Powerful Iran-Iraq earthquake is deadliest of 2017

Tehran, Iran (CNN)At least 452 people were killed and thousands injured after a powerful earthquake struck near the border of Iran and Iraq late Sunday.

The earthquake is the deadliest of the year, eclipsing the one that hit Mexico City in September, and was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan.
Around 100 of the dead are believed to be from one town in Iran’s Kermanshah province, the country’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
In response to an outpouring of sympathy and offers to help, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued the following statement on Monday:
    “Heartbreaking images from the earthquake damage and loss of life in Kermanshah (and in Iraq). We are grateful for global expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance. For now, we can manage with our own resources. Many thanks for all offers and we will keep you posted.”

    Latest developments:

    Iran: 445 people confirmed dead, 7,100 injured, Iran’s Press TV has reported Monday afternoon.
    Northern Iraq: 7 people dead in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, said Rekawt Hama Rasheed, the health minister of the Kurdish Regional Government. Iraq’s health ministry added that 535 people were injured.
    Rescue efforts: Authorities in Iran and Iraq have initiated rescue operations; Iran has declared three days of mourning.

    What happened

    The earthquake hit late Sunday night with the epicenter in a rural area on the Iranian side of the border, just south of the Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the US Geological Survey, which tracks earthquake activity around the world.
    The quake was at a depth of 23 km (just over 14 miles), which is considered shallow, according to the survey. It wasfelt across the region with aftershocks hitting Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey, news agencies in those countries reported.
    Iraq’s Meteorological Organization issued a warning on Iraqi state TV urging citizens to stay away from buildings and to refrain from using elevators.
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani planned to travel to Kermanshah to oversee rescue work on Tuesday, Iranian state TV reported. The country’s interior and health ministers are already there to supervise the rescue operations, it said.
    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tweeted Monday that he “instructed civil defense teams and health and aid agencies to do all that they can to provide assistance” to those affected by the quake.
    Meanwhile in Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent a message of condolence and urged military and civilian help to be dispatched to quake victims.

    نخستین تصاویر از آواربرداری و بیرون کشیدن اجساد جان باختگان زلزله در سر پل ذهاب ویدئو: ستار فتاحی #ایسنا_نیوز #ایسنا #سرپل_ذهاب #زلزله ۹۶/۸/۲۲

    A post shared by Iranian Student's News Agency (@isna.news) on

    Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was reportedly traveling to the affected areas to help with rescue efforts, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.
    The Iranian Red Crescent Society was working in the hard-hit areas Monday with sniffer dogs, debris-removal teams, and teams offering emergency shelter and treatment, said Mansoureh Bagheri, a spokeswoman for the Iranian Red Crescent in Tehran.
    More than 500 villages in the region suffered damage, Bagheri told CNN.
    In Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, four people were killed in Darbandikhan, where a dam was hit by falling rocks. Rahman Shikhani, the head of the Darbandikhan Dam, told CNN that cracks were spotted in the upper part of the structure but there was no water leakage.
    Meanwhile hundreds of people were injured in the region, though most of these were minor injuries, said Rasheed, the health minister.

    What eyewitnesses saw

    Majida Ameer, who lives in the south of Baghdad, said she ran to the streets with her three children after the quake hit late Sunday.
    “I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” Ameer told Reuters.
    “I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'”
    Pourya Badrkhani, a music teacher in Kermanshah, Iran, told CNN he was sitting at home watching television when the quake hit.
    Badrkhani said he rushed out of his home along with his family and joined neighbors on the streets.
    He said people were donating blood to help the injured while others have volunteered to go and help the border cities, which he says were the worst affected.

    Previous earthquakes

    Iran sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates and has experienced a number of earthquakes in the past.
    The deadliest this century occurred in 2003 when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the southeastern city of Bam, killing some 26,000 people.
    Over a decade earlier, in June 1990, an estimated 37,000 people were killed and the northern cities of Rudbar, Manjil, and Lushan were destroyed along with hundreds of villages.

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/12/middleeast/iraq-earthquake/index.html

    Calls for UN meeting as clashes continue in Jerusalem and West Bank

    Jerusalem (CNN)Clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces broke out again across Jerusalem and the West Bank on Saturday, with the mood tremendously intense around Jerusalem’s Old City.

    A Palestinian man died at a hospital Saturday evening after he was injured in clashes with Israeli forces earlier, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.
    The man was involved in a clash in the town of el-Eizariyah near Jerusalem, the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, reported.
      Meantime, a rocket fired from northern Gaza exploded midair Sunday morning local time, with no injuries reported, the Israeli Defense Forces tweeted.
      With tensions rapidly rising, Palestinians called for more protests Sunday and the Israeli government planned meetings.
      One security session was expected to discuss the recent implementation of metal detectors at entrances to a key holy site in the Old City.
      The restrictions were imposed after two Israeli police officers were killed in a shooting last week just outside the Old City and Temple Mount, also known as the Noble Sanctuary. The area is one of the world’s most important religious sites, revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
      Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday suspended all contacts with Israel until the metal detectors are removed.
      “I announce the freezing of contacts with Israel on all levels and the suspension of coordination until all the measures taken at al-Aqsa mosque have stopped,” Abbas said in a message tweeted by his Fatah Movement.
      The Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary was closed after last Friday’s attack, and reopened Sunday for worshippers, visitors and tourists, with added security measures.

      It is home to the Western Wall — which was part of the walls around the Second Jewish Temple and is one of the holiest places for Jews to pray — and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.
      Egypt, France and Sweden called Saturday for United Nations Security Council consultations Monday on ways to lower tensions in Jerusalem, Sweden’s chief political officer at the United Nations wrote on Twitter.
      The envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — said in a statement they are “deeply concerned by the escalating tensions and violent clashes taking place in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.”
      The statement went on to say, “They strongly condemn acts of terror, express their regret for all loss of innocent life caused by the violence and hope for a speedy recovery to the wounded.”
      Noting the particular sensitivities surrounding the holy sites of Jerusalem, and the need to ensure security, the Quartet envoys called on all sides to show restraint, refrain from provocative actions and work toward de-escalating the situation.
      They added: “Envoys welcome the assurances by the Prime Minister of Israel that the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem will be upheld and respected.”

      Victims identified

      Three people killed Friday in an attack in the Halamish settlement in the northern West Bank were identified by Israeli police on Saturday.
      Police Superintendent and spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Twitter, “Names of three Israelis murdered in Friday night attack by Palestinian terrorist, Yosef Solomon age 70, Chaya Solomon age 46, Elad Solomon age 36.”
      The Israeli army said the three Israelis were killed when a young Palestinian man from a nearby village breached the security of the settlement and carried out a stabbing attack. The Palestinian, who was shot and wounded at the scene, is in custody.
      A fourth Israeli was wounded in the attack, Magen David Adom, Israel’s ambulance service, told CNN.
      Three Palestinians were killed and many people reportedly were hurt during clashes Friday.
      Mohammad Fityani, a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent in Jerusalem, told CNN its crews had dealt with 109 injured people by 3 p.m. local time, and that 72 of them were taken to the hospital.
      Tensions in Jerusalem’s Old City boiled over into skirmishes after the midday prayer.
      In one instance, a CNN team outside Herod’s Gate saw Israeli police start forcefully pushing worshipers back and pointing their weapons at them. The officers then fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the worshipers and move them back.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/22/middleeast/jerusalem-west-bank-clashes/index.html

      Suicide attacker kills at least 20 in Damascus

      (CNN)A suicide bomber blew himself up in central Damascus on Sunday, killing at least 20 people, according to the Syrian foreign ministry.

      Dozens more were injured, including children, the ministry said in a letter to the UN Security Council, according to state media.
      Syria’s Health Minister Nizar Yazigi said injuries ranged from minor to severe, state media reported.
        Authorities had been pursuing three cars and were able to intercept two and destroy them, state media said.
        As they closed in on the third car near the city’s Al-Tahrir Square, the suicide bomber on board detonated it.

        ‘Tight grip’

        Since the civil war began in 2011, Damascus has rarely been hit by attacks. Government troops and allied militias have held a tight grip on the city.
        In March, rebel groups launched a surprise attack in northeastern Damascus, taking advantage of Syrian regime forces overstretched by fighting elsewhere in the country, an expert said at the time.
        The Syrian regime’s military presence in the capital — located in the south of the country — has been weakened due to its focus on fighting ISIS in Raqqa, in the north, said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow in Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

        Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/02/middleeast/syria-damascus-suicide-bombing/index.html

        The images Saudi Arabia doesn’t want you to see

        (CNN)Batool Ali is six years old, though you would never guess that from her huge, haunted eyes and emaciated frame. Ribs jutting out over her distended belly, Batool weighs less than 16 kilograms (35 pounds). She is one of nearly half a million children in Yemen suffering from severe malnutrition.

        “I am scared of course,” Annhari says, “three of my children had cholera. Your children are your world. I have been eight months without a salary, so we are struggling and borrowing money … the treatment is so expensive.”
        The only way to get into these areas is on humanitarian aid flights, primarily run by the UN. Based on conversations with multiple sources, CNN has found that the Hadi government of Yemen and its Saudi Arabian-led backers are actively seeking to block journalists and human rights organizations from flying in on aid flights.
        A UN humanitarian worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed this with CNN: “The people who can let journalists into the country aren’t letting them in — that is the Yemeni government and their Saudi-led coalition backers.”
        Sources tell CNN the UN fears allowing journalists onto aid planes could lead to a complete block by Saudi authorities of their future flights into Sana’a.
        Houthi forces have also reportedly sought to block access to news outlets and have been accused of arresting journalists randomly.
          An investigation published earlier this month by humanitarian focused news agency, IRIN, echoed CNN’s findings suggesting that a deliberate obstruction campaign was in force.
          “(J)ust as a cholera epidemic threatens to spiral out of control, IRIN has learnt that the nominal government of Yemen and its Saudi Arabian-led backers have moved to prevent journalists and human rights workers from travelling on UN chartered flights to the capital, further reducing coverage and access at a critical moment,” IRIN reported.

            The images Saudi Arabia doesn’t want you to see

          Journalists have been barred from traveling to Sana’a in the past but it is perhaps no coincidence that this latest suspension came just days before US President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia and announced a $110 billion weapons deal with the country
            Some have suggested that the Gulf kingdom feels emboldened by the strong show of support offered by the US president.
            Aaron David Miller, analyst with the Woodrow Wilson Center, says “the combination of a risk-ready king and Deputy Crown Prince and the American validation … have come together to embolden the Saudis and make them even more risk-ready when it comes to asserting their power in their narrow sphere of influence which is the Gulf, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), and Yemen.”
            CNN has reached out to the Saudi government and military multiple times for comment on the efforts to prevent journalists from accessing the hardest hit parts of Yemen.
            The UN Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdalla Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi, refuted the claim in a statement, insisting: “Saudi Arabia does not exercise any kind of censorship. Many news reporters have been granted access to Yemen.”
            Yemen officials with the Hadi government have told CNN that it is not safe for journalists to travel to the country’s capital, Sana’a, at this time, but assured that efforts are being made to facilitate media needs.
            Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, warned CNN of the toll that the lack of media coverage is taking. He said the UN has been unable to raise even 30% of the funding it needs to deal with the crisis.
            “Yemen is very much a silent, forgotten, I would even say a purposefully forgotten emergency,” McGoldrick says. “And because we don’t get the media attention, we don’t get the political support and therefore we don’t get the resources we need to address this humanitarian catastrophe.”
            What makes these images particularly painful to look at is the realization that this humanitarian crisis is entirely man-made.
            Since the conflict began, the Saudi-led coalition, which has US support, has imposed a blockade on the country that has left nearly 80 percent of Yemenis reliant on humanitarian assistance for their most basic needs.
            According to the World Health Organization, there are now 167,000 cholera cases across the country. More than 1,100 people have died already and UNICEF says the number of cases could quadruple in the next month.
            But it is hunger which aid workers fear will be the biggest killer. A staggering 17 million people are suffering from severe food insecurity in Yemen; nearly seven million are severely food insecure. By the end of the year, aid agencies predict, the country will be in a state of full blown famine.
            For Ghalfan Ali Hamza and his nine-month-old son, Akram, the situation is untenable.
            Ali Hamza lives in one of the many sprawling, dusty camps for people who have fled the war. Akram, ribs protruding through sallow skin, has been malnourished for four months.
            “I lost my job and lost everything,” Ali Hamza says. “I live here in the camp with 20 relatives. We are hoping any aid group will come see us and help us but no one has come. We await God’s fate.”

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/21/middleeast/yemen-malnutrition-cholera-crisis-images/index.html

            Palestinians highlight prisoners’ strike with ‘Salt Water Challenge’

            (CNN)Palestinians across the world are posting videos of themselves on social media drinking salt water, as part of a new online challenge intended to draw attention to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

            The challenge involves saltwater because that’s what the hunger strikers are drinking to stabilize their health while abstaining from food.
            More than 1,000 Palestinians in eight Israeli prisons launched a “Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity” on April 17 to demand better living conditions and medical treatment. The strike was coordinated by Marwan Barghouti, a high-profile prisoner who enjoys broad support among Palestinians.
              An Israeli court convicted Barghouti in 2004 of five counts of murder, including orchestrating attacks against Israelis. He has denied the charges and claimed to be targeted by Israeli authorities for his politics and activism against Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories.
              The Salt Water Challenge appears to have been started by Barghouti’s son, Aarab Marwan Barghouti, who on Wednesday posted a video of himself on social media drinking salt water.
              “My father, along with 1,700 other political prisoners started the Hunger Strike for Freedom and Dignity in demand for human rights and humane living conditions in the prisons,” the younger Barghouti said in the video.
              Among those he challenged was “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, who responded in kind helping the online campaign to go viral.
              “I challenge everyone, all honorable people wherever they may be, to take on this challenge in solidarity with our heroic detainees until they gain their freedom,” Assaf said in his video.
              Palestinians from across the Middle East, Europe and North American quickly followed suit with videos of their own. While most spoke in Arabic, others took up the challenge in English, French and other languages.
              Israeli authorities have stated that they will not meet the prisoners’ demands.
              Assaf Librati, spokesman for the Israel Prison Service, said the prison service does not negotiate with prisoners.
              “Hunger strikers in prison endanger the health and life of the prisoners in custody of the state who is in charge of their well-being — organized hunger strikers even more so,” Librati said.
              There are approximately 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. They are imprisoned for a number of offenses — including protesting, inciting violence and affiliating with groups Israel considers to be terrorist organizations. Many are also imprisoned under a controversial administrative detention law, which allows Palestinians to be held without charge.
              Israeli authorities consider these detainees to be criminals and terrorists; Palestinians say they are political prisoners.

              Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/27/middleeast/salt-water-challenge-palestinian-prisoners-strike-trnd/index.html

              King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud Fast Facts

              (CNN)Here is a look at the life of the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia.

              Death date: January 22, 2015
              Birth place: Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
              Father: King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman al Saud
                Mother: Fahda bint Al-Asi Al-Shuraim
                Marriages: Wives’ names not available publicly, but according to Islamic tradition, he was allowed no more than four at a time.
                Children: Exact number is not available publicly; sons include: Khalid (eldest son died June 2011 at age 54); Mitab; Abdulaziz; Mishal; Faisal; Badr
                Education: Early education at the Royal Court
                Religion: Wahhabism (a conservative Islamic sect)
                Military: Commander of the Saudi Arabia’s National Guard, 1962-2010
                Other Facts:
                Was one of 37 sons.
                Was prime minister and head of state from 2005-2015.
                Helped create the Allegiance Authority, a committee of princes who vote on the eligibility of future monarchs and crown princes.
                During his leadership, Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization.
                Bred pure Arabian horses and founded the equestrian club in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
                Spoke with a stutter.
                1962-2010 –
                Commander of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.
                1975-1982 – Is Saudi Arabia’s second deputy prime minister.
                1976 – During his first visit to the United States, he meets with President Gerald Ford.
                June 13, 1982 – He becomes Crown Prince Abdullah after King Khalid dies.
                1982-2005 – Deputy Prime Minister.
                October 1987 – During his second visit to the United States, Crown Prince Abdullah meets with President George H.W. Bush.
                March 1, 1992 – Is confirmed heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia by King Fahd.
                November 1995 – Crown Prince Abdullah assumes the duties of King Fahd after the regent suffers a stroke.
                September 1998 – Meets with President Bill Clinton in the United States.
                February 2002 – Proposes a comprehensive peace plan to address the violence in Jerusalem and other Israeli-Palestinian areas. It is the first such plan introduced by an Arab nation since 1947. This plan calls for full Arab recognition of Israel as a nation, and a complete withdrawal by Israel from territories gained since the 1967 war.
                April 25, 2002 – Meets with President George W. Bush at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
                2004 – In a 2004 speech broadcast on Saudi television, Abdullah warns Saudi citizens not to support extremists who want to overthrow the ruling family, and vows to hunt them down, regardless of how long it takes.
                August 1, 2005 – Becomes sixth king of Saudi Arabia following the death of King Fahd. He chooses Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz el Saud as crown prince.
                2008 – King Abdullah hosts President Bush at the royal ranch in Jenadriyah.
                February 2009 – Appoints the first woman to Saudi Arabia’s council of ministers.
                November 13, 2010 – Transfers his position as commander of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard to his son Prince Mitab bin Abdullah.
                November 2010 – Is in New York to undergo back surgery on a herniated disc and blood clot.
                September 25, 2011 – Announces that women can run for office and vote in local elections in 2015.
                October 2011 – Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al Saud dies. Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud is named crown prince.
                October 2011 – Undergoes his third back surgery within a year, at a Riyadh hospital.
                June 16, 2012 – Crown Prince Nayef dies.
                June 18, 2012 – Abdullah’s half-brother, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is named crown prince.
                November 2012 – Has his fourth back surgery since 2010, at a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
                January 11, 2013 – Appoints 30 women to the Shura Council, the first time women have been chosen for the country’s top consultative body.
                March 27, 2014 – Names former intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as the deputy crown prince. Prince Muqrin follows Crown Prince Salman in the line of succession.
                December 31, 2014 – Is admitted to King Abdulaziz Medical City hospital in Riyadh, the capital. On January 2, 2015, the state-run Saudi Press Agency says that King Abdullah is suffering from pneumonia and was given a breathing-aid tube temporarily.
                January 22, 2015 – Dies at a hospital in Riyadh.

                Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/28/world/meast/king-abdullah-bin-abdulaziz-al-saud—fast-facts/index.html