Palestinian ministry rolls back statement that Gaza boy was killed by Israeli gunfire

Palestinian demonstrators gather atop a hill during a protest calling for lifting the Israeli blockade on Gaza, near the maritime border with Israel, in the northern Gaza Strip September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

GAZA (Reuters) – A medical source in the Palestinian Health Ministry backed away on Monday from an assertion that an 11-year-old boy killed at a protest on Friday at the border with Israel had been shot by Israeli soldiers.

“The boy died of a head injury,” said the source, who asked not be identified, declining to give specifics and stopping short of attributing the death to Israeli gunfire.

On Friday, Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza, said the youth, Shadi Abdel-Al, had been shot dead by Israeli troops.

Two other Palestinians were killed during the weekly protest by Israeli live fire, local medics said on Friday.

An Israeli military spokeswoman asked on Monday about the circumstances of the boy’s death and media reports that he had been killed by a stone thrown during the protest, referred Reuters to comments tweeted by the military’s Arabic-language spokesman.

The spokesman tweeted that there were “increasing indicators from Gaza that question the credibility” of the Palestinian Health Ministry’s original statement about the boy’s death.

“According to the indicators and testimonies, the boy was killed as a result of an injury from stones thrown during the violent riots,” the spokesman wrote.

Since March 30, Palestinians pressing claims against Israel have mounted stone-throwing protests that have included attempts to breach the Israeli border fence with Gaza, run by the Islamist group Hamas.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Stephan Farrell and Jeffrey Heller; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Gaza ceasefire ends flare-up, Palestinians resume protests

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of Sderot, Israel August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Coh

GAZA (Reuters) – An Egyptian-brokered truce ended a two-day wave of rocket barrages and air strikes between Israel and Gaza, but the border remained tense as thousands of Gazans gathered for protests in which two Palestinians were killed and scores wounded.

After a quiet night with no rockets falling in Israel or air strikes in Gaza, residents in southern Israel, who had spent much of the past two days in rocket shelters, were told by the military they could return to their daily routines.

In Gaza, crowds of Palestinians resumed protests against Israel. Reuters TV footage showed plumes of smoke blackening the sky at one area of the border after Palestinians set tires ablaze, and tear gas canisters fired by Israeli soldiers.

Palestinians gather on the remains of a building after it was bombed by an Israeli aircraft, in Gaza City August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinians gather on the remains of a building after it was bombed by an Israeli aircraft, in Gaza City August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Israeli troops killed two Palestinians and wounded about 240 others, Palestinian health officials said.

The Israeli military said rioters hurled stones, explosives, and firebombs at troops and the border fence. The soldiers “responded with riot dispersal means and live fire, in accordance with the standard operating procedures”, a spokeswoman said.

A tank also fired at a Hamas outpost, the military said.

Since the weekly protests began on March 30, the Israeli army has killed 159 Palestinians and a Gaza sniper has killed an Israeli soldier.

Still, the broader truce held on Friday after a two-day escalation during which the Hamas militant group fired scores of rockets, including a long-range missile deep into Israel, and Israeli aircraft struck more than 150 targets in Gaza.

Palestinians gather around a building after it was bombed by an Israeli aircraft, in Gaza City August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Palestinians gather around a building after it was bombed by an Israeli aircraft, in Gaza City August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

A pregnant Palestinian woman and her 18-month-old child were killed in the Israeli attacks, as was a Hamas militant. Seven people were wounded by Palestinian rockets and mortars that struck Israel.

Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns, maintain a blockade on Gaza, a narrow strip of land that is home to two million Palestinians, which has reduced its economy to a state of collapse.

A senior Egyptian official said Cairo was working to secure a comprehensive agreement between Israel and Hamas, beginning with a ceasefire and later including economic improvements.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Ari Rabinovitch and Cairo newsroom; editing by Andrew Roche)

Anniversary of fatal Charlottesville rally puts city, D.C. on edge

White nationalists participate in a torch-lit march on the grounds of the University of Virginia ahead of the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

By Joseph Ax and Makini Brice

(Reuters) – Joan Fenton knows she will not make much money at her Charlottesville gift shop this weekend when the downtown district will be virtually locked down for the anniversary of last year’s deadly white nationalist rally. But like many other owners, she will be open anyway.

“They want to be open in solidarity with the community,” Fenton said. “They feel that not being here is giving in to fear and terror.”

Officials in Charlottesville have vowed a massive police presence – with some 1,000 personnel assigned – to deter any violence.

The “Unite the Right” rally last August, called to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, turned the picturesque Virginia college town into a chaotic scene of street brawls, and one woman was killed when an Ohio man rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

The organizer of last year’s event, white nationalist Jason Kessler, was denied a permit in Charlottesville this year but has secured permission to hold a demonstration on Sunday in Washington, across the street from the White House.

Washington officials said on Thursday that police were ready for the rally as well as five planned counterprotests that could attract close to 2,000 people in all.

Officers will endeavor to keep the two sides separate, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said. Guns will be prohibited from the demonstration area.

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of neighboring Maryland, said on Friday that “hate has no place in our society,” and that he had directed state agencies to work with their counterparts in Washington and Virginia to ensure the safety of all citizens.

“As we face this invasion of vile and perverted ideology infesting our region, we stand united in our conviction that a diverse and inclusive Maryland is a stronger Maryland,” he said.

UNPRECEDENTED LOCKDOWN

Amid continuing controversy over President Donald Trump’s views on race, the events will likely revive memories of his comments after Charlottesville when he said both sides were to blame for the violence. The remarks sparked criticism from across the political spectrum as the Republican president refused to condemn the white nationalists.

In Charlottesville, officials have announced an unprecedented lockdown of the bustling downtown district. Vehicles are prohibited, and pedestrians will be allowed in at only two checkpoints, where police will confiscate contraband.

Prohibited items include everything from metal pipes and swords to fireworks and skateboards.

Guns, however, can still be legally carried. After last year’s violence, the city asked the state legislature to ban firearms from major public events, but the bill failed to advance.

It is not clear whether any white nationalists will come to Charlottesville this weekend, but officials said they were preparing for any contingency. Police were widely criticized after last year’s event, where some officers did not intervene to stop fistfights and other mayhem.

Virginia’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, pre-emptively declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, a procedural move that freed up additional resources.

Many business owners have said the plan is too restrictive and will cost them significant revenue on what would normally be a busy summer weekend. Merchants already suffered a downturn after last year’s event; sales tax revenue dropped 11 percent in September 2017 compared with the year before, according to city figures.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York and Makini Brice in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

Americans in UK warned to keep ‘low profile’ during Trump visit

Temporary signs indicate road closures around the U.S. ambassador's residence, where special fences have been erected prior to the U.S. presidential visit at the end of the week, in Regent's Park in London, Britain, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – The U.S. Embassy in London issued an alert on Tuesday to Americans in the British capital, warning them to keep a low profile during President Donald Trump’s visit later this week in case protests against him turn violent.

Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday after a NATO summit and thousands of protesters are expected to join demonstrations during his visit, including plans to fly a blimp over parliament portraying Trump as an orange, snarling baby.

While Britain regards the United States as its closest ally, some Britons see Trump as crude, volatile and opposed to their values on a range of issues. His comments on militant attacks in Britain and his re-tweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader of a far-right UK party sparked anger.

More than 50,000 people have signed up to demonstrate in London on Friday against his visit although a counter-gathering to welcome him is also planned.

“Numerous demonstrations are being planned for July 12 to 14, 2018, surrounding the visit of the President of the United States to the United Kingdom,” the U.S. embassy said in the alert on its website.

“Several of the events are expected to attract large crowds and there will be road closures in connection with those events.”

Its advice to U.S. citizens was to “keep a low profile” and “exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings that may become violent”.

Trump arrives in Britain on Thursday after the NATO summit in Belgium and will stay overnight at the central London residence of the U.S. ambassador where a high metal security fence was erected outside.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Theresa May at her 16th-century manor house, meet Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle and attend a black-tie dinner at the home of former World War Two leader Winston Churchill – all outside London.

The U.S. president is also due to travel to Scotland where he owns two golf courses and Scotland’s interim police chief has said more than 5,000 officers would be needed for to cover the trip, including specialist riot and armed officers.

Ahead of his visit, Trump said Britain was currently “in somewhat turmoil” as Prime Minister May grappled with a political crisis after two top ministers quit over her plans for trade ties with the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc next March.

“I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have (Vladimir Putin),” Trump said as he set off on his trip to Europe which includes a meeting with the Russian President in the Finnish capital Helsinki.

“Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?”

Relations between Britain and Russia are at a post-Cold War low since May blamed the Kremlin for the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal with a Soviet-era military nerve agent in March.

(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Haitian civil unrest enters third day despite fuel hike reversal

People run away as police uses tear gas to disperse people in a street of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

By Andres Martinez Casares

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Protesters blocked streets in Haiti on Sunday while many damaged or looted stores stayed closed for a third day following anger over steep fuel price increases in the Caribbean nation.

The mostly young protesters used felled trees and large rocks to block roads, as well as piles of tires set on fire, some of which still smoldered on Sunday, sending up thick clouds of black smoke.

Police used tear gas to disperse crowds in some places.

The charred remains of cars could be seen in several spots around the sprawling capital, including in front of the Best Western and Oasis hotels, in the capital’s southern hilltop suburb of Petion-Ville, as well as near the offices of telecommunications company Natcom.

The U.S. embassy warned its citizens to avoid the unrest in the capital Port-au-Prince and reschedule travel plans as several airlines canceled flights.

Two burnt buses are seen inside the customs facilities in Malpasse, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Two burnt buses are seen inside the customs facilities in Malpasse, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

At the Toussaint Louverture international airport, dozens of stranded travelers camped out waiting for flights to resume, lounging on suitcases.

Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant announced the temporary suspension of double-digit government hikes to prices for gasoline, diesel and kerosene on Saturday afternoon – just a day after they were announced – but the unrest continued.

Across the capital, few cars and motorcycles were moving on the rubble-strewn streets on Sunday, while broken windows and damaged buildings were a common sight.

At a shopping center in Petion-Ville, police tried to secure shops, with broken glass and merchandise scattered on the floor.

Both the Canadian and Mexican embassies in Haiti announced that they would be closed on Monday.

The decision to raise fuel prices was part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which requires the impoverished country to enact measures to boost government revenue and services and strengthen the country’s economy.

“Due to continuing demonstrations, roadblocks, and violence across Port-au-Prince, as well as short staffing at the airports, embassy personnel have been instructed to re-book any flights originally scheduled for Sunday,” the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

A boy carrying his bicycle passes through a barricade on the outskirts of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

A boy carrying his bicycle passes through a barricade on the outskirts of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, July 8, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

A spokesman for U.S. carrier American Airlines Group Inc said it had canceled three out of seven round trip flights scheduled to stop in Port-au-Prince on Sunday.

The carrier’s Sunday route to Haiti’s Cap-Haitien airport had not been canceled.

JetBlue Airways Corp also canceled its flights to Haiti on Sunday.

Haiti’s Commerce and Economic ministries Friday said they would lower fuel subsidies in a bid to generate more tax revenue to better fund government services, which translated to a 38 percent jump for gasoline and 47 percent for diesel.

(Reporting by Andres Martinez Casares in Port-au-Prince; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and James Dalgleish)

Protestors, lawmaker arrested in Senate building sit-in over immigration

Immigration activists wrapped in silver blankets, symbolising immigrant children that were seen in similar blankets at a U.S.-Mexico border detention facility in Texas, protest inside the Hart Senate Office Building after marching to Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some 600 protesters were arrested during a clangorous occupation of a U.S. Senate office building in Washington on Thursday, where they decried U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero- tolerance” stance on illegal immigration.

The protesters, mostly women dressed in white, sat on the Hart Senate Office Building’s marbled floors and wrapped themselves in metallic silver blankets similar to those given to migrant children separated from their families by U.S. immigration officials.

Their chant “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” echoed through the building, drawing scores of Senate staff to upper mezzanine floors from where they watched the commotion.

Capitol Police warned protestors that if they did not leave the building they would be arrested. Soon after, protesters were lined against a wall in small groups and police confiscated their blankets and signs.

U.S. Capitol Police direct U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) to stand for arrest as she joined demonstrators calling for "an end to family detention" and in opposition to the immigration policies of the Trump administration, at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. Capitol Police direct U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) to stand for arrest as she joined demonstrators calling for “an end to family detention” and in opposition to the immigration policies of the Trump administration, at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It took police about 90 minutes to arrest them and end the demonstration. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat, sat with the protesters and was also arrested.

Capitol Police said in a statement that about 575 people were charged with unlawfully demonstrating and they would be processed at the scene and released. They said people who were charged and fined could pay 24 hours after their arrests, but it was not clear who had been fined and how much.

Democratic senators Mazie Hirono, Tammy Duckworth, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jeff Merkley, who have been critical of Trump’s immigration policies, spoke with some of the protesters. Gillibrand held a sign that read: “End Detentions Now.”

Women’s March, a movement that began in the United States when Trump was inaugurated in 2017 and spread around the world, had called on women to risk arrest at Thursday’s protest.

Organizers said in a statement that 630 women were arrested during the protest.

“We are rising up to demand an end to the criminalization of immigrants,” Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of the Women’s March, said in the statement.

Before arriving at Capitol Hill, the protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, pausing to chant “Shame! Shame! Shame!” at the Trump International Hotel.

The Women’s March demonstration is part of a wave of actions against Trump, whose administration began seeking in May to prosecute all adults who cross the border without authorization.

More than 2,000 children who arrived illegally in the United States with adult relatives were separated from them and placed in detention facilities or with foster families around the United States.

The policy led to intense criticism in the United States and abroad, and Trump signed an executive order that would let children stay with their parents as they moved through the legal system, drawing renewed criticism.

Loretta Fudoli took a bus to Washington from Conway, Arkansas, to join Thursday’s protest. She said she had been arrested at demonstrations three or four times since she became politically active after Trump’s election.

“Their parents shouldn’t even be locked up,” Fudoli said. “This is not a bad enough crime to lock them up and take their children away.”

Most of the children separated from their families before the order was signed have not yet been reunited with them.

The White House has said that the order was not a long-term solution and has called for Congress to pass immigration reform.

Larger protests are being planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C., and cities around the country under the banner of #FamiliesBelongTogether.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Bill Tarrant and Jonathan Allen; Editing by David Gregorio, Toni Reinhold)

Iran’s top leader says harm to economy must be punished

FILE PHOTO: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz/File Photo

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader demanded the judiciary punish those “who disrupt economic security” on Wednesday, following protests over the rial’s collapse and a tightening of U.S. sanctions pressure that has set the arch-foes further on a course of confrontation.

Resolutely opposed to Iran’s nuclear program and its role in Syria’s war, Washington is to reimpose economic penalties on Tehran in coming months after quitting an accord in which sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on its atomic work.

This may cut Iran’s hard currency earnings from oil exports, and the prospect has provoked a flight of Iranians’ savings from the rial into dollars.

In the latest U.S. push against Tehran, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday that countries buying oil from Iran should prepare to halt all imports of it starting in November or face punishment.

At Tehran’s Grand Bazaar on Wednesday, business was back to normal after a two-day strike had closed most shops. On Monday traders had massed outside parliament to complain about the plunge to record lows of Iran’s currency.

Reuters was unable to verify footage showing police clashing with protesters. Public demonstrations are rare in Iran but in recent months there have been several over the state of the economy.

“The atmosphere for the work, life and livelihood of the people must be secure,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with judiciary officials, according to his official website.

“And the judiciary must confront those who disrupt economic security.”

Following Washington’s withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, some U.S. sanctions are due to be reimposed in August and some in November.

IMPORT COSTS RISE

This has caused the rial to collapse, threatening business by driving up the cost of imports. The rial traded at 78,500 against the dollar in the unofficial market on Wednesday, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com. This compares to around 43,000 at the end of last year.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Iran it would face the “wrath of the entire world” if it pursued nuclear weapons, but added that he hoped it would never be necessary for the United States to take military action against the country.

On Wednesday, Pompeo accused Iran’s leaders of wasting the country’s resources on its proxies in the Middle East.

“It should surprise no one #IranProtests continue. People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders. The world hears their voice,” he tweeted.

Reacting to the U.S. announcement on Tuesday, an Iranian oil official said the United States’ efforts against Iran’s oil industry will fail.

“Iran exports a total amount of 2.5 million barrel per day of crude and condensate and eliminating it easily and in a period of a few months is impossible,” the oil official told the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Trump’s attempts to deprive Iran of oil revenues raises the stakes for President Hassan Rouhani, who has attempted to appease anger over his government’s handling of the economy.

The Iranian parliament ramped up pressure on Rouhani on Wednesday by issuing a letter, signed by 187 representatives — more than half of the total– asking that the president change the economic team within his administration.

A ban on imports of over 1,300 products announced by Iran on Monday in order to prepare its economy for looming U.S. sanctions presented a big opportunity for Iranian companies, Rouhani said.

“The government’s decision to ban the import of some goods to the country with the goal of protecting Iranian goods is a very big opportunity for domestic producers,” he was quoted as saying on state media.

A senior commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guards said all Iranians were obliged to help the government cope with any financial crisis, according to Fars News.

“It is all of our duty to work together to help the respected government and other governmental branches in solving the economic problems,” General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, who is also a senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, said on Wednesday.

“We must neutralize the plans of the enemy for an economic war and psychological operations.”

(Reporting by Babak DehghanpishehWriting by Michael Georgy, Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean)

Israel forces evict Israeli settlers in West Bank land dispute case

A protestor prays before Israeli security forces come to evacuate 15 Jewish settler families from the illegal outpost of Netiv Ha'avot in the Israeli occupied West Bank. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

By Dedi Hayun

NETIV HA’AVOT, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli security forces on Tuesday began evicting Jewish settlers from 15 homes which Israel’s highest court ruled were built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Under a Supreme Court order, the 15 dwellings are to be demolished within the next few days. Hundreds of young pro-settlement activists gathered on Tuesday in several of the homes slated for demolition. Some of the protesters climbed onto the roof of one dwelling and hoisted Israeli flags.

A few scuffles ensued with police but for the most part, demonstrators offered passive resistance and were carried away by officers who grabbed hold of their arms and legs. In one home, an Israeli policeman hugged a weeping man as he escorted him out.

Most countries consider all Israeli settlements built in the West Bank and other land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal. Israel disputes this, and there are now about 500,000 Israeli settlers living among some 2.6 million Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

The entire Netiv Ha’avot settlement was built without official Israeli authorization, but the government has retroactively agreed to allow the rest of the community to stay once the 15 homes built on private Palestinian land come down.

“People are being torn from their houses and families are sad,” said Elazar Herz Van Spiegel, 45, a Netiv Ha’avot settler, whose home was not one of those due to be demolished. “But … we are very optimistic about the future.”

Palestinians dismissed the dismantling of a small number of homes as an empty gesture.

Wassel Abu Youssef, a Palestine Liberation Organization official said: “All settlement is illegal and must be removed. Israel is trying to fool world public opinion by removing some homes here and there while it continues to build settlements.”

The Israeli government has announced a plan to pay compensation to the families whose homes are to be razed and rehouse them on adjacent tracts not owned by individual Palestinians.

The remainder of Netiv Ha’avot, where some 20 houses stand on land not covered by the court ruling, is to be granted legal status and designated a neighborhood of an Israeli government-recognized settlement, Elazar, the cabinet decided in February.

Israeli authorities have carried out similar evictions in the past under court order. In February 2017, some 300 settlers were removed from the unauthorized outpost of Amona in the West Bank.

But settlement expansion, which has drawn Palestinian and international condemnation, has continued, with little objection from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump in contrast to criticism voiced by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and say Israeli settlements are intended to deny them a viable and contiguous country. Israel’s refusal to halt settlement expansion was one of the reasons peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Peter Graff)

Israeli gunfire, tear gas injure 100 as Gaza protest resumes

Tear gas canisters are fired by Israeli troops at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest marking al-Quds Day, (Jerusalem Day), at the Israel-Gaza border east of Gaza City June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Israeli troops fired tear gas and live bullets at Palestinians taking part in weekly protests at the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Friday, injuring at least 100 people, medics said.

The army said it was taking action to disperse thousands of Palestinians, some of whom threw rocks the troops and burned tyres, and prevent any breach of the fortified frontier fence.

Israeli forces have killed at last 120 Palestinians in protests along the border since a campaign was launched on March 30 to demand the right to return to ancestral lands that are now part of Israel, hospital officials say. Israel says the dead included Hamas and other militants who used civilians as cover for infiltration attempts.

(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)