DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Days of protests over rising fuel prices and a subsequent government crackdown have killed at least 106 people across Iran, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, adding that the real figure may be much higher. Iran s government has not released a toll of those arrested, injured or killed in the protests that began Friday and spread quickly across at least 100 cities and towns. But it disputed Amnesty s report through its mission to the United Nations, calling it “baseless allegations and fabricated figures.” However, a U.N. agency earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed “a significant number of people.” Amnesty cited “credible reports” for its tally and said it “believes that the real death toll may be much higher, with some reports suggesting as many as 200 have been killed.” Iranian authorities shut down internet access to the outside world Saturday, an outage has left only state media and government officials able to say what is happening in the nation of 80 million. State television showed video Tuesday of burned Qurans at a mosque in the suburbs of the capital, Tehran, as well as pro-government rallies, part of its efforts to both demonize and minimize the protests. Absent in the coverage was an acknowledgement of what sparked the demonstrations. The jump in gasoline prices represents yet another burden on Iranians who have suffered through a painful currency collapse, following President Donald Trump s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from Iran s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and the reimposition of crippling U.S. economic sanctions. Relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani has promised the fuel price increase will fund new subsidies for poor families. But the decision has unleashed anger among Iranians, like Maryam Kazemi, a 29-year-old accountant in the southern Tehran suburb of Khaniabad, who said the new cost of fuel was “putting pressure on ordinary people.” “It was a bad decision at a bad time. The economic situation has long been difficult for people, and Rouhani unexpectedly implemented the decision on fuel,” she said. Amnesty said it gathered its figures from interviewing journalists and human rights activists, then crosschecked the information. In its breakdown, it showed the hardest-hit areas as the western Kermanshah province and its oil-rich southwestern province of Khuzestan. Many online videos released before the internet outage had shown unrest there. “Video footage shows security forces using firearms, water cannons and tear gas to disperse protests and beating demonstrators with batons,” Amnesty said. “Images of bullet casings left on the ground afterwards, as well as the resulting high death toll, indicate that they used live ammunition.” Amnesty, citing eyewitnesses corroborated by video footage, said snipers also shot into crowds of people from rooftops and, in one case, a helicopter. So far, scattered reports in state-run and semiofficial media have reported only six deaths. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” about reports of live ammunition being used against demonstrators. It also urged protesters to demonstrate peacefully. “We are especially alarmed that the use of live ammunition has allegedly caused a significant number of deaths across the country,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in a statement. Colville added that it has been “extremely difficult” to verify the overall death toll. Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran s U.N. mission, told The Associated Press that “any casualty figures not confirmed by the government are speculative and not reliable, and in many cases part and parcel of a disinformation campaign waged against Iran from outside the country.” “The baseless allegations and fabricated figures by biased Western entities do not shake government s determination in making prudent economic decisions,” he said. Meanwhile, an article published Tuesday in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper suggested that executions loomed for those who led violent protests. Though the state-owned newspaper has a small circulation, its managing editor Hossein Shariatmadari was personally appointed by Iran s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Some reports say that the judiciary considers execution by hanging for the riot leaders a definite punishment,” Kahyan said, without elaborating. It also repeated an allegation that protest leaders came from abroad. Khamenei on Sunday specifically named those aligned with the family of Iran s late shah, ousted 40 years ago, and an exile group called the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. The MEK calls for the overthrow of Iran s government and enjoys the support of Trump s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Police and security forces were on Tehran s streets on Tuesday in fewer numbers. Traffic also appeared to be flowing better, after part of the demonstrations saw people abandon their cars on major roadways. Authorities postponed four soccer matches in different parts of the country scheduled for Thursday and Friday, the Iranian weekend, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency. With the internet outage and phone services spotty, it remained difficult to know the situation in some regions. The protests were prompted by a plunging economy. Many Iranians have seen their savings evaporate amid scarce jobs and the collapse of the national currency, the rial, since Trump withdrew Washington from the nuclear deal over a year ago and imposed sanctions. The rial now trades at over 123,000 to $1, compared to 32,000 to $1 at the time the deal took effect. Cheap gasoline is practically considered a birthright in Iran, home to the world s fourth-largest crude oil reserves despite decades of economic woes since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Gasoline remains among the cheapest in the world, with the new prices jumping 50% to a minimum of 15,000 rials per liter. That s 12 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. A gallon of regular gas in the U.S. costs $2.59 by comparison. The U.N. rights office addressed that background of economic anger across Iran in its statement. “Protests of this nature and on this scale are an indication of deep-rooted and often well-founded grievances that cannot simply be brushed aside,” Colville said. Those grievances could be heard in Khaniabad and elsewhere around Tehran. Several described taking part in peaceful protests later hijacked by violent masked demonstrators. Others heard gunfire. “We were out to protest the gasoline price on Saturday,” said Reza Nobari, a 33-year-old car mechanic. “Suddenly a group of six or seven who covered their faces appeared together and started to break the windows of a bank. This wasn t what we were out for.” Jafar Abbasi, a 58-year-old who runs a dairy, said he saw another group of people who arrived in a van smash the windows of nearby shops. “Some looted the place and some other quickly disappeared,” he said. He added: “This is all the result of Rouhani s decision to increase the price of fuel.”
BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of protesters rallying against the Lebanese political elite blocked roads in central Beirut on Tuesday, preventing lawmakers from reaching the parliament and forcing the postponement of a legislative session. The session had been scheduled even though the country is still without a Cabinet following the prime minister s resignation amid unprecedented demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since mid-October. The protesters scuffled with riot police as they closed all roads leading to the parliament building in Beirut. When one legislator headed toward the building and could not reach it and turned back, his bodyguards opened fire in the air to clear the way. No one was hurt in the shooting. The protesters are questioning the constitutionality of a parliament session in the absence of a government. An earlier session last Tuesday was postponed amid the protests. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned his government on Oct. 29 in response to the protests, which erupted over proposed new taxes but have since 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 political deadlock comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades. The country, which suffers from widespread corruption, has one of the highest debts in the world, standing at $86 billion, or 150 of the GDP. Meanwhile, Lebanese banks reopened to customers on Tuesday after a week-long strike during which bank employees refused to come to work, fearing for their security amid random capital controls that have angered clients. On Monday, the Banks Association declared formal controls, limiting withdrawals to $1,000 per week, and allowing transfers abroad only for “urgent matters.” However, most banks on Tuesday were allowing depositors to withdraw only $500 from U.S. dollar accounts. Heavy police and army reinforcements were deployed in downtown Beirut since late Monday to cordon off the area around the parliament. Thousands of young protesters thronged around the parliament building, blocking the entrances and vowing to disrupt the session. Some protesters tried to break through the barbed wire, scuffling with riot police, while women protesters tried to form a live barrier between the two sides. “We are here today because there is a parliament session that is anti-constitutional,” said protester Rania al-Akhras, speaking in English and decrying the ineffectiveness of the legislators. “What they need to be doing is selecting a prime minister and a government.” Later on Tuesday, the parliament s secretary-general, Adnan Daher, read a statement saying that the session has been postponed “until a new date is set.” He added that current parliamentary committees will continue their work as there was no session on Tuesday to elect new committees. President Michel Aoun has not set a date for consultations to select a new prime minister and there are deep divisions between the country s political powers over the shape of the future Cabinet.
One Egyptian woman is taking on the country s inheritance laws that mean female heirs inherit half that of men. Since her father s death last year, Huda Nasrallah, a Christian, has stood before three different judges to demand an equal share of the property left to her two brothers by their father. Yet courts have twice issued rulings against her, basing them on Islamic inheritance laws that favor male heirs. Nasrallah, a 40-year-old Christian human rights lawyer, is now challenging the rulings in a higher court. A final verdict is expected to be handed down later this month. She has formulated her case around Christian doctrine which dictates that heirs, regardless of their sex, receive equal shares. “It is not really about inheritance, my father did not leave us millions of Egyptian pounds,” she said. “I have the right to ask to be treated equally as my brothers.” Calls for equal inheritance rights began to reverberate across the Arab world after the Tunisian government had proposed a bill to this effect last year. Muslim feminists hailed the bill. But there has been a backlash from elsewhere in the Arab world. Egypt s Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni religious institution in the Muslim world, vehemently dismissed the proposal as contradictory to Islamic law and destabilizing to Muslim societies. But there is hope that Tunisia could have broken the taboo on the topic for the region. Nasrallah belongs to Egypt s estimated ten million Coptic Christians, who live in a predominantly Muslim society governed by a constitution in which Islamic Shariah is the main source of legislation. Christians face restrictions in inter-religious marriages and church building, and are banned from proselytizing to Muslims. Egypt s legal system grants the Coptic church full authority over personal status matters of Copts, namely marriage and divorce. But the church does not have the same powers over its followers inheritance rights. One of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the Egyptian Coptic church is also deeply conservative on social matters, banning divorce except in cases of adultery or conversion to Islam. Nasrallah says she is making her case on religious grounds because she believes the court is more likely to respect existing structures within the society. She says she is trying to capitalize on a rare Christian doctrine that respects gender equality. Karima Kamal, a Coptic female columnist at the privately-owned al-Masry al-Youm daily, says that Nasrallah s case highlights the double discrimination that Coptic women can face in a society where religion is printed on government-issued identification cards. “You should not implement the rules of one faith on people of another faith,” she says. In early December 2018, Nasrallah s father, a former state clerk, died, leaving behind a four-story apartment building in a Cairo low-income neighborhood and a bank deposit. When she and her brothers filed their request for inheritance at a local court, Nasrallah invoked a church-sanctioned Coptic bylaw that calls for equal distribution of inheritance. She says she was encouraged by a 2016 ruling that a Cairo court handed down in favor of a Coptic woman who challenged Islamic inheritance laws. Nasrallah s brothers also testified that they would like their father s inheritance to be divided fairly between them, but the court has twice ignored their testimony. Many Coptic men prefer to benefit from the Islamic laws, Nasrallah said, using the excuse that it s out of their hands. “The issue of inheritance goes beyond religious rules. It has to do with the nature of the society we are living in and Egypt s misogynistic judicial system,” said Hind Ahmed Zaki, a political science assistant professor with Connecticut University. She says the state fears that if they grant equal property rights to Christian women, Muslim women will soon ask for the same. Girgis Bebawy, a Coptic lawyer, has represented dozens of Copts in similar cases over the last two years, though he has yet to win a single one. He s hoping that the latest case, which is currently before Egypt s Supreme Constitutional Court, could end differently. “It s religious intolerance,” he says. Many Coptic families decide to settle inheritance matters outside the legal system, but Nasrallah says that as a lawyer, she hopes her case could set a precedent for others. “If I didn t take it to court, who would?” she said.
Grand Imam of Egypt s Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb and the the head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis II reviewed the designs of the new interfaith complex, the Abrahamic Family House, during their meeting with members of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity in the Vatican City on Friday. The Abrahamic Family House, which is the first project supervised by the Human Fraternity committee, will be built in Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates capital, Abu Dhabi, and is scheduled to be completed by 2022. The complex will comprise a church, a mosque, and a synagogue, sharing a collective space. Grand Imam El-Tayeb was in in Rome both to meet with Pope Francis II and to participate in the "Interfaith Summit on Promoting Child Dignity in the Digital World," held on 14-15 November, at the Vatican s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Abrahamic Family House should be a reflection of the values in the Document on Human Fraternity, and aims to promote inter-religious dialogue and the values of tolerance and coexistence among peoples of different religions, cultures and beliefs, according to Al-Azhar. During their meeting with members of the Human Fraternity committee, Pope Francis and Sheikh El-Tayeb urged the committee members to turn the Document on Human Fraternity into tangible work on the ground. Pope Francis told the committee that the Abrahamic Family House was a “genius idea” and an embodiment of the values of human fraternity. The Document on Human Fraternity was launched in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi after it was signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh El-Tayeb. The document is a joint declaration of “good and heartfelt aspirations” from the two religious leaders, and should serve as a “guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect.” The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was formed to achieve the objectives of the document through executive measures and operational frameworks. The latest member to join the committee is former director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Irina Bokova, 67, who was the first woman to serve as UNESCO director-general for two consecutive terms (2009-2017).
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
Thugs and Salafis in Upper Egypt, and especially in Minya governorate, show no respect for the law. This has clearly appeared in the recent attack against a Coptic Christian family in the village of Nasiriyah where the mother and two sons were seriously injured. They show no respect for policemen because of the judicial rulings that led to the acquittal of the perpetrators and built on false reports and false testimo