January 07, 2020

More than 60 people die in stampede at Qassim Soleimanis funeral as Iran warns of attack on Israel
At least 60 people died and 200 were injured in a stampede yesterday during the funeral for Qassim Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by the US. Tens of thousands had gathered in a central square in Kerman, the home town of the commander, as they prepared for his burial. Witnesses say mourners were violently pushed back from the cortege as the coffin passed, with crowds trampling on men, women and children. Video from the scene showed bodies covered in coats as paramedics worked on the wounded. Funeral processions in cities in Iraq and Iran over three days have been an unprecedented honour for Soleimani, who is viewed by many Iranians as a national hero for heading the Guard’s elite Quds Force. A procession in Tehran on Monday drew more than a million people. Speaking to those gathered yesterday, Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, vowed to avenge the killing. Soleimani was now more powerful in death than in life, he said. “We will take revenge. We will set ablaze a place they like and they well know where it is,” he declared, prompting cries of “Death to Israel”. A procession for Qassem Soleimani was reportedly attended by as many as one million people in Tehran Credit: AP Tehran has threatened revenge against the US and its allies since the American drone killed Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport last Friday. Israel, a long-time regional foe of Iran, has drawn closer to the US under Donald Trump. But Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has been notably quiet since the attack, distancing himself from the US strike. According to ministers who spoke to the Israeli press, Mr Netanyahu reportedly said: “The assassination of Soleimani isn’t an Israeli event but an American one. We were not involved.” A mourner at the funeral for Soleimani and his comrades Credit: AP He added that Israel could not be dragged into the escalating conflict – fearing an attack from Hamas in the Palestinian territories or from Hizbollah, Iran’s proxy force, in Lebanon. The US and Israel have had sufficient intelligence on Soleimani’s movements over the years to target him but had decided against doing so. Iran has medium and long-range missiles and regularly boasts that it can hit Israeli targets, including Ben Gurion International Airport. Based on intelligence, the US has been watching for potential attacks specifically against US locations in Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The New York Times quoted sources that claimed Iranian forces – rather than its proxies – would retaliate. Iran and the West | Comment and analysis Last night, Mr Trump said on Twitter that he had seen Khalid bin Salman, a Saudi defence minister, for a “very good meeting” since the attack. He wrote: “We discussed trade, military, oil prices, security, and stability in the Middle East!” Syria’s government meanwhile hosted Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who was looking to reassure the regime after Soleimani’s death. Quds Force fighters were instrumental in quelling the uprising in Syria. Yesterday, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said the US had declined to issue him a visa to go to New York for a meeting of the United Nations. As host of the UN headquarters, America is obliged to allow access even to hostile states. “They fear that someone comes to the US and reveals realities,” Mr Zarif said. According to a report yesterday from the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans to avenge Soleimani’s death.
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