Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has praised Britain's chief rabbi and expressed support for an article he wrote this week that offered scathing criticism of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn's record on anti-Semitism.
Rivlin met with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in London on Wednesday. His office says he expressed support for Mirvis' work, including his recent article in The Times newspaper in which he said "a new poison, sanctioned from the top, has taken root in the Labour Party."
Rivlin says there is "no room for anti-Semitism in the halls of power." He adds that Mirvis' "clear voice and leadership, particularly in the last few days, fills us all with pride."
Corbyn has struggled to defuse harsh criticism about anti-Semitism leveled at himself and the party before the Dec. 12 election.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has held a phone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss bilateral ties and cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts, Abdul Mahdi's office said Wednesday.
A statement by the office said that Abdul Mahdi confirmed his keenness on developing relations with Turkey and the importance of joint cooperation to achieve stability and counter-terrorism.
He also stressed his government's serious endeavor to achieve the reforms that the Iraqi people aspire to, the statement added.
"Abdul Mahdi explained to the Turkish president the current situation in Iraq, especially the demonstrations and the way to deal with them," the statement said.
Abdul Mahdi also pointed out the difference between the peaceful protesters and "groups of saboteurs who use violence, attacking security forces, threatening and intimidating citizens, schools, government institutions, and burning buildings," it added.
For his part, Erdogan expressed his support for the unity and stability of Iraq, and his readiness to develop bilateral relations in all fields, the statement said.
The Turkish president also praised the "wisdom and patience in the Iraqi government's approach to dealing with the demonstrations, and stressed the importance of imposing law and order as well as listening to the demands of the people of Iraq."
The phone call came as mass demonstrations continued in the capital Baghdad and other cities in central and southern Iraq since early October, demanding comprehensive reform, accountability for corruption, improvement of public services and job opportunities.
Overnight confrontations between supporters and opponents of Lebanon's president — mostly fistfights and stone throwing — erupted in cities and towns across the country, injuring dozens of people, and 16 people were detained for their involvement, the Lebanese Red Cross and the army said Wednesday.
The nationwide uprising against the country's ruling elite has remained overwhelmingly peaceful since it began Oct. 17, but as the political deadlock for forming a new government drags on, tempers have risen. President Michel Aoun has yet to hold consultations with parliamentary blocs on choosing a new prime minister after the government resigned a month ago.
Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was Aoun's and the militant Hezbollah's favorite to lead a new Cabinet, withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse after over 40 days of protests. Protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government.
The prolonged deadlock is awakening sectarian and political rivalries, with scuffles breaking out in areas that were deadly front lines during the country's 1975-90 civil war.
The most recent violence first began Sunday night after supporters of the two main Shiite groups, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, attacked protesters on Beirut's Ring Road. That thoroughfare had in the past connected predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in the city's west with Christian areas in the east.
Intense clashes took place Tuesday night between people in the Shiite suburb of Chiyah and the adjacent Christian area of Ein Rummaneh, where stones were hurled between supporters of Hezbollah and rival groups supporting the right-wing Christian Lebanese Forces. A shooting in Ein Rummaneh in April 1975 triggered the 15-year civil war that killed nearly 150,000 people.
Also on Tuesday night, supporters and opponents of Aoun engaged in fistfights and stone throwing in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest, injuring 24 people; seven were hospitalized.
In the mountain town of Bikfaya, 10 people were injured, including five who were hospitalized, after scuffles and stone throwing between Aoun's supporters and supporters of the right-wing Christian Lebanese Phalange Party, according to the Red Cross. The violence broke out after a convoy of dozens of vehicles carrying Aoun supporters drove into the town, which has been historically a Phalange stronghold.
"What happened yesterday was a mobile strife that intentionally tried to provoke our people," said Phalange leader and legislator Samy Gemayel. "We warn our people that there are attempts to attack their revolution, which should remain peaceful."
Hezbollah and Amal supporters also attacked protesters in the northeastern city of Baalbek and the southern port city of Tyre.
Police and troops deployed in the areas of the clashes and got the situation under control hours after the violence broke out.
The Lebanese army said in a statement that 16 people involved in the violence were detained, adding that 33 troops were injured in Tripoli after soldiers were hit with stones and molotov cocktails. It added that 10 other soldiers were injured as they separated crowds in Chiyah and Ein Rummaneh, while eight were injured in Bikfaya.
"Army units returned conditions to normal in all areas and the detainees are being questioned," the army said.
Hariri had resigned on Oct. 29 in response to the mass protests ignited by new taxes and a severe financial crisis. His resignation met a key demand of the protesters but plunged the country into uncertainty, with no clear path to resolving its economic and political problems.
Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.
For weeks, the Lebanese security forces have taken pains to protect anti-government protesters, in stark contrast to Iraq, where police have killed more than 340 people over the past month in a bloody response to similar protests.
Iraqi officials say six protesters have been killed amid ongoing violence with security forces firing live rounds and tear gas in Baghdad and southern Iraq.
Security and hospital officials say two protesters were killed Wednesday when security forces fired live rounds to disperse them from Baghdad's historic Rasheed Street.
Officials said one protester also died in Karbala on Wednesday afternoon, raising the death toll in clashes in the province to four in the past 24 hours.
The officials requested anonymity in line with regulations.
Protesters also burned tires near Ahrar bridge, blocking security forces from accessing it. Demonstrators are occupying part of three strategic bridges - Ahrar, Jumhuriya and Sinak - in a standoff with security forces.
At least 350 protesters have died and thousands wounded in mass demonstrations since Oct. 1.
Iraqi officials say three anti-government protesters were killed and 35 wounded by security forces in southern Iraq amid ongoing violence.
Security and hospital officials said Wednesday that two of the protesters were killed the previous night. That's when security forces fired live ammunition to disperse crowds in the holy city of Karbala.
One protester died of wounds suffered when a tear gas canister struck him in clashes earlier Tuesday.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Protesters have also cut roads to block traffic from Karbala to the capital, Baghdad.
At least 350 people have been killed and thousands wounded since Iraq's protests started Oct. 1. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to decry government corruption, poor services and subpar jobs.
Iran's supreme leader on Wednesday claimed without evidence that recent protests across the Islamic Republic over government-set gasoline prices rising were part of a "conspiracy" involving the U.S., as authorities began to acknowledge the scale of the demonstrations.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment while addressing members of the Revolutionary Guard's all-volunteer Basij force, which help put down the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, one lawmaker was quoted as saying authorities arrested more than 7,000 people over the protests while a security official claimed demonstrators attempted to take over Iranian state television.
Iran's government still hasn't offered any statistics on injuries, arrests or deaths in the protests and security crackdown that followed government-set gasoline prices rising Nov. 15. Amnesty International says it believes the violence killed at least 143 people, something Iran disputes without offering any evidence to support its claims.
In his comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the Iranian people extinguished "a very dangerous deep conspiracy that cost so much money and effort." He praised the police, the Guard and the Basij for "entering the field and carrying out their task in a very difficult confrontation."
Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, described the protests as being orchestrated by "global arrogance," which he uses to refer to the U.S. He described America as seeing the price hikes as an "opportunity" to bring their "troops" to the field but the "move was destroyed by people."
Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Basij. Videos from the protest purport to show plainclothes Basij officials and others on motorcycles beating and detaining protesters.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran's ruling Shiite theocracy, similarly blamed America for the protests without offering evidence. He called violent protesters "mercenaries" and "hooligans," alleging the U.S. sent money over two years to spark the demonstrations.
"We achieved a great national victory against superpowers," Rouhani said. "This great epic shows power of our people."
Meanwhile, the moderate news website Entekhab quoted Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, a member of parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, as saying more than 7,000 people had been arrested in the demonstrations. He did not elaborate.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli also claimed in an interview late Tuesday on state television that "some 500 people" tried to storm Iran's state television offices. He did not elaborate and no protests had been previously reported in the northern Tehran neighborhood home to the state broadcaster.
Fazli also estimated as many as 200,000 people took part the demonstrations, higher than previous claims. He said demonstrators damaged over 50 police stations, as well as 34 ambulances, 731 banks and 70 gas stations in the country.
"We have individuals who were killed by knives, shotguns and fires," he said, without offering a casualty figure.
Starting Nov. 16, Iran shut down the internet across the country, limiting communications with the outside world. That made determining the scale and longevity of the protests incredibly difficult. While home and office internet has been restored, access on mobile phones had remained rare until Wednesday night. Reports suggested users regained mobile internet access in Tehran and eight other provinces.
The gasoline price hike came as Iran's 80 million people have already seen their savings dwindle and jobs scarce under crushing U.S. sanctions. President Donald Trump imposed them in the aftermath of unilaterally withdrawing America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.