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Lebanese Political Parties Agree on New Vote Law

Published in Lebonan
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 08:51

ShiiteNews: A final agreement was reached Tuesday afternoon on the 15-district electoral law and the ministerial committee will convene later in the day to approve the final draft ahead of Wednesday’s Cabinet session, media reports said.

“An agreement has been reached on the electoral law and all obstacles have been resolved,” LBCI television reported.

According to MTV, the draft law splits Beirut into two districts and moves the minorities seat to the first district. The first district contains Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Saifi and Medawwar while the second contains Bashoura, Marfa, Zokak al-Blat, Mazraa, Ras Beirut, Ain el-Mreisseh, Minet el-Hosn and Mousaitbeh.

The parties also agreed that any electoral list has to reach a certain threshold to become eligible to win seats. The threshold is determined by the so-called electoral quotient: the total number of voters in a certain district divided by the number of seats.

The so-called preferred vote will meanwhile be counted in the administrative district and not in the electoral district, a demand that the Free Patriotic Movement had long called for.

An agreement was also reached on other technical details while no agreement was reached on the issues of “allowing the armed forces to vote, lowering the voting age and introducing a women’s quota.”

The parties also agreed that expat voting will be introduced in the next elections and that the diaspora will be granted six seats.

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri are meanwhile supposed to agree on the elections date, as per the agreement.

The draft law is supposed to be approved by the government on Wednesday before the parliament passes the law on Friday.

Source: Al-Manar Website and Naharnet

ShiiteNews: After recent remarks by the Saudi foreign minister calling on Qatar to end its support for Hamas, social media users in Palestine and other Arab countries have launched recently the hashtag translating as "Hamas is resistance, not terrorism.”

The hashtag has become one of the most active topics tweeted by social media users in the Arab world, especially in Palestine, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait.

Thousands of social media users stressed that the Palestinian people have the right to resist the Israeli occupation in order to liberate their land. They also said that speaking about Hamas as a "terror group" is doing a service to Israel and echoes the statements of Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu against the Movement.

Their tweets confirmed that Hamas's stature as a legitimate resistance movement is not a matter of dispute in the Arab world.

Iraqi Army liberates six villages in ISIS pocket of Tal Afar

Published in Iraq
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 08:29

ShiiteNews: After last week, the Iraqi Army’s 15th Division – backed by the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and Kataib Hezbollah – overran six more villages in Nineveh province on Monday.

Targeting the eastern flank of the Tal Afar enclave, the Iraqi Armed Forces managed to impose full control over the villages of Shuhada, Azizyia, Shiekh Sufli, Tisha, Muwali and Atshana.

Effectively, the 15th Division have liberated a dozen villages in barely 72 hours, thereby capturing nearly half of the Tal Afar pocket with relative ease.

However, the main obstacle and military prize remains to be Tal Afar city itself, home to some 200,000 civilians of Sunni Arab and Turkmen descent.

Another picture of the 9th Division’s advance into the Tal Afar region:

ShiiteNews: The Saudi regime, as part of its clampdown on Shiite Muslims, continued raids on residents of al-Awamiyah in the kingdom’s Eastern Province, mounting a rocket attack against the defenseless people. 

The Saudi military targeted the houses of Shiite residents in al-Deira neighborhood of Awamiyah with mortar rockets, the Arabic-language al-Ahed news website reported on Saturday. 

There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attacks. 

The kingdom’s forces began to carry out attacks on the residents of Awamiyah last month. 

Media reports say the regime’s security forces have killed at least four citizens and injured many others in the city so far. 

Al-Awamiyah, a town of 30,000 in the Shiite-majority Qatif district, was the home of Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric put to death in January 2016 over trumped-up charges. 

The Shiite-populated Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region. 

The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime.

 

Around 10,000 Yemeni patients died due to Saudi siege

Published in Yemen
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:50

ShiieteNews:Yemen’s Health Ministry says Saudi Arabia’s 2015-present aerial embargo against the impoverished country has led to the deaths of around 10,000 patients, who were prevented from travelling abroad for treatment. 

Yemeni media quoted the ministry’s spokesman Abdul-Hakim al-Kuhlani as saying on Tuesday that the deaths were the result of the Saudi regime’s “continued aggression, siege and continued hostile restrictions on Sana’a International Airport.” 

He said some 75,000 patients are estimated to be in need of seeking treatment abroad each year, slamming Riyadh and its allies for targeting Yemeni civilians and, at the same time, preventing those injured from leaving the country to receive treatment. 

The Saudi-led coalition also blocks the entry of medicine into the country, now hit by a cholera spread, which has killed hundreds of people, said the official. 

Kuhlani said the sanctions have prevented the specialist cardiac operation center at the Revolution Hospital, Sana’a’s biggest health facility, from accessing direly-needed and basic medicine and equipment. 

Abu-Zaid al-Kindi, the director of the hospital’s cardiac operation center, meanwhile, said “the children with congenital malformations are dying because of the blockade on Yemen and their incapability to travel abroad.” 

The capital’s International Airport also announced that the Saudi embargo has left 100,000 Yemenis stranded abroad, while blocking the exit of 300,000 others, including patients. 

Saudi Arabia and its allies placed the embargo in March 2015, the same Riyadh and a number of its allies launched a bloody military campaign against Yemen in support of its former government. 

The Saudi attacks have so far left over 12,000 civilians dead, according to the latest tallies by a Yemeni monitoring group. 

General Soleimani near Syrian-Iraqi Border

Published in Middle East
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:46

ShiiteNews:The Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani has been sighted with advancing Syria and allied forces near the Iraqi border.

Major General Soleimani, who is on an advisory mission in Syria, was with the Fatemiyoun’s forces assisting Syrian forces in the war on terror across the country. 

The Fatemiyoun Brigade, an all-Afghan unit defending the Holy Shrine of Sayyada Zeynab (SA) against Takfiri terrorists in Syria, has made major advances in the war-torn country. 

In collaboration with Syrian government forces, the brigade has reached the common borders with Iraq routing Takfiri terrorists on the war. 

The Syrian army and allies had reached the border with Iraq in northeastern Tanaf and on the other hand, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) have also dealt heavy blows to ISIS terrorists and liberated al-Baaj town near Syria border. While the Iraqi armed forces have launched large-scale operation to liberate last three remaining districts of western Mosul from ISIS, The PMF have been charged with expelling ISIS from areas west of Mosul, all the way to the Syrian border.

In a statement on Sunday, Syrian army announced the arrival of the country’s army and its allies at the Iraqi border and control of vast swathes of the Syria's Badia region form a strategic turning point in the war on terror. 

Iran has sent military advisers to Syria and Iraq to contribute to the fight against terrorists wreaking havoc in these two conflict-stricken Arab countries.

Shiite, Sunni Muslims no different to ISIS terrorists

Published in Iran
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:42

ShiiteNews: An Iranian military commander says the ISIS terrorist group does not distinguish between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in its brutal crimes.

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Force Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour noted that the global arrogance targets the human and material capitals of the Islamic World. 

In an address to the Iranian Tribal Chiefs Seminar in the southeastern city of Zahedan, the commander stressed that ISIS and global arrogance aim to destroy the Muslim World’s material and human capital at the hands of the Muslims themselves. 

General Pakpour warned against the enemies’ attempts to infiltrate into the Iranian society and the government, saying, “We are internally united and the recent terrorist attacks were not religiously or ethnically motivated.” 

“In southeastern Iran, it is the people who ensure security and the enemies are seeking to target the very unity between people and officials,” he added. 

The Iranian commander went on saying that the residents of the border province of Sistan and Baluchestan establish security through their unity and social cohesion. 

“One of the key elements in achieving success to establish security in our southeastern provinces is the security measures adopted so far,” he said. 

He called on the tribal chiefs of the region to strengthen their unity and foil enemies’ attempts to divide them. 

General Pakpour concluded that the residents of Sistan and Baluchestan had good cooperation with the security forces guaranteeing the region’s security and stability.

Source:ABNA

ShiiteNews: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran has obtained intelligence showing that Saudi Arabia is “actively” propping up terrorist groups along Iranian eastern and western borders.

Speaking at the opening of the Oslo Forum in Norway, Minister Zarif referred to recent remarks by Saudi officials that foreshadowed the recent terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital, Tehran, and called those remarks a “direct threat and very dangerous provocation” by Riyadh.

Zarif said Iran is “alert,” adding, “We have intelligence that Saudi Arabia is actively engaged in promoting terrorist groups” operating near both the eastern and western borders of Iran.

Last month, Saudi Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said in vague remarks that Saudi Arabia would work to move “the battle” to Iran. Then, on June 6, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iran had to be “punished” for what he called “its interference in the region.”

Just hours later, early in the morning of June 7, twin terrorist attacks struck the Iranian capital. A total of 17 people were killed and nearly 50 others were wounded in the terrorist attacks. The terrorist group of Daesh, which is closely associated with the extremist Wahhabi ideology preached by Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for both attacks.

‘US ignoring Saudi role in terror’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zarif said the United States under President Donald Trump was turning a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, which killed some 3,000 people, and other attacks elsewhere in the West.

On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists — 15 of them Saudi nationals — engaged in a multi-pronged attack on US soil, including hijacking passenger planes and crashing them into what were then the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

In Oslo, Zarif said in figurative remarks that Trump was seeking to change the nationality of the 15 Saudi assailants or every other bomber who has attacked the US or Western countries over the past 20 years postmortem.

The US is “trying to change... history,” he said.

Meeting with Mogherini

Earlier on Monday, Zarif met and held talks with the European Union (EU)’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, on a range of issues, including the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal with Iran.

Minister Zarif and High Representative Mogherini exchanged views on international and regional issues as well as the nuclear accord, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on Monday.

On his arrival at the Oslo Airport, Zarif told reporters that he had sent two messages to Mogherini in the past few weeks about the US’s failure to live up to its commitments under the JCPOA and the consequences of Washington’s “destructive policies” in that regard.

The issue had been discussed in the latest session of a joint commission that monitors the implementation of the JCPOA and would be on the agenda of the commission’s future meeting, he said.

The top Iranian diplomat also stressed that the JCPOA was currently being implemented in its natural manner as the Islamic Republic and the EU member states were committed to the deal.

Zarif said the US’s failure to honor its obligations was not a new issue and that Iran had little economic interaction with the US beyond the purchases of aircraft, which he said proceeded well despite the US’s failure to perform in other areas.

Iranian airlines have placed orders for American-made Boeing aircraft worth a total of around 19.6 billion dollars, purchases made possible under the terms of the JCPOA. While attempts have been made at the US Congress recently to block the sale of those aircraft to Iran, the implementation of between the Iranian airlines and Boeing seems to face no hindrance as the JCPOA is clear in that area.

Zarif also stressed that the US could not affect Iran’s relations with other countries.

The JCPOA was inked between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, namely Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany, in July 2015. Barring the new US administration, the governments in all of those countries have stressed the sustenance of the JCPOA.

The agreement took effect in January 2016. Under the deal, limits were put on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for, among other things, the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The administration of US President Donald Trump, which took over in January this year, has been apparently opposed to the nuclear accord, which was negotiated under the former US administration.

The US Congress has been a stronger opponent of the deal, however. Last week, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran over its missile program, which Tehran has repeatedly said is defensive, and analysts have expressed concern that the new US measure can undermine the JCPOA.

Zarif said the Senate’s move showed “the US’s short-sightedness” and was a sign of the “wrong policy” adopted by the US government. He said Iran would “definitely” react if a reaction was found warranted “based on the joint commission’s discretion.”

‘EU to continue to engage with Iran’

Later, speaking at a news conference, Mogherini said she was confident that the US would stick to the nuclear deal, despite its declarations to the contrary.

“I am confident that the review in the United States will bring [American statesmen] to wise decisions, which means keeping something that is working,” she said, referring to the Trump administration’s engagement in a review of whether to stick to the JCPOA or not.

“In any case,” Mogherini said, “the European Union will guarantee that the deal keeps, that we stick to that... and that our policy of engagement with Iran continues.”

The Iranian foreign minister has traveled to Norway to participate in the Oslo Forum, which gathers leading armed conflict mediation practitioners. On the sidelines, he is expected to hold more one-on-one meetings with participating dignitaries.

Yemeni retaliatory attack leaves four Saudi soldiers dead

Published in Yemen
Wednesday, 14 June 2017 07:37

ShiiteNews: At least four Saudi soldiers have been killed when Yemeni army soldiers and fighters from allied Popular Committees launched an attack against a border crossing in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border region of Asir as they continue their retaliatory raids against Riyadh regime’s aerial bombardment campaign.

An unnamed military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that Yemeni forces and their allies fatally shot the troopers in the al-Alab border crossing on Tuesday afternoon.

Yemeni soldiers and Popular Committees fighters also lobbed several artillery rounds at al-Makhrouq military bases in Najran region, located 844 kilometers south of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, though no reports of casualties were immediately available.

Earlier in the day, Yemeni forces had targeted Saudi army compounds north of al-Shabaka military base in the al-Sharafa region of Najran, causing casualties.

A report by Reuters published in April last year said that at least 400 Saudi soldiers had been killed in the cross-border fire since the start of the Saudi aggression against Yemen more than two years ago.

In early April, Arabic-language Yemen Watch news agency reported that nearly 120 Saudi troopers had been killed in dozens of sniper operations carried out by Yemeni army soldiers, backed by fighters from allied Popular Committees.

It added that most of the operations had been conducted in Jizan, where a total of 74 Saudi soldiers lost their lives in 22 encounters.

In early May, al-Masirah reported that Yemeni sharpshooters had managed to kill as many as 64 Saudi troops in April alone.

The Riyadh regime has maintained a policy of ambiguity regarding its casualties in the war on Yemen. Senior military officials have said that they would not release such information until after the war.

Also on Tuesday, a woman sustained injuries after Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to resigned president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi fired a number of missiles into al-Hajlan area in Sirwah district of Yemen’s central province of Ma'rib.

Saudi Arabia has been incessantly pounding Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to bring back Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, to power and to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement. The Riyadh regime has, however, failed to reach its goals despite suffering great expense.

The military aggression has claimed the lives of more than 12,000 people, most of them civilians.

ShiiteNews: US Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith says she is stepping down amid a deepening rift among Washington’s Persian Gulf Arab allies.

“This month, I end my 3 years as US Ambassador to #Qatar. It has been the greatest honor of my life and I’ll miss this great country,” Smith tweeted on Tuesday.

The US ambassador did not explain why she was resigning, who would replace her and if she was staying within the diplomatic service. US ambassadorships typically last three years.

A source close to Smith told CNN that she will also conclude her 25-year career in the foreign service once her post in Doha ends.

Smith was appointed as the US envoy to Qatar in 2014 by then president, Barack Obama.

She made headlines in May by expressing her dissatisfaction with political events back home under the administration of President Donald Trump.

The ambassador’s departure comes days after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar, accusing Doha of destabilizing the region with its support for terrorism, an allegation rejected by the Qatari government.

Doha believes it is targeted by an orchestrated smear campaign over its independent foreign policy.

Trump recently sided with the Saudi-led bloc and accused Qatar of funding terrorism at a “very high level,” noting that “the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding, they have to end that funding and its extremist ideology.”

Riyadh rejects Qatar ‘blockade’

As concerns grow about a humanitarian crisis in Qatar due to its Riyadh-led isolation, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who is on a visit to Washington, claimed that the measures against the monarchy were reasonable.

“There is no blockade of Qatar. Qatar is free to go,” Jubeir said alongside US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday.

“The ports …, airports … [and] seaports of Qatar are open. There is no blockade on them. Qatar can move goods in and out whenever they want. They just cannot use our territorial waters,” he said. “The limitation on the use of Saudi airspace is only limited to Qatari airways or Qatari-owned aircraft, not anybody else.”

On Tuesday, Amnesty International criticized the punitive measures taken by Saudi Arabia and its allies against Qatar, saying the restrictions violate the human rights of the Qatari people.

Bahrain targets pro-Qatar lawyer

Separately on Tuesday, a prominent Bahraini human rights lawyer was taken into custody after launching a lawsuit against the government for taking “arbitrary” measures against Qatar.

Issa Faraj Arhama al-Burshaid had filed a case with the Supreme Administrative Court in Manama against the Bahraini cabinet, Interior and Foreign Ministries concerning the Qatar dispute.

“This siege has broken up family ties and hurt all Bahraini families. The decision to cut diplomatic relations violates Bahrain's constitution and laws,” he said.

Last week, Bahrain declared it a crime - punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine - to show “sympathy or favoritism” to Qatar or to oppose the decision to break off relations with it.

Diplomatic efforts

This is while efforts are underway on the diplomatic stage to settle the worst crisis to hit the Persian Gulf region in years.

Doha has welcomed mediation, but insists no one can dictate its foreign policy.

On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is set to meet his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha.

If possible, the top Turkish diplomat will travel to Saudi Arabia in a diplomatic push to help end the regional dispute, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Turkey, which has sided with Qatar in the diplomatic spat, has slammed the pressure by the Saudi-led bloc of countries against Doha, saying isolating a nation in all areas is inhumane and against Islamic values.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to take a leading role in resolving the diplomatic rift in the region.

“Qatar along with Turkey is a country that took the most determined stand against the terrorist organization, Daesh,” he said.

Putin makes phone calls over Qatar row

In another development on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked with the Saudi king over the phone about the Qatar crisis.

The two officials “touched on the aggravated situation around Qatar, which unfortunately does not help consolidate joint efforts in resolving the conflict in Syria and fighting the terrorist threat,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency reported that Putin and King Salman had discussed bilateral relations and counterterrorism efforts.

The Russian leader further held another phone conversation with the Abdu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

They discussed the Qatar issue and “expressed a mutual interest in searching for ways to settle the crisis,” the Kremlin said, warning that the current tensions around Qatar “exacerbate the difficult situation in the entire Middle East region.”

Egypt eases flight restrictions

On Tuesday, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry said the country had eased flight restrictions and allowed airlines and aircraft, which are not registered in Egypt or Qatar, to use its airspace to fly to and from Qatar.

However, a ban on flights to and from Egypt by Qatari planes remains in force.

The crisis broke out last month after Qatar’s state news agency QNA released comments attributed to the emir describing Iran as an “Islamic power,” criticizing US President Donald Trump and praising the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

Qatar later said hackers had broken into the QNA website and published the fake news, but the denial apparently failed to convince the Riyadh regime and Persian Gulf Arab allies.

 

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