Palestinians flock to Jordan’s Aqaba and Dead Sea

Aqaba is a thriving city, which attracts families from many countries. (Photo/supplied)
Updated 24 August 2018
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Palestinians flock to Jordan’s Aqaba and Dead Sea

  • More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, which is experiencing deep economic hardship
  • Human rights violations associated with the settlements are “pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life

AMMAN: Palestinians from the West Bank as well as Palestinian citizens from Israel have arrived in large numbers in Jordan this holiday season.
Abed Ismael, a taxi driver at the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News that on the second day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday more than 50 buses carrying Palestinians crossed the Jordan River into Jordan.
“There are a lot of JOD90 ($120) holiday packages per night that were very attractive to many to go to the Dead Sea and Aqaba.”
Sharhabil Madi, economics and tourism development commissioner in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, told Arab News that Aqaba was appealing because it was not merely a holiday resort but also a thriving city, which was attractive to many, including Palestinians.
“There is a discernible increase in the number of Palestinians coming from Jerusalem, the West Bank and especially from Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Madi said that many were coming by the Wadi Araba crossing, which is less hectic and bureaucratic than other crossings.
“The crossing point is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and in the first two days of Eid we had 3,500 people arriving in the Aqaba area.”
The Aqaba tourism official said that not only were relatively inexpensive packages being offered to Palestinians but those coming to Jordan meet relatives, do shopping in a tax-ree zone and enjoy the beautiful Red Sea shores. Tourism figures for Aqaba and Petra reflect record numbers this year.
Most hotels in Aqaba as well as the Dead Sea have been fully booked for the holidays.
Loya Ayyoub, head of internal tourism at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News that some of the cultural and entertainment events were also bigger attractions in Jordan. “This weekend many Palestinians are coming to attend the Kazem Al-Shaher concerts, which are on for both Thursday and Friday nights at the Dead Sea hotels. A call to the Movepick Hotel at the Dead Sea said all rooms were full but that after the Kazem Saher concerts rooms were available for as much as JOD 350 ($500) per night. Once the holiday season is over, Jordanian tourism officials are hoping to cash in on the warm shores of Aqaba in the winter months.
Warm weather and sun seekers in the UK will have a new travel destination, as easyJet launches the first nonstop scheduled link from the UK to Aqaba in Jordan this fall. The maiden flight from Gatwick to the resort takes off on Nov. 10. The once-a-week link will also provide access to the ancient city of Petra and the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum. Jordan’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Lina Annab said: “This collaboration will contribute toward increasing the number of tourists to Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’ — Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum — and we’re working together to increase the number of routes into Aqaba with easyJet over the next few years.”


Sudan protesters, police clash as anti-Bashir unrest spreads

Updated 18 January 2019
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Sudan protesters, police clash as anti-Bashir unrest spreads

  • Worst clashes in Khartoum’s Burri district
  • rotests spread to six other cities
KHARTOUM: Stone-throwing Sudanese demonstrators battled security forces in Khartoum on Thursday, witnesses said, and a child and a doctor were reported killed at the start of a fifth week of protests against President Omar Al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Protests also broke out in six other cities in some of the most widespread disturbances since the unrest began on Dec. 19. The Sudan Doctors’ Committee, a group linked to the opposition, said the doctor and child were killed by gunshot wounds during the violence.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of a government-affiliated private hospital in Khartoum’s Burri neighborhood, where activists said the two died of their injuries. The protests continued into early Friday. Demonstrators chanted: “Freedom” and “Until the morning, we’re staying,” video footage showed.
Police could not immediately be reached for comment on the reported deaths.
The protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages, but have quickly developed into demonstrations against Bashir.
In the day’s most violent clashes, police in Burri fired rubber bullets and tear gas and chased demonstrators with batons, witnesses said. Several people were overcome with tear gas, while some were bruised by rubber bullets and others beaten.
Hundreds of young men and women blocked streets and alleyways with burning tires, witnesses said. Some hurled stones at security forces. Many recited the chant that has become the crying call of demonstrators: “Down, that’s it,” to send the message that their only demand is Bashir’s fall.
Demonstrators also taunted security forces by ululating each time a stone-throwing demonstrator hit police, witnesses said.
A live video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters in Burri. A sound of gunfire could be heard.

‘Why are you shooting?’
In the video, a demonstrator yelled: “Why are you shooting?” as protesters, some wearing masks as protection from tear gas, ducked to avoid the firing. It was not clear if rubber or live bullets were used. One man who appeared to be injured and had spots of blood on his shirt was carried away.
“There were people shooting at us,” one protester told Reuters.
He said he saw five people fall to the ground, adding he was not sure if they were hit by rubber or live bullets. He said he saw a few other injured people being carried away. Security forces blocked the area and the wounded were unable to reach a hospital, he said.
Instead they were being treated in a makeshift emergency room inside a home. At some point, security forces approached the makeshift clinic and fired tear gas into it as the wounded were being treated, three witnesses said.
A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the witnesses’ account of the Burri clashes.
Hundreds also protested in Al-Qadarif, Atbara, Port Sudan, Al-Dueim, Omdurman and Al-Ubayyid, drawing tear-gas volleys from police, witnesses said.
Security forces have at times used live ammunition to disperse demonstrations. The official death toll stands at 24, including two security forces personnel. Amnesty International has said that more than 40 people have been killed.

”Bashir blames foreign ‘agents’
Bashir has blamed the protests on foreign “agents” and said the unrest would not lead to a change in government, challenging his opponents to seek power through the ballot box.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday that she was deeply worried about reports of excessive use of force by Sudanese security forces.
“The government needs to ensure that security forces handle protests in line with the country’s international human rights obligations by facilitating and protecting the right to peaceful assembly,” said Bachelet, a former Chilean president.
Sudan has struggled economically since losing three-quarters of its oil output — its main source of foreign currency — when South Sudan seceded in 2011, keeping most of the oilfields.
The protests began in Atbara, in northeastern Sudan, a month ago when several thousand people took to the streets after the government raised bread and fuel prices to reduce the cost of subsidies.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, had been lobbying to be removed from the list of countries, along with Syria, Iran and North Korea, that Washington considers state sponsors of terrorism.
That listing has prevented an influx of investment and financial aid that Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, according to economists.
Sudan has been rapidly expanding its money supply in an attempt to finance its budget deficit, causing spiralling inflation and a steep decline in the value of its currency.
Sudan’s inflation rate increased to 72.94 percent in December from 68.93 percent in November, state news agency SUNA said.