Iranian state television on Tuesday acknowledged security forces shot and killed what it described as ``rioters in multiple cities amid recent protests over the spike in government-set gasoline prices _ the first time that authorities have offered any sort of accounting for the violence they used to put down the demonstrations. The acknowledgment came in a television package that criticized international Farsi-language channels for their reporting on the crisis, which began on Nov. 15. Amnesty International said Monday it believes at least 208 people were killed in the protests and the crackdown that followed. Iran s mission to the United Nations disputed Amnesty s findings early Tuesday, though it offered no evidence to support its claim. Iran has yet to release any nationwide statistics over the unrest that gripped the Islamic Republic with minimum prices for government-subsidized gasoline rising by 50%. Iran shut down internet access amid the unrest, blocking those inside the country from sharing their videos and information, as well as limiting the outside world from knowing the scale of the protests and violence. The restoration of the internet in recent days across much of the country has seen other videos surface. ``We ve seen over 200 people killed in a very swift time, in under a week, said Mansoureh Mills, an Iran researcher at Amnesty. ``It s something pretty unprecedented event in the history of the human rights violations in the Islamic Republic. While not drawing as many Iranians into the streets as those protesting the disputed 2009 presidential election, the gasoline price demonstrations rapidly turned violent faster than any previous rallies. That shows the widespread economic discontent gripping the country since May 2018, when President Donald Trump imposed crushing sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from Tehran s nuclear deal with world powers. The state TV report sought to describe killings in four categories, alleging some of those killed were ``rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centers with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas. The report described others killed as passers-by, security forces and peaceful protesters, without assigning blame for their deaths. In one case, the report said security forces confronted a separatist group in the city of Mahshahr armed with ``semi-heavy weapons. ``For hours, armed rioters had waged an armed struggle, the report alleged. ``In such circumstances, security forces took action to save the lives of Mahshahr s people. Mahshahr in Iran s southwestern Khuzestan province was believed to be hard-hit in the crackdown. The surrounding oil-rich province s Arab population long has complained of discrimination by Iran s central government and insurgent groups have attacked area oil pipelines in the past there. Online videos purportedly from the area showed peaceful protests, as well as clashes between demonstrators and security forces. State TV separately acknowledged confronting ``rioters in Tehran, as well as in the cities of Shiraz and Sirjan. It also mentioned Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran where Amnesty on Monday said there had been ``dozens of deaths. It described the suburb as likely one of the areas with the highest toll of those killed in the unrest. Shahriar has seen heavy protests. Amnesty offered no breakdown for the deaths elsewhere in the country, though it said ``the real figure is likely to be higher. Mills said there was a ``general environment of fear inside of Iran at the moment. ``The authorities have been threatening families, some have been forced to sign undertakings that they won t speak to the media, she said. ``Families have been forced to bury their loved ones at night under heavy security presence. Authorities also have been visiting hospitals, looking for patients with gunshot wounds or other injuries from the unrest, Mills said. She alleged that authorities then immediately detain those with the suspicious wounds. Iran s U.N. mission in New York called Amnesty s findings ``unsubstantiated, without elaborating. ``A number of exile groups (and media networks) have either taken credit for instigating both ordinary people to protest and riots, or have encouraged lawlessness and vandalism, or both, said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman at the mission. The demonstrations began after authorities raised minimum gasoline prices by 50% to 15,000 Iranian rials per liter. That s 12 cents a liter, or about 50 cents a gallon. After a monthly 60-liter quota, it costs 30,000 rials a liter. That s nearly 24 cents a liter or 90 cents a gallon. An average gallon of regular gas in the U.S. costs $2.58 by comparison, according to AAA. 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 there remains among the cheapest in the world, in part to help keep costs low for its underemployed, who often drive taxis to make ends meet. Iran s per capita gross domestic product, often used as a rough sense of a nation s standard of living, is just over $6,000, compared with over $62,000 in the U.S., according to the World Bank. That disparity, especially given Iran s oil wealth, fueled the anger felt by demonstrators. Already, Iranians have seen their savings chewed away by the rial s collapse from 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear accord to 126,000 to $1 today. Daily staples also have risen in price. The scale of the demonstrations also remains unclear. One Iranian lawmaker said he thought that over 7,000 people had been arrested, although Iran s top prosecutor disputed the figure without offering his own. Meanwhile, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a long-detained opposition leader in Iran, compared the recent crackdown by security forces on protesters to soldiers who in the time of Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi gunned down demonstrators in an event that led to the Islamic Revolution. His comparison raised the rhetorical stakes surrounding the latest unrest.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries Monday not to give up in the fight against climate change, as representatives from nearly 200 countries gathered in Madrid for a two-week meeting on tackling global warming. In his opening speech to delegates, Guterres cited recent scientific data showing that levels of heat-trapping gases have hit a record high, reaching levels not seen for at least 3 million years when sea levels were 10-20 meters (33-66 feet) higher than today. Unless emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are sharply cut, temperatures could rise to twice the threshold set in the 2015 Paris accord by the end of the century, he warned. "Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned? Guterres asked. His appeal came after Chile s environment minister, Carolina Schmidt, said the Dec. 2-13 meeting needs to lay the groundwork for moving toward carbon-neutral economies while being sensitive to the poorest and those most vulnerable to rising temperatures - something that policymakers have termed "just transition. "Those who don t want to see it will be on the wrong side of history, said Schmidt, who is chairing the meeting. She called on governments to make more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases ahead of a deadline to do so next year. The summit, which moved to the Spanish capital after Chile had to pull out amid anti-government protests, aims to put the finishing touches to the rules governing the 2015 Paris accord. That involves creating a functioning international emissions-trading system and compensating poor countries for losses they suffer from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change. "We have a common challenge but with differentiated needs and urgencies, which we can only overcome if we work together, said Schmidt. Countries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) by the end of the century compared with pre-industrial times. Already, average temperatures have increased by about 1C, leaving little room for the more ambitious target to be met. Guterres called out big greenhouse gas emitters that are still building coal-fired power plants, saying that unless the world stops burning coal "all our efforts to tackle climate change will be doomed." He noted that had countries started cutting their emissions drastically a decade ago, reaching the Paris goal would have been much easier. "Ten years ago, if countries had acted on the science, they would have needed to reduce emissions by 3.3% each year, he said. "Today, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6% each year. "The impact on all life on the planet - including ours - would be catastrophic, he added. "The only solution is rapid, ambitious, transformative action by all - governments, regions, cities, businesses and civil society, all working toward a common goal. Organizers expect around 29,000 visitors at the meeting, including around 50 heads of state and government for Monday s opening session. Except for the European Union s newly sworn-in leadership, which was due to begin a five-year term by paying a visit to the summit, the rest of the world s largest carbon emitters - the United States, China and India - are sending ministerial or lower-level officials to the meeting. The U.S. delegation is led by Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, a senior Department official. That s because the procedures to quit the Paris accord initiated last month by the administration of President Donald Trump won t be technically completed until Nov. 4, 2020. But Democratic members of Congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the nation remains committed to the 2015 agreement s goals. "We re still in it, said Pelosi, adding that climate change poses a threat to public health, the economy and national security.
Iraqis across the country marched Sunday to mourn protesters killed in anti-government rallies, even turning out in Sunni areas where people were previously too afraid to join in. Demonstrators have hit the streets since early October in Baghdad and the Shia-majority south to demand the ouster of a government they accuse of being corrupt, inefficient and beholden to foreign powers. After a spike in deaths this week raised the toll to more than 420 killed, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi said Friday he would submit his resignation to parliament. The chamber was due to convene later Sunday, but no agenda had yet been published. In recent weeks, most Sunni-majority areas refrained from protesting, fearing that opposing the central government would earn them the labels of being "terrorists" or supporters of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein. But after a spike in violence days ago left nearly 70 people dead across three cities, Iraqis in nearly all provinces turned out in solidarity. In Sunday s marches, hundreds of students dressed in black organised a mourning march in the northern city of Mosul, on the city s university campus. "It s the least Mosul can give to the martyrs of Dhi Qar and Najaf," said Zahraa Ahmed, a dentistry student, naming the two provinces where most recent victims were from. "The protesters are asking for their basic rights so the government should have answered from the beginning." Another student, Hussein Kheder, carrying an Iraqi flag, said the whole country was now on the same page politically. "Now the government needs to answer to the protesters demands," he told AFP. For three years, Mosul was the heart of the Islamic State group s ultra-conservative "caliphate", and much of it still lies in ruins today. In Salahaddin, another northern Sunni province where no rallies had taken place so far, authorities had already declared on Friday three days of mourning for the victims. And eight other Shia-majority provinces have announced on Sunday a mourning day during which government offices would remain shut. More than 20 people were killed in the shrine city of Najaf, 40 people in the hotspot of Nasiriyah and three in the capital Baghdad. AFP s correspondent reported calm in Nasiriyah on Sunday after three consecutive days of violence. The protest hotspot is the birthplace of Abdel Mahdi, the embattled premier, who came to power just a year ago based on a shaky alliance between rival parties. He had resisted protesters calls for him to step down over the past two months. But the crackdown turned the tide this week, as it prompted Iraq s top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to call on parliament to drop its support for Abdel Mahdi. In quick succession, political factions indicated they would support a no-confidence vote. It was however not certain whether that vote would take place Sunday afternoon as no agenda had yet been published.
Iraqi security forces shot dead 16 protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya on Thursday, medical sources said, and authorities imposed a curfew in Najaf after demonstrators burned its Iranian consulate. Authorities set up joint military-civilian "crisis cells" to try to stem unrest and a paramilitary commander vowed to use force to stop any attack against Shi ite Muslim religious authorities. The torching of the consulate in Najaf, the southern holy city, escalated violence in Iraq after weeks of mass demonstrations that aim to bring down a government seen as corrupt and backed by Tehran. It was the strongest expression yet of the anti-Iranian sentiment of Iraqi demonstrators as the gulf widens between a largely Iran-aligned ruling elite and an increasingly desperate Iraqi majority with few opportunities and minimal state support. The inability of Iraq s government and political class to deal with the unrest and answer protesters demands has fuelled public anger. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has promised electoral and anti-corruption reform but barely begun delivering while security forces have shot dead hundreds of mostly peaceful demonstrators in the streets of Baghdad and southern cities. The protests, which began in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and have spread through southern cities, are the most complex challenge facing the Shi ite-dominated ruling class that has controlled state institutions and patronage networks since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled long-time Sunni ruler Saddam Hussein. Young, mostly Shi ite protesters say politicians are corrupt, beholden to foreign powers - especially Iran - and they blame them for a failure to recover from years of conflict despite relative calm since the defeat of Islamic State in 2017. Security forces opened fire on protesters who had gathered on a bridge in Nassiriya before dawn, medical sources said. Sixteen were killed and dozens wounded, they said. A curfew was imposed in Najaf after protesters stormed and set fire to the Iranian consulate late on Wednesday. Businesses and government offices remained closed in the city, state media reported. "The burning of the consulate last night was a brave act and a reaction from the Iraqi people - we don t want the Iranians," said Ali, a protester in Najaf. "There will be revenge from Iran I m sure, they re still here and the security forces are going to keep shooting us." A protester who witnessed the burning of the consulate said security forces had opened fire to try to stop it. "All the riot police in Najaf and the security forces started shooting at us, as if we were burning Iraq as a whole," he said, declining to give his name. Infiltrators and saboteurs The military commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella grouping of paramilitary groups whose most powerful factions are close to Tehran, said the groups would use full force against anyone trying to attack Iraq s most powerful Shi ite cleric, who is based in Najaf. "We will cut the hand of anyone trying to get near (Grand Ayatollah Ali) al-Sistani," commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis said in a statement on the PMF website. Observers said the events in Najaf would likely bring a tough response, rather than pushing the government into enacting reforms. "Apart from casual statements ... the government has not announced any plan (or) given any clear account of what measures it will take," said Dhiaa al-Asadi, advisor to powerful populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "Initiatives are going to be scarce." Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, said the government might use the burning of the Iranian consulate as a pretext for an even more heavy-handed crackdown. "The downside from the protesters point of view is this might reinforce the government s narrative that protesters are infiltrators, saboteurs and up to no good," he said. "It sends a message to Iran but also works to the advantage of people like Muhandis ... (giving) a pretext to clamp down and framing what happened as a threat against Sistani." Sistani rarely speaks on political issues but traditionally wields enormous influence over public opinion, especially in Iraq s southern Shi ite heartland. He has used Friday sermons in recent weeks to urge the government to enact real reform and stop killing demonstrators. Security forces have used live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades against mostly unarmed protesters. Some demonstrators have lobbed petrol bombs, bricks and fired slingshots at police. Authorities set up "crisis cells" in several provinces to try to restore order, a military statement said on Thursday. They would be led by provincial governors but include military leaders who would take charge of local security forces. The violence has killed more than 350 people, according to police and medics.
Approximately 731 banks and 140 government sites were torched in recent unrest in Iran, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in remarks published by the official IRNA news agency on Wednesday. More than 50 bases used by security forces were attacked and approximately 70 gas stations were also burned, he said, without specifying where the attacks took place. According to IRNA, Rahmani Fazli also said up to 200,000 people took part nationwide in the unrest that began on Nov. 15 after the announcement of gasoline price hikes. London-based Amnesty International said on Monday it had recorded at least 143 protesters killed in the protests, the worst anti-government unrest in Iran since authorities put down the "Green Revolution" demonstrations against election fraud in 2009. Iran has rejected Amnesty s death toll. It says several people, including members of the security forces, were killed and more than 1,000 people arrested. The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said the number of arrests was probably closer to 4,000. The protests quickly turned political, with protesters calling on top leaders to step down. The government has blamed "thugs" linked to exiles and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia for stirring up the street unrest. The protests came as new U.S. sanctions imposed this year cut off nearly all of Iran s oil exports, and as similar protest movements erupted in Iraq and Lebanon against governments that include heavily armed pro-Iran factions.
Clashes between supporters of Lebanon s caretaker prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, and Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal erupted into gunfire in Beirut late on Monday, state news agency NNA reported. The clashes marked the second consecutive night of violence linked to Lebanon s political crisis, threatening to tip largely peaceful demonstrations directed at the country s ruling elite in a more bloody direction. A video posted by Lebanese broadcaster LBCI showed heavy gunfire around Cola bridge in Beirut. The source of the gunfire was not immediately clear. No injuries were reported. In the southern town of Tyre, supporters of Hezbollah and Amal tore up protest tents and set them on fire, prompting security forces to intervene and fire into the air, according to Lebanese media. The protests that have swept Lebanon since Oct. 17 are fuelled by deep resentment for a ruling class seen as mired in corruption and having driven the economy into crisis. Supporters of Amal and the heavily armed Hezbollah have occasionally sought to break up the demonstrations and clear roads cut off by protesters. They destroyed a main protest camp in central Beirut last month. The groups were influential in the coalition government led by Hariri, who quit on Oct. 29 after the protests began. They had opposed Hariri s resignation. In a statement, Hariri s Future Movement warned its supporters to refrain from protesting and stay away from large gatherings to "avoid being dragged into any provocation intended to ignite strife." Groups of men on motorcycles, some waving Amal and Hezbollah flags, were seen roving streets in Beirut and Tyre, according to witnesses and videos broadcasted on Lebanese media. Adding to tensions, two people were killed when their car slammed into a traffic barrier on a coastal road on Monday, sparking criticism from Hezbollah and others of protesters that have cut roads as a primary tactic to keep up pressure. Lebanon is facing the worst economic strains since its 1975-1990 civil war.
Thirteen anti-government protesters were killed Sunday by Iraqi security forces in one of the "worst days of clashes in the country s south, as protests swept through the oil-rich area, officials said. Demonstrators outraged by rampant government corruption and poor services burned tires and blocked main road arteries. Security and hospital officials, who requested anonymity in line with regulations, said seven protesters were killed in the southern province of Basra, near the Umm Qasr port. Security forces used live fire and tear gas to disperse the protesters. Earlier in Basra, which accounts for nearly 85% of the country s crude oil production, protesters burned tires in the city center cutting main roads. Officials said four protesters were killed in Nassiriya province, and one killed in both Najaf and Diwanieh provinces. One security official in Basra said it was "one of the worst days since the start of the protest movement. At least 150 protesters were wounded. At least 342 people have died since demonstrations began Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, took to the streets to decry corruption and poor services. The leaderless uprising seeks to overthrow the political establishment. Security forces appeared to have fired live rounds at protesters near the Umm Qasr port, killing three according to an official from the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, who requested anonymity in line with regulations. Protesters had cut roads leading to Umm Qasr, the country s main commodities port, halting all trade activity. Security forces cleared the area of protesters on Thursday.
The United States and France are boosting Saudi Arabia s radar systems following crippling drone and cruise missile attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure in September, which Washington blames on Iran. The chief of the U.S. Central Command and France s defence minister, whose countries have taken divergent approaches to Iran, also touted rival versions of maritime missions to protect Gulf waters at a Bahrain security forum on Saturday. More than two months after the biggest assault on Saudi oil facilities, Riyadh and Washington have yet to provide concrete proof linking Iran to the attack while Saudi Arabia has provided few details about how it is addressing gaps in its air defences. Tehran denies involvement in the strikes that initially halved the crude output of the world s top oil exporter and led the United States to send thousands of troops and military hardware to the kingdom. "We continue to refine information on the attack against (Saudi state oil firm) Aramco and that will be released principally through the Saudis," said General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees operations in the Middle East and South Asia. "We are working with the Saudis to increase the networking of their systems. That will make them better able to defend against this type of threats," he told reporters. McKenzie said boosting the U.S. military presence at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh, in addition to large bases in Qatar and Bahrain, would "complicate an adversary s ability to target you". French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Paris was separately sending Riyadh "a robust package of advanced warning", including radars, to confront low-altitude attacks. "It will be in Saudi Arabia in the coming days so it will be operational very, very rapidly. But there is an analysis to be done in order to better identify how to fill the gap," she later told reporters. "COOLING TEMPERS" The Sept. 14 strikes heightened regional tensions following attacks on tankers in Gulf waters and other Saudi energy assets in the summer that Washington also blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies. Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir told the IISS Manama Dialogue that Riyadh was consulting with its allies about what measures would be taken against Iran after the investigation concluded. He gave no timeframe. The event focused mostly on the Iranian threat but included no representatives from Tehran. It underscored differences between Western allies over how to deal with Iran since the United States quit a 2015 international nuclear pact. France wants to salvage the agreement, which Saudi Arabia and other U.S.-allied Gulf states oppose for failing to address Iran s ballistic missiles programme and regional interference. "We have seen a deliberate, gradual U.S. disengagement," Parly said, citing also U.S. inaction over a 2013 chemical attack in Syria and this year s downing of an American drone by Iran. She said it was time to "reinvent deterrence", mentioning France s efforts to form a European-led maritime mission, unassociated with the U.S. maximum pressure campaign on Iran, to help "cool down tempers". Parly told reporters the initiative could start early next year and around 10 European and non-European governments would join pending parliamentary approval. Only Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have so far joined the U.S.-led International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC), which McKenzie said would "shine a spotlight on nefarious activity".
Renewed clashes overnight in Baghdad between anti-government demonstrators and security forces killed four protesters, Iraqi security and hospital officials said Thursday. The altercations on two key bridges in the Iraqi capital also left at least 44 people wounded, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. Both bridges appeared to be calm by morning hours. Initial reports had two killed but the death toll later rose after two of the wounded protesters died of their wounds. Fighting also resumed overnight in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, south of Baghdad, between protesters and security forces. In Baghdad, one protester was killed when security forces used live rounds to repel demonstrators on Ahrar Bridge. The other protester was killed when a tear gas cannister was fired on Sinak Bridge, hitting him in the head. Two protester later succumbed to their injuries. Protesters have been occupying parts of Baghdad s three main bridges _ Sinak and Ahrar and Jumurhiya _ leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq s government. Tents have been set up under the bridges and also on central Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protest movement, where first-aid volunteers treat those wounded by pieces of exploded tear gas cannisters and live fire. ``Around 1:30 a.m., the shooting started with live ammunition, tear gas, and sound grenades, said one volunteer, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal. ``There were martyrs and we received several injured, people with breathing difficulties and bullet wounds. In Karbala, the protesters threw crudely made fire bombs, also known as Molotov cocktails, at security forces while anti-riot police responded by throwing stones at the protesters. Dozens of protesters had attacked the Iranian Consulate in this city earlier in November, scaling concrete barriers and saying they rejected the influence of the neighboring country in Iraqi affairs. At least 320 protesters have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when demonstrators took to the streets in Baghdad and across Iraq s mainly Shiite south to decry rampant government corruption and lack of basic services despite Iraq s oil wealth. The leaderless movement seeks to dismantle the sectarian system and unseat the government, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
The Israeli military said it struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria on Wednesday, carrying out a ``wide-scale strike in response to rocket fire on the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights the day before. A Britain-based war monitoring group said the Israeli airstrikes killed 11 people, including seven non-Syrians who are most likely Iranians. Syrian state media only reported that two civilians were killed. The Israeli military said its fighter jets hit multiple targets belonging to Iran s elite Quds force, including surface-to-air missiles, weapons warehouses and military bases. After the Syrian military fired an air defense missile, the Israeli military said a number of Syrian aerial defense batteries were also destroyed. The death toll of 11 was reported by Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition activist group with a network of activists across Syria. The Observatory said the airstrikes targeted arms depots belonging to the Quds Force in the Damascus suburbs of Kisweh and Qudsaya. Abdurrahman added that several other areas were targeted in Wednesday s strikes, including the Mazzeh airbase in western Damascus where air defense units are stationed. Syria s state SANA news agency said the two civilians were killed by shrapnel when an Israeli missile hit a house in the town of Saasaa, southwest of Damascus. It said several others were wounded, including a girl in a residential building in the suburb of Qudsaya, also west of the Syrian capital. It claimed that Syrian air defenses destroyed most of the Israeli missiles before they reached their targets. The strikes further burst into the open what s been a long shadow war between Israel and its archenemy Iran. The two foes have increasingly clashed over what Israel says is Iran s deeper presence along its borders. ``Yesterday s Iranian attack towards Israel is further clear proof of the purpose of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, which threatens Israeli security, regional stability and the Syrian regime, the military said in a statement, adding that it would ``continue operating firmly and resolutely against Iran in Syria. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the significance of the operation was the ``multitude of targets hit. Several important targets were struck, he said, including what he described as the Iranian headquarters at Damascus airport where senior Iranian officials are based and which is used to coordinate shipments from Iran to its allies in Syria and beyond. He added that Israel also holds Syria responsible for hosting the Iranians. Tuesday s rocket fire on the Golan was the sixth attempt by Iran to attack Israeli targets since February 2018, and all have been thwarted, Conricus said. While Israel faces tensions with Iranian proxies along its borders, Iran s regional influence is also being challenged by unprecedented, economically-driven mass protests in Iraq and Lebanon _ two countries where Tehran wields major influence. The protests are creating unrest that Tehran fears would spark a backlash against Iran-backed proxy militias in those countries. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a series of warnings recently about Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East and has vowed to respond firmly. ``I made it clear: whoever harms us, we will harm them. That s what we did tonight, he said early Wednesday. ``We will continue to aggressively protect Israel s security. Israel s new hard-line defense minister, Naftali Bennett, issued an equally firm statement. ``The rules have changed: whoever fires on Israel during the day will not sleep at night, he said. ``Our message to the leaders of Iran is simple: you are no longer immune. Any place you dispatch your tentacles, we will chop them off. The rare rocket fire came a week aftaer an Israeli airstrike against a top Palestinian militant based in Syria. Akram al-Ajouri, a member of the leadership of the militant Islamic Jihad group who is living in exile, survived the attack but his son and granddaughter were killed. Israel frequently strikes Iranian interests in Syria. But last week s airstrike appeared to be a rare assassination attempt of a Palestinian militant in the Syrian capital. It came the same day as another Israeli airstrike killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, settling off the fiercest round of fighting there in years. Iran has forces based in Syria, Israel s northern neighbor, and supports Hezbollah militants in Lebanon. In Gaza, it supplies Islamic Jihad with cash, weapons and expertise. Netanyahu also has claimed Iran is using Iraq and far-off Yemen, where Tehran supports Shiite Houthi rebels at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the government, to plan attacks against Israel. Hamas also receives some support from Iran.
Lebanon s parliament was blocked from holding its first session for two months on Tuesday after protesters prevented lawmakers from reaching the building, escalating a wave of demonstrations against rulers blamed for steering towards economic collapse. Queues built at banks that reopened after a one-week closure, with police deployed at branches and banks imposing tight restrictions on hard currency withdrawals and transfers abroad. Lebanon has slid further into economic crisis since the protests erupted on Oct. 17. The political situation has been deadlocked since Saad al-Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29, with no progress towards a deal on a new government. Gunfire was heard as a group of several dozen protesters forced two SUVs with official number plates and tinted windows to turn back as they approached the parliament, footage broadcast by Lebanese broadcasters showed. The vehicles sped away after they were struck by demonstrators chanting "Out, out, out!" Authorities later announced that the session had been postponed indefinitely. The agenda of the parliamentary session had included reelecting members of parliamentary committees and discussion of a controversial amnesty law that is expected to lead to the release of hundreds of prisoners. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri had already postponed the session last week due to security concerns. The security forces had fanned out on Tuesday before dawn in central Beirut, shutting down roads around parliament with barbed wire in what proved to be a failed attempt to prevent the protesters from blocking the session. Police scuffled with a group of protesters who were trying to use a cable to remove a barbed wire barricade. "How are they holding a session and not responding to the people? Those that are in the session have nothing to do with us, and it s not what we asked for," said a protester who gave her name as Maria. The protests have been fuelled by perceptions of corruption among the sectarian politicians who have governed Lebanon for decades and are blamed for leading the country into its worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
Kuwait s ruling emir on Monday reappointed Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Sabah as prime minister but removed the defence and interior ministers, both senior members of the ruling family, from their posts after the government s resignation last week. Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah asked Sheikh Jaber to form a new cabinet, state news agency KUNA said. Sheikh Jaber last week submitted the government s resignation when lawmakers sought a no-confidence vote against the interior minister. KUNA said in a separate statement that the emir ordered the removal of his son, Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, and Interior Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah from their posts in the current caretaker cabinet.
Iraqis flooded the streets of the capital and southern cities on Sunday in a general strike that bolstered the weeks-long movement demanding a government overhaul. Sit-ins have become the go-to tactic for the rallies that erupted in early October in rage over corruption, a lack of jobs and an out-of-touch political class. They have resisted efforts by security forces to snuff them out and on Sunday, thousands came out across the country after activists called for a general strike.
With historic impeachment hearings underway, Democrats and Republicans are hardening their arguments over the actions of President Donald Trump as they set out to win over a deeply polarized American public. Democrats say Wednesday s extraordinary public session in the House revealed a striking account of Trump abusing his office by pressing the newly elected president of Ukraine for political investigations of rival Democrats, all while holding up needed military aid. "Bribery, they said, and "extortion. Republicans counter that the hearing showed none of that. They say the two seasoned diplomats at the witness table had, at best, second-hand accounts of Trump s July 25 call that s central to the impeachment inquiry. There was no pressure on the young Ukraine leader, they argue, and eventually the aid flowed, though only after Congress intervened. Day One of the rare public hearings in the House _ part of only the fourth formal impeachment effort in U.S. history _ set the contours for a once-in-a-generation political struggle. Images and audio from the hearing popping up on television, in earbuds and on the partisan silos of social media, providing the first close-up look at the investigation. "The president sought to advance his political and personal interests at the expense of U.S. national security, said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the probe. "Is this now going to be the new normal? Schiff asked. Hosting the president of Turkey at the White House, Trump insisted he was too busy to watch the hearings being broadcast live across the country and the world. He denied a fresh detail from one of the witnesses about a phone call in which he was overheard asking about "the investigations. "First I ve heard of it, Trump told reporters during a news conference. A different conversation sparked the impeachment investigation, Trump s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, heard by several government officials and detailed in a partial transcript released to the public weeks ago. The core moment came when Trump asked the newly elected leader for "a favor. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday that the Democrats first witness "wasn t on the phone call, never met with the president, never talked to the chief of staff. And he s their star witness? Trump wanted Ukraine s government to investigate Democrats activities in the 2016 election and his potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden _ all while the administration was withholding military aid for the Eastern European ally as it confronted an aggressive neighbor, Russia. All day, the two diplomats delivered a dramatic, though complicated, account. They testified about how an ambassador was fired, the new Ukraine government was confused and they discovered an "irregular channel _ a shadow U.S. foreign policy orchestrated by the president s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that raised alarms in diplomatic and national security circles. Trump restated his aggressive defense with rapid-fire tweets, a video from the Rose Garden and a dismissive retort from the Oval Office: "It s a witch hunt. It s a hoax. Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d affaires in Kyiv, offered new testimony that a staff member recently told him of overhearing Trump when they were meeting with another diplomat, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, at a restaurant the day after Trump s July 25 phone call. The staff member explained that Sondland had called the president and they could hear Trump on the phone asking about "the investigations, Taylor said. Sondland told the president the Ukrainians were ready to move forward, Taylor testified as he repeated the staff member s account. In the face of Trump s denial, Schiff expects the person to appear before investigators for a closed-door deposition. He is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, according to an official unauthorized to discuss the matter and granted anonymity. Across the country, millions of Americans were tuning in _ or, in some cases, deliberately tuning out. Viewers on the right and left thought the day underscored their feelings. Anthony Harris, cutting hair in Savannah, Georgia, had the hearing on in his shop, but he said, "It s gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening. The hours of partisan back-and-forth did not appear to leave a singular moment etched in the public consciousness the way the Watergate proceedings or Bill Clinton s impeachment did generations ago. "No real surprises, no bombshells, said committee member Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. Still, the session unspooled at least partly the way Democrats wanted with the somber tones of career foreign service officers telling what they knew. They sounded credible. The witnesses, the graying Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in his bow tie, defied White House instructions not to appear. Both had received subpoenas. They are among a dozen current and former officials who already testified behind closed doors. Days of public hearings will stretch into next week. Both Kent and Taylor, who was asked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to return to Ukraine as Trump was firing Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, defended their ousted colleague. She is set to testify Friday. A Trump ally on the panel, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, mockingly called Taylor the Democrats "star witness and said he d "seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this. Taylor, a West Point graduate and an Army infantry officer in Vietnam, responded: "I don t consider myself a star witness for anything.`` The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said Trump had a "perfectly good reason for wanting to investigate the role of Democrats in 2016 election interference, giving airtime to a theory that runs counter to mainstream U.S. intelligence which found that Russia intervened and favored Trump. Nunes accused the Democratic majority of conducting a "scorched earth effort to take down the president after the special counsel s Russia investigation into the 2016 election failed to spark impeachment proceedings. The veteran foreign service officers delivered heartfelt history lessons about Ukraine, a young and hopeful democracy, situated next to Russia but reaching out to the West. Republicans sought to hear from the anonymous whistleblower whose official complaint alerted officials to the July 25 call by subpoenaing him for a closed session. The panel voted down the request and Schiff repeatedly denied the GOP claim that he knows the person. "We will do everything necessary to protect the whistleblower s identity, Schiff declared. The Constitution sets a dramatic but vague bar for impeachment, There s no consensus yet that Trump s actions at the heart of the inquiry meet the threshold of "high crimes and misdemeanors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was initially reluctant to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. But she pressed ahead after the whistleblower s complaint. She said Wednesday it was sad that the country has to undergo the inquiry with Trump, but "he will be held accountable."
Main roads across Lebanon were closed on Wednesday in fresh protests after President Michel Aoun angered demonstrators by urging them to end their revolt against corruption among the country s ruling elite. His remarks in a television interview late on Tuesday ignited demonstrations overnight in which a protester was shot and killed after an altercation with Lebanese soldiers at a roadblock south of Beirut. The killing marked a bloody twist to the crisis that has gripped Lebanon for nearly a month, escalating tensions in a country ensnared in a deep political and economic crisis. The man was a follower of Walid Jumblatt, a veteran Druze politician and former civil war militia leader, who has urged his supporters to remain calm. Schools and banks were closed for a second straight day. They have been shut for much of the four weeks since the start of the protests against political leaders seen as venal and unable to rescue Lebanon from rising poverty and unemployment. One banker said all transfers were frozen for now. "The reaction was very spontaneous. People felt we have to ramp up the pressure," said Joelle Petrakian, who was protesting at a blocked highway in central Beirut, describing Aoun s interview as "very dismissive". "I think they are trying all the ways to let us cool down but on the contrary, we will not stop." Several dozen protesters watched by troops and police sat blocking the normally busy road. Nearby lay smouldering debris ignited during protests overnight triggered by Aoun s remarks. "Aoun ignites the intifada (uprising)," ran the front page headline in the daily Ennahar newspaper. In his interview, Aoun indicated there was no breakthrough in talks over forming a new government to replace Saad al-Hariri s coalition cabinet. Hariri, who quit on Oct. 29, was hesitant about being prime minister again, he said. Aoun also said a purely technocratic government, as demanded by many protesters, would not be able to govern Lebanon and so it should include politicians. Addressing protesters in his interview, he said, "If you continue in this way, you will strike Lebanon and your interests ... If they keep going, there is a catastrophe. If they stop, there is still room for (us) to fix things." As Aoun s interview was ending, protesters blocked several main roads across Lebanon, some with burning tyres. Tensions flared in Beirut late into the night. In the Cola district near Beirut, dozens of men pelted stones at soldiers and a tank. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri called the head of the army and the police and stressed the need to protect citizens and ensure the safety of the protesters. He called Jumblatt and conveyed his condolence, his Twitter feed said. Dollars "under the pillow" Commercial banks, seeking to avoid capital flight, have been imposing tight restrictions on financial transfers out of Lebanon and U.S. dollar withdrawals. The authorities have not however announced official capital controls. Banks, which were closed for half of October during the protests, shut their doors on Tuesday and again on Wednesday in strike action by bank employees who are concerned about security risks posed by depositors demanding their money and protesters. Aoun called on the Lebanese not to rush to the banks, saying their money was safe. He also said Lebanese were keeping dollars "under the pillow", referring to money withdrawn from banks and kept at home. The United Nations urged Lebanon to form a competent new government better able to seek international aid and warned the country was in a critical financial and economic situation. Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, wants to be prime minister of a technocratic cabinet that he believes would be better placed to secure urgently needed international financial support, political sources have said. But the heavily armed group Hezbollah and its ally Amal believe Hariri aims mainly to keep Hezbollah out of government, a senior source familiar with the two Shi ite groups view said on Sunday. On Monday, Hezbollah leader said talks were continuing over the new government and Hezbollah wanted to leave open the way for an agreement. Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, said he was awaiting answers before calling formal consultations with MPs to designate the next prime minister.
Israel killed a top commander from the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad in a rare targeted strike in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and militants responded by firing rockets at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv. In the most serious escalation in months, an Israeli missile attack also targeted the home of an Islamic Jihad official in Damascus, killing two people including one of his sons, Syrian state media said. Israel declined any comment on that incident. "Israel executed two coordinated attacks, in Syria and in Gaza, in a declaration of war," Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh said at the Gaza funeral of Baha Abu Al-Atta. Israeli officials described Al-Atta as "ticking bomb" who was responsible for a string of recent cross-border rocket, drone and sniper attacks and was suspected of planning more. "We conducted the attack (on Al-Atta) because there was no other choice," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said. "I want to emphasise that we are not looking to further escalate the situation." Al-Atta s slaying, in his home along with his wife, looked likely to pose a new challenge for Gaza s ruling Hamas faction, which has mostly pursued truces with Israel since a 2014 war. Israel casts rising Gaza tensions as part of a regional struggle with arch-foe Iran that has also played out in Syria. Conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has cited such scenarios in trying to form a coalition government with centre-left rivals after two inconclusive elections this year. Islamic Jihad said the target of the Damascus attack was the home of a political leader, Akram Al-Ajouri. His possible significance to Israel was not immediately clear. SCHOOLS, BANKS SHUTTERED Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel, setting off sirens as far north as Tel Aviv and prompting several municipalities to close schools. Similar precautions were ordered in Gaza. The Israeli military said its Iron Dome air defence systems intercepted some of the Palestinian rockets. Israeli hospitals reported several civilians with injuries. Israel s banking regulator instructed banks in areas within rocket range to operate under emergency procedures, with essential staff only. The main Tel Aviv share index was down 0.5%. The shekel was 0.2% weaker against the dollar. A later Israeli air strike on two men riding a motorcycle in Gaza killed one and wounded the other, Palestinian residents said. Israel said the men were an Islamic Jihad rocket crew. Israel "bears full responsibility for all consequences of this escalation," Hamas said in a statement, pledging that Al-Atta s death "will not go unpunished". Syrian state media said the Israeli attack in Damascus had been carried out using several missiles, one of which was shot down over the nearby suburb of Daraya. At the scene of the Damascus strike, a Reuters journalist said the top floor of a two-storey building had been completely scorched. A neighbour said he had been woken up at around 4 a.m. by three consecutive explosions that had blown open the doors in his house. Syrian state media said six people were wounded in the attack, describing the target as a civilian home in Mezzah, a western district of the capital where several foreign embassies are located. In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iran and the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah group, which it calls the biggest threat to its borders.
A rights group in Iraq says four protesters have been killed and some 130 wounded in clashes between security forces and protesters in Nasriyah in the south of the country. The semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights described on Monday the previous day s incidents in the city of Nasiryah as ``regrettable, adding that some of the wounded are in serious conditions. At least 320 protesters have been killed by security forces since the protests and unrest over living conditions began last month. The Nasiriyah casualties occurred during confrontations outside the education directorate as security forces tear-gassed protesters trying to block employees from reaching the building in the city center. The demonstrators complain of widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, including regular power cuts, despite Iraq s vast oil reserves.
Lebanese bank deposits are safe and there is no need to panic, the head of the banking association said on Saturday, seeking to calm nerves about restrictions on some withdrawals imposed after nationwide protests. Already facing the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, Lebanon has been pitched deeper into turmoil since Oct. 17 by a wave of rallies against the ruling elite that led Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister on Oct. 29. Crowds of protestors gathered again in central Beirut on Saturday, growing steadily into the evening, waving flags and playing music through loudspeakers. Demonstrators also took to the streets in Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli. Since reopening a week ago, banks have been seeking to stave off capital flight by blocking most transfers abroad and imposing curbs on hard-currency withdrawals, though the central bank has announced no formal capital controls. “We confirm that depositors’ money is safe and what is happening has nothing to do with solvency and therefore, no need to panic,” the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Salim Sfeir, told a press conference. Sfeir spoke after meeting President Michel Aoun, the ministers of finance and economy, the central bank governor and other officials over the economic situation. In recent days, importers of fuel, wheat and medicine have said they faced difficulty securing the foreign currency needed for their purchases. Economy minister Mansour Bteich said the Central Bank Governor Riad Salame reaffirmed that the funds for these strategic goods were secure, Lebanon’s al-Jadeed TV reported. “We request the central bank governor, in cooperation with the banks association, to facilitate the necessary needs for depositors, specially small depositors, to preserve their economic and social situation, in addition to the necessary facilities to ensure the sustainability of the productive sectors,” Sfeir said. One protestor said that people taking to the streets was a reflection of the bad economic situation, which she said could not get any worse. “The economic situation was so bad, people could not continue anymore,” said Nadine Sangari, a public sector employee. Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the government would delay a $2 billion Eurobond issue that was planned for the end of the month but is fully committed to paying its maturing debt on time. “Lebanon is committed to paying maturing treasury bonds in foreign currency, Eurobonds, at their predetermined dates and this commitment is confirmed,” Khalil told Reuters. Lebanon has a $1.5 billion Eurobond maturing this month. The central bank has said it stands ready to pay off Lebanon’s maturing foreign currency debt.
Iran resumed uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow plant south of Tehran on Thursday in a new step back from its commitments under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Engineers began feeding uranium hexafluoride gas into the plant s mothballed enrichment centrifuges in "the first minutes of Thursday", the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation said. The suspension of uranium enrichment at the long secret plant was one of the restrictions Iran had agreed to on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of UN sanctions. Iran s announcement that it would resume enrichment at the Fordow plant from midnight (2030 GMT Wednesday) had drawn a chorus of concern from the remaining parties to the troubled agreement. Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have been trying to salvage the hard-won deal since Washington abandoned it in May last year and reimposed crippling unilateral sanctions. They say Iran s phased suspension of its obligations under the deal since May makes that more difficult. The resumption of enrichment at Fordow is Iran s fourth move away from the deal. Uranium enrichment is the sensitive process that produces fuel for nuclear power plants but also, in highly extended form, the fissile core for a warhead. Iran has always denied any military dimension to its nuclear programme. It has been at pains to emphasise that all of the steps it has taken are transparent and swiftly reversible if the remaining parties to the agreement find a way to get round US sanctions. "All these activities have been carried out under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency," the Iranian nuclear organisation said. A source close to the UN watchdog told AFP that it has inspectors on the ground in Fordow and would report "very rapidly" on the steps taken by Iran. Iran s latest move comes after the passing of a deadline it set for the remaining parties to the nuclear agreement to come up with a mechanism that would allow foreign firms to continue doing business with Iran without incurring US penalties. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about Tehran s announcements but said European powers should do their part. "They are demanding that Iran fulfil all (obligations) without exception but are not giving anything in return," he told reporters in Moscow. The Kremlin has previously called sanctions against Iran "unprecedented and illegal". - European concern - French President Emmanuel Macron said Iran had made "grave" decisions and its resumption of uranium enrichment was a "profound change" from Tehran s previous position. "I will have discussions in the coming days, including with the Iranians, and we must collectively draw the consequences," Macron said during a trip to Beijing. The next few weeks will be dedicated to increasing pressure on Iran to return within the framework of the pact, the French president said, adding that this must be "accompanied by an easing of some sanctions". "A return to normal can only take place if the United States and Iran agree to reopen a sort of trust agenda" and dialogue, Macron said, adding that he would discuss the issue with Trump. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain remained committed to a negotiated way forward but demanded that Iran abide by its obligations. "We want to find a way forward through constructive international dialogue but Iran needs to stand by the commitments it made and urgently return to full compliance," he said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Iran must roll back its decision to resume uranium enrichment, calling Tehran s action "unacceptable". "We call on Iran to reverse all steps taken since July and return to full compliance with its commitments," Maas told reporters in Berlin. "Our aim is to maintain the nuclear agreement," he said. "We have always fully implemented our commitments and Iran must now urgently relent in order to ease tensions."
Two more Iraqi protesters have been killed in renewed clashes in the Shia holy city of Karbala, a flashpoint in weeks of anti-government demonstrations, a protester and a medic said Wednesday. They said the two were killed in overnight clashes near the provincial headquarters in the city. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks in the capital, Baghdad, and across the Shia south, demanding sweeping political change. The protesters complain of widespread corruption, a lack of job opportunities and poor basic services, with regular power cuts despite the country s vast oil reserves. The protesters have focused their anger on Shia political parties and militias, many of which have close ties to Iran . Across the south, they have attacked party and militia headquarters, setting some of them ablaze. In Karbala, protesters attacked the Iranian Consulate earlier this week, hurling firebombs over its walls. Security forces killed at least three people and wounded several others as they dispersed the protest. Days earlier, masked men suspected of links to the security forces opened fire on a demonstration in Karbala, killing at least 18 people. In the capital, Baghdad, protesters clashed with security forces on a fourth bridge across the Tigris River, after previous clashes forced the closure of three other bridges, paralyzing traffic. The protests have been centered in Tahrir Square, on the eastern bank of the Tigris, and the demonstrators have been trying to reach the Green Zone that is located on the other side, which houses government offices and foreign embassies. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad issued a statement calling on the government to ``engage seriously and urgently with Iraqi citizens who are demanding reform. ``We deplore the killing and kidnapping of unarmed protesters, threats to freedom of expression, and the cycle of violence taking place, it said. ``Iraqis must be free to make their own choices about the future of their nation. Iraqi security forces have killed at least 269 protesters in two major waves of demonstrations since early October. Iraq s leaders have promised reforms and early elections, but the process they have laid out could take months, and the protests have only grown in recent days.
Ali says he has seen more than 50 people killed in front of him since anti-government protests began in Iraq last month. "The first one was shocking - he was someone I knew, and they shot him in the chest," said Ali, in his early 20s and from Baghdad s low-income Sadr City district. "But you quickly get used to death ... I ve seen people, some of them friends, choke, drown, have their skulls split open by tear gas and stun grenades," Ali, who declined to give his last name, said as he played a mobile phone video of the shooting victim in his final moments in the capital s Tahrir Square last month. "We can t even cry over their bodies any more." Since the start of October, more than 250 Iraqis have been killed protesting against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests, according to eyewitnesses and medical and security sources. There was no immediate comment from the interior ministry, which oversees many of the security forces, but a government report said nearly 150 people were killed in the first week of the unrest, 70% from bullets to the head or chest. Recounting stories of his fallen comrades, Ali leaned against a mound of dirty blankets on the Tigris river bank under the Jumhuriya – or Republic – Bridge. For the past 10 days, hundreds of young men and boys – some as young as 12 – have been camped out on the bridge, and under it. Wearing construction hats, gas masks, and chanting for the downfall of the government, they call themselves "the front line of the revolution". The bridge, which leads from the square to Baghdad s fortified Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located, has seen fierce clashes between protesters and security forces. Protesters, armed with slingshots, have erected barricades of iron sheets and concrete blocks. Security forces have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas against them, killing scores on the adjacent Jumhuriya and Sinak bridges. Both sides have settled into an uneasy stalemate. "We throw rocks at them, and they respond by killing us," said Ali, as several tear gas canisters were lobbed by security forces. Boys under the bridge A group of medical volunteers have set up camp to help the wounded. They say the expired tear gas – Reuters saw used canisters with an expiry date of 2014 – is making people choke. One young man, barefoot and wearing a dirty tank top and trousers, passed out after choking on the gas. A Reuters correspondent saw medics lower him off the bridge and put him in a tuk-tuk headed for a nearby hospital. Ali is surrounded by a tight-knit group of 10, who have been camped under the Jumhuriya bridge since Oct. 24. Reminiscent of Peter Pan s Lost Boys, the group radiated an intensity forged by bloodshed. Many come from Baghdad s poorest neighbourhoods, where they work as tuk-tuk drivers or day labourers. Despite Iraq s oil wealth, many live in poverty with limited access to clean water, electricity, healthcare or education. Protesters blame corruption. "For 16 years we ve been told that our lives would be better," said Abbas, who declined to give his last name. "But I m 19 and I ve worked most days since I was 10 and still I don t have more than 5,000 dinars ($4) in my pocket." Dangerous nights Abbas was arrested in the first wave of protests, along with Ali and others in the group. They said their phones were scanned to identify fellow protesters. Released on bail, they were told to stay away from the demonstrations. "But the very next day I went back to the protests," said Ali. "We have to stay here to keep the revolution going." Nearly all those Reuters spoke to had bandages on their arms, torsos and legs. They said many of their injuries came from security forces who fire tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, sometimes from boats on the river. It is most dangerous at night, they said. A few nights ago at 3 a.m., security forces threw gasoline at their camp, followed by burning rags, Ali said. The rags landed near a group of sleeping boys, according to a video seen by Reuters. The boys now stand guard in shifts. "The second we leave this bridge, the government will storm Tahrir Square and finish off the protests," Ali said. "They can throw whatever they want at us. But we re not going anywhere."
With the expansion of media spaces available in all forms, media started to pursue former ministers, officials, and governors to make comparisons between the current and former officials, to cry upon the spilt milk and attack the current officials! Many former officials enjoy talking to media about alternative plans, strategy and magic tools to solve problems! Unfortunately, media support such attitude instead of