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Middle East

Muslims enter Jerusalem holy site Al-Aqsa mosque, for first time in two weeks

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Jerusalem : Jerusalem’s Muslim community has been told it can return to praying inside the Al-Aqsa compound after Israel removed the latest security measures from the entrance to the holy site.

Speaking Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed that prayers would take place at noon, leading to the conclusion of a boycott of the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
He added that a meeting of the Palestinian leadership would be held afterward “to discuss other decisions taken in response” to the removal of the security measures.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Imam of Al-Aqsa Mosque say they are satisfied with Israel’s removal of security measures.


Muslim religious leaders have called upon worshippers to enter through all gates collectively for afternoon prayers on Thursday.
They also called for all mosques in the area to shut down on Friday and direct worshippers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque instead.
The announcement came after Israeli police said cameras that were installed at the site have been taken down, two days after metal detectors were also dismantled.

Sheikh Omar Kiswani (2-L), Al-Aqsa director, and other clergymen join as Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray outside Jerusalem's Old City.

Sheikh Omar Kiswani (2-L), Al-Aqsa director, and other clergymen join as Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray outside Jerusalem’s Old City.

Israel installed metal detectors and security cameras close to the entrance to the sacred site following an attack in which two Israeli police officers were killed.

The Jordanian Authority in charge of the site, the Islamic Waqf, encouraged worshippers to return to prayers Thursday morning inside the compound.

Waqf leaders had not entered al-Aqsa to pray after Israel’s decision to install new security measures, and many Muslims follow the lead of the Waqf.

Previous declarations from political and religious leaders had increased the likelihood of widespread demonstrations in and around Jerusalem following Friday’s midday Muslim prayers. The demonstrations often turned into clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers, fueling a wave of unrest instead of defusing the situation.

According to police, three of the nine gates leading up to the site are open, with the remaining entrances set to be opened gradually.

The security measures are now the same as they were before the July 14 attack at the site.

“Overnight, throughout the evening, yesterday all the remaining structures and cameras were removed from the area, which were set up after the terrorist attack,” Israeli police told CNN.

“At the moment that’s the situation on the ground. Police are in and around different areas in the Old City. We are making security assessments leading up to Friday prayers.”

Middle East

Khashoggi’s private WhatsApp messages may offer new clues

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Dec 3 : Slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in over 400 WhatsApp messages that he sent to a fellow Saudi exile before he was murdered in October, described Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as a “beast” and a “pac-man” who would devour all in his path, even his supporters, a media report said.

Khashoggi had sent the texts to Montreal-based activist Omar Abdulaziz, the CNN report said on Monday.

The messages shared by Abdulaziz, which include voice recordings, photos and videos, paint a picture of a man deeply troubled by what he regarded as the petulance of the Crown Prince.

“The more victims he eats, the more he wants,” says Khashoggi in one message sent in May, just after a group of Saudi activists had been rounded up.

“I will not be surprised if the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him on.”

In almost daily exchanges between October 2017 and August 2018, Khashoggi and Abdulaziz conceived plans to form an electronic army to engage young Saudis back home and debunk state propaganda on social media, leveraging Khashoggi’s establishment profile and the 27-year-old Abdulaziz’s 340,000-strong Twitter following.

“(Jamal]) believed that MBS (the Crown Prince) is the issue, is the problem and he said this kid should be stopped,” Abdulaziz said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

But in August, when he believed their conversations may have been intercepted by Saudi authorities, a sense of foreboding descends over Khashoggi.

“God help us,” he wrote.

Two months later, he was dead.

Abdulaziz on Sunday launched a lawsuit against an Israeli company that invented the software he believes was used to hack his phone.

“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdelaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.”

Abdulaziz began speaking out against the Saudi regime as a college student in Canada. His pointed criticisms of government policies drew the attention of the Saudi state, which cancelled his university scholarship.

Canada granted him asylum in 2014 and made him a permanent resident three years later.

Abdulaziz first spoke publicly about his contact with Khashoggi last month after researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab reported his phone had been hacked by military-grade spyware.

IANS

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Middle East

U.S.-led coalition fires missiles at Syria’s military positions in eastern country

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria

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Damascus, Dec 3 : The US-led coalition fires several missiles on military sites in central Syria on Sunday evening, causing damages only, state-run SANA news agency reported.

According to the report, the missiles targeted some military positions south of the town of Sukhneh in central Syria, Xinhua news agency reported.

It said the attack left material losses only.

 

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Middle East

US sanctions 17 Saudi officials over killing of Khashoggi

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

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journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) The United States’ government on Thursday sanctioned 17 Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged role in the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul early last month.

Among those sanctioned by the US Treasury Department is Saud al-Qahtani, one of the chief advisers to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Efe reported.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi (on October 2). These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying in a press release.

“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” he added.

The US Treasury Department accused al-Qahtani of helping to plan and execute the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi.

The other people hit with sanctions are Saudi Arabia’s consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi; al-Qahtani’s subordinate, Maher Mutreb, who allegedly coordinated and executed the operation; and 14 others who purportedly participated in the crime.

“As a result of these designations, any property or interests in property of the individuals designated today within or transiting US jurisdiction is blocked,” Thursday’s press release said.

“Additionally, US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with blocked persons, including entities 50 percent or more owned by designated persons.”

The sanctions were handed down after Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Saud al-Mojeb, said Thursday that he would seek the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection with the journalist’s death.

In a press conference in Riyadh, the top prosecutor said the crown prince had not had any prior knowledge of the operation.

Al-Mojeb said the investigation had shown that Khashoggi, a government critic and Washington Post columnist, died after being restrained and injected with a tranquilizer following a fight inside the consulate.

His body was then dismembered and handed over to a Turkish collaborator, the attorney general said.

Al-Mojeb said the then-deputy head of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, had masterminded the operation that was intended to get Khashoggi back to the kingdom.

He added that the order for the killing was given by the head of the delegation of agents that had traveled to Turkey, although he did not name that individual.

Khashoggi, long a part of the Saudi establishment, became estranged from Riyadh as a result of his criticism of the crown prince and had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017.

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