Violence in Nicaragua escalates as UN slams Ortega’s government

Pro-government forces in Nicaragua have launched an assault on the opposition stronghold of Monimbo as deadly unrest escalates. The regime of Daniel Ortega “acts despicably,” activist Bianca Jagger told DW.

    

Watch video03:38

Bianca Jagger speaks out on conditions in Nicaragua

Heavily armed police and paramilitaries attacked the Nicaraguan town of Masaya on Tuesday as the government moved to suppress months-long unrest against President Daniel Ortega.

Nicaraguan Archbishop Silvio Baez said that pro-government forces moved against the Monimbo suburb in Masaya, a known opposition stronghold.

“They’re attacking Monimbo! The bullets are reaching the Maria Magdalena parish church, where the priest is sheltered,” Baez tweeted. “May Daniel Ortega stop the massacre! People of Monimbo I beg you, save yourselves!”

Silvio José Báez

@silviojbaez

¡Atacan Monimbó! Las balas están llegando hasta la parroquia María Magdalena, en donde está refugiado el sacerdote. ¡Que Daniel Ortega detenga la masacre! ¡A la gente de Monimbó les ruego, salven sus vidas! @Almagro_OEA2015 @CIDH @PauloAbrao @AmbCTrujillo @USAmbNicaragua @OACNUDH

US State Department official Francisco Palmieri criticized the latest attack, allegedly by pro-government militants.

“We strongly urge President Ortega not to attack Masaya,” he tweeted. “Continued gov’t-instigated violence and bloodshed in #Nicaragua must end immediately.”

Francisco Palmieri

@WHAAsstSecty

We strongly urge President Ortega not to attack Masaya. Continued gov’t-instigated violence and bloodshed in must end immediately. The world is watching.

The unrest in Nicaragua seems set to escalate, however, with the UN’s human rights office accusing the police and the government of killings, torture, and unlawful imprisonment on Tuesday.

UN News

@UN_News_Centre

“Absolutely shocking” death toll in Nicaragua shows urgent need for the government to stop the violence and start negotiating a political solution says @antonioguterres http://bit.ly/2zMXo3M 

Thousands of Nicaraguans have protested since April. More than a hundred people have died in clashes with the authorities.

Nicaragua must end demonstrator killings and seek political solution in wake of ‘absolutely…

The United Nations Secretary-General has called on the Nicaraguan Government to end violence against demonstrators which has cost an estimated 280 lives, and begin a national “political dialogue” to…

news.un.org

Government forces repeatedly opened fire on protesters, including students, over the weekend. While the death toll varies depending on the source, it is believed that between 280 and 360 people have been killed since the protests against leftist President Daniel Ortega first started in April.

Read more: Will Nicaragua be the next Venezuela?

“The great majority of violations are by government or armed elements who seem to be working in tandem with them,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told the Reuters news agency. According to Colville, most of the protesters were peaceful though some of them were armed.

Separately, the EU offered to mediate, with the bloc’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini telling the government in Managua it expected “an immediate end of violence, repression and arbitrary detentions.”

‘A bloodthirsty government’

Speaking to DW on Tuesday, Nicaraguan-born human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger said that the international community needed to take “effective measures” to stop the violence.

“This government cannot continue and we need Daniel Ortega to go,” said Jagger, who serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Council of Europe, is a senior representative of Amnesty International USA, and the founder and head of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

The 73-year old activist previously drew public attention through her acting career and her marriage to rock star Mick Jagger in the 1970s.

“The government of Daniel Ortega acts despicably,” Jagger told DW in an interview conducted in both English and Spanish on Tuesday. “It’s a bloodthirsty government, a despicable government that wants to kill anyone who opposes it.”

“What I feel at the moment is that there is a slaughter, every day there is a slaughter against innocent people who are unarmed,” Jagger added. “Why are we allowing that to happen?”

Read moreBishops travel to besieged city of Masaya to ‘prevent a massacre’

New terrorism law

Daniel Ortega is a former Marxist guerilla leader who first took power in 1979 and stayed in office until 1990. He ran for president in 2006 and, after winning the election, assumed power once more in 2007. His wife, Rosario Murillo Zambrana, serves as vice-president.

72-year-old Daniel Ortega (center) poses with two anti-riot police officers (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Venegas)72-year-old Daniel Ortega (center) poses with two anti-riot police officers

A government-sponsored pension reform sparked first protests in April this year, but the rallies soon escalated into an anti-government movement, with authorities responding with deadly force. The leaders are demanding early elections or the resignations of Ortega and his wife.

Last week, police arrested opposition leader Medardo Mairena and accused him of being a “terrorist” who organized and ordered an “attack” that killed police officers and a protester. This was followed by lawmakers passing a new anti-terrorism law on Monday, with critics saying its vague definition of terrorism could be used against peaceful protesters.

dj/jm (Reuters, dpa)

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COURTESY: DW

Trump blasts Prime Minister Theresa May in interview published during his first official visit to Britain


British Prime Minister Theresa May greets President Trump before a dinner at Blenheim Palace on Thursday. (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

 After Prime Minister Theresa May rolled out the red carpet at Blenheim Palace on Thursday night for President Trump’s first official visit to Britain, a London tabloid published an explosive interview in which Trump blasted May’s compromise, pro-business plan to leave the European Union and warned that her approach could imperil any future trade deal between the United States and Britain.

The remarks cast an immediate pall over a visit that included a lavish dinner with business leaders Thursday night and plans to meet Queen Elizabeth II for afternoon tea on Friday. It was the latest international incident to erupt during Trump’s brief sojourn abroad, which kicked off with incendiary comments that upended a NATO summit in Brussels and further strained relationships with longtime U.S. allies.

In addition to attacking May on Brexit, Trump also praised her archrival, Boris Johnson, as a potential future prime minister while attacking London’s mayor as soft on crime and terrorism.

The blunt language and harsh dismissal in Trump’s interview stunned 10 Downing Street.

May’s office did not issue a reply to Trump’s remarks but referred reporters to an earlier statement: “We have come to an agreement at the proposal we’re putting to the European Union which absolutely delivers on the Brexit people voted for. They voted for us to take back control of our money, our law and our borders and that’s exactly what we will do.”

Newspaper editors scrambled to update their front pages. “The ego has landed,” said the Daily Mirror, adding that Trump “embarrasses Prime Minister with attack on her plan for soft Brexit.” On its front page, the Daily Mail said Trump had offered “typically blunt home truths for Britain.”

 0:58
May defends Brexit policy after Trump casts doubt

Responding to President Trump’s remarks on Brexit on the morning of July 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her proposal. 

In the interview, done earlier this week, Trump disparaged May’s Brexit plan: “I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.”

He added: “The deal she is striking is a much different deal than the one people voted on.”

If May has Britain align its rules and regulations for goods and agricultural products with Europe, following “a common ­rule book” with Brussels, as May puts it, then, Trump said, that could derail a trade deal with Washington.

“If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” Trump told the Sun, which published its splash at 11 p.m. in Britain.

Trump was scheduled to meet with May for talks on Friday.


Activists inflate a giant balloon depicting President Trump as an orange baby ahead of protests in London. (Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images)

“The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she ‘is a very good person’ and he ‘never said anything bad about her,’ ” U.S. press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person.”

The U.S. contingent expected the story to post Friday morning and was startled to leave the dinner Thursday and see it online. Sanders told the British government about the interview but thought it would be somewhat more positive, an official said.

White House officials were scrambling for what to say to May on Friday. “There’s no way Trump will apologize,” a senior U.S. official said. “But we also don’t want to blow everything up.”

A second White House official said Trump had two days of positive interactions with May. But the official also conceded that Trump had talked about her vulnerabilities and criticized her political acumen privately for many months.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Trump also said to the Sun that he was not spending much time in London on this trip because he did not feel welcome, due to mass demonstrations planned for Friday.

“I guess when they put out blimps to make me feel unwelcome, no reason for me to go to London,” he told the paper. “I used to love London as a city. I haven’t been there in a long time. But when they make you feel unwelcome, why would I stay there?”

Trump lashed out at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, too, saying that he’s done a “bad job” on tackling terrorism and crime.

“Take a look at the terrorism that is taking place. Look at what is going on in London. I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism,” Trump said. “I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.”

But he spoke glowingly of Johnson, who quit the cabinet this week in protest over May’s plans for a soft Brexit.

“I have a lot of respect for Boris. He obviously likes me and says very good things about me,” Trump told the tabloid. “I was very saddened to see he was leaving government, and I hope he goes back in at some point. I think he is a great representative for your country.”

Asked whether Johnson could find himself in 10 Downing Street one day, Trump said, “Well I am not pitting one against the other. I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

Trump did not have public events in Britain on Thursday. Planners have taken great care to keep him from protests.

After his trips overseas to Asia and the Middle East, Trump went on for days about the grandiose treatment — and the Brits were clearly trying to do well by him.

At the dinner, in her remarks, May made her pitch to Trump. She began by noting that “Sir Winston Churchill once said that ‘to have the United States at our side was, to me, the greatest joy.’ ”

Then she moved to the deals she hoped to strike. “Now, as we prepare to leave the European Union, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do more. It’s an opportunity to reach a free trade agreement that creates jobs and growth here in the U.K. and right across the United States,” she said.

The prime minister said that Brexit offered the chance “to tear down the bureaucratic barriers that frustrate business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic,” according to an account provided by 10 Downing Street.

An hour later, the interview with the Sun appeared and seemed to dash May’s hopes.

Brian Klaas, a fellow in global politics at the London School of Economics, said May is walking a tightrope. She needs Trump to promise fantastic trade deals and help May deliver the “global Britain” she has promised. But she can’t appear fawning.

“Her political base and the broader British public do not like Donald Trump,” Klaas said. “She also wants to show that in a post-Brexit world, Britain can still be a major player, and Trump is central to that narrative.”

Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London think tank, said that for May, the Trump visit “was something to be survived.”

Recalling the disaster that struck British leader Tony Blair, in his embrace of George W. Bush and his alliance with Washington in the Iraq War, Niblett said May would be extremely wary of being seen as “Trump’s poodle.”

Organizers of Britain’s nationwide protests are committed to staging some of the largest demonstrations since 2003, when hundreds of thousands hit the streets to oppose war in Iraq.

Organizers said that from the moment Trump landed on British soil to the moment he leaves, he will be met by a “carnival of resistance.” A giant “Trump Baby” balloon will fly over Parliament Square. Protesters plan to shout at Trump at places he will be visiting — Winfield House, Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle and his Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland. Others will assemble in  towns and cities up and down the country.

“I’m marching because of the disdain that Trump has shown for Britain and because of his disgraceful treatment of minorities in the United States,” said David Lammy, a leading member in the opposition Labour Party.

“Whenever London experiences a tragedy, it’s also the case that Trump licks his lips and tweets,” he said.

Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

Palestinians Bury Their Dead After Clashes with Israeli Military

Israel defends its use of gunfire, saying it has the right to provide security for its people


Palestinian protesters look up at falling tear gas cannisters near the border with Israel in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.
SAID KHATIB/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Palestinians in Gaza began burying their dead Tuesday after violent clashes a day earlier left some 60 people dead, as Israel pushed back on international criticism over its use of gunfire by defending its right to secure its people.

The bloodshed at the protests, the deadliest in years, cast a cloud over a ceremony celebrating the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and has sparked calls for restraint. Officials in Gaza said that hospitals were overwhelmed, with many running out of essential supplies such as drugs to treat the injured.

About 2,700 people were hurt in the clashes, including more than 1,300 by live fire from the Israeli military, which also used tear gas and rubber bullets to push back Palestinians attempting to breach the fence dividing the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Clashes Over New U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Leave Dozens Dead

Thousands of protesters were injured at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel ahead of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Some protesters burned tires, or used explosive devices, firebombs or flaming kites.

Israel says its military must use gunfire to prevent protesters from reaching nearby Israeli towns. The area near the fence was relatively quiet Tuesday, with Gaza health officials reporting one person killed, but Israeli officials said they were preparing to respond to more protests amid fears they could spread, especially as the holy month of Ramadan is expected to begin this week.

The United Nations Security Council was meeting Tuesday to discuss the violence in an emergency session requested by Kuwait, a U.S. partner in the Middle East.

The U.K. and France have also been particularly critical, with both directly expressing opposition to the embassy opening and the U.K. criticizing Israel’s use of live rounds and calling for an independent investigation. The Irish foreign ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador to express Ireland’s “shock and dismay” at the numbers of deaths and injuries, as Turkey temporarily expelled the Israeli ambassador and recalled its own.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday lashed out at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who has heavily criticized Israel, saying he was aligned with Gaza ruler Hamas.

“Erdogan is among Hamas’s biggest supporters and there is no doubt that he well understands terrorism and slaughter. I suggest that he not preach morality to us,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

The U.S. placed the blame with the Gaza rulers. “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said Monday. “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

The bloodshed was a stark contrast to the ceremony celebrating the new U.S. embassy around 50 miles away, where Mr. Netanyahu and Trump administration officials called the opening a step toward peace. The Palestinians also claim Jerusalem for a future capital and had warned the U.S. against the move, saying it would derail any chance for a peace process.

Hamas has used a host of anniversaries to rally support for mass protests in the past month and a half. The Monday protests drew 40,000 Gaza residents at 12 points along the border fence.

Protest organizers had aimed to encourage tens of thousands to march Tuesday for what Palestinians call “Nakba Day” or “Day of the Catastrophe,” the anniversary of the day after the date of Israel’s founding. But there were no calls on loudspeakers for protests, unlike on Monday, when mosques in Gaza urged people to actively take part in the demonstrations and buses moved people from inside Gaza City to the border.

Protests, however, have in the past often picked up later in the day. There were some clashes in the West Bank as several thousand protesters gathered in the center of Ramallah and elsewhere.

On Monday, Israel’s military said warplanes carried out strikes on 11 Hamas targets in one of its compounds in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli military tanks also targeted two Hamas posts in the north and south of Gaza.

Since March 30, Hamas has helped organize weekly protests and threatened to break through the border fence. Israel has responded with live fire, killing more than 100 people.

The death toll on Monday was the largest on a single day since the Israeli army fought a conflict with Hamas in 2014.

Mohamed Al Ashi, 22, was sharing a room with two others in Shifa hospital in Gaza. Mr. Ashi was hit in the leg, and one of his roommates was shot Monday, while the other was shot the Friday before.

Mr. Ashi said he was protesting near the fence with some friends when the soldiers starting shooting at them. “They should not have shot us. We did not even cross the fence,” he said.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

US embassy in Jerusalem opens, further fracturing a ‘fragile city’

The jubilation that greeted the lavish opening ceremony of the controversial US embassy in Jerusalem was in stark contrast to the rising death toll reported from the Gaza Strip. Dana Regev collected eye-witness accounts.

    
Israeli nationalist settlers celebrate the Jerusalem Day

The streets surrounding the new embassy compound were awash with Trump supporters, Jewish marchers and Jerusalem residents celebrating ecstatically ahead of the inauguration Monday.

“It’s a dream come true,” Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas in Israel, told DW outside the embassy. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for years, decades,” he added amid huge throngs of people waving Israeli and American flags and thanking US President Donald Trump for moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

“I think it’s an important move, a necessary one,” said 26-year-old Tamir, echoing Zell’s words.

Originally from New York, Tamir has lived in Jerusalem for the past eight years. “There are people around the world that say that it makes the prospect for peace more distant — but that couldn’t be farther from the truth … There will be no deal, ever, that does not include Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Read more:70 years of Israeli independence: a bitter-sweet celebration

Watch video01:27

Supporters jubilant at opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

‘Nothing changes’

Meanwhile, Israeli police stormed a crowd of about 200 Palestinian and Israeli left-wing activists, grabbing Palestinian flags and detaining several protesters. But all in all, critical voices were less vocal, some fearing future harassment, some even fearing for their lives.

“What is there to say? Israel has been crushing us for years and continues to do so now. Nothing changes,” said Palestinian taxi driver Mohammed, who lives in the Old City.

Watch video02:52

United States to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

“Israel wants to kill us all. But inshallah [god-willing] they will not succeed. We are willing to die for this land rather than flee like rats,” a masked Palestinian protester told DW outside of Damascus Gate, which separates the western part of the city from its East, which Palestinians seek as their capital in any potential two-state solution.

Dana Regev

@Dana_Regev

Clashes between Israeli protesters, Palestinian protesters and police at Damascus Gate.

And less than 100 kilometers away, Gaza experienced its deadliest day of protest since Palestinians started demonstrating along the border with Israel on March 30, calling for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and a return to lands Palestinians fled or were expelled from during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Read more: Intifadas: What you need to know

“Palestinians who fled in 1948 live like dogs today all over the world,” 30-year-old protester Firas told DW in Jerusalem. “So I might as well die here, on my land, with honor.”

Palestinians demonstrate outside the new US embassyPalestinians demonstrate outside the new US embassy

Divided land

But not all critics are Palestinians. Many Israelis also see Trump’s move as controversial, if not harmful. Leor J. is a senior assistant in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.  “This city is already so tense, so fragile. What is the point of all of this?” she asked rhetorically, adding that as a resident of the city, she felt “cheated.”

“Will we no longer need a visa to fly to the US? Will Israelis be able to work there or move there? No. So what’s the fuss about? Am I actually benefiting from this? You know the answer.”

The days leading to the opening ceremony also saw violent clashes, as Israel marked Jerusalem Daywith mass parades across Jerusalem and Palestinians were preparing for Tuesday’s Nakba Day [‘catastrophe’], the term they use to describe Israel’s creation.

Donald Trump relayed his message via video link at the ceremonyDonald Trump relayed his message via video link at the ceremony

Holy Land

Back at the ceremony itself, a recorded message from Trump proclaimed: “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital … Yet for many years we failed to acknowledge the obvious: The plain reality that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem.”

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in response that “finally we have a leader who promised [to move the embassy to Jerusalem] and kept his promise. Even the obvious needs to be stated sometimes.”

And indeed, for most Israelis having Jerusalem as their capital is a de-facto reality. Nevertheless, many say, having the United States reaffirm that is essential. “We will show the world – and the Palestinians – that this is the land of the Jews,” said Adika Nahum, an Arnona resident. “Jerusalem is our holy and eternal capital,” as Trump declared the embassy “in the historic and sacred land of Jerusalem,” open.

And even as reports of rising death tolls in Gaza continued to emerge, Trump insisted “our greatest hope is for peace.”

DW RECOMMENDS

U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem Opens to a Fraught Climate

Relocation complicates Trump administration’s push for Israeli-Palestinian peace

A worker on Sunday inside the new U.S. embassy compound during preparations for its opening ceremony, in Jerusalem.
A worker on Sunday inside the new U.S. embassy compound during preparations for its opening ceremony, in Jerusalem. PHOTO: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

JERUSALEM—The opening of the relocated U.S. Embassy here fulfills a campaign promise of President Donald Trump’s while dialing up tension around another administration goal: peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Trump’s decision to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv has faced fierce criticism from European and Arab officials who say it could hamper any future peace negotiations. Palestinians are refusing to meet with representatives of the Trump administration and say they no longer recognize the U.S. as the main broker of peace talks with Israel.

U.S. officials this weekend said they would press on with their still-secret plan to secure what Mr. Trump has called “the ultimate deal” for Middle East peace. The plan is mostly finished, they said, and the administration is seeking the right time and place to present it.

“The peace process is most decidedly not dead,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News on Sunday. “We’re hard at work on it. We hope we can achieve a successful outcome there as well.”

U.S. officials have said recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital reflects the reality on the ground. Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and much of its government is in Jerusalem. The international community doesn’t recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

In an interview that aired Sunday on ABC, White House national-security adviser John Bolton said the embassy location would help the peace process.

“I think recognizing reality always enhances the chances for peace,” he said.

peace deal has eluded Mr. Trump’s three most recent predecessors as president, and the most recent round of talks collapsed in 2014.

The U.S. Embassy’s opening on Monday culminates nearly six months of preparations. The State Department spent about $400,000 to retrofit a consular building in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, straddling West Jerusalem and what is called No Man’s Land, a contested area that lies in between the 1949 armistice lines.

Ahead of the opening, new road signs for the embassy appeared near the site.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The Trump administration has said the final boundaries of Jerusalem would be left up to final status negotiations.

The embassy move exacerbated tensions with Palestinian leaders, with the Palestine Liberation Organization calling for protests on Monday at the new embassy. The issue of the U.S.’s recognizing Jerusalem has also drawn repeated condemnation from Arab rulers, including Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, Jordan’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, staunch U.S. allies.

While the embassy move announcement didn’t initially spark as much violence as predicted by some opponents of the move, it has helped fuel protests in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of Palestinians have turned out each Friday at the border fence to call for their right to return to what is now Israel. So far, more than 40 Palestinian protesters have died in repeated clashes with Israel’s military.

The Gaza protests are expected to culminate the day after Monday’s embassy opening, on what Palestinians call Nakba Day, or Day of the Catastrophe, marking the day after the anniversary of Israel’s founding on May 14, 1948. Yahya Sinwar, leader of Hamas in Gaza, which controls the territory, suggested last week that more than 100,000 people could storm the fence.

Nearly all European ambassadors skipped a reception Sunday evening in honor of the embassy move held by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Representatives from 33 countries including Nigeria, Vietnam, Paraguay and Guatemala were there, and the latter two have said they would also move their embassies.

Mr. Trump won’t attend Monday’s ceremony but will address the proceedings by video. The U.S. delegation is being led by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and includes Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The U.S. expects about 800 guests on Monday, including 11 U.S. Republican lawmakers, but the Trump administration didn’t invite officials from other countries because Washington says it sees the opening as a bilateral event.

State Department officials said the U.S. would also look for a site to build a new embassy.

Casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, who attended Mr. Netanyahu’s reception on Sunday, had earlier this year offered to contribute funds to build a new embassy, but on Sunday, in a brief interview at the reception, he said “that hasn’t been finalized.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be necessary,” he said.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

COURTESY: WSJ

15 Palestinians reported killed by Israeli fire as Gaza border protest builds

15 Palestinians reported killed by Israeli fire as Gaza border protest builds
Tear gas grenades fall amid Palestinians gathered to protest along the Gaza Strip border with Israel on Land Day. Israeli soldiers hold positions in the foreground. (Jack Guez / AFP/Getty Images)

 

A long-planned campaign of nonviolent protests in the Gaza Strip along its border with Israel degenerated into mayhem and bloodshed almost from the start on Friday, with the Palestinian health ministry reporting 15 dead and hundreds wounded in clashes with the Israeli army.

Friday’s protests marked Land Day, when Palestinians observe the date in 1976 that six unarmed Arab citizens from Israel were killed in a wave of protests against state expropriations of land.

It launched six weeks of protests that are planned to culminate in a march on Israel’s border in mid-May, around the date commemorating the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding and, this year, the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip began the protest to demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian sources reported there were around 20,000 protesters, many of whom were bused into the area along Israel’s border fence.

 
Land Day demonstrations east of Gaza City turned violent with more than a dozen Palestinians reported killed in clashes with Israeli forces. Mahmud Hams / AFP/Getty Images; Said Khatib / AFP/Getty Images; Alaa Badarneh / EPA-Shutterstock

The Israeli military said rioting was taking place in five locations along the fence, with burning tires rolled toward Israeli soldiers, and firebombs and rocks hurled beyond the fence.

In a statement, the Israeli army said it was “responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators.”

Israeli forces reportedly used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

The head of Israel’s Southern Command, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, warned that militants were using the cover of riots to plant explosives “for terror attacks” along the border fence.

In preparation for the unrest, Israel more than doubled the usual number of troops stationed along the border, deploying drones, sharpshooters and elite army units. Israeli officials repeatedly warned they would prevent any breach of the border or violation of Israel’s sovereignty.

The entire area surrounding the Gaza Strip was declared a closed military zone.

 
Los Angeles Times

The series of protests was planned by Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist militia ruling Gaza, which is considered a terror group by the United States, Europe and Israel — to mark the rare confluence of Land Day and several other events.

In six weeks, Palestinians mark the Nakba, or catastrophe, as Israel’s establishment is referred to by Palestinians, and the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, scheduled for that date, that was announced as part of President Trump’s December declaration of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, without mention of Palestinian claims to the eastern half of the city.

Friday’s demonstration is also protest against Israel’s more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, an enclave of 2 million people locked between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, that curtails the movement of people and goods. Israel has claimed the siege is necessary to guarantee its own safety since Hamas wrested control of the territory from the Palestinian Authority in a 2007 coup.

The protest, dubbed the March of Return, was framed as a Palestinian demand for the right of return to the area that became Israel 70 years ago.

A majority of Gazans are the descendants of refugees of the 1948 war that erupted at Israel’s creation.

Clashes near Ramallah marking Land Day, --- - 30 Mar 2018
A protester waves the Palestinian flag during clashes marking Land Day in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Alaa Badarneh / EPA-Shutterstock

Members of Hamas’ top leadership milled about among the demonstrators, encouraging the protests and, at least implicitly, flaunting the rally’s success to the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized governing body based in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Ahmed Helles, a member of Fatah Central Committee, the ruling party that attempted to reunite with Hamas last October in an effort that has since stalled, said, “The Fatah movement is here like other factions, and this is a national day with distinction and all colors today mixed with the color of the Palestinian flag.”

“This march confirms that the right of return is the essence of the struggle of our people since the occupation of Palestine,” he said. “Today, the people affirm that this principle and goal is in place and all the challenges facing our people will only increase our determination to uphold the right of return.”

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, addressing demonstrators, said, “Today’s march is the beginning to return to the land of historic Palestine, and our people say to Trump: No concession of Jerusalem or Palestine and no solution without the right of refugees to return to their towns and villages. No recognition of Israel or the occupation rights in any inch on our land.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday a day of national mourning in honor of the Palestinians who died in the clashes.

Near a small gray tent erected east of Jabaliya in northern Gaza, Khalil Abu Qammar, 68, a retired U.N. schoolteacher, stood waving a Palestinian flag alongside his two sons and five grandsons. Around them, not far from the Israel border, young children sang the national anthem.

“I’m from Jaffa,” he said. “My father, mother and grandfather were born there. I still have the key for my family home in Jaffa, and whoever is living there will have to pack up his bag and leave. I won’t accept any solution that does not grant me my rights to return to my father’s hometown.”

Beside the tents Hamas asked Gazans to set up at the border — a symbol of their intention not to move until their demands are met — families wrote down the names of the villages and towns their families were from, villages now inside Israel.

Khadrah Zaqout, 76, was busy baking a fresh, homemade loaf of bread in a mud oven that provides for her family of nine. She said she intends to remain all day in the tent to demand her right to return to her home city, which was abandoned in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.

“I am from the city of Majdal [Ashkelon], where I was born and lived the most beautiful days of my life,” she said. “I still remember our beautiful house, the olive tree and the chicken coop.”

“I brought my grandsons with me to the protest to show them the way to their historical homeland, the land of Palestine,” she said.

Special correspondents Tarnopolsky reported from Jerusalem and Abu Alouf from Gaza City.

Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

Alexei Navalny: ‘There is no pro-Putin majority’ in Russia

Opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been barred from running for president in Russia. In an interview with DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova, he explains why he is calling for a boycott of the country’s upcoming election.

Alexei Navalny (DW)

DW: On January 28, you were arrested at an unauthorized demonstration in Moscow. Are you going to spend the election day on March 18 as a free man or behind bars?

Alexei Navalny: The indications seem to be that I will be spending the election day, and I am referring to “election” in quotation marks, in a special prison. That’s the plan, I suppose. On January 28, I was arrested and then immediately released. But I still haven’t been given my papers back. Apparently, I’ve still got 30 days in jail ahead of me. It is probably planned that they will start on February 17, and then I will be released on March 18, 19 or 20.

Read more: Alexei Navalny — the opposition leader captivating Russia’s youth

What sort of consequences should the participants who took part in the demonstrations across the country on January 28 expect?

The current leaders have the ability to proceed against the protest movement in two ways: First, they can prohibit all such actions and second, they can try to impose demonstrative punishments. At least 40 people were arrested. Some of them have already been released, and some are still in custody.

The most important thing, it seems to me, is that people are no longer letting themselves be intimidated. It has become clear to people that if they keep being afraid then the only remaining way to express political beliefs, to march on the streets, will also be barred.

Anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow (Reuters/M. Shemetov)Demonstrators across Russia took to the streets on January 28 to protest against Putin and the presidential election

On January 29, the US Treasury Department presented a report to Congress on Russian oligarchs and top officials, listed according to their assets and proximity to the Kremlin. What do you make of this so-called Kremlin Report?

The list should actually be much longer. These are the people who are the corrupt core in Russia, who are the main beneficiaries of corruption. I would like to see them all subject to individual sanctions. It would also be desirable if they could not live abroad, for example, and travel over to Germany and then come back and tell us how terrible European depravity is, referred to as “Gayropa,” and that we should choose another path here.

What do you hope to achieve by calling for a boycott of this election in Russia? Do you believe that elections can bring about any change in President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime?

Of course I think they can. That’s why I wanted to stand for election. I traveled all over the country. I made speeches. I even made appearances in areas that are considered to be absolutely “pro-Putin,” such as the Kemerovo Oblast. I also spoke in Novokuznetsk. I know full well that it is possible to win an election against Putin. Frankly, he knows that himself. That’s why he wouldn’t let me stand for election.

Read more: Navalny supporters demand ‘Russia without Putin’

It is always said that Russia does not need a revolution or a Euromaidan, which is the name given to the wave of demonstrations and civil unrest that began in 2014 in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych. At the same time, it is said that only you can manage to get people out onto the streets. How do you define the limits of what is considered a peaceful protest?

First of all, I’m not the only one who can get people out onto the streets. There are many wonderful people who are undertaking actions in different regions. Secondly, it is not I who brings people onto the streets, but the notion of injustice. Putin himself brings people on the street through his corruption, his incompetent administration of the country.

I certainly believe the people have the right to protest against a tyrannical regime. But what’s happening in Russia at the moment are only absolutely peaceful actions. You can see that the mood of the demonstrators is much more peaceful than that of the authorities, who manage to turn every demonstration into a military operation.

DW's Zhanna Nemtsova interviewing Alexei Navalny (DW)DW’s Zhanna Nemtsova spoke with Alexei Navalny

Is it realistic to expect that the pro-Putin majority will become a majority in society that wants to see change?

There is no pro-Putin majority. There are people for whom the illusion has been created that there is no one else except Putin. We’ve done dozens of surveys in focus groups all over the country. The most important thing they say when they are asked why they vote for Putin: “There is no one else. We don’t like Putin, but there’s no one else.” And that is precisely what the Putin regime is based on. There is no majority.

We can achieve a majority of our own, precisely because we work in real terms and have a real agenda. We are talking about poverty, injustice, the unfair distribution of wealth and the rising costs of healthcare and education. In fact, we form a majority, which already comprises around 30 percent of the inhabitants of the largest cities. If we keep working on it, there will be many more. That is our task. It’s possible to achieve.

A fourth term in office for Putin is inevitable. Many believe that after the elections there will be harsher crackdowns, including against you and your supporters. Are you prepared for this?

Putin has not just been in power for a couple of years, but since 1999. We have seen a general intensification of repression after each re-election. He can’t hold onto power otherwise. That is why the repressions will certainly increase. But we’re ready, we’re not afraid. We’re not giving up.

Blogger and lawyer Alexei Navalny, 41, is regarded as the most influential opposition politician in Russia. He has been barred from running as a presidential candidate, based on previous convictions for financial crimes. The European Court of Human Rights has described Navalny’s suspended sentence as “arbitrary.”

The interview was conducted by Zhanna Nemtsova

COURTESY: DW

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