Jerusalem (AFP) – The Palestinians hailed Friday’s granting by UNESCO of world heritage status to the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem as an ‘historic day for justice’. “This global recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people is a victory for our cause and for justice,” president Mahmud Abbas’s spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.” This decision shows that it’s natural that the world is with us and recognises the rights of the Palestinian people and the state of Palestine,” he said. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat called it “a historic day.” Erakat told AFP the decision was “another step on the long road towards worldwide recognition of the state of Palestine within 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital.” UNESCO, the United Nations cultural body, overrode Israeli objections to urgently grant world heritage status to the church worshipped as the birthplace of Jesus. The 13-6 secret vote in Russia’s Saint Petersburg to add the Church of the Nativity and its pilgrimage route to the prestigious list was received with rousing applause and a celebratory fist pump by the Palestinian delegation chief.
BAGHDAD (AFP) – A series of attacks in the Iraq capital and to its north killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 50 others on Thursday, security and medical officials said. A car bomb in a popular Baghdad market killed eight people and wounded 30, while another killed two people and wounded 15 in Taji, 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of the capital, the officials said. Further north, in the city of Samarra, gunmen killed two anti-Qaeda militiamen and wounded two more at a roadblock, the officials added. In the town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, two people were killed and four wounded in a bomb attack, police sources said, adding that three more people were wounded in a separate blast. And five people were wounded in the former insurgent town of Ramadi west of Baghdad when a car bomb exploded in a city centre parking area belonging to a state-run immigration office, the sources added. Thursday’s deaths brought to more than 200 the number of people killed in Iraq since June 13 — more than were killed in all of May.
Military sources report heavy Saudi troop movements toward the Jordanian and Iraqi borders Thursday overnight and up until Friday morning, 29 June, after King Abdullah put the Saudi military on high alert for joining an anti- Assad offensive in Syria. The Saudi units are poised with tanks, missiles, Special Forces and anti-air batteries to enter Jordan in two directions. One will safeguard Jordan’s King Abdullah against potential Syrian or Iranian reprisals from Syria or Iraq. The second will cut north through Jordan to enter south-eastern Syria, where a security zone will be established around the centres of the anti-Assad rebellion. The Saudi units deployed on the Iraqi border are there to defend the kingdom against potential incursions by Iraqi Shiite militias crossing into the kingdom for reprisals. The Iraqi militias are well trained and armed and serve under officers of the Iranian Al-Quds Brigades, the Revolutionary Guards’ external arm.
RASHAYA (AFP) – Israeli soldiers detained a young Lebanese shepherd on Friday in a disputed area on the border between the two countries, a Lebanese security source told AFP. “Fifteen Israeli soldiers entered Marj al-Teiss, a disputed zone which is claimed by Lebanon, and kidnapped Mohamed Yussef Zahra, an 18-year-old shepherd,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Marj el-Teiss is located in the Shebaa Farms, a mountainous area rich in water resources and located at the junction of Lebanon, Syria and Israel. The area has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war. Israel, which withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 after a 22-year occupation, has detained Lebanese shepherds in the area before but has handed them back after questioning.