RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Palestine and meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas dominated the front page headlines in Friday’s issue of the three Palestinian Arabic dailies.
The dailies reported that President Abbas received his Russian counterpart in Bethlehem, where they discussed issues of mutual concern.
Abbas was reported in al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida expressing his gratitude to Russia for its political, economic, cultural and security support to the Palestinian people.
Putin was reported in al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida describing the Russian-Palestinian relations as deep-rooted and historical, and noting that he understands Abbas’ concern regarding the settlement of the Palestinian question.
Spokesperson for the Palestinian Presidency Nabil Abu Rudeineh was reported in al-Hayat al-Jadida describing Putin’s visit to Palestine as proof of the evolving Palestinian-Russian relations.
He was also reported warning against any step by the US that would undermine international legitimacy.
Al-Quds said that Putin supports the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, who demands Israel must not seize church property in Jerusalem.
The Prince of Wales has voiced his sympathy with the Palestinian people whom he said have been going through severe hardships in their struggle for ‘freedom, justice and equality’.
Prince Charles, who made his first visit to occupied Palestine on Friday, said: ‘It breaks my heart therefore that we should continue to see so much suffering and division.
‘No one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face,’ Charles told church leaders and health and education officials during a speech at Casa Nova, a Franciscan pilgrim house in Bethlehem.
‘And I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace,’ he stated. ‘We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain.’
Prince Charles expressed his ‘dearest wish’ that the future will bring ‘freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians’ to enable them ‘to thrive and to prosper’.
Charles also said he was ‘struck by the energy, warmth and remarkable generosity of the Palestinian people’.
His sentiments of hope for Palestinians come at a time the US President Donald Trump is expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan, or the ‘deal of the century’, which the Palestinian people and leadership have vehemently rejected as it favours Israel, which is believed to receive territory gains and other concessions under the deal.
The imminent roll-out of the US-touted Middle East plan, dubbed ‘deal of the century’, which is designed to force Palestinians into submission to perpetual Israeli dominance, hit the front page headlines.
Al-Quds and al-Ayyam said in this regard the US administration will invite Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz to Washington tomorrow to brief them about the details of the plan.
US President’s former envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt was reported in al-Quds hinting that his country okays the Israeli step to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea.
The dailies highlighted Palestinian and regional leaders’ responses to the Israeli announcement on the annexation of the Jordan Valley.
Al-Quds reported Premier Mohammad Shtayyeh stressing the importance of addressing the Israeli threat to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was reported in al-Quds and al-Hayat al-Jadida denouncing Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank as a “serious violation of international law”.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was reported in al-Ayyam and al-Hayat al-Jadida warning that Israel’s planned annexation of the Jordan Valley would end all chances of achieving peace.
The dailies said that Israeli settlers chopped down olive trees in Kafr Ad-Dik town, west of Salfit city.
They added that Israeli occupation authorities delivered an order to demolish a Palestinian house in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya.
They reported that occupation authorities also delivered stop-construction orders for several structures in Birin village, located to the south of Hebron.
According to al-Quds, Israeli police detained 13 Palestinians and banned 26 others entry to Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the eve of the Dawn of Hope campaign.
Police stormed the complex, attempting to clear its grounds after the morning prayer as hundreds of Palestinians were performing the morning prayers at the site in response to the social media Dawn of Hope campaign to show their devotion to the mosque.
Jamal Amro, a specialist on Jerusalem affairs, slammed the latest round of Israeli practices restricting Palestinian access to the site as a holocaust.
Al-Quds reported that Gaza population reacted to the World Holocaust Forum in Israel by staging protests against the Israeli occupation authorities.
According to al-Hayat al-Jadida, the Israeli Prison Service stormed the cells of Palestinian detainees in Asqalan prison, and moved them to section three.
Al-Ayyam said that Israeli forces continue to target Gaza’s borderline zone and fishermen sailing off shore of Gaza, and to launch mock airstrikes on the besieged coastal enclave.
- Meanwhile, Iraqis have rallied in Baghdad in massive numbers to call for an end to US military presence in the country following high-profile assassinations and airstrikes targeting anti-terror forces.
Sayed Sadiq al-Hashemi, the director of the Iraqi Centre for Studies, said more than 2.5 million took part in the demonstrations on Friday.
Since the early hours on Friday, huge crowds of men, women and children of all ages converged on the Jadriyah neighbourhood near Baghdad University.
The protesters were seen carrying banners and chanting slogans calling for the expulsion of US forces.
‘Get out, get out, occupier!’ some shouted, while others chanted: ‘Yes to sovereignty!’
Iraq’s al-Ahd news network reported that Iraqis from all of the country’s provinces had gathered in the city.
On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution calling for the expulsion of all foreign forces after the US assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani and his Iraqi co-worker Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
The massive rally came after influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on Iraqis to stage ‘a million-strong, peaceful, unified demonstration to condemn the American presence and its violations’.
Sadr issued a statement on Friday calling for US bases to be shut down and Iraqi airspace closed to US warplanes and surveillance aircraft.
He warned that US presence in the country will be dealt with as an occupying force if Washington does not agree with Iraqi demands to withdraw for the country.
In a message delivered through a representative at Friday prayer in the holy city of Karbala, top cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani also urged Iraqi political groups to do what is needed to the safeguard the country’s sovereignty.
He called on Iraqi groups to stand united, far from any foreign influence in countering the dangers which threaten the country.
Last Thursday ahead of the planned rallies, Sadr called on Iraqis to mobilise and defend the country’s independence and sovereignty.
‘Oh women, men and youth of the country, the time is now upon us to defend the country, its sovereignty and dependence,’ Sadr said in a tweet.
‘Spread the word of an independent future Iraq that will be ruled by the righteous; an Iraq which will not know of corruption nor aggression,’ he added, calling on Iraqis to expel the ‘tyrants’.
Various Iraqi resistance groups affiliated with the country’s Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) have also backed the anti-American rally.
An Iraqi PMU group says it is ready to inflict a heavy loss on US military forces if they refuse to withdraw from the country.
Speaking to the Lebanese al-Mayadeen television channel, Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for the PMU-affiliated Kata’ib Hezbollah resistance group, said ‘other means’ will be used against the Americans if they do not leave Iraq. The American presence, he said, has led to corruption and instability in the country.
In an interview with Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Firas al-Yasser, a member of the political bureau of Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, said Friday’s rallies marked ‘a new chapter’ in the Arab country’s relations with the US.
He said Iraqi resistance groups support the stance of the country’s clerical leadership, which does not tolerate Washington’s ‘theory of dependence and humiliation’ of Iraq.
‘We believe we have reached the zero hour in facing off with the US,’ he said.
Yasser added that Iran’s missile attack on the Ain al-Assad base in the western Iraqi province of Anbar earlier this month was a ‘prelude’ to the expulsion of US forces from the country.
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has targeted US airbases in Iraq.
Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, described Friday’s rallies as a ‘second revolution’ a century after the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920 against British forces.