The United States placed Iran’s morality police on its sanctions blacklist Thursday following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab headscarf improperly.
The US Treasury said the morality police were “responsible” for Amini’s death, which has sparked an outpouring of popular anger, as it announced the sanctions “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and the violation of the rights of peaceful Iranian protestors.”
The sanctions move was taken as violent protests erupted across Iran following the death last week of Iranian-Kurdish Amini, who had been arrested by the public morality unit of the national police.
“Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in morality police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people,” said Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen.
“We condemn this unconscionable act in the strongest terms and call on the Iranian government to end its violence against women and its ongoing violent crackdown on free expression and assembly,” Yellen said in a statement.
According to an official count, at least 17 people have died in unrest following Amini’s death as women burned their headscarves and protesters denounced the government leadership and restrictions on women.
The Oslo-based non-government group Iran Human Rights said at least 31 civilians had been killed in six nights of violence.
The Treasury also placed sanctions on Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, the head of the morality police, Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, the head of the morality police’s Tehran division, and five other senior security officials involved in the repressions of protestors.
It said Rostami had announced earlier this year that women would be punished for refusing to wear a hijab.
“The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The United States will continue to voice our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account,” he said in a statement.
Treasury sanctions aim to freeze any assets those designated might have under US jurisdiction and forbid any American individuals or companies — including international banks with US operations — from doing business with them, effectively limiting their access to global financial networks.
Palestinian Gunman Kills Seven In Jerusalem Synagogue Attack
A Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside an east Jerusalem synagogue during the Jewish Sabbath on Friday, in one of the deadliest attacks targeting Israelis in years that risked sparking widespread violence.
The shooting came a day after a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including an army raid in the occupied West Bank that killed nine people, rocket fire from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli strikes.
Israel’s police chief Kobi Shabtai called the shooting in the Neve Yaakov area “one of the worst attacks we have encountered in recent years.” It also fell on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Police said that “at around 8:15 pm (1815 GMT) a terrorist arrived at a synagogue in the Neve Yaakov boulevard in Jerusalem and proceeded to shoot at a number of people in the area.”
“As a result of the terror attack, seven civilians were pronounced dead and three additional civilians were injured,” police said.
They said the gunman fled the scene in a car but was quickly tracked down and killed in an “exchange of fire” with police.
Police have identified the gunman as a Palestinian resident of east Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War.
The surging violence comes a month after a new government, led by veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, took power.
Netanyahu and his extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the scene on Friday, as crowds chanted “death to Arabs,” AFP journalists at the scene said.
Speaking on television after visiting the scene, Netanyahu said his security cabinet would soon announce “immediate measures” in response and urged Israelis not to “take the law into their own hands.”
– ‘Horrific’ –
Shalom Borohov, a barber who lives near the synagogue, told AFP that after hearing gunshots he “went down to help people”.
“I saw the terrorist arriving with his car. He stopped in the middle of the junction, and shot from his car,” continuing to shoot as people came to the scene, he said.
Matanel Almalem, an 18-year-old student who lives nearby, told AFP that he ran down to the street after hearing the shooting and saw the gunman in a white Toyota Corolla.
“I heard a lot of shooting,” he said.
US President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu to condemn what he called a “horrific terror attack”.
“The president made clear that this was an attack against the civilised world,” the White House said in a readout of the call, adding that Biden also “stressed the ironclad US commitment to Israel’s security”.
Just hours earlier, Washington had urged “de-escalation” over the West Bank violence and Gaza rocket fire.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the synagogue shooting as “abhorrent,” while France called it “appalling.”
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who was on a family visit to the US, has cut short his trip and is returning to Israel, his office told AFP.
“The attack against civilians this Friday evening was horrific,” Gallant said in a statement, vowing to “operate decisively and forcefully against terror” and “reach anyone involved in the attack”.
In Gaza and several locations across the West Bank, Palestinians celebrated the attack, including in Ramallah, where large crowds cheered and waved Palestinian flags.
– Jenin raid –
Nine people had been killed Thursday in what Israel described as a “counter-terrorism” operation in the Jenin refugee camp.
It was one of the deadliest Israeli army raids in the occupied West Bank since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, of 2000 to 2005.
Israel said Islamic Jihad operatives were the target.
Islamic Jihad and Hamas both vowed to retaliate, later firing several rockets at Israeli territory.
Most of the rockets were intercepted by Israeli air defences. The military responded with strikes on Hamas targets in Gaza.
There were no injuries reported on either side, but Gaza’s armed groups vowed further action.
After the synagogue shooting, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the attack proved “the resistance knows how to find the appropriate response” to Israeli “crimes”.
Washington had announced Thursday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would travel next week to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he would push for an “end to the cycle of violence”.
A State Department spokesman confirmed on Friday that the visit would go ahead and said Blinken would discuss “steps to be taken to de-escalate tensions”.
At least 26 Israelis and 200 Palestinians were killed across Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2022, the majority in the West Bank, according to an AFP tally from official sources.
Elon Musk Faces U.S. Fraud Trial Over Tesla Tweet
Elon Musk, the CEO of electric car giant Tesla, will face trial on Tuesday over allegedly manipulating the stock market with a tweet after a federal judge rejected his request to move the case out of California.
The case dates back to August 2018 when Musk tweeted that he had sufficient funding to take Tesla private, causing a whirlwind in the company’s share price.
Musk was swiftly sued by shareholders for allegedly costing them billions of dollars with the Twitter post that said funding was “secured” to buy out the company’s shareholders.
According to a spokesperson for the court, Judge Edward Chen on Friday refused to transfer the proceedings to Texas, the southern state where Musk moved Tesla’s headquarters and jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
Defense lawyers had argued that the multibillionaire would be denied a fair trial in San Francisco, where he bought Twitter in late October and has been widely criticized for his decisions since taking over the social media firm.
After taking over Twitter, Musk fired more than half of the 7,500 employees, most in San Francisco, and radically changed the site’s content moderation policies.
“For the last several months, the local media have saturated this district with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk that have fostered… highly prejudicial biases in the jury pool,” the CEO’s lawyers argued in a filing.
“The local media, in a deviation from how they typically cover these stories, have blamed Mr. Musk personally for the reductions and even accused him of violating the law,” the lawyers said.
According to Bloomberg, Judge Chen expressed confidence at the hearing that impartial jurors could be chosen.
Musk’s short tweet in 2018 has already attracted the attention of authorities.
The US stock market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, ordered that Musk step down as chairman of the board of Tesla and pay a fine of $20 million.
Spain Court Investigates Sexual Assault Claims Against Dani Alves
A Spanish court has opened an investigation into allegations former Brazil defender Dani Alves sexually assaulted a woman at a Barcelona nightclub last month.
A Barcelona court opened a probe “into an alleged crime of sexual assault as a result of a complaint filed by a woman against a football player,” the Superior Court of Catalonia said in a statement.
While the statement did not name Alves, informed sources confirmed to AFP the former Barcelona and Juventus player was the subject of the investigation.
Catalan police said they had received a complaint on January 2 from a woman who said Alves had touched her inappropriately.
The alleged sexual assault took place at a popular Barcelona nightclub overnight December 30-31, according to Spanish media reports.
The player was accused of putting his hands down the woman’s pants, according to the reports.
Alves, 39, has confirmed he was at the night club at the time but has denied any wrongdoing, telling private Spanish television Antena 3 last week that he has “never seen” the woman before.
“I was there, at that place, with more people having fun. Everybody knows I love to dance. Having a good time but without invading the space of others,” he added.
Alves, who now plays for Mexican side Pumas UNAM, was in Barcelona on holiday following his participation at the World Cup with Brazil in Qatar.
He was the oldest player to represent Brazil at the men’s World Cup.