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Despite crackdown, Zimbabwe fuel protests continue

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a prominent protest leader, Evan Mawarire, as part of a widening security crackdown on protesters following violent clashes and incidences of looting. Mawarire, an activist pastor, had called for a three-day work stayaway to protest a hike in fuel prices that citizens fear could push the country…

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Despite crackdown, Zimbabwe fuel protests continue

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Police in Zimbabwe have arrested a prominent protest leader, Evan Mawarire, as part of a widening security crackdown on protesters following violent clashes and incidences of looting.

Mawarire, an activist pastor, had called for a three-day work stayaway to protest a hike in fuel prices that citizens fear could push the country back to the brink of economic collapse.

Clashes between protestors and the security forces continued in Zimbabwe’s second city Bulawayo on the third day of national shutdown demonstrations.

This is the longest running mass action in more than a decade since labour unions and opposition movements protested against the then President Robert Mugabe.

Mawarire was charged with inciting violence and attempted subversion of the state in 2016, when he called for a day-long shutdown against the policies of Mugabe government.

Mugabe was forced out in a de facto military coup in November 2017 that followed mass people’s protests.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa succeeded him, but instead of a new era of freedom that the new leader had promised at his inauguration, he has allowed security clampdown on protesters.

Mawarire is yet to be charged but stands accused of inciting violence along with nearly 60 out of 200 protesters arrested in the past three days. The government blames civil society activists and the opposition of being responsible for the nationwide demonstrations.

At least five people have reportedly been killed as a result of the brutal crackdown, that has brought back the memory of the mass protests that ended President Mugabe’s four-decade rule.

Looting has ceased

In Bulawayo’s western suburbs, tension remained high as security forces continued their crackdown on suspected shop looters, protesters and citizens on Wednesday.

In the suburb of Sizinda, looting has ceased, but a standoff between the people and the army continues. Military trucks were seen patrolling the neighbourhood forcing residents to clear makeshift barricades and clean the streets with their bare hands.

After cleaning, the youths re-erected the stone barricades, but the armed troops returned and lined themselves up along the main highway.

Residents and some elderly people accused soldiers of beating civilians and conducting house raids.

Mafios Mumpuri, 69, a supermarket cleaner, told Al Jazeera he was accused of erecting stone and tyre barricades.

“The soldiers told me to remove the stones because I was one of those who put them on the street. After I pushed them off, they beat me with a belt and told me to go home.

“I am pained by what they did to me, how can we expect our country to be free if they make us do things like this,” he said.

Josphat Ngulube, an activist and independent politician, said he witnessed several beatings during security raids. Ngulube said he had taken at least four people to hospital in Sizinda.

He urged the government to listen to the people and end the violence.

“The demonstration has an impact because people are no longer listening to the government, they are not going to work because no one has confidence in the government.

“They need to engage with the people, they can’t kill us all,” he told Al Jazeera.

According to the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), over 100 people have been admitted to hospitals across the African nation, mostly with gunshot wounds.

Mumpuri alleges he was forced to remove stones barricading the streets and then beaten up by the army [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

‘Necessary for change’

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, who narrowly lost a disputed election against Mnangagwa, visited the wounded in hospital in the capital, Harare. In a statement issued by the opposition MDC Alliance, the movement urged the Mnangagwa government to end the “siege” on citizens and recall the military.

“You do not have to do this and it does not have to be this way. Zimbabwe can be a prosperous nation, prosperity brings about peace, not guns and murder…

“Order the armed forces back to the barracks, allow peaceful protests and do not prevent a process on national dialogue,” the statement read.

Listing five demands, Chamisa appealed to the government to consider the far-reaching impact of its crackdown on citizen’s rights and urged it to work towards resolving the economic crisis.

On Wednesday, internet was partially restored in major urban centres after access was cut for more than 30 hours.

Adding to the woes of ordinary citizens, shops and fuel stations have remained closed during the stayway. As a result a black market has emerged with basic goods being sold at exorbitant prices.

A loaf of bread which normally sells for $1.40, is being sold for $4, while a litre of fuel costs $3, more than three times the normal price.

The hike of fuel prices by nearly 150 percent is the source of discontent as it has a significant negative impact on the broader state of the economy and the average citizen’s cost of living.

Despite the steep black market prices, shop looting and the state crackdown, many Zimbabweans blame the government for the crisis and still hope the stayaway action will not only find a way to fix the economy, but also result in a change in the rule of Mugabe’s increasingly unpopular successor.

In a bid to win back the nation’s support, Mnangagwa, who is currently in Russia, posted a message on his Twitter account despite the social media blockout.

“I understand the pain and frustration that many of you are feeling. Resolving Zimbabwe’s economic challenges is a monumental task, and while it may not always feel that way, we are moving in the right direction. We will get there,” he said.

Julia Banda is unconvinced and unmoved by the President’s Twitter post.

The 83-year-old, who lived through Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle and Mugabe’s rule, told Al Jazeera that the protests are necessary for change.

Activist Ngulube has carried several wounded protesters to hospitals [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

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SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh activity that sees regular attacks against Kurdish forces, Iraqi forces and often civilians.Makhmour is a mountainous area about 70 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km southwest of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for greater security cooperation between Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi security forces to stop Daesh’s insurgent activities.Iraqi officials and analysts have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil for Daesh’s continued ability to wage deadly attacks.Daesh controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, including the remote Makhmour region but also major cities including Mosul.A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.Western military officials say at least 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.A statement from the Kurdistan region’s armed forces, the peshmerga, said Daesh militants attacked the village in the early hours of Friday killing three residents.It said peshmerga forces intervened, resulting in clashes that killed at least seven of their soldiers.Kurdish security and hospital officials said the final death toll was at least 10 peshmerga soldiers and three villagers.In a separate development, Kurdish demonstrators in The Hague stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.

FASTFACT

A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the Daesh extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources said, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building,” The Hague police said.Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.The PKK and Kurdish organizations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulfur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.

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Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines  LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut.  There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan…

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Clashes rock Arab town in Israel, alleged car-rammer killed

Yemeni military commander hopeful of Marib advance after army cuts Houthi supply lines 

LONDON: Yemen’s military commander heading army troops in Marib Maj. Gen. Mansour Thawaba said he was hopeful of advancements in the strategic province after Houthi supply lines were cut. 

There have been “great advances” in the past two days in Bayhan, Usaylan and Harib, the major general told Al-Arabiya, noting that army forces cut the Houthis’ supply line between Bayhan and Harib.

He explained that military operations continued on all fronts, with the southern front seeing most of the action. He also noted the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s support with airstrikes. 

“Marib is not besieged, and the Houthis are far from achieving this,” he said. 

He added that most of those fighting for the Houthis were children and young men. 

“They do not care about the children of Yemenis who are killed by the dozens every day,” he said, referring to the Houthi militia. 

The coalition announced on Friday night that it had destroyed a ballistic missile launcher south of Sanaa.

The coalition added that it also destroyed a “mine-making workshop” in the capital, stressing that it had taken “preventive measures to spare civilians and civilian structures from collateral damage” during the airstrikes.

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US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows. Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the…

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US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.

Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.

Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.

Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.

“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.

Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”

The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.

“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.

“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”

The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.

They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.

Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.

In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.

Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.

Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.

Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.

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