BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Baghdad streets are partially empty, both of vehicles and pedestrians on the first day of the official five-day holiday announced by the federal government on the occasion of the Arab League Summit, scheduled to be held in the Iraqi capital this Thursday.
Aswat al-Iraq news agency correspondent has toured several neighborhoods in Baghdad and noticed a maze of security checkpoints and roadblocks to protect the capital from any possible threat.
"Most of the streets and the main roads are empty, only a few vehicles exist and the markets are so calm, which is not the case on regular days," our correspondent said.
He said the security forces have intensified their deployment and tightened security measures at the checkpoints spread throughout the capital, in addition to closing al-Jomhouriya and al-Sink bridges, linking between al-Karkh and al-Rusafa leading to the fortified Green Zone.
Entire streets in Baghdad have been closed down, SWAT teams have been combing the city, the government has declared a five-day public holiday, and around 100,000 extra security forces have been drafted in to man hundreds of checkpoints.
The extra security has caused big traffic jams, forcing some people to abandon their cars and walk to work.
The delays have been so bad that lawmakers have called for emergency lanes to be opened up to allow doctors and ambulances to reach hospitals in a timely fashion.
"Most of the stores and garages are closed, while citizens kept indoors because of the official vacation and the lack of any industrial or commercial activity, amid sharp dismay over the security measures, adopted by the Baghdad Operations Command," he noted.
The host nation has spent about 500 million dollars in preparation for the summit, including security and infrastructure, according to media reports.
The summit, the first to be held in Iraq in more than two decades, is to open amid tight security on Thursday.
The gathering is expected to discuss the situation in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reconciliation in Yemen.
Baghdad said earlier that it has completed the preparation for the summit and is ready to receive the Arab leaders despite sporadic violence across the country, which is seen as a setback to the Iraqi efforts to restore normalcy ahead of the summit.
Iraq sees the summit as a significant milestone in its history that would lead the country to play a powerful and positive role in the Arab world.