Iraqi prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday dissolved his loyalist group of Blue Hats, who were tasked to protect the anti-government protests in Iraq.
Al-Sadr tweeted that he dissolved the Blue Hats and called on them to merge with the demonstrators without declaring that they are part of al-Sadr Movement.
He said that his move came because the protests return to its original peaceful course, despite that there are still some violent advocates.
Al-Sadr also called on the security forces to protect the peaceful protesters from any other party.
The Blue Hats are unarmed group loyal to al-Sadr and were tasked to protect the anti-government demonstrations in Baghdad and other central and southern Iraqi cities.
However, violent acts and clashes occurred with the demonstrators in Baghdad and other cities during the protests, which resulted in the killing and wounding of dozens of demonstrators and al-Sadr loyalists.
Mass anti-government demonstrations have been continuing in Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since October of 2019, demanding comprehensive reform, fight against corruption, better public services and more jobs.
According to Iraq's Independent High Commission for Human Rights, the nationwide anti-government protests of over four months has caused the death of 544, with 23,700 others wounded.
Ninety-four percent of Palestinians reject President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative, according to a poll released Tuesday, which also found plummeting support for a two-state solution with Israel and nearly two-thirds backing armed struggle.
The first survey of Palestinian public opinion to be released since Trump's plan was announced undercuts the administration's claims that opposition to the plan is largely confined to the Palestinian leadership and raises concerns that the implementation of the proposal, which heavily favors Israel, could ignite a new round of violence.
The poll by the well-regarded Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research was published as thousands of Palestinians rallied in the West Bank and Gaza to reject the Trump plan and express support for President Mahmoud Abbas in his efforts to gain backing at the U.N. Security Council for a resolution opposing it.
Trump's Mideast plan, announced at the White House on Jan. 28, sides with Israel on virtually all of the most contentious issues of the decades-old conflict. It would allow Israel to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, including Jewish settlements that are home to hundreds of thousands of people and are considered illegal by most of the international community.
The plan would give the Palestinians limited self-rule in several enclaves connected by roads, bridges and tunnels, but only if they meet a long list of stringent conditions.
The Palestinian leadership, which cut off ties with the U.S. after Trump recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017, have adamantly rejected the plan.
The opinion survey found that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza also oppose it.
"I don't think we've ever seen such a level of consensus among the Palestinian public," said Khalil Shikaki, the head of the polling center.
Shikaki said support for the idea of a two-state solution with Israel has dropped to the lowest level since the center began carrying out surveys nearly three decades ago, with 39% in favor and 59% opposed. Support for a one-state solution — long rejected by both Israeli and Palestinian leaders — jumped from 28% in December to 37% today.
The poll found that 64% of Palestinians favor a return to armed struggle in response to the plan. Shikaki said the last time support was this high was during the worst days of the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, that convulsed the region from 2000 to 2005.
"In all the questions in which violence is mentioned we see an increase, a significant increase," he said.
Abbas has long been opposed to violence, but has threatened to cut off security coordination with Israel in response to the Trump plan, an approach that would enjoy wide support among Palestinians but one they doubt he will follow through on.
"The public is happy with the policy but it is not happy with the actual behavior of the president," Shikaki said. "The public does not expect the president to go through and implement his own policy."
The survey had a margin of error of 3%.
Abbas' popularity has plummeted in recent years as he has failed to bring about an independent state or mend the internal rift with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized Gaza from his forces in 2007. His Palestinian Authority also faces widespread allegations of corruption.
But on Tuesday thousands of Palestinians packed into Manara Square in the West Bank city of Ramallah to vent their anger at the Trump plan and express support for Abbas. A similar rally in support of Abbas was held in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
"Trump is part of the problem not the solution," an English-language banner read. "Trump's plan = apartheid," read another.
"All Palestinian people and all the factions, national and Islamic, are standing behind President Mahmoud Abbas," Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the crowd in Ramallah. "All the streets are full," he said. "This is the Palestinian response."
As the rally dispersed, dozens of Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces near a settlement just outside Ramallah. The protesters burned tires and hurled stones at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said two people were lightly wounded by small-caliber gunfire in the clashes and several others were struck by rubber bullets.
Abbas has tried to rally international support against the Trump plan, with limited success.
The U.N. Security Council had been expected to vote on a resolution opposing the plan Tuesday, but diplomats said the vote was delayed after several members, including European countries, objected to the language of the draft. Palestinian officials denied the resolution had been pulled, saying discussions were still underway.
In an address to the Security Council, Abbas reiterated his rejection of the plan, dismissing its map of a future Palestinian state as "Swiss cheese."
The Palestinians want to establish a state in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel seized in the 1967 war.
The European Union issued a statement last week reiterating its support for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the U.S. initiative "departs from these internationally agreed parameters."
The Arab League unanimously sided with the Palestinians against the plan, but key U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia said they appreciated Trump's efforts and called for renewed negotiations.
The original draft resolution, co-sponsored by Tunisia and Indonesia and backed by the Palestinians, said the U.S. plan violates international law and Security Council demands for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines.
Any resolution is virtually guaranteed to be vetoed by the United States, but the Palestinians had hoped that a strong show of support from other members of the council would help shore up international backing for their demands.
The commander of the Aerospace Force of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said Iran has the technology to neutralize the US RQ-4 drone flying thousands of km away from its borders, Tehran Times daily reported Friday.
"We have gained access to the RQ-4 drone's secret codes ... We can make the drone inefficient from a distance of several thousands of kilometers," said Amir Ali Hajizadeh.
A day earlier, Iranian media aired two videos showing what they claimed is the wreckage of a U.S. drone downed by Iran in June last year.
On June 20, the IRGC announced that its air force shot downed "a U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone" when it entered Iran's airspace near Mobarak Mountain region in the southern coastal province of Hormozgan.
A spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence on Thursday left at least three Palestinians killed and a dozen Israeli troops wounded in a rash of attacks and clashes a week after the Trump administration released its long-anticipated Mideast plan.
The new spate of attacks places the plan — which was already considered a long-shot because it greatly favors Israel and was rejected outright by the Palestinians — on even shakier ground, and sparked fears of a return to deadly rounds of violence of the past. The plan has sparked calls by Israeli nationalists for Israel to annex parts of the West Bank — land Palestinians want for their hoped-for state — and has set off tensions in the region.
But they erupted more fiercely Thursday, in the deadliest day of violence in months.
Early in the day, a Palestinian motorist slammed his car into a group of Israeli soldiers, wounding 12 before fleeing the scene, the Israeli military said. In the West Bank, two Palestinians died after clashes broke out with Israeli troops, according to Palestinian hospital officials.
And later, Israeli police said they shot and killed a Palestinian who opened fire at forces in Jerusalem's Old City, lightly wounding an officer.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said one of the 12 injured soldiers in Jerusalem was seriously hurt, the others were lightly injured. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the incident was being treated as a "terror attack," and said Israeli forces were searching for the assailant.
Palestinian hospital officials said a 19-year-old was killed in clashes in the West Bank city of Jenin. Six others were wounded in the confrontation. In a separate incident also in Jenin, a member of the Palestinian security forces who was shot by Israeli troops later died. That violence came just hours after Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian during clashes with demonstrators elsewhere in the West Bank on Wednesday.
"Attacks from Gaza, an attack in Jerusalem, signs of a rise in hostile activity in Jenin. Yesterday friction in Hebron. We are not trying to escalate the situation while understanding the complexity and sensitivity of the situation," Conricus said, stopping short of directly linking the spate of violence to Trump's plan.
In the first Jerusalem incident, the troops were out on a late-night "educational heritage tour," walking near a popular entertainment district in Jerusalem when the motorist rammed his car into them and fled.
While it did not claim responsibility for the attack, the Islamic Jihad militant group praised the car ramming as "the beginning of a new confrontation over Trump's plan."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to have the assailant apprehended. "It's just a matter of time — and not much time," he said in a statement.
Such acts of violence were common in Jerusalem during a low-level wave of near-daily attacks over the last decade, but they tapered off and car rammings have become infrequent in recent years.
Conricus said troops were carrying out the demolition of a home in the West Bank belonging to a militant allegedly involved in a deadly attack. He said there was a "sizable riot" at the scene by Palestinians who threw Molotov cocktails at troops, who then came under sniper fire. Conricus said forces responded to the violence with their own sniper fire, saying a Palestinian shooter was killed.
Jenin governor Akram Rajoub said the 19-year-old casualty was a student at an academy that trains budding police officers, and was throwing stones at the troops.
Also Thursday, Israel struck Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip after three mortar shells were fired at Israel. There was no immediate report of injuries on either side.
Unveiled last week at the White House with much fanfare, Trump's plan envisions a disjointed Palestinian state that turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel. It sides with Israel on key contentious issues that have bedeviled past peace efforts, including borders and the status of Jerusalem and Jewish West Bank settlements, and attaches nearly impossible conditions for granting the Palestinians their hoped-for state.
The plan was greeted ecstatically in Israel, with Netanyahu vowing to speed ahead with annexing parts of the West Bank. But under pressure from the U.S. administration he appears to be scaling back on that promise.
The Palestinians dismissed the plan as "nonsense" and have promised to resist it.
The Palestinians, as well as much of the international community, view the settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem — territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war — as illegal and a major obstacle to peace.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday urged the Iranians to actively participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections, official IRNA news agency reported.
Khamenei advised some Iranian media and officials to avoid "talking in a way to discourage people from attending the elections."
He also said that the enemy "exaggerates" the disputes and use them against Iran.
The Iranian top leader called for big turnout in the election, saying that it will disappoint the enemy.
Nearly 58 million Iranians are eligible to vote in the 11th round of parliamentary elections scheduled on Feb. 21.