BAGHDAD (Reuters) — Security forces killed two protesters and wounded 35 others in Baghdad on Thursday, police and medical sources said, as thousands of Iraqis continued a wave of anti-government protests. One protester died immediately after a tear gas canister hit his head and another died in hospital from wounds from a stun bomb fired by security forces, the sources said. Security forces used live fire, rubber bullets and shot tear gas canisters in a bid to disperse hundreds of protesters gathered near Tahrir Square, a Reuters cameraman said. Most of those hurt had choked on tear gas or had been hit by rubber bullets and were taken to hospital, medical sources said. Protesters said the security forces had stepped up their firing of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets early on Thursday morning. More than 300 people have been killed since Oct. 1, as security forces have fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at crowds of protesters. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi s government has taken some measures to try to quell the unrest, including handouts to the poor and creating more job opportunities for college graduates. But it has failed to keep up with the growing demands of demonstrators who are now calling for an overhaul of Iraq s sectarian political system and the departure of its entire ruling elite. The unrest is among the biggest and most complex challenges to the current ruling elite since it took power after the U.S. invasion and the toppling of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Exchanges of fire triggered by Israel s targeted killing of a top militant in Gaza raged for a second day Wednesday and showed little sign of easing, with 22 Palestinians killed. Fresh rocket barrages were fired at Israel, which responded with strikes on what it said were Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket-launching squads in the Gaza Strip. Air raid sirens wailed and fireballs exploded as air defense missiles intercepted rockets, sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters. In Gaza, residents surveyed damage and mourned the dead outside a mortuary and at funerals. UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov was expected in Cairo for talks on halting the fighting, a diplomatic source said, but a source close to the discussions warned the risk of further escalation remained high. In comments Wednesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Islamic Jihad must stop its stop rocket attacks or “absorb more and more blows”. He reiterated his warning that “this could take time” and said Israel would respond to attacks “without mercy.” Islamic Jihad spokesman Musab al-Barayem said the group was not interested in mediation for now as it responded to the killing of one of its commanders. Israel killed senior Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata and his wife Asma in a targeted strike early Tuesday, prompting barrages of rocket fire in revenge and retaliatory Israeli air strikes. According to Israel, Ata was responsible for rocket fire at Israel as well as other attacks and was planning more violence, with the military calling him a “ticking bomb.” The flare-up raised fears of a new conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, who have fought three wars since 2008. A total of 22 Palestinians have been killed so far, including Ata and his wife, according to Gaza s Hamas-run health ministry. Islamic Jihad confirmed that the dead included other members of its armed wing. – 220 rockets – Since Israel s killing of Ata in what was believed to be a drone strike, at least 220 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza and dozens have been intercepted by air defences, according to the army. There have been no Israeli deaths, though damage has been caused and one rocket narrowly missed cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated 48 people with light wounds, while schools were closed in areas near the Gaza border for a second day running. On Tuesday, school closures included the commercial capital Tel Aviv. Schools in the blockaded Gaza Strip, an enclave of two million people, have been closed since Tuesday. Unusually and in a sign it was seeking to avoid a wider conflict, Israel s announced targets were confined to Islamic Jihad sites and not those belonging to Hamas. It normally holds Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, responsible for all rocket fire from the enclave as the territory s de facto rulers. Israeli analysts were quick to highlight the change of approach. “For the first time in the current era, Israel drew a distinction between Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” commentator Ben Caspit wrote in Israeli newspaper Maariv. “By so doing, Israel deviated from its iron-clad principle that Hamas, as the sovereign power in Gaza, has to pay the price for any action taken by anyone in the Gaza Strip. That is now no longer the case.” Islamic Jihad is the second most-powerful militant group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas. The flare-up comes at a politically sensitive time for Israel. A September 17 general election ended in a deadlock and a new government is yet to be formed. It was the second election since April, when polls also ended inconclusively. The violence drew international calls for calm. Britain s foreign office said “we call on all sides to rapidly de-escalate the situation, and support the UN and Egyptian efforts to achieve that objective.”
Israel s military killed a commander of Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a strike on his home in the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire and fears of a severe escalation in violence. Separately in Damascus, Syrian state media reported that an Israeli strike hit the home of another Islamic Jihad militant, killing his son and another person. Israel did not immediately comment on that strike. Islamic Jihad s armed wing announced the death of the commander in Gaza City after Israel confirmed it had targeted Baha Abu Al-Ata, 42, in a strike. The group said Ata s wife was also killed. Israel blamed Ata for recent rocket fire into its territory and said he was preparing further attacks. The strike led to “substantial” rocket fire from the Gaza Strip towards Israel and air raid sirens rang out in parts of the country, Israel s military said, but it was unclear if it resulted in casualties or damage. Islamic Jihad said it was targeting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other cities with rocket fire. “We are preparing for a number of days of fighting,” Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said. Schools were closed in both the Gaza Strip and in parts of Israel, including in commercial capital Tel Aviv. The Israeli army ordered “non-essential” workers in Tel Aviv and central Israel to stay at home like those in the Gaza border region and banned public gatherings. “A building in the Gaza Strip, in which the Palestinian Islamic Jihad senior leader Baha Abu Al-Ata stayed in, was attacked,” Israel s military said in a statement, calling it a joint operation between the army and Israel s Shin Bet domestic security service. Damage from a blast could be seen at Ata s home in the Shejayia district in the east of Gaza City. Mosque loudspeakers were also announcing his death. Maximum alert Islamic Jihad said it was on “maximum alert,” while Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian enclave, threatened revenge. Israel said Ata was behind rocket fire toward a music festival in the Israeli city of Sderot in August as well as further rocket attacks at the start of November. It has also accused him of being behind sniper fire and drone launchings. Ata “is responsible for most of the terror attacks in the last year from the Gaza Strip,” the army said, describing him as a “ticking bomb.” It alleged he was “promoting preparations to commit immediate terror attacks in various ways towards Israeli civilians and (Israeli) troops during the recent few days.” In the separate strike, Islamic Jihad confirmed one of its officials, Akram Ajouri, was targeted in Damascus. Syrian state news agency SANA said the strike targeted Ajouri s home “killing his son Muadh and another person.” The strikes raised the possibility of a severe escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza. Three wars have been fought between them since 2008, and Gaza has been under a strict Israeli blockade for more than a decade. Islamic Jihad is the second most-powerful militant group in the Gaza Strip behind Hamas, to which it is allied. Israel s military said it had “deployed troops and is prepared for a wide range of offensive and defensive scenarios.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu s office confirmed the strike targeting Ata in a statement. The flare-up comes at a sensitive time politically for Israel. A September 17 general election ended in a deadlock and a new government is yet to be formed. It was the second election since April, when polls also ended inconclusively.
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey on Monday deported a U.S. citizen who fought for the Islamic State group as the government began a new push to send back captured foreign fighters to their home countries, a Turkish official said. A German and a Danish national would also be repatriated later Monday, while seven other German nationals would be returned on Nov. 14, Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Catakli told Turkey s state-run Anadolu Agency, The U.S. and Denmark did not immediately comment on Ankara s announcement. Germany said it will not refuse entry to its own citizens. The move comes just over a week after the Turkish interior minister said Turkey was not a “hotel” for IS fighters and criticized Western nations for their reluctance to take back citizens who had joined the ranks of the extremist militant group as it sought to establish a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. While Turkey has quietly deported IS sympathizers for years, it raised the issue more forcefully after Western nations refused to back its invasion of northeastern Syria and its offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara considers terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents fighting inside Turkey. Many countries have voiced concerns that the Turkish incursion would lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State group. Cataki did not provide further information on the IS suspects being sent home but said they were held in Turkish deportation centers. “This morning, a foreign terrorist fighter from the United States was deported from Turkey after the procedures at the deportation center were completed,” Anadolu quoted Catakli as saying. Two Irish nationals, two German nationals and 11 French nationals who were captured in Syria would also be transferred to their countries of origin soon, he added. Turkey has been accused of enabling the influx of thousands of foreign IS sympathizers into Syria over the years and at the height of the extremist group s power, the Turkish border crossings were the main route for those hoping to join IS in Syria. Turkey denies that it enabled foreign fighters to cross into Syria. It later stepped up security at its borders, including profiling possible IS fighters at airports and building a wall along parts of its porous border. Turkey was hit by a wave of IS attacks in 2015 and 2016, including one by a gunman who opened fire at an Istanbul nightclub during New Year celebrations in the early hours of 2017 and killed 39 people. In Berlin, German foreign ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said Turkey told Germany about its plan to deport one person on Monday, seven on Thursday and two more German nationals on Friday. The group comprises three men, five women and two children. So far, Burger said, German authorities cannot confirm that the 10 were involved with IS and, in the case of the person being deported Monday, they know of no link to IS. There are indications that two of the women were in Syria, but neither of the children is believed to have been in Syria. There was no dispute about these people s German citizenship, he said, and therefore no doubt about them being let back into the country — Germany can t and doesn t refuse entry to its own citizens. Burger said that authorities have not yet been able to verify whether some 20 people — who are known to be in pre-deportation custody in Turkey — have German citizenship. Ankara has not yet officially notified Germany that it plans to deport them. Turkey has over the past few weeks criticized Western nations, including Britain and the Netherlands, for refusing to take back their nationals who had joined the militant group and vowed to send back IS militants — even if their citizenship has been revoked. Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that about 1,200 foreign IS fighters were in Turkish prisons and 287 members, including women and children, were re-captured during Turkey s offensive in Syria. He did not provide any numbers or further details on those who would be sent back. Several European countries, including Britain, have stripped IS fighters of their nationalities, to prevent their return.
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi security forces put up concrete barriers in central Baghdad Sunday, trying to hamper and block protesters movements a day after forcefully clearing three flashpoint bridges in a security operation that killed six anti-government protesters and left more than 100 wounded. Since the unrest began last month, more than 260 protesters have been killed by security forces who have used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas in an effort to quell the protests. Amnesty International called it a “bloodbath” and said Iraqi authorities should immediately rein in security forces. “The government of Iraq has a duty to protect its people s right to life, as well as to gather and express their views. This bloodbath must stop now, and those responsible for it must be brought to justice,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International s Middle East and North Africa Director. The widening security crackdown reflects government intransigence and narrowing options for protesters who have been on the streets of Baghdad and the mainly Shia south s cities for weeks. Authorities shut down internet access and blocked social media sites several times amid the demonstrations. The leaderless, economically driven protests are targeting Iraq s entire political class and calling for the overhaul of the sectarian system established after the 2003 US-led invasion. More immediately, they are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi s government, who has held the post for just over a year. He has refused to step down. “All government promises of reforms or investigations ring hollow while security forces continue to shoot and kill protesters,” Morayef added. On Sunday, security forces closed roads near the Khilani Square with one-meter high concrete barriers, trying to block protesters from reaching Baghdad s landmark Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests, and the Sanak bridge. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, security and medical officials said 31 people were injured in confrontations outside the education directorate as security forces tear-gassed protesters trying to block employees from reaching the building in the city center. Among those wounded were two school students, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. On Saturday, Iraqi security forces killed six anti-government protesters and wounded more than 100 others, pushing them back from three flashpoint bridges in central Baghdad, medical and security officials said. The Iraqi officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The deaths occurred as the protests intensified in the afternoon, when demonstrators tried to reach the three bridges spanning the Tigris River to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of government. Protesters have tried to force their way across on an almost daily basis. The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq s vast oil reserves. They have rejected government proposals for limited economic reforms, and instead called on the country s political leadership to resign, including Adel Abdul-Mahdi. “We consider the peaceful protests of our people as among the most important events since 2003,” Abdul-Mahdi said in a statement Saturday that vowed to meet the protesters demands for wide-ranging reforms. He added that electoral reforms would be put forward soon along with “an important government reshuffle” in response to the protests against the sectarian system imposed in 2003, though the statement didn t provide further details.
BEIRUT (AP) — The World Bank called on Lebanese authorities Wednesday to urgently form a new government that can address the country s worsening economic situation, warning that Lebanon “does not have the luxury of time to waste.” The stark warning came in a statement issued after a meeting between the World Bank s regional director and President Michel Aoun amid ongoing mass protests and a severe economic and financial crisis. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29 in response to the unprecedented protests which have swept Lebanon starting in the middle of last month. The protesters erupted over proposed new taxes and have snowballed into calls for the government to resign and for the entire political elite that has ruled Lebanon since the end of its 1975-90 civil war to step aside. The protests have paralyzed the country and kept banks shuttered for two weeks. Lebanon, one of the most heavily indebted countries in the world, already was dealing with a severe fiscal crisis before the protests began, one rooted in years of heavy borrowing and expensive patronage networks run by entrenched political parties. The protesters are calling for the formation of a technocrat government that would get to work immediately on addressing Lebanon s economic crisis. They accuse officials of dragging their feet on that. Following his meeting with Aoun, World Bank Regional Director Saroj Kumar Jha said he urged swift measures to ensure Lebanon s economic and financial stability. “The politics has most attention, but economy has the most risks,” he said. “With every passing day, the situation is becoming more acute and this would make recovery extremely challenging,” he added. “Lebanon does not have the luxury of time to waste to redress issues that need immediate attention.” On Wednesday, protesters rallied outside state institutions and ministries to keep up the pressure on officials to form a new government. Dozens of people gathered outside the justice, education and other ministries as well as the state-run electricity company and the tax department. In their third week, protesters have adopted a new tactic of surrounding state institutions to disrupt their work. The protesters agreed on Tuesday to shift the focus of the protests and open main roads to ease up traffic and allow people to get back to work.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi security forces shot dead at least 13 protesters in the past 24 hours, dispensing with weeks of relative restraint in favor of trying to stamp out demonstrations against political parties that control the government. After eight people were killed during the day on Monday, security forces shot dead at least five others overnight or early on Tuesday, including one killed with live fire toward a funeral procession held for another who died hours earlier, security and medical sources told Reuters. More than 260 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, above all Iran. Most of those deaths occurred during the first week of the demonstrations, when snipers shot into crowds from Baghdad rooftops. But after the government appeared to have curbed the use of some deadly tactics, the protests swelled rapidly over the past 12 days. The new violence flared a day after Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi appealed to protesters to suspend their movement, which he said had achieved its goals and was hurting the economy. In a televised address on Tuesday, Abdul Mahdi said the protests were having an economic impact the country could not afford, and asked demonstrators to refrain from further damaging public and private property. “There are many ways to express opinions without disrupting public life,” he said. Abdul Mahdi has said he is willing to resign if politicians agree on a replacement and has vowed a number of reforms. But protesters say that is not enough and the entire political class needs to go. “After the first wave of protests, we gave the government until Oct. 25 to enact reforms,” a 30-year-old protester, who declined to give his name out of safety concerns, said in Baghdad. “It has failed to do so, (and) all of its proposed reforms were just routine, the same old stuff.” He said the use of deadly force against protesters had radicalized protesters who initially only wanted “constitutional and legal reforms.” Now they wanted wholesale change. BLOCKING ROADS The protester spoke on Baghdad s Shuhada – or Martyrs – Bridge, where dozens were building a barricade as part of plans to occupy a third bridge on Tuesday afternoon. Teenage boys with wooden sticks made up the remainder of the vanguard. Security forces in riot gear stood opposite them, behind a barricade made from metal railings, dustbins and barbed wire. Protesters said they were blocking the bridge to bring the country to a standstill, civil disobedience now being their only recourse. They called on fellow Iraqis to go on strike and chastised those still going to work. “I ask employees, why are you going to work? … Go on strike! Stay on it for 10 days, we are all suffering together,” said teacher Karrar Mohamed, 25. STABILITY AFTER DEFEATING ISLAMIC STATE Since defeating Islamic State in 2017, Iraq has enjoyed two years of comparative stability. But despite its oil wealth, many people live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education. Protesters blame a corrupt political system that shares power among sectarian parties. Abdul Mahdi, in power for a year, enjoys the support of powerful Iranian-backed political parties allied to armed militia. A government report said nearly 150 people were killed in the first week of the unrest in early October, 70 percent from bullets to the head. Since then, security forces have mainly used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to repel demonstrators. Though these tactics also caused fatalities, the protests grew far larger as word got out that they were safer. By the end of last week tens of thousands of people were turning out daily for by far the biggest anti-government demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But Monday s violence suggested a return to the earlier tactics, including firing live rounds into crowds. At least six protesters were killed on Monday in Baghdad as security forces used live rounds. One protester was also killed in Shatra, a town in the south, on Monday. Overnight, security forces killed two more people and wounded 12 in Shatra, security and medical sources said. Hospital sources said the protesters died from bullet wounds to the head. The protesters had tried to attack the house of a senior government official, security sources said. Separately, at least two protesters were killed and dozens wounded when security forces opened fire on protesters camped out at the entrance to the main Gulf port of Umm Qasr.
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese troops deployed Tuesday in different parts of the country to reopen roads and main thoroughfares closed by anti-government protesters faced resistance in some areas, leading to scuffles. In most places, protesters withdrew peacefully as the troops moved in. But in Beirut s northern suburb of Zouk Mosbeh, a scuffle erupted when some demonstrators refused to move away from the main highway linking Beirut with northern Lebanon. Several protesters were detained by troops. One protester, an older man, fainted and was rushed away in an ambulance; the Lebanese Red Cross later said he was in stable condition. Anti-government protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct. 17, demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades. The protesters have paralyzed Lebanon by closing roads inside cities as well as major highways. “We are not defying the army but we want our demands to be met,” said hairdresser Elie Abdu, 29, in Zouk Mosbeh. “We want a technocrat government, we want the poor to have food and medical care.” The protesters have been demanding the new Cabinet not include politicians but consist of experts who can work on getting Lebanon out of its economic crisis. Also in Beirut, in the nearby area of Jal el-Deeb, troops chased after protesters who were closing a major road, running after them into streets until they rushed into a church and hid inside it. Troops also opened the highway linking Beirut with southern Lebanon and several major avenues in the capital. Last week, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, meeting a key demand of the protests. The leaderless anti-government movement has united Lebanese from various religious sects in a call for the overthrow of the political system that has dominated the country since the civil war. Decades of corruption and economic mismanagement that followed have culminating in a severe fiscal crisis. President Michel Aoun has not yet set a date for consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name a new prime minister, a procedure that follows the resignation of a Cabinet.
The Egyptian army killed 83 terrorists in North and Central Sinai between 28 September and 4 November, the Egyptian Army s General Command said in a statement on Monday. Army forces seized 65 different types of weapons as well as ammunition, IEDs, and solar cell devices. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Air Forces destroyed 14 terrorist hideouts, 115 off-road vehicles, 33 cars, 93 motorcycles, two smuggling tunnels and 376 planted IEDs in the area of operations, the statement added. Also, border guards foiled illegal immigration attempts by 4,707 people of different nationalities and seized three Thuraya satellite phones. "Sixty-one wanted criminals and suspects were arrested," the statement said, adding that "three army personnel were killed and injured during the operations against terrorist hideouts."
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A car bomb killed a dozen people and injured 30 on Saturday in a market of a Syrian border town that Turkish-backed forces seized last month, prompting Ankara to blame the Kurdish YPG militia it had targeted in its incursion. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-Turkey fighters and civilians were among the dead and injured in Tel Abyad. Turkey s state-owned Anadolu Agency said 13 were killed after a “bomb-laden vehicle” exploded. Tel Abyad is one of two major border towns that saw the heaviest fighting when Ankara launched the incursion on Oct. 9 against the Syrian Kurdish YPG that drew international condemnation. The YPG had for years been allied to the United States in the fight against Islamic State. The explosion comes after two weeks of relative calm in northeastern Syria, and a day after Turkish and Russian troops began joint ground patrols under a deal between the two countries that pushed the YPG from Turkey s border. While Moscow has said the YPG have withdrawn to at least 30 km (18 miles) from the border under the deal, Ankara has been skeptical and held out the possibility of new attacks if members of what it sees as a terrorist group remain. “We condemn this inhuman attack of the bloody PKK/YPG terrorists who attacked the innocent civilians of Tel Abyad who returned to their homes and lands as a result of the Operation Peace Spring,” Turkey s defense ministry said on Twitter. Turkey s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also pointed the finger at the YPG. A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which includes the YPG, was not immediately available for comment. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), based in Turkey, is designated a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because of its ties to PKK Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey. Days after President Donald Trump s abrupt decision on Oct. 6 to pull out U.S. troops from northeastern Syria, Turkey and allied Syrian rebels launched a cross-border offensive and seized control of Tel Abyad and some 120 km (75 miles) of land along the frontier. Ceasefire deals Ankara struck first with Washington and then with Moscow halted fighting in recent weeks. The UK-based Observatory has said some 300,000 people have been displaced by the offensive and 120 civilians killed. The incursion, which was condemned by scores of countries in the West and the Middle East, left the Turkey-backed rebel Syrian National Army largely in control of Tel Abyad. Turkey s defense ministry published photographs of concrete and debris piled on a street in the town. Anadolu said some of those wounded in the blast were being treated in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa 55 km to the north. On Wednesday, President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had information that the YPG had not completed its pullout from the border region. He has warned that Turkey reserves the right to resume attacks. Russia is the Syrian government s most powerful ally and helped it turn the tables in the country s eight-and-half-year civil war by retaking much of the country from rebels since 2015. The Turkish-Russian deal last week allowed Syrian government forces to move back into border regions from which they had been absent for years.
BEIRUT (AP) — A car bomb killed at least eight people on Thursday in a vegetable market in a northern region of Syria held by Turkish-led forces. Turkey s official Anadolu news agency said another 14 people were wounded in the attack. It said the explosives were packed into a refrigerator truck. Turkish-led forces captured Afrin from Syrian Kurdish fighters early last year. The area is controlled by Syrian fighters allied with Turkey, who have been accused by rights groups of seizing land and property. The area sees sporadic attacks and other violence. Syria s state-run SANA news agency also reported the attack, saying nine people were killed and 20 wounded. It said the blast ignited a nearby patrol station and caused damage to surrounding homes and shops. No one has claimed the attack. Turkey launched another cross-border operation earlier this month, invading northeastern Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters who had partnered with U.S. forces against the Islamic State group. The invasion came after President Donald Trump ordered American forces to step aside. Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey.
BEIRUT (AP) — The resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday meets a key demand of Lebanon s anti-government protesters but will also plunge the country into even greater uncertainty, with no clear path to resolving its growing economic and political crisis. THE BACKGROUND The political settlement that ended Lebanon s 1975-1990 civil war distributes power and top offices among the country s Shiites, Sunnis and Christians. The complex sectarian system has mostly kept the peace, but it has made major decisions extremely difficult and contributed to long periods of political gridlock. The Western-backed Hariri had served in a national unity government dominated by rival factions allied with the militant Hezbollah group, whose supporters attacked the main protest camp on Tuesday. He had proposed the creation of an emergency Cabinet made up of a small group of technocrats to steer the country toward necessary reforms, but his governing partners refused. A point of dispute emerged over Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun. The protesters have trained much of their vitriol on the two men, who are allied with Hezbollah, but Aoun has reportedly insisted on remaining in office and keeping Bassil in his post. Hezbollah, which has three ministers in the government, has stuck by its allies and was opposed to Hariri s decision to resign. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT If he accepts his resignation, Aoun will task the now-resigned government to continue in a caretaker capacity. Under the constitution, he then has to hold binding consultations with the heads of parliamentary blocs to ask them for their choice of a new prime minister. He could then appoint Hariri or another individual from the Sunni community to form a government. In Lebanon s system, the presidency is reserved for a Christian, the prime minister is Sunni and the parliament speaker is Shiite. Aoun has the right in principle to reject Hariri s resignation, but he could then refuse to call for Cabinet meetings. The process of forming a new Lebanese government typically takes several months. It took Lebanon s factions 2 ½ years to agree on the current president, and it took nine months to form Hariri s now-embattled government. This time, however, the country is in the grip of a severe economic crisis that has only worsened since the protests began, with banks, schools and businesses having been closed for two weeks. ROCKY PATH AHEAD Political tensions also are rising after Tuesday s clashes. “In this context, it is incredibly difficult to see them agreeing on any one new name,” said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. That would leave Hariri in place as head of a caretaker government. “His capacity to address the economic crisis and possible economic and financial collapse will be curtailed even more,” Yahya said. “A devaluation of the Lebanese pound will likely lead to even more social unrest and turbulence on the street.” The protesters have adamantly rejected the entire political class, calling for overthrow of the postwar regime. Acquiescing to those demands would essentially require those who have led the country for three decades to legislate themselves out of existence. The leaders reject that.
BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of Lebanese supporters of the militant Hezbollah group, some wielding sticks, attacked a protest camp set up by anti-government demonstrators in central Beirut, burning some of its tents and dismantling others Tuesday. The violence came shortly after dozens of other Hezbollah supporters, also wielding sticks, attacked a roadblock set up by the protesters on a main thoroughfare in the capital. The violence comes on the 13th day of Lebanon s anti-government protests, which have been an unprecedented expression of anger that s united millions of Lebanese against what demonstrators say is a corrupt and inefficient political class in power for decades since the 1975-1990 civil war. But in recent days, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah grew critical of the protests, claiming they have been backed and financed by foreign powers and rival political groups. He called on his supporters to leave the rallies, and urged the protesters on Friday to remove the roadblocks. The mass rallies have paralyzed a country already grappling with a severe fiscal crisis. Hezbollah and its allies dominate the current government and is the country s most powerful organization, building its credibility on its resistance to Israel s years-long occupation of parts of Lebanon. The riot police and military first moved in Tuesday trying to separate the rival groups, but the security forces failed to stop the storming of Martyrs square, where anti-government protesters have held their ground since Oct. 17. The protesters are calling on the government to step down, holding rallies in public squares and promoting a civil disobedience campaign that include blocking main roads. At the Beirut roadblock, the angry crowd swelled by early afternoon, some using sticks to chase protesters away. Some of the men also attacked journalists, kicking them and attempting to smash their cameras. Many among the angry mob chanted: “God, Nasrallah, and the whole Dahiyeh,” in reference to the southern suburb that is a stronghold of the Iranian-backed militant group. Others told TV crews that they were upset at the roadblocks and insults to their leader. Then they marched to the central square, tearing down tents, smashing plastic chairs and using metal poles to poke holes in the tents, which they later burned. They also beat some anti-government protesters. One TV presenter described it as “a war scene.” In his speech on Friday, Nasrallah evoked the specter of new civil war like the one that ended in 1990, saying “someone is trying to pull it … toward a civil war.” It was seen a precursor to the confrontation Tuesday.
Egypt welcomed on Monday the announcement that the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was killed in a US military operation, saying that this "represents an important step in the quest to eradicate terrorism." On Sunday, US President Donald Trump announced that Al-Baghdadi was killed in a raid by US Special Forces in northwest Syria, in a major blow to the jihadist group. Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said in an official statement that "this development should be followed up with continued concerted international efforts and unified action to counter terrorism in all its forms and manifestations with no discrimination, since all takfiri terrorist organisations like the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood emanate from the same extremist ideological source.” Hafez also stressed that the world needs to tackle terrorism “from a comprehensive perspective that takes into account the security and development facets, as well as ideological confrontation in order to refute the misinterpretations of religious texts promoted by terrorist groups.” The spokesman also stressed that Egypt continues to urge the international community to hold accountable the countries that play a negative role in inciting and supporting terrorism through financing, providing safe havens, and facilitating the mobility of terrorist elements, and which provide various platforms for spreading terrorist and extremist ideologies, which leads to destabilising the region and the world. Baghdadi had been a target of US and regional security forces since he declared the formation of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in July 2014.
Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St Mark, inaugurated on Saturday the Church of St Demiana and Martyr Abanoub in the Austrian capital Vienna. The church is located in the 21st district of Vienna. The inauguration came during the Pope s pastoral visits to the dioceses of St Mark in Europe. On Wednesday, Pope Tawadros met with the Egyptian Ambassador to Austria Amr Amer. The Pope started his European tour on 9 October by visiting the French capital where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace in Paris. The Pope inaugurated another Coptic church, Saint Mary and Mar Youhanna Church, in Antwerp, Belgium, on 17 October.
Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria left several positions along the long border with Turkey Thursday, complying with a deal that sees Damascus, Ankara and Moscow carve up their now-defunct autonomous region. Russian forces have started patrols along the flashpoint border, filling the vacuum left by a US troop withdrawal that effectively handed back a third of the country to the Moscow-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad. US President Donald Trump has praised the agreement reached in Sochi by Turkey and Russia and rejoiced that US personnel were leaving the “long blood-stained sand” of Syria, leaving just a residual contingent behind “where they have the oil”. The deal signed in the Black Sea resort by Syria s two main foreign brokers gives Kurdish forces until Tuesday to withdraw to a line 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces had pulled out of some areas at the eastern end of the border on Thursday. “The SDF have withdrawn from positions between Derbasiyeh and Amuda in the Hasakeh countryside,” Britain-based war monitor s head, Rami Abdel Rahman, said. Fighters of the Kurdish People s Protection Units (YPG) — the main component of the SDF — remained in many positions along the 440 kilometer (275 mile) border, he added. The Observatory also reported clashes near the town of Tal Tamr between SDF fighters and some of the Syrian former rebels paid by Turkey to fight ground battles. Displacement Russian and Syrian government forces were deploying across the Kurdish heartland where they are tasked with assisting “the removal of YPG elements and their weapons”. Kurdish forces had already vacated a 120-kilometer segment of the border strip — an Arab-majority area between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad. The SDF withdrawal from that area came after Turkey and its Syrian proxies launched their deadly cross-border offensive on October 9. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is embattled on the domestic political front, hopes to use the pocket to resettle at least half of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees his country hosts. Under the Sochi deal, the area will remain under the full control of Turkey, unlike the rest of the projected buffer zone which will eventually be jointly patrolled by Turkey and Russia. Some 300,000 people have fled their homes since the start of the Turkish offensive and the Kurds among them seem unlikely to return. US forces pulled back from the border area earlier this month, in a move the Kurds saw as a betrayal but which Trump had announced last year. The autonomous Kurdish administration in Syria had hoped that the sacrifices made in the name of the international community to help crush the Islamic State group s “caliphate” would pay off. But Trump has been keen to keep a promise to remove his troops from Syria, where IS s “caliphate” was eliminated in March but where conflict continues. “Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand,” he said in a White House speech on Wednesday. Oil wells That “someone” is undoubtedly Russia, whose status as the main foreign power in Syria is now undisputed, to Assad s great benefit. “Assad is getting back a third of Syria s territory without firing a shot,” geographer and Syria specialist Fabrice Balanche said. Some US forces remain in eastern districts of Syria, where government forces have been deploying but have not yet re-established full control. “We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” Trump said on Wednesday. The government is keen to reclaim the northeast, which is home to the country s main oilfields and some of its most fertile farmland. Left in the lurch by the US redeployment, the Kurdish forces seemed to retain some faith in Washington, which still has a huge military presence elsewhere in the Middle East. Trump said SDF chief Mazloum Abdi was “extremely thankful” but the Kurds now have to negotiate their future with the area s new Russian masters.
More than 100 prisoners of the Islamic State extremist movement have escaped in Syria in the chaos since Turkey s incursion, a senior US official said Wednesday. "We would say the number is now over 100. We do not know where they are," James Jeffrey, the State Department pointman on Syria, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee when asked about the detainees
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the situation in Syria following the Turkish invasion earlier this month into the country s north (all times local): 3:10 p.m. Syrian President Bashar Assad says he is ready to support any “popular resistance” against Turkey s invasion of northeastern Syria. The Syrian government has agreed, after Russia mediation, to deploy in areas Kurdish-led forces control in northeastern Syria after U.S troops withdrew. The U.S. withdrawal had opened the door for Turkey s offensive earlier this month. Syria s troop deployment sets up a potential wider conflict between Turkey and Syrian government forces. But Russia, Assad s ally, is currently hosting negotiations with Turkey about arrangements along the border. Assad says he has offered clemency to those who had joined the Kurdish-led forces, which his government considers secessionists. Assad spoke Tuesday while visiting troops in another part of Syria. This is his first tour of areas in the northwestern province of Idlib that were recaptured from opposition fighters. The majority of Idlib remains in the hands of Turkey-backed opposition fighters and jihadi groups. 2 p.m. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sat down in Sochi with visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks on Syria. Putin welcomed the Turkish leader in the Black Sea resort on Tuesday, saying their meeting is very important in the current tense situation in Syria. He noted that a high level of Russia-Turkey cooperation should help find solutions for the complex issues. Turkey invaded northeastern Syria earlier his month in an offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters following the U.S. decision to pull out its troops from the area. Seeking protection, the Kurds have reached out to the Syrian government and its main ally Russia. The Syrian army has advanced closer to the border and Russia also deployed its troops in some areas to act as a buffer force. Erdogan said the meeting with Putin will “create the opportunity to discuss peace in a strong manner.” 1:25 p.m. The Kremlin says Turkey needs the Syrian government s permission for the deployment of its forces on Syrian territory, indicating Moscow is hoping for Ankara-Damascus talks amid the Turkish invasion into northeastern Syria. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov emphasized that only Damascus could authorize a legitimate presence of Turkish troops on the territory of Syria. Ankara has so far rejected any notion of direct Turkey-Syria talks about its actions. Peskov spoke just ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan s visit to Russia on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He wouldn t say if Putin-Erdogan talks in Sochi could lead to an extension of the 120-hour cease-fire that ends Tuesday, saying it would be up to Turkey to decide. He noted that Russia acknowledges Turkey s right to secure its border but added that it expects the Turkish offensive in Syria to be “proportionate” to that goal. 1:10 p.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he may meet with the leaders of France, Germany and Britain on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in London in December, to discuss Turkey s incursion into northeast Syria. The comments on Tuesday came as Germany s defense minister proposed the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria and European Council President Donald Tusk called on Erdogan to pull his troops out of the region. Erdogan did not respond to those statements but renewed a call on European nations to support Turkey s efforts to help resettle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in a proposed “safe zone” in Syria s northeast. Erdogan also slammed Iran after officials there denounced as “unacceptable” Turkey s plans to establish military observation posts in Syria. He recalled the strong support Turkey gave Iran during its standoff with the United States over its nuclear program, as well as Turkey s partnership with Iran and Russia to end the conflict in Syria. Erdogan says what Iran “did is wrong” and that he condemns it “strongly.” 12:20 p.m. Syrian president Bashar Assad has slammed Turkey s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” as he made his first visit to areas in Idlib province recently retaken by Syrian government forces from Turkey-backed rebels. Syrian state media showed images of Assad on Tuesday standing among Syrian soldiers in what the report said was strategic southern Idlib territory. The media quoted Assad as calling Erdogan a “thief who robbed factories, wheat and fuel and is today stealing territory” — apparently referring to Turkey s invasion this month into northeastern Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters. Turkey has also carried out other incursions into Syria and controls territory east of Idlib. It also has observation points inside Idlib, negotiated with Russia, to monitor a cease-fire there between the government and opposition fighters and jihadi groups. 11:40 a.m. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says up to 1,300 Syrian Kurdish fighters have yet to vacate areas in northeastern Syria as a Turkish-U.S. cease-fire agreement is running out. Erdogan spoke to reporters before traveling to Russia on Tuesday. He says up to 800 Syrian Kurdish fighters have already left under the deal that brought a five-day pause in fighting following Turkey s incursion into northeast Syrian to drive the Kurdish militiamen away from its border areas. Erdogan renewed threats to resume fighting “with more determination” if the Syrian Kurds don t depart before the deadline runs out at 10:00 p.m. Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, for talks expected to focus on border areas that are currently held by Syrian government forces. 11:30 a.m. European Council President Donald Tusk is condemning Turkey s invasion of northern Syria and is calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull his troops out of the region. Tusk told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday that “no one is fooled by the so-called cease-fire” agreement made last week by the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey expects the Syrian Kurdish fighters to pull back from a border area. Tusk says that Turkey, which is a candidate for EU membership, “needs to end its military action permanently, withdraw its forces and respect international humanitarian law.” He says that “any other course means unacceptable suffering, a victory for Daesh, and a serious threat to European security.” 11:10 a.m. Iraq s military says U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country. Tuesday s statement says that American troops currently withdrawing from Syria have acquired permission from the Iraqi Kurdish regional government to enter Iraq to later be transferred out of the country. It added that these troops do not have any approval to stay in Iraq. The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq. 10:40 a.m. Germany s defense minister has proposed the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria. The proposal comes as Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters invaded northern Syria earlier this month, after President Donald Trump pulled back American troops who had partnered with Syrian Kurdish forces in the years-long war against the Islamic State group. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German news agency dpa on Tuesday that “the creation of an internationally controlled security zone with the inclusion of Turkey and Russia” would have the goal of deescalating the situation in northern Syria. Kramp-Karrenbauer said the German parliament would need to decide on whether German troops could participate in such a zone. She also told broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Chancellor Angela Merkel had been informed of the proposal.
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Lebanon s anti-government protests (all times local): 4:10 p.m. Lebanon s Cabinet has approved sweeping reforms that it hopes will appease hundreds of thousands of people who have been protesting for days, calling on Prime Minister Saad Hariri s government to resign. Hariri told reporters after an emergency government meeting Monday that Cabinet approved the 2020 budget with a deficit of 0.6% with no new taxes. He said that the salaries of top officials, including legislators and members of parliament, will be cut in half as part of an economic reform package. Hariri added that the country s central bank and the banking sector, which are flush with cash, will help in reducing the deficit by about 3.4 billion. The Cabinet also approved abolishing several state institutions, including the Ministry of Information. The government will also give millions of dollars to families living in poverty as well as $160 million as housing loans. Hariri described the measures as a “financial coup.” 10:25 a.m. Protesters have closed major roads around Lebanon ahead of an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss a rescue plan for the country s crumbling economy. On Monday morning, demonstrators placed barriers on major intersections in Beirut as well as other cities and towns marking the fifth day of protests triggered by proposed new taxes. Hundreds of thousands participated in Sunday s mass protests that were the largest since 2005. Prime Minister Saad Hariri will put forward a reform plan during the morning government meeting at the presidential palace in Beirut s southeastern suburb of Baabda. Many protesters say they don t trust any plan by the current government. They ve called on the 30-member Cabinet to resign and be replaced by a smaller one made up of technocrats instead of members of political factions.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Protesters in Lebanon returned to the streets early on Sunday, keeping pressure on Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri as a self-imposed deadline to deliver a package of badly needed reforms for the country s crumbling economy drew near. Anti-government protests that have swept the country since Thursday have pulled together all segments of Lebanese society in an unusually unified call for the downfall of a political elite that protesters blame for plunging the economy into crisis. Young protesters carrying rubbish bags arrived early in central Beirut on Sunday to clean debris left from festive demonstrations the day before, while groups of marchers with drums and loudspeakers returned to keep momentum. “I didn t expect people from the country s north, south and Beirut to join hands and like each other. The protests have brought together everyone and this has never happened before,” said Sahar Younis, a 32-year-old worker with a non-governmental organization. Hariri gave his feuding coalition partners a 72-hour deadline on Friday to agree to reforms that could ward off economic crisis, hinting he may otherwise resign. He accused his rivals of obstructing budget measures that could unlock US$11 billion in Western donor pledges and help avert economic collapse. If Hariri, a Sunni Muslim who is traditionally backed by the West and Sunni Gulf Arab allies, resigns it would be harder for the various parties that make up the ruling coalition to form a new cabinet. A new cabinet would also likely see the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies more in control, a shift that would make it nearly impossible for international donors or Gulf Arab countries at odds with Iran to offer aid or investments. Government sources said Hariri was waiting for his coalition to get on board with the economic proposals, which include taxes on banks and a plan to overhaul the country s costly and crumbling state electricity utility. Late on Saturday the Maronite Christian Lebanese Forces party announced it would withdraw its four ministers from the government, piling further pressure on Hariri as he seeks to pass a budget that his government has pledged would include no new taxes. The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced that all banks would be closed on Monday because of the unrest. “We want to stay in Lebanon to build our future but if these corrupt politicians stay here what future will be left for us?” said 17-year-old student Cherbel Anton. HEZBOLLAH SUPPORT Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has thrown his powerful Shia group s weight behind the current government, saying the country s deep economic crisis means precious time should not be wasted forming a new one. Nasrallah said on Saturday that imposing more taxes on people could lead to an “explosion” of unrest. “If we don t work toward a solution we re heading toward a collapse of the country, it will be bankrupt and our currency will not have any value,” he said. “The second danger is a popular explosion as a result of wrong handling of the situation.” The budget could help one of the world s most indebted countries unlock some $11 billion that was pledged by international donors last year but is conditional on long-delayed reforms to curb waste and corruption. The mounting unrest was triggered in part by a proposed fee on WhatsApp calls, a measure which was quickly scrapped but that was seen by many as the latest government attempt to squeeze citizens receiving little in return from the state.
The embattled Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria on Thursday accused Turkey of resorting to banned weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus munitions. The use of such weapons since the start of the cross-border assault by Turkey and its Syrian proxies could not immediately be confirmed independently.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. In the Eucharist we become one flesh to the one head of our Lord Jesus Christ because we share the one sacrifice with a righteous faith and one heart. HG Bishop Benjamin of Menoufia explained in his essay The Liturgy and the Unity of the Church. that the Church during the Sacram