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Iraqi Shia leader calls for scheduled pullout of US troops

“We will try to do our utmost not to throw Iraq into another war with the unjust occupier who perched on the chest of Iraq,” al-Sadr said.

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Iraq Protest
Supporters of Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protest against U.S. presence and violations in Iraq. PIC Credit : @Cropperboyce

Baghdad, Jan 24 : Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday called for a scheduled withdrawal of US troops from the country through peaceful means.

Al-Sadr made the call in a letter sent to a massive rally of Iraqis in al-Jaderiyah district, central Baghdad, reports Xinhua news agency.

“We will try to pursue all peaceful political, economic, social, cultural and popular means,” the leader said.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis, mainly al-Sadr’s followers, gathered to reject the presence of US troops in Iraq, in response to an earlier call by al-Sadr.

If the primary goal, which is to schedule the withdrawal of the US forces, is fulfilled, the peaceful means will continue until full withdrawal is realized, al-Sadr said in the letter.

He said full withdrawal can only be achieved by closing all American military bases on Iraqi soil, closing the headquarters of American security companies and ending their work in Iraq, and closing the Iraqi airspace to the military and intelligence flights of the US forces.

He also called on cancelling all security agreements with the US due to the absence of an international balance in them since concluded, and they were approved during the years of the American occupation of Iraq after 2003.

Referring to the sporadic attacks on facilities and military bases housing US troops, al-Sadr pledged a “pause of all resistance” until the withdrawal of the last American soldier from Iraq.

“We will try to do our utmost not to throw Iraq into another war with the unjust occupier who perched on the chest of Iraq,” al-Sadr said.

On January 5, the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces, two days after an American drone attack on a convoy near the Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against Islamic State militants, mainly providing training and advising.

Disaster

Iran extends furloughs for prisoners amid coronavirus fight

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Tehran, March 30 : Iran’s Judiciary on Sunday announced the extension of furloughs for 100,000 inmates amid the nationwide fight against COVID-19, state TV reported.

Furloughs were extended until April 19 for the prisoners who had already been granted a leave until April 3, Iran’s Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said, reported Xinhua news agency.

Such extension does not include the released prisoners who carried out an illegal or criminal act during their furloughs, he added.

Iran’s Judiciary has temporarily released around 100,000 prisoners in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prisons.

Iran is the worst-hit country by the virus in the Middle East.

Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education on Sunday reported the total number of 38,309 cases of the novel coronavirus in the country, of whom 2,640 have died.

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Disaster

UN Relief and Works Agency warns of COVID-19 spread in Gaza Strip

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Gaza Border

Gaza, March 30 : A senior official of UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on Sunday warned of the consequences of the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.

Director of the UNRWA in Gaza Matthias Schmale told reporters that the organization is gravely concerned about the spread of the virus in light of Gaza’s vulnerable situation, stressing that managing such a crisis would be “extremely difficult”, Xinhua news agency reported.

He said Gaza Strip is suffering from a severe lack of resources in light of 13-year-old Israeli blockade on the coastal enclave.

“It is unreasonable to think that a place like Gaza can be isolated from the world, which puts everyone, including the people, under the responsibility of stopping the spread of the virus,” he said, adding that “the worst scenario is the spread of the virus under a total closure.”

Schmale called for lifting the blockade that has been imposed on Gaza since 2007 and stressed the importance of providing respiratory equipment and preventative medical equipment to Gaza.

The total number of Palestinians infected with the coronavirus has reached 108, including nine in the Gaza Strip.

UNRWA provides basic services, including health, education, sanitation and food supplies to more than one million Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip, a home for two million Palestinians.

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Middle East

Saudi Arabia intercepts missiles above capital

On Friday, the Saudi-led coalition announced the interception of drones towards border cities Abha and Khamis Mushait.

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Riyadh, March 29 : Saudi Arabia has intercepted missiles above the capital of Riyadh, Al Arabia TV reported on Saturday.

The report said at least two missiles have been intercepted above the city while another one was destroyed over the southern border city of Jazan, reported Xinhua news agency.

On Friday, the Saudi-led coalition announced the interception of drones towards border cities Abha and Khamis Mushait.

Various areas in the kingdom, mainly in the southern border with Yemen, have been the targets of missiles and drones of Houthi militias. Most of them were destroyed before reaching their goals.

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