US hits Iran with new economic sanctions

At least 16 individuals and entities targeted for backing ‘illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity’.

US says it is targeting Iran for allegedly contributing to regional tensions [AP File]

The US government has unveiled new economic sanctions against Iran, targeting at least 16 individuals and entities for supporting what it said was “illicit Iranian actors or transnational criminal activity”.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the US treasury department said it is imposing the new sanctions against Iran over its ballistic missile programme and for contributing to regional tensions.

Those sanctioned had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components, the US said.

Others has also “orchestrated the theft of US and Western software programmes” sold to Iran’s government, the treasury department said.

READ MORE: Is Trump leading the US on a warpath with Iran?

The US state department had also designated two other Iranian organisations involved in Iran’s ballistic missile programme, according to the treasury department.

The news comes just a day after the US administration declared that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, while threatening more sanctions for breaching the “spirit” of the agreement.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said that those listed in the sanctions are now prohibited from using American banking system, and any assets they have in the US would be frozen.

“These are fairly minor, if you compare them to the sanctions lifted as part of the nuclear deal.”

The nuclear deal Iran signed with Western powers including the US does not cover Tehran’s ballistic missile programme.

But our correspondent said the new sanctions “all go back” to what President Donald Trump had promised during the 2016 campaign to take a hard line stand against Iran.

“The nuclear deal was a huge deal during the campaign,” Culhane said pointing to Trump’s promise to “rip it off or renegotiate” the agreement signed under the Obama administration.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Protest calls grow as Israel tightens grip on al-Aqsa

Fatah calls on Palestinians to boycott holy mosque as heightened security measures are feared to be signs of a takeover.

Israel has installed metal detectors outside al-Aqsa since it reopened on Sunday [AFP]

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party has called for a “Day of Rage” to protest against new security measures introduced by Israel at a Jerusalem site which is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The call follows the implementation of metal detectors and turnstiles at the entrance of al-Aqsa compound after a deadly shootout there on Friday.

In that incident, two Israeli security officers died after an alleged attack by three Palestinians – who were themselves killed by Israeli police following the violence.

Tensions have soared since Friday.

The Red Cross said on Tuesday that at least 50 Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police remaining near the sacred site, known as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

At least four paramedics were injured, and 15 others were hit by rubber bullets, the charity said.

The Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements have also called for protests in the West Bankand Gaza Strip over the new security measures.

READ MORE: Grand Mufti – Arrest of al-Aqsa guards ‘unacceptable’

The “Day of Rage” is set to take place on Wednesday.

“For the third day now, the Islamic Waqf authority – which runs the al-Aqsa Mosque compound – is refusing to enter through the Israeli metal detectors,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem.

“[The authority] and the many growing number of worshippers outside the mosque see [the security measures] as an imposition of Israeli sovereignty in a holy place, and more generally as an Israeli encroachment in occupied East Jerusalem.

“The Israelis are saying that this is an important security measure after the deadly attack which took place on Friday.”

READ MORE: What triggered the violence at al-Aqsa Mosque?

Fatah is calling for Friday prayers to be conducted in public squares in Palestinian cities to denounce what they described as “terrorist procedures” by Israel in occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinians have already been performing prayers outside the compound in protest, since it was reopened on Sunday after a two-day closure.

Jerusalem Grand Mufti Mohammed Ahmed Hussein criticised the new measures as altering the status quo, which gives Muslims religious control over the site and permits Jews to visit but not pray there.

In a statement, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that Israeli forces removed worshippers at Lions’ Gate for allegedly blocking the street while performing prayers.

The Palestinians fear Israel is trying to retake control of the site by stealth. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed on Friday that he did not want to alter the status quo.

The site houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina, but also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.

Questions about control of the site frequently lead to outbursts of fighting.

After Friday’s alleged attack, Israel closed off the area, preventing Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in decades.

Mahmoud Abbas, who was quick to condemn the shooting attacks in a telephone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is currently in Beijing on a three-day visit to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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