Wednesday, 1 September, 2021 – 05:30
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat
Iraqi political sources have revealed more details of the “reform document” that political powers have vowed to implement in exchange for influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to participate in next month’s elections.
Sadr announced last week that he would be taking part in the elections, reversing a decision to sit them out.
Asharq Al-Awsat received a copy of the document that Sadr agreed to. His associates clarified that the copy Sadr had signed is named the “national document” and it is an updated version of a document that was reported by the media.
The most significant condition in the 16-point document is the stipulation to amend the constitution after the elections are held.
The updated copy underscores the “political parties and their parliamentary blocs’ commitment” to implement its points within the set deadlines.
The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Sadr had listed ten articles, which were not included in the document, with the aim of amending the constitution.
The first article of the document includes the commitment of all blocs in the upcoming parliament to amend the constitution according to its set mechanism and through a parliamentary committee that would be formed to that end. The amendment must take place within six months of the parliament holding its first meeting.
Two sources from Sadr’s Sairoon coalition and another from the Fatah alliance said the cleric had demanded constitutional amendments related to the mechanism to fight the possession of arms outside state authority. He also tackled consolidating the independence of military institutions and addressed amendments related to armed factions that are backed financially and politically by foreign sides.
The sources also revealed amendments related to public freedoms, especially those related to peaceful protests and rallies.
A source in the Fatah alliance, however, said discussions over a constitutional amendment will spark widespread debate that would include all Iraqi parties.
It will be no easy task, he added.
Days after Sadr announced his participation in the elections, a number of government and partisan officials sent out signals over the need to amend the constitution.
President Barham Salih on Monday said: “The current constitution cannot govern the current Iraq. Amending it is unavoidable.”
Israel Lets Building Goods into Gaza, Easing Postwar Closure
Tuesday, 31 August, 2021 – 18:30
Israel allowed dozens of truckloads of construction materials into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, easing a tight blockade it has maintained on the Hamas-ruled territory since an 11-day war last May.
The imports came during a tense period in which Hamas activists have launched incendiary balloons into Israel, sparking a number of wildfires across the border, and staged a series of sometimes violent demonstrations along the separation fence with Israel.
An Israeli soldier who was shot by a protester on Aug. 21 died of his wounds on Monday. Two Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy and a Hamas militant, have also been killed from Israeli gunfire.
Despite the tensions, Israeli officials this week allowed the entry of the badly needed building materials for Gaza’s private sector in a step that may help calm the situation.
Bassam Ghabin, director of the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing, said that 30 truckloads of cement, 120 trucks of gravel and 15 trucks of steel entered Gaza on Tuesday. He said the materials began entering on Monday, and that the crossing was operating almost at the same capacity as before the war.
An Israeli security official, speaking on condition of anonymity under policy guidelines, confirmed that building materials had entered Gaza. He had no specific details, but said they came under previously announced government decisions.
In recent weeks, COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian issues, said it was planning to allow more goods into Gaza if the security situation stabilized. Last week, it said it would “expand the entry of goods and equipment for international civilian projects in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel has maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007, a year after winning a Palestinian election. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas, a militant group sworn to Israel’s destruction, from rearming, while critics say the closure amounts to collective punishment. The blockade, which restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, has devastated Gaza’s economy.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since 2008, and Israel has tightened the blockade since the latest fighting in May. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, and construction goods are badly needed.
Later on Tuesday, Hamas activists planned another nighttime demonstration along the Israeli border to call for a lifting of the blockade.
Egyptian mediators have been trying to broker a longer-term ceasefire. But Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers and freedom of two Israeli civilians in Hamas captivity.
Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that has pushed for an end to the closure, called Tuesday’s move “crucial but insufficient, especially given the scope of the damage in Gaza, as well as Israel’s legal and moral obligations towards residents of the strip.”
“The situation in Gaza is not simply a humanitarian crisis that can be managed via narrow humanitarian gestures,” Gisha said. “Any meaningful attempt at resolving this dire situation requires much more expansive opening of the strip, underpinned by a broader political process.”