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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Middle East Middle East News from the Associated Press


Iraqi officials: Car bomb kills 4 and wounds 8

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 21:13:19 UT

Saad Mann, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry and Baghdad Operations Command, told the Associated Press the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber and only three were killed in the blast. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but IS has carried out similar attacks targeting Iraqi security forces in the past. In July of last year a massive truck bombing in the same Baghdad neighborhood killed more than 300 people on a busy street lined with shopping malls.

Iran: Tehran's mayor attacks Rouhani in pre-election debate

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 18:28:15 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tehran's mayor and presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf accused on Friday President Hassan Rouhani's administration of dishonesty, mismanagement and supporting the rich at the expense of the poor in the first debate between the six presidential candidates. During the first of three planned debates ahead of the May 19 elections, Qalibaf criticized the Rouhani administration, saying social and environmental problems remained unsolved because of Your weak management. Rouhani's senior vice-president and presidential candidate responded by saying that Qalibaf and other hard-liners did not voice concern for the "squandering of some $700 bln" during President Ahmadinejad's administration.

'Apartheid' furor comes amid 50 years of Israeli occupation

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 17:59:36 UT

Rima Khalaf did just that when a report commissioned by her U.N. agency at the request of 18 Arab member states accused Israel of having established an apartheid regime designed to dominate the Palestinian people as a whole. Israeli government official Michael Oren disputed the apartheid charge as a "big lie," portraying the report as the latest attempt to "apply a completely unique standard to Israel which by definition is anti-Semitic." Israel has said it is willing to negotiate, blaming Palestinians for past failures, but a majority in Israel's Cabinet opposes Palestinian statehood, some seek partial annexation of the West Bank, and settlement construction continues unabated. Divided into groups— citizens in Israel, permanent residents in east Jerusalem, stateless occupied subjects elsewhere — Palestinians are prevented from effectively resisting Israeli control, it says. Israel "can be a Jewish state" provided all citizens enjoy equal rights, according to Khalaf, who is of Palestinian origin. Detailing the most controversial charge of apartheid in Israel itself, the report argues that voting rights of Arab citizens lose significance because Israel's Basic Law bars any political parties that deny Israel's identity as both Jewish and democratic. Others, like parliament member Jamal Zahalka of the Joint List, an alliance of four Arab-dominated parties, say Israel has created a version of apartheid, including discriminatory rules on immigration and land use, even if it differs from the former South African system. "While we recognize the Palestinians as a people, endowed with the right of self-determination in what they regard as their homeland, that recognition is not reciprocated," Oren said, reflecting the widespread view in Israel that those making apartheid claims want to delegitimize and eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. Legally, the crime of apartheid is still largely uncharted territory, said Sa

Palestinians say dozens wounded at protests for prisoners

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:30:49 UT

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Dozens of Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli soldiers at demonstrations across the West Bank Friday in support of hundreds of prisoners observing the 12th day of an open-ended hunger strike, Palestinian health officials said. Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman Anas Diek said three people were hospitalized, including one who was shot in the head by a rubber bullet and another who was hit in the knee by a tear gas canister. Barghouti, a leader of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, is serving five life terms after being convicted by an Israeli court of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing that killed five people.

Pope Francis arrives at Cairo's Al-Azhar, highest seat of world's Sunni Muslim learning, to meet Egypt's grand imam

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:47:31 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Pope Francis arrives at Cairo's Al-Azhar, highest seat of world's Sunni Muslim learning, to meet Egypt's grand imam.

Pope Francis meets Egypt's president at the start of the Catholic pontiff's historic two-day visit to Egypt

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:37:45 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Pope Francis meets Egypt's president at the start of the Catholic pontiff's historic two-day visit to Egypt.

AP Explains: Who are Egypt's Coptic Christians?

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:21:25 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Pope Francis meets Friday with the leader of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, part of a two-day trip to the Arab world's most populous country that comes as Islamic State group militants have been increasingly targeting its Christian minority. The meeting with Pope Tawadros II, the head of one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, seeks to bolster spirits nearly three weeks after IS suicide bombers struck Coptic churches in two cities on Palm Sunday, killing at least 45 people. Tawadros recently presided over Easter Mass at St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo, with several government ministers in attendance, but canceled the normally joyous Easter morning celebrations out of mourning for dead. In Nasser's drive to liberate the country from Western influence and purify the Arab nation, Christians — whose religion is more often practiced in the West — began to take on a less favorable light among the majority Muslim masses. President Anwar Sadat's overtures to Islamists and his addition of references to Islamic Law, or Shariah, to the constitution spurred on the departures, and millions of Copts live as expatriates today. On New Years' Eve 2010, a bomb in an Alexandria church killed over 20 people — the first major assault with a high death toll in living memory and a crime still unsolved to this day.

Seen as a setback to justice, Egypt ratifies judges' law

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:10:45 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has ratified much-contested legal amendments that effectively give him power over the country's courts, as he will be the one appointing heads of judicial bodies. Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaign director at Amnesty International, says: "This law has the potential to undermine the independence of the country's already beleaguered judiciary."

Pope Francis' plane touches down in Cairo for historic two-day visit to show a united Christian-Muslim front

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:02:45 UT

CAIRO (AP) — Pope Francis' plane touches down in Cairo for historic two-day visit to show a united Christian-Muslim front.

Israeli media: US businessman questioned in Netanyahu probe

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 11:16:10 UT

Haaretz newspaper reports that officers took testimony recently from Spencer Partrich over alleged "gifts and favors" given to the prime minister over the years. The investigation, dubbed "File 1000," reportedly concerns claims that Netanyahu improperly accepted lavish presents from wealthy supporters, including Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.

Iran summons Pakistani envoy over attack on borders guards

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 09:12:29 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that the country's foreign ministry has summoned the Pakistani envoy to protest an attack on Iranian guards near the border with Pakistan that left nine dead. The area in southeast Iran is the scene of occasional clashes between Iranian forces and the Sunni militant group Jaish-ul-Adl, as well as armed drug traffickers.

Jerusalem mayor: City's diverse residents 'all my children'

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 06:18:44 UT

[...] like other prominent politicians of the hard-line Likud Party, Nir Barkat says Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli control, rejects Arab claims they are second-class residents — even though the vast majority are not even citizens — and insists the city's diverse array of inhabitants are "all my children." Recent figures gathered by the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research think-tank found that 82 percent of the Arab population lives below the poverty line, compared to 28 percent of the Jewish population, among several statistics indicating vast gaps between the groups. In another indicator of the wide disparities, Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group that promotes coexistence in the city, found in a 2014 report that the municipality allocated only an estimated 10 to 13 percent of its annual budget to east Jerusalem, even though Arab residents make up just over a third of the city's population. Since retiring from his business career, Barkat has worked for the city for a token salary of one shekel (27 cents) a year. Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed the area in a move that has not been recognized internationally. Barkat, who recently joined Israel's ruling Likud and considers himself a potential successor to Netanyahu, also flatly rejects the notion and claims a majority of the city's Arab residents would prefer to stay under Israeli rule even if a Palestinian state were to be established. The Israeli government is responsible for peace talks with the Palestinians, and Jerusalem's mayor has no official say in the city's political future.

Yemen's president fires minister, Aden governor

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 06:12:47 UT

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's internationally backed president has fired a Cabinet minister and the governor of the southern port city of Aden, two figures known to be close to the United Arab Emirates, a key member of a Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen since 2015.

Israeli strikes inside Syria pick up tempo in proxy war

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:42:55 UT

Apparently seeking to interrupt weapons transfers to the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, Israel has struck inside Syria with increasing frequency in recent weeks, making the war-torn country a proxy theater for Israel's wider war with Iran. The increasing tempo of attacks risks inflaming a highly combustible situation drawing in Israel, Syria and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad's government with thousands of fighters in Syria. An Israeli defense official said the Patriot hit a drone, and the military is checking if it was a Russian aircraft that entered the Israeli side by mistake or if it was Syrian. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the foundation, said he tracked a fourth cargo flight from Iran to Syria on Wednesday night, an Airbus A300 operated by Mahan Air, which is suspected of ties to Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Syria's state-run SANA news agency said Israel had fired several missiles from inside the occupied Golan Heights, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Damascus, striking a military installation southwest of the airport that serves both military and civilian flights. Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes in recent years on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as on Hezbollah positions. The civil war is further complicated by militant factions such as al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria and the even more powerful Islamic State group, which in 2014 seized a large chunk of territory but lately has been losing ground in the face of a campaign by a U.S.-led international coalition. The Civil Defense, a search-and-rescue organization, said four medical staff were killed in an attack on a university hospital in the town of Deir Sharqi, and four paramedics or ambulance operators died in an airstrike on an ambulance services in another town, Maarzita.

Gulf Arab royals meet in Saudi capital to unify Iran stance

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:39:20 UT

A joint statement after the meeting said the ministers discussed ways to enhance cooperation to combat terrorism, including efforts to build up a military alliance of Muslim-majority countries. In an apparent reference to Iran, the statement stressed the bloc countries' determination to prevent "external interference" in their internal affairs and "efforts to undermine national security and provoke sectarian strife." Bahrain's Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa accused Iran in his opening remarks of being behind attacks that have killed security forces in the island nation.

The Latest: Russia criticizes French report on Syria attack

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:43:37 UT

Russia's Foreign Ministry is criticizing a French report that lays blame on the Syrian government for a chemical attack on a town in northern Syria in early April that killed almost 90 people. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that chemical analysis of samples taken from the April 4 sarin gas attack on Khan Sheihoun "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government and shows it was responsible. An Israeli defense official says the military's Patriot missile that was deployed earlier in the evening over the Golan Heights had struck an incoming drone from Syria. The incident comes after Syria accused Israel of striking a military installation near Damascus airport, setting off a series of pre-dawn explosions. Israel's military says it deployed its Patriot missile defense system to intercept a projectile incoming from Syria above the Golan Heights. Israel appears to be striking at military convoys and installations in Syria at a quickening pace, maintaining it has the right to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that fights alongside Syrian government forces. The Civil Defense, a search-and-rescue organization, says four medical staff were killed in an attack on a university hospital in Deir Sharqi, and another four paramedics or ambulance operators were killed in a strike on an ambulance services charity in Maarzita. Syria's government has condemned what it says are "lies and fabricated allegations" by the French foreign minister concerning a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria earlier this month. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the chemical analysis of samples taken from the April 4 sarin gas attack "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government and shows it was responsible. President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile attack against a Syrian air base earlier this month in response to Assad's apparent use of chem

US envoy accuses Russia of allowing Syria to deny needed aid

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:56:36 UT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Russia on Thursday of providing cover for the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons and denial of desperately needed aid to hundreds of thousands of besieged people — and she urged international pressure on Moscow "to stop this." Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador Petr Iliichev retorted that Russia, Turkey and Iran are working to ensure compliance with a cease-fire in Syria — and he pointedly asked why the U.S. and its Western allies didn't say a single word about what they are doing to improve the situation. U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien told the council the already bad humanitarian situation is deteriorating, noting that not a single aid convoy reached a besieged area in Syria this month "due to a lack of authorizations," mainly by President Bashar Assad's government. Haley accused Syrian troops of taking medical supplies, including baby formula and kidney dialysis equipment, off convoys and selling them on the black market at inflated prices, saying "this is a major business in Syria."

Israel military says its Patriot Missile Defense system intercepted an incoming projectile from Syria over Golan Heights

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:11:20 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel military says its Patriot Missile Defense system intercepted an incoming projectile from Syria over Golan Heights.

Palestinians strike in support of prisoners' protest

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:34:29 UT

Qadoura Fares, who runs the Prisoners' Club advocacy group, said Thursday's strike "reflects the large public concern" for the prisoners. In Ramallah, shops closed and public transport stopped running.

Abbas to stop funding electricity in Hamas-run Gaza: Israel

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:51:41 UT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel says the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank informed it on Thursday that it will stop paying for the electricity Israel sells to the Gaza Strip as tensions between the territory's Islamic militant Hamas rulers and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas intensify. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to exert financial pressure on political rival Hamas to cede control of Gaza, a territory it seized in 2007 from him in bloody street battles. Khalil al-Haya, the second highest ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Abbas will fail "if he tries to make Gaza kneel or expects to win our loyalty by force."

UAE's first solar-powered gas station opens in Dubai

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:22:35 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A government oil company in the United Arab Emirates says it has opened the country's first solar-powered gas station in Dubai.

As Trump calls for wall, a look at the world's barriers

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 06:23:10 UT

Despite widespread skepticism and Mexico's refusal to pay for the wall, as Trump has demanded, the U.S. government has been soliciting bids and test sections could be built as soon as this summer. [...] fences can also have unwanted consequences, like destroying city neighborhoods, harming the environment and preventing innocent victims from reaching safety. There also is much skepticism over whether the fence would stem drug trafficking, illegal immigration or gang violence. Israel began construction of its 150-mile (250-kilometer) separation barrier in 2002 in response to Palestinian suicide bombings that killed more than 1,500 people. [...] a high-tech barrier, it is laced with thermal imaging devices, motion sensors and lighting systems along a mined strip of land between two rows of coiled razor wire. The Indian military calls it an "anti-infiltration obstacle system," designed to keep Pakistan-based rebels from crossing over in their fight for Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. A U.N.-controlled buffer zone and frontier stretches 180 kilometers (120 miles) from coast to coast across the tiny island, separating the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north from the internationally recognized south. Hungary built fences along its southern borders with Serbia and Croatia in 2015, when thousands of migrants were passing through each day headed to Germany and other destinations in western Europe. Human rights groups and U.N. agencies have been critical of the fences and the country's restrictive asylum policies. A concrete wall, one kilometer (half a mile) long and four meters (13 feet) high, is the finishing touch on an already elaborate defense system against migrants in the northern French port city of Calais.

Egyptian artist paints church murals, unfazed by attacks

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 06:09:19 UT

"God gave me talent and I must make use of it to serve him," said William, who was mostly self-taught and says he has drawn inspiration from the Bible during his 15 years in the profession, which he began learning after discovering an affinity for painting icons and murals with childhood friends. Besides working for payment, I believe that what I am doing is a service to the church. Egypt's Copts, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, marked a solemn Easter earlier this month, after suicide bombers attacked two churches in separate cities, killing dozens of worshippers on Palm Sunday.

France: Analysis shows Syrian government behind sarin attack

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:13:00 UT

PARIS (AP) — France said that the chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria earlier this month "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government and shows it was responsible. Ayrault said French intelligence showed that only Syrian government forces could have launched such an attack — by a bomber taking off from the Shayrat air base, which was later targeted in a retaliatory U.S. missile strike. France's presidency said the country's intelligence services presented evidence showing the Syrian government "still holds chemical warfare agents, in violation of the commitments to eliminate them that it took in 2013." Russia has previously called for an international probe, and Peskov expressed regret that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, has turned down the Syrian government's offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate. The French minister's comments came as the OPCW, which is investigating the April 4 attack, held a ceremony in The Hague marking the 20th anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Trump administration ordered the cruise missile attack on the air base and issued sanctions on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons.

The Latest: Explosion, fire reported near Damascus airport

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:07:31 UT

Hundreds of mourners in Syria's capital have taken part in the funeral procession for more than 50 people killed in a car bomb attack that targeted government supporters being evacuated from a besieged area. Wednesday's procession took place in Sayida Zeinab, a Damascus suburb that is home to a major Shiite shrine and is a stronghold for Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group fighting alongside the Syrian government. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed claims that international experts cannot visit the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria because of security precautions. U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces say they want the international coalition to provide air cover over northern Syria, to protect them from Turkish and Syrian government air raids. Turkish air strikes killed 20 Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with SDF in airstrikes that Ankara conducted early on Tuesday morning on Kurdish rebel positions in Syria and Iraq. France's foreign minister said on Wednesday that chemical analysis of samples taken from the attack shows that the nerve agent used "bears the signature" of President Bashar Assad's government. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia's position on the attack is "unchanged" and that "that the only way to establish the truth about what happened near Idlib is an impartial international investigation." Russia has previously urged for an international probe, and Peskov expressed regret that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has turned down the Syrian government's offers to visit the site of the attack and investigate. While the Nobel Peace Prize-winning global chemical weapons watchdog is widely seen as a disarmament success story, Wednesday's ceremony at the historic Knights Hall in The Hague comes against a backdrop of repeated uses in recent years of chemicals in Syria's grinding civil war. The

UAE sentences Iranian to 10 years for aiding nuclear program

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 02:34:33 UT

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A court in the United Arab Emirates has sentenced an Iranian businessman to 10 years in prison after being convicted of trying to bring an electric motor and other devices there to further Iran's nuclear program. Western fears over it prompted sanctions later lifted by the nuclear accord with Iran, which capped its enrichment of uranium.

Morocco's parliament approves new government after crisis

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:42:50 UT

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Morocco's parliament has approved a new coalition government created to end months of political and economic deadlock. Before the debate, El Othmani outlined the proposed government's priorities of reforming the bureaucracy, rebuilding the education system and reducing economic disparity.

Hard-line Iranian candidate says US should fear Iran

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:50:00 UT

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A hard-line candidate in Iran's upcoming presidential election says the United States should be made to fear Iran so that it will back off on sanctions and threats. Raisi is challenging the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has tried to improve relations with the West and whose government reached a landmark nuclear agreement with world powers.

US Navy fires warning flare at Iran vessel in Persian Gulf

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:11:59 UT

The "Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship's whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel's intentions," McConnaughey said in a statement to The Associated Press. Iran views the American presence as a provocation and its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard shadows U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf, occasionally firing missiles or rockets nearby. Since the nuclear deal with world powers, the hard-line Revolutionary Guard has stepped up its encounters with the Americans.

Tensions rise after Turkish attack on Syrian Kurds

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:42:53 UT

BEIRUT (AP) — Russia on Wednesday criticized Turkey's airstrikes against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, saying they hindered efforts to combat the Islamic State group, as Turkish troops and Syrian Kurdish fighters traded fire across the increasingly tense frontier. The YPG meanwhile asked the U.S.-led coalition battling IS to provide air cover over northern Syria, to protect them from Turkish and Syrian government air raids. Syrian Kurdish officials escorted an American officer to some of the sites targeted in Tuesday's attack, as large crowds from the area followed them around, according to photos and video from the scene.