Tag Archives: Middle East

Deadly Baghdad explosion kills 32. [Photos]

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Videos from Thursday’s attack show scenes of chaos, with people running for cover and bodies strewn across pavements and the road.

Suicide bombing that tore through a busy area of central Baghdad on Thursday morning, Iraqi officials said.

Ministry of Defence Spokesperson Yahya Rasool told NoRM‘s known Media one of the two perpetrators lured a crowd of people towards him in a market in the central Tayaran Square by feigning illness, only to detonate his explosives.

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The second bomber struck as people helped victims of the first attack, Rasool said.

The attack is the first twin bombing in Baghdad since January 2018, when 35 people were killed and 90 injured in the same square that was targeted on Thursday.

The health ministry said the capital’s hospitals were being mobilised to treat the wounded. While officials suggested the death toll is likely to rise as many of those injured in the attack are in critical condition.

No one immediately took responsibility for the attack.

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But Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq analyst and fellow at The Century Foundation think-tank, told NoRM‘s known Media: “This kind of attack bears the hallmark of ISIS [ISIL] who have targeted crowded civilian areas in Baghdad with suicide attacks many times in the past.”

“This shows a security failure by the government who have been warned that ISIS is still active and in recent days have seen it target infrastructure and rural areas with similar attacks,” said Jiyad.

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“For Iraqis, this is a worrying development which saps confidence in the security forces and adds to the level of tension already present with geopolitical, economic and pandemic issues,” he said.

Iraq declared ISIL defeated at the end of 2017 after a fierce three-year campaign.

But ISIL attacks across the country have been on the rise again over the past year, particularly in northern Iraq where sleeper cells are still active.

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By Thursday afternoon the area surrounding the market had come back to life. But some stalls near the blasts remained shut and a small crowd of people had gathered to examine the wreckage.

Dry blood was still visible on the tarmac, while the charred remains of toys and clothes once sold by vendors littered the floor.

The Kurdistan Region Government Head of Foreign Relations Safeen Dizaye condemned Thursday’s attack.

“This horrific crime is a sad reminder that terror is still a real threat to peace and stability in the world. [The international] community must stand united against all acts of terrorism,” Dizaye wrote in a tweet.

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The United States embassy in Iraq also strongly condemned the attack in a statement.

“This attack is a reprehensible act of cowardice that underscores the dangers of terrorism that millions of Iraqis continue to face. We extend our condolences to the families of these victims, and hope for the swift recovery for those who were injured,” it said.

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#Newsworthy

Rare twin Baghdad blasts claim over 25 lives.

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The jihadist factions seized a third of Iraq in 2014 and was dangerously close to the capital, but a ferocious three-year fight by Iraqi troops pushed them back.

A rare twin suicide bombing killed nearly 30 people at a crowded market in central Baghdad on Thursday, Iraqi state media said, the city’s deadliest attack in three years.

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At least 28 people were killed and another 73 wounded in the attack amid stalls hawking second-hand clothes in the Iraqi capital’s Tayaran Square.

The market had been teeming with people after the lifting of nearly a year of restrictions imposed across the country in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.

According to an interior ministry statement, the first suicide bomber rushed into the market, claiming to feel sick.

Once a crowd of people had gathered around him, he detonated his explosives.

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As people then flocked around the victims, a second attacker detonated his bomb, the ministry said.

An AFP photographer at the scene said security forces had cordoned off the area, where blood-soaked clothes were strewn across the muddy streets.

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Paramedics were working to remove casualties, and Iraq’s health ministry said it had mobilised medics across the capital.

Thursday’s attack was the bloodiest incident in Baghdad since January 2018, when a suicide bomber killed more than 30 people in the same square.

Suicide bombings had been commonplace in Baghdad during the sectarian bloodletting that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

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Later on, as the Islamic State group swept across much of Iraq, its jihadists also targeted the capital.

But with the group’s territorial defeat in late 2017, suicide bombings in the city became rare.

Baghdad’s notorious concrete blast walls were dismantled and checkpoints across the city removed.

‘Despicable act’
President Barham Saleh led political figures in condemning Thursday’s attack, saying the government would “stand firmly against these rogue attempts to destabilise our country.”

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United Nations’ Iraq mission (UNAMI) also offered condolences to the victims.

“Such a despicable act will not weaken Iraq’s march towards stability and prosperity,” UNAMI said in an online statement.

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Thursday’s attack comes as Iraqis prepare for an election, events often preceded by bombings and assassinations.

The 2018 attack took place just a few months before Iraq’s last round of parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi had originally set this year’s general election for June, nearly a year ahead of schedule, in response to widespread protests in 2019.

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But authorities are in talks over rescheduling them to October, to give electoral authorities more time to register voters and new parties.

Thursday’s twin attack was not immediately claimed but suicide bombings have been used by jihadist groups, most recently IS.

Still, the group’s sleeper cells have continued to operate in desert and mountain areas, typically targeting security forces or state infrastructure with low casualty attacks.

Still, the US-led coalition that had been supporting Iraq’s campaign against IS has significantly drawn down its troop levels over the past year, citing the increased capabilities of Iraqi troops.

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The United States, which provides the bulk of the force, has 2,500 troops left in Iraq — down from 5,200 a year ago.

They are mainly in charge of training, providing drone surveillance and carrying out airstrikes while Iraqi security forces handle security in urban areas.

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#Newsworthy

War Monitor: Israeli Night Raids ‘Killed’ 23.

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Israel routinely carries out raids in Syria, mostly against targets affiliated with Iran in what it says is a bid to prevent its arch-foe from securing a further foothold along its borders.

Israeli night raids targeting arms depots and military positions in eastern Syria have killed at least seven Syrian soldiers and 16 allied fighters, in the deadliest raids since 2018, a war monitor said Wednesday.


COVID-19: Israel enters third nationwide lockdown

Morocco-Israel Norm of ties ‘betrayal of Islam’ – Iran says

Israel, Bahrain to formalise ties – Israel in move to send delegates.


The Israeli air force carried out more than 18 attacks against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Az Zor to the al-Bukamal desert at the Syrian-Iraqi border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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The raids killed seven Syrian soldiers and 16 non-Syrian militia fighters whose nationalities were not immediately known, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Paramilitaries belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah movement and the Fatimid Brigade, which is made up of pro-Iranian Afghan fighters, operate in the region, the Observatory said.

The raids also wounded 28 troops and militiamen, some of them critically.

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A senior US intelligence official with knowledge of the attack told The Associated Press that the raids were carried out with intelligence provided by the United States and targeted a series of warehouses in Syria that were being used as a part of the pipeline to store and stage Iranian weapons.

The official said the warehouses also served as a pipeline for components that supports Iran’s nuclear program.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment.

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported the attacks but without giving further details.

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“At 1:10am [23:10 GMT], the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial assault on the town of Deir Ezzor and the Al Bukamal region,” SANA said, citing a military source.

“The results of the aggression are currently being verified,” it added.

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Local news source DeirEzzor24 said a number of warehouses and sites belonging to pro-Iranian militias were hit in the area.

“They burnt Iranian positions in Deir Ezzor,” said Omar Abu Laila, a Europe-based activist from Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor province who runs an activist collective that reports on news in the border area.

Routine raids
The attacks were the second wave of Israeli raids in Syria in less than a week.

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The last air raids on January 7 were aimed at positions in southern Syria and south of the capital Damascus, killing three pro-Iran fighters.

According to Israeli media, the area that came under fire has reportedly been struck by Israel on more than one occasion in recent years as it houses a number of bases used by Iranian-backed groups.

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on February 24, 2020, reportedly shows Syrian air defence intercepting an Israeli missile in the sky over the Syrian capital Damascus. [File: AFP]

The area is also key to a land corridor for Tehran that links Iran across Iraq and Syria through Lebanon, which Iran uses to smuggle in weapons and rockets, mainly to the Hezbollah armed group.

Iran has members of its own military as well as fighters from a variety of nationalities fighting with militias it supports deployed across Syria.

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Israel hit about 50 targets in Syria in 2020, according to an annual report released in late December by the Israeli military.

The Israeli army has carried out hundreds of air and missile raids on Syria since the civil war broke out in 2011, singling out Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces as well as government troops.

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#Newsworthy

Over 20 killed in Yemen airport blasts

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The new government includes ministers loyal to Hadi and supporters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council (STC), as well as other parties.

At least 26 people were killed Wednesday as explosions rocked Yemen’s Aden airport moments after a new unity government flew in, in what some officials charged was a “cowardly” attack by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Although all government ministers were reported to be unharmed, more than 50 people were wounded, medical and government sources told AFP in the southern city, with the casualty toll feared likely to rise.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said it was preparing a “mass casualty medical response plan”.

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As smoke billowed out of the airport terminal from an initial blast, with debris strewn across the area and people rushing to tend to the wounded, a second explosion took place.

Video footage shot by AFP appears to show missile-like ordnance striking the airport apron — that moment before had been packed with crowds — and exploding into a ball of intense flames.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the explosions.

Sporadic gunfire was heard soon after.

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Yemen’s internationally recognised government and southern separatists formed a power-sharing cabinet on December 18, forging a joint front against the Huthi rebels who have seized the capital Sanaa and much of the north.

Both Yemeni Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani and Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik Saeed said that all the members of the government were safe.

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“We assure our great people that members of the government are fine, and we assure you that the cowardly terrorist attack by the Iran-supported Huthi militia will not deter us from carrying out our patriotic duty,” Eryani said on Twitter.

‘Unacceptable act of violence’
Saeed tweeted that the “terrorist attack… was part of the war waged against Yemen and its people”, but stopped short of accusing the Huthi insurgents.

Yemen’s government spokesman Rajih Badi called for an international investigation into the “terrorist” attack he said targeted “all members of the cabinet”.

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“It is too soon to accuse any party before an investigation reveals who executed the attack, including (accusing) the Huthis,” he told AFP, adding those injured included civilians, security guards and local officials.

Meanwhile, UN envoy Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, calling it an “unacceptable act of violence”.

“I wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead,” he said. “This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path towards peace.”

Michael Aron, the British ambassador to Yemen, also condemned the blasts.

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“A despicable attempt to cause carnage and chaos and bring suffering when Yemenis had chosen to move forward together,” he said.

The cabinet members arrived in Aden days after being sworn in by Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition against the insurgents.

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Hadi fled to the Saudi-capital Riyadh after Sanaa fell to the Huthis in 2014.

Humanitarian crisis
Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in Yemen’s grinding five-year war, which has triggered what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

While all oppose Huthi rebels, deep divisions have grown between the forces and the Riyadh-sponsored push to form the unity government was designed to mend rifts.

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Saudi Arabia has been encouraging the unity government to quell the “war within a civil war” and to bolster the coalition against the Huthis, who are poised to seize the key town of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north.

In recent months, the rebels have stepped up attacks on Saudi Arabia — including its critical oil infrastructure — in retaliation for the Riyadh-led military campaign.

Yemen also still hosts a significant jihadist presence, including Al-Qaeda and militants loyal to the Islamic State group, despite two decades of air and drone strikes by the United States.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the US considers the terror group’s most dangerous branch, has thrived in the chaos of Yemen’s civil war between pro-government forces and the Huthi rebels.

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It has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces.

The unity government formation comes a month before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who was critical of Saudi Arabia during his campaign amid the humanitarian disaster in Yemen since Riyadh’s intervention in the conflict in 2015.

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: Israel enters third nationwide lockdown

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Netanyahu was the first Israeli to receive a Covid-19 jab on December 19, ahead of the launch last week of a nationwide innoculation programme.

Israel was set Sunday to begin its third coronavirus lockdown, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced optimism that a “world record” vaccination drive will restore a degree of normality within weeks.

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After a sharp rebound in detected infections, Netanyahu’s government announced three days ago that it would re-impose the strict measures that had previously helped limit transmission.

From 5:00pm (1500 GMT) on Sunday, most people will be forced to stay within 1,000 metres of their home.

There are a range of exceptions, including seeking medical care, attending legal proceedings or exercising.

A key difference in Israel’s third lockdown compared to previous versions relates to schools, with more students able to attend classes.

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Instead of near total closures, Israel is keeping schools open for children under six, as well as grades one to four and teenagers finishing secondary school in grades 11 and 12.

Israel’s National Council for the Child criticised the decision to close grades five through 10.

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“The decision to ignore this age bracket means the abandonment of hundreds of thousands of children, only because in theory they can be left at home alone while (their parents) go to work,” NCC head Vered Windman was quoted as saying by the Ma’ariv newspaper.

“But this is precisely the age group that is at a higher risk of developing emotional difficulties, fears and isolation.”

– ‘World record’ –Speaking late Saturday following Shabbat, Netanyahu said Israel was hoping to vaccinate a quarter of its population, or roughly 2.25 million people, against coronavirus within a month.

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He said he had spoken with the heads of the companies making vaccines who had voiced confidence that the requisite number of doses could be provided.

Israel’s vaccination targets are of “such a magnitude (they amount to) a world record” pace, the prime minister said.

The premier has political incentives to push an accelerated vaccination campaign.

The fraught coalition government that he formed in May with his former election rival and current defence minister, Benny Gantz, collapsed last week, triggering elections in March — Israel’s fourth vote in two years.

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Netanyahu’s election campaign could be hindered by the start of a more intensified phase of his long-awaited corruption trial and the departure of his staunch ally US President Donald Trump from the White House.

Political analysts have said that Netanyahu is hoping a rapid vaccination drive will put Israel’s pandemic-wracked economy on a path to recovery before election day.

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#Newsworthy

Turkey proposes retaliation against Libya strongman

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The two sides struck a ceasefire agreement in October, setting the stage for elections at the end of next year.

Turkey’s defence minister said that any attack by eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar on its personnel in the North African country would be met with force.

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“A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces” by his troops, Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli late on Saturday and made available to media on Sunday.

His comments come days after Haftar said his forces would “prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” referring to Turkish troops operating in support of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

“If they take such a step, they will be unable to find any place to flee to,” Akar said, referring to Haftar’s forces.

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“Everyone should come to their senses.”

Turkish support for the GNA earlier this year helped repel a 14-month offensive against the capital by Haftar, who is backed by Russia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates.

Akar on Saturday made an unscheduled visit to Tripoli where he discussed, according to Libyan officials, military cooperation between Ankara and the GNA.

Turkey’s defence minister said political talks based on the ceasefire sought to find a solution.

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“What matters here is that everyone should contribute to a political solution. Any action other than that would be wrong,” he added.

Haftar had said there would be “no peace in the presence of a coloniser on our land” during his speech on Thursday.

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#Newsworthy

Storyline: Egypt inferno kills seven COVID-19 patients

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Firefighters were dispatched to the facility and stopped the blaze from spreading, local media reported.

A fire at a hospital north of Cairo on Saturday killed seven coronavirus patients, security and judicial sources said.

The blaze in the intensive care unit of the hospital in Obour district, on the outskirts of Cairo, also injured five other people, the sources said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, the sources said, adding prosecutors had launched an investigation into the incident.

Egypt has so far registered 130,126 Covid-19 cases, including 7,309 fatalities.

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Health facilities in the North African country, like elsewhere, have been strained by the mounting number of infections.

In June, a fire at a hospital in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria killed seven coronavirus patients and injured seven others.

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#Newsworthy

Moroccan king, Mohammed VI visits Israel ‘upon’ Netanyahu’s invite

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The North African country is the third Arab nation this year to normalise ties with the Jewish state under US-brokered deals, while Sudan has pledged to follow suit.

Prime gMinister Benjamin Netanyahu and Morocco’s King Mohammed VI held a telephone conversation during which the Israeli premier invited the king for a visit, Netanyahu’s office said Friday.

The phone call comes three days after an Israeli delegation signed a US-sponsored normalisation agreement with Morocco in Rabat.

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“The leaders congratulated each other over the renewal of ties between the countries, the signing of the joint statement with the US, and the agreements between the two countries,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

“In addition, the processes and mechanisms to implement the agreements were determined,” it added.

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During the “warm and friendly” conversation, Netanyahu invited Mohammed VI to visit Israel, the statement from the prime minister’s office added.

A statement from Morocco’s royal cabinet confirmed Friday’s phone conversation but did not mention Netanyahu’s invitation.

King Mohammed VI, the statement said, “recalled the strong and special links between the Jewish community of Moroccan origin and the Moroccan monarchy”.

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He also “restated the coherent, steadfast and unchanged position of the kingdom of Morocco on the Palestinian issue,” it said.

The Moroccan king also welcome the “reactivation of mechanisms of cooperation” with Israel, it added.

Four bilateral deals were signed Tuesday between Israel and Morocco, centring on direct air links, water management, connecting financial systems and a visa waiver arrangement for diplomats.

Israel and Morocco are also due to reopen diplomatic offices.

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Morocco closed its liaison office in Tel Aviv in 2000, at the start of the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Morocco has North Africa’s largest Jewish community of about 3,000 people, and Israel is home to 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin.

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#Newsworthy

Shocking: Turkish hospital inferno took lives of 9 COVID-19 patient

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All the victims were patients who had been hospitalised with the coronavirus. Other patients affected by the fire were transferred to other hospitals.

At least nine coronavirus patients died on Saturday after an oxygen tank explosion triggered a fire at a hospital in southeastern Turkey, the health ministry said.

The blaze in an intensive care ward of the hospital in Gaziantep broke out when a tank on an artificial respirator exploded.

“We are profoundly saddened by this tragedy,” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said before a planned visit to the hospital.

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Turkey has recorded more than 1.9 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 17,600 deaths since the pandemic began a year ago.

Faced with a surge in cases, Turkey strengthened restrictions put in place at the end of November with a total curfew during the weekend and partial one during the week.

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#Newsworthy

Update: Iran buries murdered physicist, Mohsen with vows to retaliate

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His body had been taken to the northeastern holy city of Mashhad late on Saturday where he was taken to the shrine of Imam Reza for a ceremonial circling of the tomb and prayers.

Iran has laid to rest assassinated nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in the capital Tehran as authorities blamed Israel for the killing and repeated vows to avenge it.

The funeral on Monday, scaled down due to coronavirus protocols and attended only by Fakhrizadeh’s family and some military commanders, was held at the defence ministry headquarters in Tehran.

Iranian Gov’t confirms assassination of prominent physicist

Fakhrizadeh’s coffin, wrapped in an Iranian flag, was then taken to a cemetery near Imamzadeh Saleh mosque in the north of the city for burial.

Following that, it was taken to Fatima Masumeh’s shrine in Qom on Sunday, and later to the shrine of Imam Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Tehran.

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‘No terror will go unanswered’

Fakhrizadeh, a top figure in Iran’s nuclear and missile programmer, was killed outside Tehran on Friday after assailants targeted his car.

Meanwhile, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the country’s Supreme National Security Council, accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to kill the scientist remotely

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“The enemies know and I, as a soldier, tell them that no crime, no terror and no stupid act will go unanswered by the Iranian people,” said Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami in a televised speech at the ceremony.

Hatami said the country and its people are honoured that Fakhrizadeh was “the founder of Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme” and will continue to follow his path.

“The criminal Americans have thousands of nuclear weapons and the criminal Zionist regime has hundreds of nuclear weapons. What are they for? Are they to be used as decorations in your homes?”

A representative of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at the defence ministry read out his statement, in which Khamenei repeated his call for a “definitive punishment” of those behind the assassination.

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Reading Khamenei’s statement, Ziaeddin Aghajanpour said some inside the country believe dialogue and negotiations are the way to counter foreign aggressions.

“But this is not possible because our enemies are against the very nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said, adding Iran’s “enemies will never stop”.

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#Newsworthy

Iranian Gov’t confirms assassination of prominent physicist

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Local authorities had confirmed Fakhrizadeh’s death several hours earlier and also said that several attackers were killed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry on Friday confirmed that a high-ranking Iranian nuclear physicist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, had been assassinated.

Fakhrizadeh was shot and injured “by terrorists” in his vehicle in Ab-Sard, a suburb in eastern Tehran, and later succumbed to his injuries in what amounted to a “martyr’s death,” the ministry said.

Fakhrizade, 63, had been a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and was an expert in missile production.

NoRM‘s known Media agency alleged that this was why Israeli secret services had long sought to eliminate him for many years.

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Earlier, Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) Spokesman, Behrus Kamalwandi, caused confusion by denying reports of the death, saying, “our nuclear scientists are all well.”

The confusion arose because Fakhrizadeh had left the AEOI and had been working at the Foreign Ministry.

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#Newsworthy

Iran slams United Nations over protests anniversary.

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Amnesty International said at the time it had obtained evidence showing at least 304 people, including children, were killed during the protests and thousands were arrested.

Roughly one year after protests over economic hardship broke out across Iran, officials have condemned a United Nations resolution that among other things calls for upholding human rights of people involved in the protests.

Last week, the third committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with human rights, adopted a resolution put forward by Canada.

The resolution welcomed some progress and continued efforts by Iranian authorities.

But it also expressed “serious concern” about executions for drug-related crimes and against minors, and urged Iran to ensure humane treatment of prisoners and cease “widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention”.

The resolution further called for the release of prisoners arrested during the protests of November 2019 and said Iran should address the “poor conditions of its prisons”.

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In response, Iran earlier this week summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, who represents Canadian interests in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Iranian foreign ministry told the ambassador that Canada continues to refuse to offer consular services to 400,000 Iranians in the country and has become a “safe haven for the world’s economic offenders and financial criminals”.

A number of Iranians wanted for economic corruption in Iran have fled to Canada and the country refuses to extradite them.

Chief among them is Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former CEO of state-run Bank Melli Iran, who was the central figure in a $2.6bn embezzlement case, the largest in Iran’s history.

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‘No legal credibility’
The secretary of the human rights committee of the Iranian judiciary also said the resolution has no “legal credibility” as its sponsors have a history of abusing human rights in their own countries and those of other nations such as Palestine and Yemen.

On Monday, Ali Bagheri-Kani called Canada a “systematic violator of human rights” as it suppresses its native people, violently treats women and supports “terrorist” groups.

He also slammed the resolution and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for refusing to mention the impact of the United States’ unilateral economic sanctions on the Iranian people.

In May 2018, the US reneged on a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and imposed harsh sanctions that have only escalated since. Iran has said that – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – the sanctions amount to “economic and medical terrorism”.

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In a statement late on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also condemned the resolution, saying it is “unacceptable” since it is based on fabricated reports.

“It is unfortunate that a number of countries, including Canada, employ human rights and its international mechanisms as tools to advance their own political agendas,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Khatibzadeh added that Iran sees the resolution as having no legal standing, and called on Canada to stop supporting US sanctions and providing a safe haven for Iranian criminals.

Meanwhile, the US Mission to the UN, a sponsor of the human rights resolution on Iran, has welcomed the resolution, saying it remains “deeply concerned” with the human rights situation in Iran.

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Deadly protests
The political back and forth comes one year after protests broke in dozens of cities across Iran in mid-November 2019 after a sudden increase in petrol prices.

In a surprise overnight move, the government of President Hassan Rouhani announced petrol would be rationed and prices would be up to tripled.

The move was implemented amid high inflation and unemployment as a result of a combination of economic mismanagement and US sanctions.

The government said the move was aimed at improving conditions for the poorest as revenues would be redistributed among low-income families. But the sudden price rise seemed to act as an immediate spark as people took to the streets and violence ensued shortly after.

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Authorities cracked down on protesters as internet access was almost entirely shut down for civilians and businesses alike for close to a week by the order of the Supreme Council of National Security.

Roughly eight months after the protests, the head of the national security commission of the Iranian parliament, Mojtaba Zonnour, said 230 people were confirmed killed. That included six official security officers, he said.

While a number of government officials acknowledged that some of the protesters had legitimate requests in the backdrop of declining quality of life, all authorities traced the hand of foreign influence and “mercenaries” in the protests.

They said a significant number of protesters were killed with weapons that are not standard issue for security officers.


#Newsworthy…

Al-Qaeda’s second in command silently killed in Iran

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The attack, which took place on August 7 on the anniversary of the Africa bombings, has not been publicly acknowledged by the US, Iran, Israel or Al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command, indicted in the US for the 1998 bombings of its embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, was secretly killed in Iran in August, The Noble Reporters Media reported Saturday.

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who was on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists, was shot and killed in Tehran by two Israeli operatives on a motorcycle at the behest of the United States, intelligence officials confirmed to NoRM.

The senior Qaeda leader, who went by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad al-Masri, was killed along with his daughter, Miriam, the widow of Osama bin Laden’s son Hamza bin Laden, NoRM said.

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US federal authorities had offered a $10 million reward for any information leading to his capture.

Abdullah was the “most experienced and capable operational planner not in US or allied custody,” according to a highly classified document provided by the US National Counterterrorism Center in 2008, according to the Times.

The bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 left 224 people dead and more than 5,000 injured.

Abdullah was indicted by a US federal grand jury later that year for his role.


#Newsworthy…

‘Return Home’ – New US pentagon Chief tells Troops.

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The former US special forces officer and counterterrorism expert was named to lead the Department of Defense after Trump fired Mark Esper.

Newly appointed Pentagon chief Christopher Miller signaled Saturday that he could accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the Middle East, saying, “It’s time to come home.”

“All wars must end,” Miller, named acting defense secretary by President Donald Trump on Monday, said in his first message to the US armed services.

He said that the US is committed to defeating Al Qaeda, 19 years after the September 11 attacks on the United States, and is “on the verge of defeating” the group.

“Many are weary of war — I’m one of them,” he wrote in the message, dated Friday but posted early Saturday on the Defense Department’s website.

“But this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to supporting role,” he said.

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“Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”

Miller did not mention specific US troop deployments, but the reference to Al Qaeda appeared to single out Afghanistan and Iraq, where US troops were deployed after the September 11 attacks.

Trump, who lost to Democrat Joe Biden in the November 3 election, has been pressing to pull US forces out of both countries since he came into office four years ago.

Any such action would have to come in the 67 days before Biden takes office on January 20.

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Esper cut US forces in Afghanistan by nearly two-thirds in the wake of the February 29 US-Taliban peace deal.

But, drawing a line, he said he would hold troop numbers at 4,500 after this month until the Taliban, as they negotiate with the government in Kabul, follow through on pledged reductions in violence.

Trump, however, has pushed for continued cuts, tweeting that he wants the troops “home by Christmas,” December 25. His national security advisor Robert O’Brien has said the goal is to cut to 2,500 by February.

But critics say this removes any leverage on the Taliban insurgents to halt attacks that continue amid scant progress in their peace talks with the Afghan government.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Lebanon begin 2-weeks restrictions

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The new restrictions are set to last until November 30 but the authorities have said they could be extended, as they fear the health system would not be able to cope with many more cases needing intensive care.

Lebanon started a new two-week lockdown Saturday after coronavirus infections crossed the 100,000 mark in a country where hospital capacity has become saturated.

The capital’s roads were largely empty and police checkpoints had been set up at several locations, while the seaside promenade often thronging on weekends was deserted, an AFP photographer said.

The airport however remained open, as did essential businesses.

Under the measures announced, during the day people were to stay home unless they were granted an exception, and only cars with certain number plates were allowed on the roads.

A nighttime curfew was to come into force from 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) to 5:00 am (0300 GMT).

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Lebanon, with a population of around six million, has been recording some 11,000 coronavirus infections on average each week, the health ministry said Thursday.

Since February, the country has recorded 102,607 Covid-19 cases, including 796 deaths, it says.

A first country-wide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, and restrictions were gradually lifted as summer beckoned people outdoors.

But the number of coronavirus cases surged following a monstrous blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 which killed more than 200 people, wounded at least 6,500, and overwhelmed hospitals.

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“The situation is critical and getting worse,” Said al-Asmar, a pulmonologist at the main public hospital in Beirut dealing with Covid-19 cases, warned on Friday.

Sometimes, “patients need intensive care, but we have to leave them in accident and emergency,” the doctor at the Rafik Hariri Hospital told AFP.

The World Health Organization said at the end of October that 88 percent of Lebanon’s 306 intensive care beds were occupied.

On Thursday, Qatar sent two planes carrying medical equipment to Lebanon to equip field hospitals in the southern city of Tyre and the northern city of Tripoli, each with 500 beds, the Qatari embassy in Beirut said.


#Newsworthy…

Jailed Iranian lawyer released temporarily.

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The internationally-renowned human rights lawyer, whose release has been requested by the UN and human rights groups outside Iran, had been imprisoned before.

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been temporarily released from prison after concerns mounted over her deteriorating health.

The 57-year-old “went on furlough with the approval of the prosecutor presiding over women’s prison”, Mizan, the judiciary’s news website, said without providing any further details.

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“Friends, Nasrin came out on furlough a few minutes ago,” he said.

Sotoudeh was arrested two years ago on charges of collusion, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes in 2019.

In September, Sotoudeh was hospitalised after her physical condition worsened following weeks of hunger strike. Her strike ended in late September after 46 days.

She had gone on hunger strike to call for the release of political prisoners and directing attention towards their conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Tens of thousands of prisoners have been temporarily released from overcrowded Iranian prisons since February to curb the spread of the coronavirus. A number of them have since been required to return and the initiative has not included some political prisoners.

The worst pandemic in the Middle East has so far killed nearly 38,000 people and infection numbers in Iran have seen a sharp increase since September.

On October 20, Sotoudeh was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Qarchak, a women’s prison outside the city that has been blacklisted under United Nations human rights sanctions.

At the time, her husband Khandan said in a tweet that she was told to prepare to be transferred to the hospital, but was instead moved to Qarchak.

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Sotoudeh’s temporary release comes weeks after two senior judiciary official visited Qarchak and reportedly spent hours talking to prisoners about their conditions.

At the time, Mizan reported that they issued “immediate orders” to answer a number of requests by inmates, without releasing details.

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who has been held in Iran for more than two years as part of a 10-year jail sentence on charges of espionage, was also in Qarchak at the time and met with the officials.

She was returned to Evin prison days later and remains there.

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French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, detained in Iran since June 2019 on charges of conspiring against national security, was temporarily released from prison on October 3.

Prominent Iranian human rights activist and journalist Narges Mohammadi was also released from prison in early October after her sentence was reduced.

‘Security pressures’
Sotoudeh, a winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, is required by law to serve at least 12 years of her sentence before being eligible for conditional release.

She had also spent three years behind bars after representing people arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the controversial reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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During her first years in jail, Sotoudeh protested against conditions in Evin and a ban on seeing her son and daughter by staging two hunger strikes. She was released in 2013.

Just over two weeks ago, the first court session was held for a case concerning Mehraveh Khandan, Sotoudeh’s 20-year-old daughter.

She was called to court concerning a visit she had with her mother at Evin over a year earlier.

A member of the prison staff reportedly took issue with how she wore her hijab.


#Newsworthy…