Trump’s Mideast team meets Israel’s Netanyahu over peace plan

Jason Greenblatt (L), the US president’s assistant and special representative for international negotiations, speaks to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner during a press conference at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Trump’s Mideast team meets Israel’s Netanyahu over peace plan

JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump’s Mideast team met Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel as part of a visit with regional leaders to discuss the US plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The meeting comes shortly before the Trump administration is expected to unveil its Middle East peace plan. Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Palestinians are shunning the Americans since Trump’s policy shift recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump said at the time he is not taking a position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty that are to be determined in negotiations.
The White House issued a statement after Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner along with Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.
“They discussed the means by which the humanitarian situation in Gaza can be alleviated, while maintaining Israel’s security. They further discussed the continued commitment of the Trump Administration and Israel to advance peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” it said. The statement gave no additional details.
Kushner has been leading efforts to broker a peace deal between the two sides. US officials have said the long-awaited peace plan is near completion and should be released this summer following several postponements. The Trump team met this week with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other regional leaders.
Netanyahu issued a statement after the hours-long meeting in which he “expressed his gratitude for President Trump’s support for Israel.”
No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians were angered by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there and have since rejected the US as peace broker. They see the decision as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict, arguing it disqualifies the US from its traditional role.
Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to key sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the 1967 war from Jordan. Palestinians claim the territory for its future capital. Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital.
The fate of the city is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict.


Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

Updated 10 min 50 sec ago
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Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help

  • Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb
  • They were faced with hospital bills they couldn't afford for treatment

BAGHDAD: It was spring 2007 in northern Iraq when 6-year-old Saja Saleem raced home from school with the good news about her excellent grades, hoping to receive the gift her father had promised her.
“All of a sudden, I found myself spinning into the air with fire trailing from my school uniform after a loud boom,” Saleem, now 17, recounted to The Associated Press.
Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb. Months later, her disfiguring injuries forced her to drop out of school after other students complained about her “scary face.”
Feeling helpless, Saleem recently turned to social media to find help. Eventually, her appeal grabbed the attention of a surgeon who offered free treatment.
Others have also reached out on social media.
Emotional videos and photographs of Iraqis with war wounds and disabilities have overwhelmed social media platforms, mainly Facebook, widely used in Iraq.
The widespread violence unleashed by the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein and the 2014-2017 battle against the Daesh group has wounded hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Many are maimed and scarred, their suffering lingering long after the violence subsides.
Poor medical services, scarcity of specialized staff and medical centers, and poverty have exacerbated the suffering. Those who cannot get treatment at state-run hospitals and cannot afford private clinics are looking to social media platforms to make appeals.
Appeals are posted on the personal Facebook pages of patients or on the pages of aid organizations and public figures with tens of thousands of followers. Patients describe their condition along with contact details. Messages are also distributed on platforms like WhatsApp and Viber.
Saleem and her family recall the explosion that upended her life, and the years that followed as they struggled financially to get her treatment.

The moment her life changed
“When I hit the ground, I felt severe pain all over my body ... I was bleeding, a pool of blood around me ... everything turned dark and I lost consciousness,” she recalled from her bed at a Baghdad hospital where she is undergoing free reconstructive and plastic surgeries.
Saleem’s mother, Khawla Omar Hussein, remembers her daughter’s screams when three weeks later, she regained consciousness and realized she had lost her right arm and ear.
“She woke up screaming, crying: ‘Mammy, mammy’,” Hussein recalled. “Then she asked: ‘Why can’t I see and why is everything dark?’“
They told her it was the bandages over her eyes and that she would see after they were removed. When that day came, the doctors told her she had lost both eyes.
Nearly two years later, Saleem’s family tried to send her back to school where she was accepted only as a “listener” in class, accompanying her brothers. But that arrangement ended soon as other students and teachers complained that her disfigured face was bothering them.
“I was crying day and night and became a very reclusive person,” Saleem said.
After the state-run hospital couldn’t go beyond the necessary treatment to save her life, Saleem’s family looked for plastic and reconstructive surgery for her at a private clinic, but they couldn’t afford the doctor’s $7,500 fee.

Her mother's appeal

Then, late last year, her mother made an appeal, posting photographs of Saleem and details about her ordeal in a public group on Viber. Days later, Baghdad-based Dr. Abbas Al-Sahan, one of Iraq’s best plastic surgeons, offered to do free surgeries.
Since January, Saleem has undergone four surgeries — first so her face could accommodate the two glass eyes, or ocular prostheses, then a procedure to reduce some of the scars. She also had a surgery to adjust to a prosthetic arm and is due to have plastic surgery to reconstruct her missing ear, Al-Sahan said.
Al-Sahan runs the only state-run specialized hospital for reconstructive and plastic surgery in Iraq. He said that about 40 percent of the monthly surgeries his hospital preforms — between 600 to 850 — are for victims of bombings and other war-related explosions, as well as for casualties of military operations.
Saleem’s family feels she is lucky. Not everyone gets the help they need through social media.
Iraqi army Capt. Salar Al-Jaff was shot by a sniper in January 2017, during the height of the fight to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the Daesh group. The bullet hit him in the head and left him paralyzed in one side of his body.
Since then, he has been treated for the head wound and for complications from lying in bed all the time, but not for the paralysis. He sold his car and all his possessions to be able to afford three injections a day, each costing $100, to overcome the pain.
He also appeared in a video, posted on social media, alongside a cleric who asks that someone help Al-Jaff.
But so far, there have been no offers for free treatment.