Baghdad criminalizes flying Israeli flags in Iraq after use at Kurdish rallies

Peshmerga holding Israeli flag in Erbil, Sep. 22, 2017 © Ceng Sagnic / Twitter

Iraq's parliament in Baghdad voted on Tuesday to criminalize flying the Israeli flag in the country, after they appeared at several Kurdish rallies in the lead up and aftermath of a banned independence referendum last month.

"The House of Representatives voted during its regular session, today, a decision to criminalize all who raise the flag of the Zionist entity in the public circles," a parliamentary source told the Alsumaria News outlet.

The source added that the decision came "at the request of the head of the citizen bloc.

"Israeli flags were raised during a number of pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and across Europe.

The provincial government said that their appearances at the rallies were "spontaneous" and did not reflect the position of the government.

Israel was the only nation to have expressed support for Iraqi Kurds' historic referendum held September 25 in the face of fierce opposition from Baghdad and neighboring countries Iran and Turkey.

Israeli officials see the Kurds as a bulwark in the midst what they describe as a "Shia crescent" stretching from Tehran to Beirut and made up of states and militias hostile to Israel.

In a region where few countries are willing to forge ties with Israel, an independent Kurdistan was seen by some as likely to consider an alliance.

Iraq's central government, Turkey, Iran, and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah all accused Israel of orchestrating the vote, which triggered a deep crisis with Baghdad.

Israel denied any involvement in the controversial referendum.

Since the vote, Kurdish peshmerga forces have withdrawn without a fight from disputed areas in the northern province of Kirkuk after federal government troops and militia entered the city seized the provincial governor's office and key military bases.

Massud Barzani, the president of the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq, told a closed-door session of parliament Sunday he was stepping down amid the fall-out.

Source: i24NEWS

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