Gaza City, Sept 29 (AP/UNB) — Israeli troops killed seven Palestinians, two of them children, and wounded dozens more, Palestinian health officials said, in the deadliest day in recent weeks as Gaza's Hamas rulers stepped up protests along the border fence.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered Friday at five locations along Gaza Strip's frontier with Israel in response to calls by Hamas, the militant group that has controlled Gaza since seizing it from the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Two of the dead were children, aged 12 and 14, the Gaza Health Ministry said, adding that all the dead had gunshot wounds. At least 90 other protesters were wounded by live fire, officials said.
Hamas has led weekly protests since March, but accelerated them in recent weeks to near daily events, pressing in large part for an end to a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza in 2007. Hamas ousted forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an armed coup.
At the fence, protesters burned dozens of tires, using the thick black smoke as a screen to throw rocks and explosives toward Israeli troops stationed on the opposite side of the fence. The soldiers responded with tear gas and gunfire.
The Israeli military said in a statement that in response to "grenades and explosive devices" hurled at troops during the protests, Israeli aircraft carried out two airstrikes on Hamas militant positions in the Gaza Strip. There were no Israeli casualties reported in Friday's clashes.
Hamas has led and organized the protests, but turnout has also been driven by growing despair over blockade-linked hardship, including lengthy power cuts and soaring unemployment.
Israeli troops have killed at least 143 Palestinians since protests began in late March, and a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier in August.
Israel argues it's defending its border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as a screen for attempts to breach the border fence to attack civilians and soldiers. Human rights groups have accused Israeli troops of excessive and unlawful use of force against unarmed protesters.
Hamas and Israel came to the brink of serious conflict this summer as violence escalated along the border. The two sides attempted to reach an agreement through indirect talks mediated by the United Nations and Egypt to ease tensions in exchange for lifting some restrictions on the economically crippled enclave. But those negotiations have stalled in recent weeks.
Earlier this week, a Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the movement would escalate its border protests after the talks failed. He accused Abbas, who governs parts of the West Bank, of disrupting the negotiations.
Hamas vowed to continue the marches until the blockade is lifted. It also promised to accelerate protests after Abbas, speaking at the U.N. on Thursday, threatened more measures to force Hamas into surrendering power.
Abbas slashed funding to Gaza and cut salaries of Palestinian Authority employees there to pressure Hamas, making it increasingly difficult for it to govern. Hamas fears Abbas may further reduce funding to health care and other services for Gazans provided by the Palestinian Authority.
Kabul, Sept 29 (AP/UNB) — An Afghan official says at least two police officers were gunned down by a fellow officer in the country's latest "insider" attack in southern Kandahar province.
Aziz Ahmad Azizi, provincial governor's spokesman, says three other police were wounded in the attack late Friday night.
The incident took place at a remote police outpost in Raghistan district. Azizi says the attacker, who had joined police around a year ago, was able to flee the area.
A police investigation was begun to find out the motive behind this attack.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
United Nations, Sep 27 (AP/UNB) — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country doesn't want a war with the United States and believes America will "sooner or later" support the Iran nuclear agreement again following the Trump administration's withdrawal.
Rouhani told a wide-ranging news conference that the U.S. decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May was "a mistake" because there are no benefits for the people of the United States, Iran, Europe or any other country.
"The United States of America one day will come back, sooner or later," he said.
He said the Trump administration made a "second mistake" in holding a meeting of the U.N. Security Council earlier Wednesday during which 14 countries either directly or indirectly backed the nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other major powers.
Only U.S. President Donald Trump, who chaired the session, spoke against the deal known as the JCPOA and appeared isolated as a result, Rouhani said.
Addressing the council, Trump called the JCPOA a "horrible one-sided deal," declaring that Iran "must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon" and accusing its government of exporting "violence, terror and turmoil."
Rouhani said it was "quite strange, unprecedented and amazing" that while presiding over the Security Council as its president Trump also called on the 14 other council members to violate the legally binding resolution endorsing the JCPOA that the council adopted unanimously in 2015 — including a "yes" vote from the United States.
He added that Trump not only disagreed with that resolution but said whoever implements it "will be punished."
Responding to a question about whether the harsh language that Trump and his top official have used about Iran might lead to war, Rouhani said Iran since the 1979 revolution "has been subjected to that type of language many times." But he said Trump administration officials "speak with a different style, presumably because they're new to politics."
As for war, Rouhani said, "We do not wish to go to war with American forces anywhere in the region. We do not wish to attack them. We do not wish to increase tensions — none of the above."
"But we ask the United States of America to adhere to laws and respect national sovereignty of nations," he said.
Rouhani also said "America must think again about her presence in the region, in the Persian Gulf, in the Sea of Oman, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and other places."
Trump has vowed to continue to isolate Iran through U.S. sanctions that are being re-instated following the U.S. pullout from the nuclear agreement in May. The next round of sanctions will take effect in early November.
But Rouhani told reporters that sanctions which "were supposed to be proactive in November became proactive in September, so there are no other sanctions that will start in November."
He complained that the United States "has spared no effort" to exert pressure on Iran's oil sales and banking relationships, and there is not much left for the Trump administration to do.
Rouhani said Iran will continue working with countries that support the nuclear deal.
He called Monday's decision by the five other signatories to the agreement who still support it — Russia, China, Britain France and Germany — to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports "a very good step forward."
"We have lived up to the JCPOA," Rouhani said. "Up until such time when we keep reaping the benefits promised within that agreement for our nation and our people, we will remain in the agreement."
But he said without elaborating: "Should this situation change, we have other paths and other solutions which we will embark upon."
United Nations, Sep 25 (AP/UNB) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States on Tuesday of trying to overthrow his government, rejecting bilateral talks after President Donald Trump denounced Iran's leaders and predicted stepped-up U.S. sanctions would get Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear program.
Addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani accused the Trump administration of violating the rules of international law and "state obligations" from the Obama administration by withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran signed with the U.S. and five other major powers.
"On what basis and criteria can we enter into an agreement with an administration misbehaving such as this?" Rouhani asked. "It is ironic that the U.S. government does not even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government it invites to talks."
Rouhani invited the U.S. to come back to negotiations within the U.N. Security Council, which endorsed the nuclear deal. There, he said, both sides can listen to each other.
"Beginning the dialogue starts with ending threats and unjust sanctions that negate the principles of ethics and international law," he said. "What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying. Just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations."
In remarks released while Rouhani was still talking, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton doubled down on the decision to withdraw from the deal, calling it "the worst diplomatic debacle in American history." He echoed Trump's strong language and used blunt words to dismiss any entreaties from Tehran.
"According to the mullahs in Tehran, we are 'the Great Satan,' lord of the underworld, master of the raging inferno," Bolton said in remarks prepared for delivery at a New York meeting convened to oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"So, I might imagine they would take me seriously when I assure them today: If you cross us, our allies, or our partners; if you harm our citizens; if you continue to lie, cheat, and deceive, yes, there will indeed be HELL to PAY," Bolton said.
The capitalizations were included in the text of the quotes released to journalists.
In his General Assembly speech, Rouhani targeted Trump in language if not directly in name.
"The United States' understanding of international relations is authoritarian," he said. "In its estimation, might makes right."
Rouhani condemned "recklessness and disregard of some states for international values and institutions." He laid into leaders who believe they can "ride public sentiments and gain popular support through the fomenting of extremist nationalism and racism" and through what he called "xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition."
Trump, in his own speech, said Americans "reject the ideology of globalism" in favor of what he called "the doctrine of patriotism." He also blasted what he called Iran's "corrupt dictatorship" and said its leaders "sow chaos, death and destruction" and "spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond."
The Iranian president took a dig at Trump's opposition to nations working together, adding a personal twist.
"Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength. Rather, it is a symptom of the weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world." Rouhani said.
Rouhani accused the U.S. of pressuring other countries to violate the nuclear agreement and threatening to punish those who comply with the Security Council resolution endorsing it. He said Iran appreciates the European Union, Russia and China for supporting its implementation.
Foreign ministers from the five remaining signatories to the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — agreed at a meeting with Iran's foreign minister Monday to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports including oil. That was sought by Tehran to counter U.S. sanctions.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo harshly criticized those countries for attempting to subvert U.S. sanctions, telling an anti-Iran meeting: "This is one of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security."
Trump's administration reinstated sanctions on Iran after pulling Washington out of the 2015 nuclear deal. The administration has accused Iran of promoting international terrorism.
In remarks earlier Tuesday, Trump predicted that the pressure from renewed sanctions would force Iran back to the table to negotiate. But Rouhani noted that Iranians have endured sanctions before and cannot be "brought to the negotiating table by force."
The Iranian president said his country will remain a link between East and West, noting that it fought Iraq's ruling party before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, battled the Taliban and al-Qaida before 9/11 and was opposing the Islamic State extremist group before its attacks in Europe.
"Appreciate these historical realities about Iran," Rouhani told leaders at the end of his speech. "Quit imposing sanctions and end extremism. The world will not have a better friend than Iran, if peace is what you seek."
Copenhagen, Sep 24 (AP/UNB) — The Right Livelihood Award — known as the "Alternative Nobel" — was awarded Monday to three jailed Saudi human rights defenders and two Latin American anti-corruption crusaders.
The prize foundation said the 1 million kronor ($113,400) cash award for 2018 was to be shared by Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair "for their visionary and courageous efforts, guided by universal human rights principles, to reform the totalitarian political system in Saudi Arabia."
The 2018 honorary award was given to Thelma Aldana of Guatemala and Colombia's Ivan Velasquez "for their innovative work in exposing abuse of power and prosecuting corruption."
Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honors efforts that the prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.
Al-Qahtani and Al-Hamid were founding activists of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, known by its Arabic acronym HASEM. In 2013, they were sentenced to 10 and 11 years respectively. Soon after, other verdicts followed against nearly a dozen members. The sentences came in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring.
Activist and lawyer Al-Khair, who defended a blogger sentenced to prison and lashings over his posts, was arrested in 2014 for signing a statement with dozens of others calling for reforms in the kingdom. He later received a 15-year sentence for "disobeying the ruler" and "harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations," likely over his work as an outspoken activist.
Saudi Arabia's government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the awards from The Associated Press.
Aldana and Velasquez are respectively the former chief prosecutor and the serving head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, known by the Spanish acronym CICIG.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has rejected a Guatemalan request to name a new head of CICIG, saying he "does not see any reason to change his current position of support for" Velasquez.
The award, to be presented Nov. 23 in Stockholm, "is a recognition of the struggle of the Guatemalan people against corruption, and that it is possible to combat these criminal activities," Aldana said in a statement released by the Stockholm-based prize foundation.
"This prize comes at a particularly dramatic moment in the fight against impunity and corruption," Velasquez added in the same statement. "It is very important because it will turn the eyes of the world to Guatemala."