‘You might get shot any time’: Saudi forces raid Shia town as Riyadh welcomes Trump

Published time: 19 May, 2017 05:16
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The Saudi town of Awamiyah with historically Shia population has been effectively besieged by the government forces for over a week following deadly clashes, with roadblocks blocking exits from the city and bulldozers razing homes, local eyewitnesses told RT.
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While the visit of Donald Trump on Saturday to Saudi Arabia, which would be his first foreign visit as the 45th US president, gripped the attention of the international media, little has been reported about the plight of civilians in Awamiyah, a town in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

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Sara_Haj @Sara_Haj
Welcome to Awamiyah. 4th day of Saudi regime attack on the Shia town. Regime insists on forceful evacuation of residents, houses 2 be razed
10:53 PM – 13 May 2017
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Some 25,000 residents of the town, most of them representing the country’s Shia minority, have been living in constant fear of being arrested, assaulted or killed since government troops raided the town nine days ago in what they claimed was an anti-terrorist operation, a local resident who asked not to be named told RT.

A 2-year-old boy and a Pakistani national were killed, and at least 14 people, including four policemen, were injured as a result of the raid in Awamiyah’s Almosara neighborhood, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement last Friday. The authorities claimed that clashes erupted after unidentified “terrorists” fired at workers contracted by a company implementing a controversial renovation project in Awamiyah. The perpetrators also allegedly used explosives to knock the construction equipment out of operation. As the Saudi security forces tried to disarm the “terrorists,” they allegedly began firing randomly at the servicemen and passersby, which led to the casualties among civilians, according to the ministry.

The incident led to the neighborhood being effectively cut off from the rest of the region, with roadblocks placed on all the roads leading from the town and checkpoints set up.

In the meantime, social media have been inundated with footages of bulldozers and armed vehicles on the streets full of debris from partially demolished buildings with gaping holes in the walls and dangling wires. Some of the videos show cars being set alight with no fire engines containing the fire. Charred carcasses of vehicles could be seen in the aftermath. There have been reports that government forces are not allowing anybody to leave or enter the city while it is under siege. Subject to the restrictions are reportedly also ambulances and fire engines, and even garbage trucks, with people on some of the footage picking up litter scattered on the ground.

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This is not occupied Palestine.This #Saudi Arabia. It’s the 9th day of siege & heavy military attack on the Shia town Awamiyah! #terrorism
10:08 PM – 18 May 2017
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#Saudi troops bullets penetrate walls of a elementary boy’s school ,shooting break through classroom #Awamiyah #العوامية @hrw #un
6:28 PM – 15 May 2017
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Destroyed buildings riddled with bullet holes in Shia village of Awamiyah amid fighting between local fighters and Saudi security forces.
12:21 PM – 17 May 2017
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YemenExtra-Saudi regime offensive on Al Awamiyah town, east Saudi enters 2nd week #YemenExtra

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RT cannot independently verify the videos as it is impossible to access the site. Moreover, most locals refuse to openly speak to foreign media, fearing repercussions.

“You might get arrested any time, get shot or killed directly, which has already happened. Some people got shot in that area,” a local resident, who asked for his name not to be revealed, told RT by phone.

“All the entrances to Awamiyah are closed with checkpoints. Sometimes it is closed completely. You cannot enter or exit Awamiyah,” the man said, noting that the clashes in the city have been ongoing “almost all… night and day.”

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Day 8 #Awamiyah #Shia #Qatif 💔 Saudi snipers firing into schools,forced evacuations, bulldozing homes, MSM if blinded by #Saudi’s oil $’s 😤
12:31 PM – 17 May 2017
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He added that most of the shops in the town have been shut down, as people are too frightened to leave their homes.

As for the reasons for the reported crackdown, the eyewitness said there could be several possible explanations. One of them is the highly disputed renovation plan, enforced by the Saudi authorities in Almosara despite protests by the locals and calls by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to “halt the forced evections and demolition” in the 400-year-old neighborhood.

“People disagree. However, they cannot do anything right now. They are frightened all the time, they might get arrested or killed in the middle of the street,” the local resident said, adding that he doubts the renovation plans exist at all.

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“We did not see any projects, real projects, we only hear about them. We are afraid that these are only claims. What we see right now are just the claims without evidence,” he said, adding that locals “don’t know the real reason” behind the government’s crusade against the town.

He believes, however, that the ultimate goal of the Saudi authorities is to silence dissent, with which Awamiyah has been associated since 2011.

“I believe that Saudi government wants to teach their people, and especially, Al-Qatif citizens, that their demands and human rights will not be implemented by protest. All those protests and demands will be faced with arresting and raids.”

READ MORE: US to sign major oil deals with Saudi Arabia during Trump visit

Awamiyah is the native town of influential Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was also Imam in a mosque there. Nimr was controversially executed in January 2016 after Riyadh charged him with terrorism. He is considered to be one of the leaders behind the 2011 protest movement and a vocal critic of the Saudi government’s treatment of Shiite minority. Nimr’s death sparked worldwide protests last year.

According to the latest data from the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, three people died and over 25 have been injured in the course of the Saudi government’s raids in Awamiyah since May 10. Hundreds of families were evicted from their homes, 10 homes were burned down and over 50 cars have been damaged.

RT has sent requests to several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, UNESCO, OHCHR, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights to comment on the situation in Awamiyah.

So far, UNESCO has responded they are looking into RT’s report.
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Le Pen French election victory would have triggered ’emergency crisis plan’ – report
Published time: 18 May, 2017 21:35
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Le Pen French election victory would have triggered ’emergency crisis plan’ – report
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France was ready to deploy a secret crisis plan to “protect the republic” if far-right politician Marine Le Pen had won the election, a French magazine has reported, citing sources. The plan included flooding the streets with police to maintain order.
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People face riot police in Menilmontant district of Paris during the night on May 7, 2017 ©
Lara PrioletNearly 150 arrested in post-election protests in Paris overnight – police
Citing three senior sources close to the French government and state organizations, France’s L’Obs magazine has revealed that a plan was devised because the country was fearing “extreme violence” and chaos if Le Pen won the election against Emmanuel Macron.

The first priority, the magazine said, was to preserve order on the streets, as authorities expected major violent protests, The Local reported, citing the L’Obs article.

In addition, then-Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who has now been replaced by Edouard Philippe, would have been required to remain in his post until the parliamentary elections in June, in order to maintain some measure of stability.

Cazeneuve’s government would have also been asked to stay on. This would have forced Le Pen to accept a “cohabitation” system, in which a French president has to accept a government and prime minister from a different party.

READ MORE: Macron’s victory product of good marketing, not his policies – French presidential candidate

In addition, the French parliament would have been recalled for an emergency session on the Wednesday following the May 7 election to discuss the “national crisis and outbreaks of violence,” according to the report.

“The country would have come to a halt and the government would have just one priority, ensuring the security of the state,” an unnamed source told L’Obs.

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The magazine noted that although the plan wasn’t formally laid out in writing, it was discussed at a high level and was ready to be deployed if needed.

“It was an action plan with several layers. The philosophy, and the imperative priority, was to maintain civil peace while fully respecting our constitutional rules,” a source said.

Le Pen’s qualification for the second round of the election prompted outbreaks of violence in some cities across France. Demonstrators protesting on May Day threw petrol bombs at police.

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Demonstrators clash with French riot police in Paris, France April 23, 2017 © Jean-Paul PellisierRiot police clash with protesters, deploy tear gas at post-vote demo in central Paris (VIDEO)
Concerns about Le Pen’s potential win were already taking place ahead of the first round of the election on April 23, with a confidential note from intelligence services, stating “without exception, every local public safety directorate has expressed its concern,” Le Parisien reported a day before the voting.

Regional police chiefs were reportedly asked on April 21, two days before the first round of voting, to explain their crowd control and deployment plans to the government. On May 5, two days before the second round of voting, the national public safety directorate warned that protesters were ready to use “fireworks, mortars and incendiary bombs.”

READ MORE: ‘Centrist’ Macron? Yes, a dead-center insider for global capitalism

The so-called crisis plan reportedly devised by the government was ultimately not required, however, as Le Pen received just 34 percent of the votes in the runoff. Rival Emmanuel Macron claimed victory with 66 percent.

Le Pen is the leader of France’s far-right National Front, a party founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 1972. She is most well known for her anti-immigration, anti-Islamization, and anti-globalization rhetoric. She is a vocal supporter of US President Donald Trump, who praised her during the French election but stopped short of a full endorsement.
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