Broken hearts of Palestinian pilgrims rejoice during Hajj

Yusuf AbuTair, right, Salih Yassin thankful for warm reception. (AN photo/AFP)
Updated 31 August 2018
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Broken hearts of Palestinian pilgrims rejoice during Hajj

  • Yassin said he was happy he was able to come to the holy places to perform Hajj, and praised the government for its “unique services” that only the Saudi people can provide
  • God had tested his faith and that of his relatives through the deaths of three of his sons: Yassin

JEDDAH: Palestinian pilgrims who were part of the Guests of King Salman for Hajj and Umrah program thanked the Saudi authorities for the welcome they received, and shared stories of the heartbreaking suffering and loss they have endured over the years at home.

“The Gaza Strip is merely a 64-square-kilometer prison,” said Salih Yassin, 69. “The only way out is through the Egyptian crossing. However, this is our destiny and we will not surrender.”

He added that God had tested his faith and that of his relatives through the deaths of three of his sons.

“Before January 2009, the Israelis launched attacks on Gaza,” he said. “A week after that aggression, I was having breakfast with my wife at home. Our sons were at our neighbors’ house when we suddenly heard the sound of an explosion that shook the place."

“When my wife and I went out to see what it was, we saw our son, Abdurrahman, dead on the ground. His body was in pieces with little bits scattered everywhere,” said Yassin, with tears in his eyes.

A year later, on the second day of the Day of Sacrifice, the family’s faith was tested again when it lost two members in one day: Islam, 35, a father of three sons and two daughters, and 20-year-old Mohammed, who was unmarried.

“In the morning, the whole family was dressed up,” said Yassin. “Islam and Mohammed looked like grooms. A few minutes after the Maghrib prayer, I was informed that the car they were in had been blasted by an Israeli rocket in Gaza’s Al-Nafaq Street.”

Firm faith

He went to Al-Shifaa Hospital, where he was shocked to discover Mohammed was dead.

“When we got to the hospital, Islam was still breathing; it was only minutes before he breathed his last,” Yassin added. “Muslims have to accept all that Allah has preordained.”

He said he is sure that his three sons, who died “in the cause of Allah,” are with the Almighty.

“Allah has said: ‘And never think that those who have been killed in the cause of Allah are dead. They are alive, receiving provision from their Lord,’” he said. “We Muslims strongly believe in that ... and I am hopeful that Allah will reunite me with my sons in His paradise.”

Yassin said he was happy he was able to come to the holy places to perform Hajj, and praised the government for its “unique services” that only the Saudi people can provide.

“I was lucky this year to join the generous program by King Salman to perform my rituals,” he said. “The services are honestly great and I am sure you are the only ones who can provide such services. Neither America nor any other country in the world can provide such incomparable services.”

Yassin added that he previously performed Hajj in 1974, and was amazed to see that there had been such big improvements.

“The holy sites have completely changed,” he added. “The massive projects — including the tents of Mina, the Jamarat Bridge, the buildings, the cleanliness and the train — are all a source of pride. Allah has bestowed His blessings on the people of this country and chosen them to serve His guests.”

Yusuf AbuTair, 62, a father of five, said that his wife was killed by an Israeli soldier in 2016.

“She was standing at the door on her way into the house,” he said. “A Jewish soldier called her but she did not pay him any attention. He repeated his calls and when she did not respond, he immediately shot her dead.”

AbuTair, who was accompanied at Hajj by his 35-year-old son, Mohammed, said the services provided by the Saudis had exceeded all expectations.

“I would like to send my gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for all the services and assistance they are offering to us,” he added. “I would also like to thank all our Saudi brothers who we met here. They are doing their best to facilitate our Hajj.”


US welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Khashoggi investigation as ‘step in the right direction’

Updated 16 November 2018
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US welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Khashoggi investigation as ‘step in the right direction’

  • State department says steps must continue to be taken toward full accountability
  • Arab and Western countries welcomed the steps taken in the investigation

JEDDAH: The United States welcomed the details of Saudi Arabia’s investigation into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as a “good first step” on Thursday.

The comments came as a host of countries responded positively to a briefing from the Kingdom’s public prosecution that said it had identified 21 suspects in the killing of the Saudi journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last month.

The prosecution on Thursday called for five people to receive the death penalty as it revealed the details of the investigation so far.

“We regard the announcement that they made as a good first step, it's a step in the right direction,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

“It is an initial investigation finding. It is important that those steps continue to be taken toward full accountability.”

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READ MORE:

Full text: Saudi Arabia public prosecution briefing on the Jamal Khashoggi murder investigation

Saudi Arabia FM: Khashoggi murder investigations will continue until all questions are answered

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor seeks death penalty for 5 Khashoggi suspects

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Both Arab and Western countries welcomed the steps taken by the investigation outlined in the briefing.

The Arab League expressed support for the measures taken by the Kingdom.

“The measures are seen as reflecting the great interest of the Kingdom to reach those responsible for committing the murder and take the firm and decisive action against them,” the League’s  Secretariat General said.

The statement also urged Turkey to reciprocate the Kingdom’s approach by providing the evidence in the case and meet Saudi demands to form a joint mechanism for cooperation on the investigation.

The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani said the details of the investigation released on Thursday “confirm the Kingdom’s commitment to completing the necessary procedures in order to continue the investigation away from the politicization sought by some malicious parties.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) praised the statement from the Public Prosecution.

“The Saudi prosecution has clearly answered the outstanding questions, charged the responsible parties, identified the roles of those involved in this crime and announced all that with transparency,” OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen said.

Countries in the region were also quick to back the progress made in the case.

The UAE welcomed the findings and the measures taken to hold accountable those behind the murder.

“The measures taken corroborate the fact that Saudi Arabia will remain a state of values, and justice that respects the principles of law and justice,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said.

Egypt also praised Saudi measures and called on countries to avoid politicizing the case.

The progress in the investigation “highlighted the seriousness of the Kingdom and its transparency in clarifying the truth,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said.

The Jordanian government stressed the importance of the public prosecution's announcement to charge a number of detainees in the case.

"This announcement is an important step towards achieving justice through the investigations' results," Amman said.

Other governments to issue statements welcoming the Kingdom’s steps included Djibouti and Palestine.

Meanwhile, France's foreign ministry said the investigation was a “step in the right direction.”