Moroccan ministers fired for alleged uplift delays

Morocco's King Mohammed VI (C) delivering a speech. (AFP file)
Updated 26 October 2017
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Moroccan ministers fired for alleged uplift delays

RABAT: King Mohammed VI of Morocco on Tuesday sacked three ministers because of “delays in development programs” in the troubled northern Rif region, the palace said.
The area was gripped earlier this year by months of angry demonstrations calling for jobs, development and an end to corruption in the North African kingdom.
Morocco in 2015 launched a $700 million program to revive the northern port city of Al-Hoceima, a focal point of the protest movement.
But a report released on Tuesday cited “malfunctions” and unjustified delays, the royal Cabinet said.
“There was a big delay in launching projects, and worse, the majority of these projects were not even launched,” it said.
The ministers of education, Mohamed Hassad, health, Houcine El-Ouardi, and housing, Nabil Benabdellah, were relieved of their duties along with two other senior officials.
The sackings came the same day, as the leader of a protest movement that has shaken the Berber-majority Rif appeared in court in his first public appearance since being arrested in May.
Nasser Zefzafi emerged as a key figure in the Al-Hirak Al-Shaabi movement that called for jobs, development and an end to corruption.
In court on Tuesday, he raised his fist and declared that “they refuse to give us the floor because they know that what we say will be right.”
Charged with “undermining the internal security of the state,” Zefzafi could face the death penalty.
Originally sparked by the death of a fisherman crushed in a rubbish truck as he tried to salvage his confiscated catch, the demonstrations snowballed from grievances over local poverty into a major challenge to the authorities.
In response, security forces launched a crackdown, slinging the alleged leaders of the mainly young protesters in jail in May and June.
4 terror suspects held
Moroccan authorities have arrested four people suspected of planning attacks in the city of Fez, a tourist destination and spiritual center.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that a military uniform, knives and documents calling for jihad were seized during the operation.
This is the second suspected extremist cell dismantled in less than a month in Fez after 11 people were arrested on Oct. 14.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.