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Saudi rule change may bar Israeli Muslims from Mecca pilgrimage: Report

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Riyadh : Israeli Muslims will not be able to reach Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage because of a change in passport regulations made by Saudi Arabia, the Haaretz newspaper reported.

The new rules close a loophole that allowed passage from Israel, which does not have diplomatic relations with the Saudi kingdom, home to Islam’s two holiest shrines.

Saudi authorities announced they will no longer accept the temporary passports that Jordan had issued to Israeli Muslims to facilitate the trip, Haaretz said.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said in a text message that the government is “checking the situation.” Jordanian religious authorities in Jerusalem declined to comment.

According to Haaretz, the change also affects those Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip who hold temporary Jordanian passports, though not those with Palestinian travel documents. Palestinian Authority officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel have been growing stronger, with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying recently that the killing of Saudi government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey shouldn’t be allowed to destabilize the kingdom.


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International

US adds Pakistan, China to its blacklist for religious freedom violations

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Washington: Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia are among countries added to a US blacklist of nations that violate religious freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Pompeo said he has designated Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as “Countries of Particular Concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report.

The development comes a year after the US State Department put Pakistan on a watchlist without legal consequences.

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Netanyahu threats Hezbollah with ‘unimaginable blows’

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Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Lebanese Hezbollah militia will be dealt “unimaginable blows” if it resists Israel’s recent operation to destroy cross-border tunnels.

The remarks were made by Netayahu during a tour along the northern border, where the Israeli army has uncovered three Hezbollah tunnels crossing from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory, reports Xinhua.

“The most important thing is the readiness here for a much stronger response if Hezbollah makes a major mistake and decides to attack us or oppose our action,”

Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office.

“Hezbollah will be dealt unimaginable blows,” he said.

During the tour, Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s defence minister, held a security meeting with Israeli army’s Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot.

“We are systematically dismantling the tunnels,” he said, adding the operation will continue “as long as necessary.”

“We are carrying out exactly what we planned but we are ready for the unexpected. There is great firepower here,” he added.

Israel launched the “Northern Shield” operation on December 4 in order to locate and thwart the cross-border tunnels built by Hezbollah, a Shiite militia backed by Iran. Israel has claimed that Hezbollah plans to use the cross-border tunnels to infiltrate into Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a ceasefire.

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100 injured in BD poll campaign violence

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DHAKA: Bangladesh’s election campaign turned violent with scores injured at political rallies across the country, as police fired pellet guns into crowds and stick-wielding mobs attacked rival candidates.

Police said clashes broke out in at least seven major towns on just the second day of campaigning, injuring nearly 100 people who turned out to cheer the two major parties contesting the December 30 poll.

The unrest follows a crackdown on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in recent weeks, with hundreds of supporters from the main opposition movement thrown behind bars before campaigning had even begun.

In Thakurgaon, a northern district, a motorcade for the BNP’s secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was set upon by a huge crowd swinging batons.

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