Iraq: Sadr’s Call to Restore 'Shiite Home' Stirs Controversy

 Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a media conference in Najaf, Iraq (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters).
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a media conference in Najaf, Iraq (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters).
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Iraq: Sadr’s Call to Restore 'Shiite Home' Stirs Controversy

 Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a media conference in Najaf, Iraq (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters).
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a media conference in Najaf, Iraq (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters).

A call by Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to “restore the Shiite home” was met with wide rejection by civil movements and groups, who warned that such slogans would drag the country again into sectarian strife.

Al-Sadr accused those he described as “a group of foolish boys” of seeking to dishonor the revolutionaries with external support.

“I find that it is in the urgent interest to accelerate the restoration of the Shiite home through intensive meetings in order to draft its doctrinal honor charter…,” he said on Twitter.

The concept of the “Shiite home” goes back to 2004, when late politician Ahmed Chalabi established it to include Shiite forces and parties defending the idea of the Shiites’ right to rule the country given their majority among the population. But the idea did not gain the necessary consensus and most of the main Shiite forces rejected it.

Observers believe that Sadr’s new call falls in the context of his recent struggle with the protest groups, which have openly accused him and his political movement of being behind the attack on the sit-in squares, especially last Friday’s events, which took place in the city of Nasiriyah and led to the killing of seven protesters and the injury of 90 others.

Activists announced on Thursday that the supreme Shiite cleric, Ali al-Sistani, met with a group of protesters, who asked for his protection from the continuous attacks against them.

Sadr’s call also faces widespread rejection within the Shiite popular circles, as well as among the rest of the components.

In this context, the head of the National Wisdom Movement, Ammar al-Hakim, is not likely to welcome Sadr’s invitation, especially as he has been seeking for weeks to build a “cross-sectarian” political alliance to engage in the upcoming elections.



Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
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Israeli Forces Pull Back after Gaza City Offensive, Leaving Dozens of Bodies

Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas
Palestinians gather as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Gaza City, following a ground operation, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Gaza City, July 12, 2024. REUTERS/Dawoud Abu Alkas

Israeli forces retreated from some Gaza City districts overnight after a fierce, week-long military offensive, leaving dozens of dead and wrecked homes and roads in the Palestinian enclave's biggest urban area, residents and rescue service said on Friday.

The offensive, 10 months into Israel's campaign to eliminate Hamas militants, took place as US-backed mediators sought to finalize a peace deal that would free remaining hostages taken by the militants in their cross-border rampage on Oct. 7.

According to Reuters, the Gaza Civil Emergency Service said teams had collected around 60 bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past week from the area of Tel Al-Hawa and the edges of the Sabra neighborhood in Gaza City.

Both residents and rescue teams cautioned that while tanks withdrew from some areas, Israeli snipers and tanks continued to control high ground at some locations, and warned residents against trying to return to their homes in those areas.

"There are bodies scattered in the streets, dismembered bodies, there are bodies of entire families, there are also bodies inside a home of an entire family that was completely burned," Gaza Strip Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said in comments carried by media in Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli military had said on Thursday that its forces were working to dismantle Hamas capabilities in Gaza City, and that it "follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm." It said the same was not true of Hamas.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they had fought fierce battles against Israeli forces, attacking them with anti-tank rockets and mortar fire, killing and wounding many. There has been no Israeli army comment on those claims.

Home to more than a quarter of Gaza's residents before the war, Gaza City was largely razed to the ground in late 2023, but hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have returned to homes in the ruins. Israel has once again ordered them out, though it is unclear where residents can go safely. Israel controls most of Gaza's borders and is also attacking central and southern Gaza.