- - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

GAZA STRIP

Gaza Shiites claim Hamas persecution

GAZA CITY — Masked Hamas police beat and detained members of the Gaza Strip’s tiny Shiite community during a religious commemoration last week, a follower and local rights groups said Tuesday, accusing their Islamist rulers of religious intolerance.

It was the first claim of harassment by a group of Shiite worshippers against the territory’s mainstream rulers, who are Sunni Muslims.

Hamas officials, who have close ties with Shiite Iran, denied the allegations.

A man who described himself as a Shiite said police burst into a house where followers were marking Arbaeen, the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.

The man said about 15 worshippers were beaten and detained. He declined to be identified, fearing further harassment.

But some of the men filed complaints to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the rights group Mezan, which both sharply condemned Hamas over the attack.

IRAQ

Sunni Cabinet ministers suspended during boycott

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi official said ministers from the Sunni-backed bloc have been suspended from the Cabinet after boycotting its sessions.

That could deepen a sectarian-based government crisis with the dominant Shiite party.

Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the ministers are no longer “allowed to manage ministries, and all decisions that will be signed by them are invalid.”

They have been boycotting to protest an arrest warrant issued against the top Sunni politician, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

Mr. al-Dabbagh said Tuesday in a statement that ministers from the Iraqiya bloc would be allowed back into the Cabinet if they ended their boycott.

Sectarian violence also has spiked in the month since U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq.

ISRAEL

Official: Nuclear Iran could deter military action

JERUSALEM — A nuclear Iran could make it tougher for Israel to act against enemies closer to home, a senior Israeli military official said Tuesday, suggesting that regional fallout would be broad should Tehran achieve atomic-bomb-making capabilities.

Military planning division chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said if Tehran attains atomic weapons, that could constrain Israel from striking Iranian-backed Islamist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

“If we are forced to do things in Gaza or in Lebanon, under the Iranian nuclear umbrella it might be different,” Gen. Eshel said at a briefing in Jerusalem.

He warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would set off an atomic arms race in the region, leading to “a global nuclear jungle.”

Israel has been warning the world for years that Iran must not be allowed to develop the technology needed to build a bomb. It worries that a nuclear-armed Iran could threaten Israel’s survival and has hinted it could strike Iran militarily if international sanctions do not halt nuclear development.

Iran claims its nuclear program is for energy production, not bomb-making and shows no sign of abandoning it.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas leaders evacuating families from Syria

GAZA CITY — Hamas officials said senior members of their exiled leadership will evacuate their families from the group’s headquarters in Syria.

Hamas, a militant Islamist Palestinian group, rules the Gaza Strip.

The officials, speaking from Damascus, said Tuesday that the evacuations are in response to the deteriorating security situation in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has been resisting a 10-month uprising.

The officials say the families of three top officials - Moussa Abu Marzouk, Mohammed Naser and Izzat Risheq - are set to leave at the end of the month, while the three men will remain in Damascus.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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