Iraq protests death toll rises to 300 with nearly 15,000 injured

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Iraq protests death toll rises to 300 with nearly 15,000 injured

Protesters try to scale walls of Iranian consulate
Protesters try to scale walls of Iranian consulate 02:08

Baghdad (CNN)At least 301 people have been killed and nearly 15,000 have been injured in Iraq since the start of anti-government protests in October, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq (IHCHR) said in a statement Saturday.

The higher death toll includes two people who were killed Friday in the southern city of Basra during violent protests, the IHCR said. Basra is an oil-rich city located some 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
Another 100 people were wounded in Basra as Iraqi security forces used teargas and live bullets.
Iraqi demonstrators gather in al-Khalani square in central Baghdad on November 9.

Protests erupted in Baghdad and in several Shiite provinces in the south over unemployment, government corruption and the lack of basic services — such as electricity and clean water.
Many Iraqis blame the current political parties in power for their economic hardship and the scale of the protests, believed to be the biggest since the fall of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003, took the government by surprise.
Following the deadly response from Iraqi security forces, demonstrators are calling for early elections and demanding that the government step down.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi agreed to resign on October 31 after weeks of anti-government protests.
In a televised speech to the nation on Iraq’s Al-Iraqiya TV, President Barham Salih said Abdul Mahdi had agreed to step down on the condition that a successor is agreed to replace him.
“The Prime Minister has agreed to resign,” Salih said, adding that Abdul Mahdi had asked “political blocs to reach an acceptable alternative” in order “to prevent a vacuum.”
Officials have attempted to regain control with the use of lethal force, while also imposing curfews and internet blackouts. The government said it only shoots when attacked, but demonstrators have disputed that.

Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads

Authorities impose curfew and cut internet access in many cities as death toll from three days of mass protests hits 20.

Iraq protests: Death toll rises to 20 as unrest spreads
Demonstrators burn tyres during a curfew in Baghdad [Wissm al-Okili/Reuters]

The death toll from three days of mass anti-government protests in Iraq has risen to 20, with hundreds more wounded as authorities imposed curfew in several cities and cut internet access across much of the country to quell unrest.

The protests, which began in the capital, Baghdad, on Tuesday, are mostly spontaneous and without political leadership, staged by disenchanted youth demanding jobs, improved services, such as electricity and water, and an end to Iraq’s endemic corruption.

The demonstrations have since spread to cities across the mainly Shia south, making it the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s year-old government.

In Baghdad, authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew early on Thursday, saying the measure was meant to “protect general peace” and protesters from “infiltrators” who committed attacks against security forces and public property.

But dozens of protesters defied the order early on Thursday and attempted to gather at the Tahrir Square, prompting security forces to use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

“We slept here so the police don’t take the place,” one demonstrator told AFP news agency before riot police fired into the air.

Youths carry away a protester injured during clashes with riot police amidst demonstrations against state corruption, failing public services, and unemployment, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad's central
A protester injured during clashes with riot police during demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square is carried away [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Early on Thursday, some cars and civilians were seen in the capital’s streets. Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from the capital, said there was an “eerie quiet over Baghdad” but “sporadic gunfire towards Tahrir Square” could be heard.

“The curfew does seem to be working,” he said. “The protesters have been trying to gather in different areas of Baghdad throughout the day, but every time they reach crowds of 50 to 60 people, the security forces disperse them. The government hasn’t indicated when the curfew will be lifted.”

Authorities said travellers to and from Baghdad airport, ambulances, government employees in hospitals, electricity and water departments, and pilgrims were exempt from the restrictions.

Curfew was also imposed in the holy city of Najaf and the southern city of Nasiriya, the site of the deadliest protests so far with a total of 10 people, including one police officer, killed. In the city of Amarah, medics and security forces have confirmed the killing of four protesters on Thursday, bringing the death toll over the past three days to 20.

More than 1,000 others have been wounded in the nationwide protests, while 62 people have been arrested, according to figures from Iraq’s Human Rights Commission.

Meanwhile, approximately 75 percent of Iraq is “offline” after major network operators “intentionally restricted” access, according to cybersecurity monitor NetBlocks.

Residents are wary that more protests could erupt after powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for “a general strike”. His political bloc, Sairoon, which came first in last May’s parliamentary elections, is part of the ruling coalition.

Demonstrations over similar issues engulfed the southern city of Basra last summer and effectively ended previous Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s chances of a second term.

Demonstrators gesture at a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Baghdad
Demonstrators at a protest rally over unemployment, corruption and poor public services in Baghdad [Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters]

Anger over high rates of youth unemployment – which is approximately 25 percent, or double the adult rate, according to the World Bank – appears to have set off the latest round of demonstrations.

“We want jobs and better public services. We’ve been demanding them for years and the government has never responded,” said Abdallah Walid, a 27-year-old protester.

The protesters are mostly “angry young people who are not aligned to any political or religious party”, said Al Jazeera’s Khan. “They are simply very frustrated at the fact that they don’t have jobs.”

After a small protest was quickly dispersed by security forces on Tuesday, a social media call went out which resulted in thousands of people taking to the streets, he added. Since then, the protests have spread to other cities in the country’s south.

Meanwhile, two border crossings into Iraq – including one widely used by Iranian pilgrims – have been closed because of unrest in Iraq, Iranian border guards said.

Demonstrators block a road during a curfew, two days after the nationwide anti-government protests turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili
Demonstrators block a road in Baghdad during curfew, two days after nationwide anti-government protests turned violent [Wissm al-Okili/Reuters]

According to Iran’s semi-official news agency Mehr, Iranian border guards commander General Qasem Rezaei said the Khosravi and Chazabeh crossings had been closed since late Wednesday but other crossings were open in the run-up to an annual Shia Muslim pilgrimage in Iraq.

The tension has been exacerbated by a near-total internet shutdown, the closure of government offices and at least one overnight explosion that hit the Green Zone, where some ministries and embassies are located.

A security source in the area told AFP there were two blasts, likely caused by indirect fire a little over a week after two rockets hit near the US embassy there.

Demonstrators run as they take part in a protest over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Basra, Iraq October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani
Demonstrators run as they take part in a protest rally over unemployment, corruption and poor public services, in Basra [Essam al-Sudani/Reuters]

The apparent attack came hours after security forces sealed off the Green Zone “until further notice”, fearing angry protesters would swarm state buildings or foreign missions.

The Green Zone had been inaccessible for most Iraqis since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but had reopened to the public in June.

It has often been the focal point for public anger, including in 2016 when al-Sadr’s supporters stormed it and paralysed state institutions.

Why are Iraqis protesting against the government?

INSIDE STORY

Why are Iraqis protesting against the government?

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(IS IT PAST THE TIME WHEN ISRAEL SHOULD TEAR DOWN THE MOSQUE ON THE TEMPLE MOUNT?)(oped:oldpoet56)

Hundreds of Palestinians riot as Jews allowed on Temple Mount for Jerusalem Day

Palestinians on mount hurl chairs, rocks at police after rare decision to let non-Muslims in on final days of Ramadan; security high in capital as Israel marks city’s reunification

Clashes erupted between Palestinian rioters and police on Sunday morning at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, as hundreds of Jews were allowed into the holy site to celebrate Jerusalem Day — the 52nd anniversary of the unification of the capital in the Six Day War.

Later in the morning, hundreds of Palestinians rioters threw rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel. There were no immediate reports of injuries. By mid-afternoon, police reported that the situation was again calm.

It was the first time in three decades that non-Muslims were let into the site during the final days of the month of Ramadan, which coincided this year with Jerusalem Day. Police had earlier announced the contested compound would be closed to Jews and tourists, with the High Court of Justice rejecting a petition against the closure and leaving the final decision up to police.

Police said in a statement that “a riot began that included the hurling of stones, chairs and various objects.”

“Subsequently, Jerusalem District Commander Maj. Gen. Doron Yadid ordered police forces to enter the Temple Mount and deal with the rioters,” it added.

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Palestinian reports said at least one person was detained and removed from the site.

Police said later in the morning that clashes were renewed, with hundreds of Palestinian rioters throwing rocks and chairs at Israeli security personnel.

Left-wing NGO Ir Amin said the violence was renewed after police closed the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, and worshipers attempted to gain entry.

Hundreds of Jewish activists showed up early Sunday morning at the Temple Mount entrance, demanding access to the site — the holiest in Judaism and the third-holiest to Muslims, who refer to it as the Al Aqsa Mosque compound or the Noble Sanctuary. Following a security assessment, police decided to let them in after suppressing the initial Muslim demonstration.

The flashpoint site is always closed to non-Muslims on the last ten days of Ramadan, when large numbers of worshipers are at the site. The last time the Temple Mount was closed to Jews on Jerusalem Day was in 1988, when it also coincided with the end of Ramadan.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols.

Last year, more than 2,000 Jews visited the site on Jerusalem Day, under close police supervision.

Chairs and other objects hurled at police forces by Palestinian rioters at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound on June 2, 2019. (Israel Police)

Meanwhile, thousands of Jews flocked Sunday to the nearby Western Wall — the holiest site where Jews are allowed to pray — to mark the occasion.

Police were deployed in force and on heightened alert in Jerusalem Sunday, with tighter security inspections performed at checkpoints connecting the city to the West Bank in light of Friday morning’s stabbing terror attack in the capital’s Old City, in which two Israeli civilians were injured — one of them seriously.

A Palestinian teenager had stabbed two Israelis inside the Old City before being shot dead by Israeli police.

The most sensitive event is expected to be a parade that will go through the streets of the Old City in the afternoon and is frequently marked by tension with local Palestinians.

Many streets in the city center will be closed off between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to accommodate the parade and other festivities.

Israeli youths hold their national flag during a march to celebrate Jerusalem Day, marking the unification of the city during the Six Day War, May 13, 2018. (Thomas COEX/AFP)

The so-called Flag March, in which primarily religious teenagers march through the Old City decked in white and blue, has raised tensions over its route through the Muslim Quarter.

Palestinian shopkeepers with stores along the route are forced to shutter their businesses during the parade, and residents of the Muslim Quarter are advised to stay indoors.

In previous years, the march has sparked sporadic incidents of violence between Palestinians and Israeli revelers.

The High Court of Justice last month threw out a petition by a left-wing group that sought to change the route of the nationalist march.

Later in the day, the Jerusalem Day state ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at Ammunition Hill, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance.

Many celebrations and events will be held around the city in the evening and into the night, including a “White Night” concert at Sacher Park expected to be attended by thousands of students.

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