, the JMD warned, with extreme heat persisting elsewhere. Northeasterly winds will turn to moderate northwesterly later in the day.

Thursday will bring a modest reprieve as temperatures dip slightly. However, the weather will remain hot across most areas, with the desert, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Aqaba continuing to sizzle. Moderate northwesterly winds will occasionally become brisk.


Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

Updated 51 min 6 sec ago
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Iran calls for joint action by Islamic nations to stop Gaza war

  • Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people so far

TEHRAN: Iran’s Acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has called for joint action on the part of Islamic countries to pressure Israel into ending its brutal military activities in Gaza, which have devastated most of the enclave and killed thousands of Palestinians there.

Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has killed at least 37,337 people, mostly civilian women and children, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Humanitarian supplies for millions of Palestinians displaced by the conflict have been squeezed despite the Israeli military declaring it would “pause” fighting daily around a southern route to facilitate aid flows.

The Iranian official also spoke with his Afghan counterpart Amir Khan Muttaqi via telephone on Sunday, with the two discussing bilateral relations as well as the situation in war-ravaged Gaza.

Kani reiterated Iran’s readiness to help Kabul resolve its challenges and achieve growth, Iran’s news agency IRNA reported.


Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

Updated 17 June 2024
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Kuwaiti citizen detained for alleged involvement in extremist group

KUWAIT CITY: The Public Prosecution in Kuwait has ordered the detention of a citizen on charges of joining a group aimed at illegally undermining the country’s basic systems, state news agency KUNA reported on Sunday.

The individual is also accused of receiving training in making explosives and preparing poisons for illicit purposes, as well as planning to leave the country to fight with the group, though he was unable to do so.

The Public Prosecution interrogated the accused and presented him with the charges, according to a statement released on its official account on X. Investigation procedures are ongoing.


Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

Updated 17 June 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis announce new maritime operations in support of Gaza

  • The Houthis declared that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories

SANAA: The Houthi militia’s army spokesman, Yahya Saree, announced on Sunday that an American destroyer and two Israel-linked ships were targeted in recent operations in the Red and Arabian seas.

Saree said that the US destroyer was hit by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea, while the two ships — Captain Paris and Happy Condor — were targeted in the Arabian Sea using naval missiles and drones, respectively.

He stated that these ships were targeted because they were en route to ports in Israeli-occupied territories.

Saree reaffirmed Yemen’s stance, declaring that attacks on Israel-linked shipping will persist until Israel ends its war on Gaza and lifts the siege on Palestinian territories.

He also emphasized that the Yemeni army would continue to defend its territory against US-UK “aggression,” referring to joint airstrikes by the two Western nations, which the latter claim were launched to protect international shipping.

The Houthis have rejected these claims, asserting that their military operations in international waters, ongoing since mid-November, only target Israeli ships or vessels heading to Israeli-occupied ports.