Opinion in Gaza divided over protest deaths

The mother of a Leila Al-Ghandour, center, an 8-month-old baby Palestinian who died of tear gas inhalation during clashes in East Gaza on Monday, holds her at the morgue of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Opinion in Gaza divided over protest deaths

  • More than 100 Gazans have been killed since the protests began in March.
  • Since 2007, Israel has subjected Gaza to a land, sea and air blockade that has crippled its infrastructure. The blockade, which is backed by Egypt, was imposed as a response to Hamas’ takeover of the strip that  year.

GAZA CITY: Seven weeks after Palestinians in Gaza began their mass protest against the Israeli occupation, opinion in the strip is divided over whether the deaths of demonstrators was a sacrifice worth making.

Residents in the besieged coastal enclave started their “Great March of Return” on March 30, gathering at the border for a prolonged campaign designed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state’s creation.

More than 100 Gazans have died during the protests, sparking widespread condemnation from Arab governments and the UN. The worst of the bloodshed came on Monday, when Israeli snipers opened fire on huge crowds of men, women and children, killing 60 people.

Many here regard the protests as a source of national pride and view the victims as martyrs who died for the cause of Palestinian statehood. Others look upon the dead as pawns in a political game being played by both Israel and the dominant political faction in the strip, Hamas.

Ghada Al-Serhi, a 39-year-old mother of two, told Arab News that she had taken part in the weekly demonstrations with her husband and brothers.

“Any people under occupation must suffer until liberation is achieved,” she said. “Yes, there are many victims but should we continue to live under oppression, in a situation that does not meet the minimum standards for a meaningful life? Israel is the occupier. We must face them.”

Monday’s bloodshed came as the US relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Israel claimed the killings were carried out in self-defense, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that unarmed civilians had been massacred.

Rami Al-Sharif, a 21-year-old sociology student, told Arab News that he had been peacefully participating in the demonstrations since they began six weeks ago.

“I believe Palestinian rights are worth a lot. What is the value of my studies if I do not find work after graduation? What is the value of my life if it is not a decent life?” he said.

Since 2007, Israel has subjected Gaza to a land, sea and air blockade that has crippled its infrastructure. The blockade, which is backed by Egypt, was imposed as a response to Hamas’ takeover of the strip that  year.

The main political factions in Gaza, including Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have thrown their support behind the recent protests, and Hamas said that 50 of the 60 people killed on Monday were its members. However, the fatalities also included civilians such as Laila Al-Ghandour — an eight-month-old girl who died from tear gas inhalation.

In the far west of Gaza city this week, the chaos of the eastern border was nowhere to be seen. 

Instead, a group of young men sat together drinking coffee and smoking shisha near the sea as the sound of ambulances ferrying the injured to hospitals echoed in the distance.

Among the group was 25-five-year-old Mohammed Al-Riyashi, who told Arab News that he did not support the protests because they are “an easy way for Israel to kill young people.” Like many young men here, Riyashi cannot find regular work despite having a university degree.

“We do not need more wounded and disabled people. We need someone who will save us from the tragic situation in which we live — from the difficult conditions in which we live — not someone who will make life even more difficult and cruel.”

His friend, Samer Shamlakh, agreed and accused Hamas of “exploiting the protests” to distract people from its own failings.

“I went to the border for a few hours out of curiosity once. I did not and will not return. These demonstrations are aimed at favoring one political party and we are looking for Palestinian unity,” he said.


Egypt offers residency to foreign investors

Updated 21 November 2018
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Egypt offers residency to foreign investors

  • A three-year residency is on offer for those who invest $200,000, and five years for those who purchase property worth $400,000
  • To begin the process for obtaining Egyptian residency, a preliminary contract must be agreed between the property owner and the foreign investor

CAIRO: In an attempt to further boost its booming real estate sector and attract foreign investment, Egypt will grant residency permits to foreigners who invest at least $100,000 in the country’s property market.
The growth rate of Egypt’s property market stands at 133 percent in 2018. This has been fueled by strong demand for housing, along with the sporadic launch of residential construction projects.
The minimum investment required to obtain a residency permit is $100,000. A three-year residency is on offer for those who invest $200,000, and five years for those who purchase property worth $400,000. The offer also applies to properties that are still under construction.
Khaled Abbas, the deputy minister of housing, said the procedures for the scheme are being set up in consultation with the Passport, Immigration and Nationality Administration.
To begin the process for obtaining Egyptian residency, a preliminary contract must be agreed between the property owner and the foreign investor, and then signed by an authorized body, such the Urban Communities Authority, the Tourism Development Authority or the governorate in which the property is located. Bank statements must also be provided confirming that the money has been transferred from overseas. The passport office will then approve the period of residence.
Members of the House of Representatives welcomed the announcement as a positive move for Egypt and an incentive for foreign investment, which it is hoped will create jobs and economic opportunities.
Whether the public will be so keen remains to be seen.
“This might be a bit problematic,” said Aly Salem, a resident of Cairo. “The housing demand in Egypt is already high, with the surging youth population and more and more people looking to get married each year. Where will they stay, if foreigners start swooping in and acquiring both residency and a huge housing unit with just $100,000?”
Offering further details, Gen. Kamel Amer, the head of the Parliament’s Defense and National Security Committee, said foreigners will not have any political rights for the first five years of residency and they will not be eligible to vote for 10 years. He also said spouses and children of investors will not be granted residency unless they live in Egypt.
Spain and Portugal have implemented similar programs in an attempt to boost their property markets. Previously, a foreigner had to live in Egypt for 10 consecutive years to be eligible for naturalization.
The new residency law is part of the efforts to repair the damage to Egypt’s economy caused by severe austerity measures imposed after the $12 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund in 2016.
The cost and size of properties in Egypt, which are often large and lavish apartments, compare favorably to those in many other countries. Despite this, few Egyptians can afford to pay for a house upfront, but some private property developers are offering 10-year, interest-free installment plans.