Riyadh ready to join battle for Raqqa

Riyadh ready to join battle for Raqqa
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes a selfie with children after recapturing Fadiliya village from Daesh extremists in Nawaran, north of Mosul. (Reuters)
Updated 28 October 2016

Riyadh ready to join battle for Raqqa

Riyadh ready to join battle for Raqqa

JEDDAH/IRBIL: Saudi Arabia is committed to fighting terrorism and is willing to participate in the upcoming battle for Raqqa against Daesh if asked to do so, Arab coalition spokesman Maj. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri told Arab News on Thursday.
“We are part of the international coalition against Daesh, which includes 62 countries. Since 2014, we have carried out more than 200 sorties and airstrikes against Daesh militias. Saudi Arabia is committed as part of the international coalition to fighting Daesh in Syria either by deploying its jetfighters from inside the Kingdom or via its warplanes based at the Incirlik base in Turkey,” he said.
As for land troop mobilization, Al-Assiri said the member states of the international coalition, during their last meeting in Washington, DC, agreed that only local Syrian ground troops should be involved in the battles against Daesh, supported by air coverage from the coalition air forces.
Regarding the Iraqi battle for Mosul, Al-Assiri said Saudi Arabia has no interest in taking part in the ongoing battle, adding that the Kingdom never participated in any operations in Iraq before, and that it cannot be involved in operations in which the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are involved.
Meanwhile, the United States said Thursday up to 900 Daesh radicals have been killed in the offensive to retake Mosul, as camps around the city filled with fleeing civilians.
Iraqis who fled their homes expressed joy at escaping Daesh’s brutal rule as they were given shelter and assistance, in some cases reuniting with relatives they had not seen in more than two years.
The offensive, launched on Oct. 17, is seeing tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters advancing on Mosul from the south, east and north in a bid to retake the last major Iraqi city under Daesh control. Backed with air and ground support from a US-led coalition, federal forces allied with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have taken a string of towns and villages in a cautious but steady advance.
Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads the US military's Central Command, told AFP the offensive was inflicting a heavy toll on the extremists.
“Just in the operations over the last week and a half associated with Mosul, we estimate they've probably killed about 800-900 Daesh fighters,” Votel said in an interview.
There are between 3,500 and 5,000 Daesh militants in Mosul and up to another 2,000 in the broader area, according to US estimates.
Votel also said he had spoken with Iraqi military leaders late Tuesday who told him that as of that time, 57 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed and another 255 or so wounded.
For the Kurdish regional Peshmerga forces, numbers were lower, with about 30 killed and between 70 and 100 wounded.
The offensive has so far been concentrated in towns and villages around Mosul, with Iraqi forces later expected to breach city limits and engage the terrorists in street-to-street fighting.
Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration said Thursday that more than 11,700 people had been displaced since the operation began.
“There's been quite a dramatic upturn in the last few days. As the Iraqi troops get closer to Mosul, more people are getting displaced, there are more populated areas,” said Karl Schembri, regional media adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council.
At a camp in Khazir, about mid-way between Mosul and the Iraqi Kurdish capital Irbil, Massud Ismail Hassan peered through a chainlink fence, looking for family members as Peshmerga fighters registered the displaced.
Saddam Dahham, who lived under Daesh control in a village near Mosul for more than two years, fled to Khazir with his wife and their three children.
“We were not allowed to smoke, to use phones, not allowed to watch TV and we had to let our beards grow long,” said the 36-year-old.
One of the first things he did after arriving at the camp was joyfully shave the “heavy thing dangling from my chin,” Dahham said. “I'm finally going to resume a normal life,” the former truck driver said.
Meanwhile, Turkey's president told his American counterpart that Turkey is ready to kick Daesh out of their capital Raqqa in Syria.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey-backed opposition fighters inside Syria will eventually reach Raqqa after securing the towns of Al-Bab and Manbij.
“Last night we had a long conversation with Obama and shared our plans with him . We said, 'Come let's kick Daesh out of Raqqa together,'” he said. Erdogan added that he urged that the operation take place without involvement of Syrian Kurdish forces.

— With input from agencies


Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds
Noha Raheem says when she was younger, she discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and she was awestruck. (Supplied)
Updated 29 min 22 sec ago

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds
  • My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago, says Saudi designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem

JEDDAH: Saudi artist, designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem ventured into the world of calligraphy in an unconventional way, fusing her interest in Kanji — the logographic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system — with Arabic calligraphy.

The result has been a portfolio of unique and eye-catching works that capture the beauty of both worlds
“I’m fond of Arabic calligraphy and graphics in general. My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago,” Raheem told Arab News.
“Any calligraphic font has its roles and system. When I was younger, I discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and I was awestruck. The impressive vertical letters, the way they are formed and their meaningful symbols were like a secret code.”

FASTFACT

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.
“For Kufic calligraphy and freestyle in Arabic, I was driven by passion. I was inspired by Hajji Noor Deen in my beginnings, and later on, I created Arabic calligraphy in the Kanji style to show the beauty and flexibility of this complex yet innovative mix,” Raheem said.


The self-taught calligrapher discovered the roles and philosophy behind the beauty of Kanji script. “It is said that the only rule for Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is that it is beautiful, no matter what is written. What matters is how it is written. That’s why I believe the Kanji style can be merged and fitted with our Arabic letters to create a masterpiece for both eye and mind,” she said.
She explained that Arabic letters are equally malleable. “They can be shaped in any way, and still keep their form and meaning. Today I wrote my letters in the Kanji style. Later, I might do it in Urdu just to show the world how flexible and beautiful Arabic letters are.”
Raheem’s artworks, including famous sayings and poetry in Arabic, are written freestyle — a tricky task.


She also writes Qur’anic verses in Kanji: “I love to write words that anyone can relate to, including poetry and short verses with iconic and universal messages. I can apply this art to any word, as long as it makes sense to me.”
Raheem is faithful to the cultures she draws inspiration from, using traditional Sumi ink and off-white, antique-style background colors with black script, or vice versa, to mirror the essence of the Japanese style.
She also uses Japanese calligraphy brushes, Xuan rice paper, and Kakejiku, a Japanese hanging scroll used to display and exhibit paintings and calligraphic inscriptions and designs.
Her love for and dedication to Japanese art drove her to share her knowledge and display her works at art cafes, galleries, and sushi restaurants in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
She encourages other Arab artists to explore the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic language and preserve it through art. Raheem can be found at her Instagram account @noha_raheem.


Saudi project clears 1,557 more mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,557 more mines in Yemen
Most landmines retrieved by Masam are locally made, while others originate in Iran. (SPA)
Updated 33 sec ago

Saudi project clears 1,557 more mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 1,557 more mines in Yemen
  • Masam has 32 demining teams, and aims to dismantle mines in Yemen to protect civilians and ensure that urgent humanitarian supplies are delivered safely

The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam) dismantled 1,557 mines in Yemen during the third week of June, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.
They comprised nine antipersonnel mines, 241 antitank mines and 1,307 unexploded ordnances.
Masam is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the directive of King Salman to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.
It is implemented by Saudi cadres and international experts to remove mines planted by Iran-backed Houthi militias in various Yemeni regions, especially Marib, Aden, Sanaa, Al-Jawf, Al-Dhale, Hodeidah, Shabwa and Taiz.
A total of 256,475 mines have been extracted since the start of the project. More than 1.1 million mines have been planted by the Houthis, claiming hundreds of civilian lives. 


Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures. (SPA)
Updated 3 min 59 sec ago

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
  • Authorities urge compliance with health guidelines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13, 2020.
Authorities in the Kingdom reported an additional 1,479 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 476,882. Of these, 11,131 remain active and 1,487 patients are in critical condition.
The Health Ministry also said there have been a further 12 virus-related deaths, raising the death toll in the country to 7,703.
Makkah region has the highest number of new infections, with 431, followed by the Eastern Province with 280 and Riyadh region with 256.
The ministry said that an additional 920 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 458,048. It added that about 16.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, an average of 94,104 a day, which is a rate of 48.2 doses per hundred people.
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures and ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. All ministries and other government bodies in the Kingdom are working together to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,479 new cases on Tuesday.

• The Makkah region reported the highest number of infections.

• With 12 new fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,703.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development carried out 448,126 inspections of commercial establishments in the private sector throughout the country in the first five months of this year. The aim is to ensure employers are following all rules and regulations relating to pandemic-related health protocols and to Saudization legislation. The teams recorded 45,421 violations and issued 51,005 warnings.
The ministry called on employers to adhere to its decisions and legislation relating to the labor market, improve the working environment and implement localization rules, as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unannounced inspections of the private sector institutions will continue throughout the Kingdom, it added


Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh held a meeting with UNESCO’s top official Stefania Giannini in Italy on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 25 min 36 sec ago

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
  • The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field

RIYADH: UNESCO’s assistant director general for education on Tuesday lauded Saudi Arabia for promptly switching over to online learning methods in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a meeting with Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh on the sidelines of the G20 education ministers’ meeting in Catania in Italy, Stefania Giannini said the Kingdom has achieved great success in e-learning and distance education during the pandemic.
She praised the swiftness of the Saudi authorities in switching over to online learning without compromising on the quality of education.
The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field. Giannini said the Madarasti online learning platform introduced by the Kingdom is among the top four global models.

FASTFACT

The Madarasti platform provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.

The fully interactive platform was developed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools across the Kingdom. It is designed so that students can log in and attend their lessons digitally, interact with their teachers and track their progress.
It provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.
School leaders consistently monitor the educational process via Madrasati, prepare class schedules, communicate with absent students, and provide technical support for students and their parents.


Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 47 min 29 sec ago

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
  • Countries are demanding travelers have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies
  • ‘A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses

RIYADH: With summer vacations underway and more countries easing restrictions on international travelers, health risks from COVID-19 remain a source of concern.
Citizens are being encouraged to follow health precautions before departure to ensure a safe trip, while health insurance is also an entry requirement for some countries.
Pre-flight tests are required and more countries are demanding travelers to their countries have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies. Others require visitors to buy healthcare policies from their destination’s government.
For travelers under 18, health insurance that covers COVID-19 infection is mandatory. The 12 accredited health insurance service providers are following the guidelines.
In a joint press conference with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation last month, Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) spokesman Othman Al-Qasabi said that a new insurance policy in conjunction with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection.
The policy is mandatory for those under 18 planning to travel.
Talal Albotty, regional director of the Central Region at Salama Insurance Co, told Arab News that the central bank initiative in collaboration with the CCHI aims to distribute risks and losses if these occur.
Comprehensive coverage is included for travelers on international flights against all risks related to travel outside Saudi Arabia, he said.
“A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses, personal accidents, or transportation of a deceased from or to Saudi Arabia and liability toward others as per the conditions and exceptions delineated in the unified insurance policy,” he said.
Albotty said the cost of an insurance policy does not exceed SR375 ($100) a month. However, if more services are added, these will be calculated proportionately as per the duration of the policy.
The policy is for people vaccinated against COVID-19 and is required for anyone under 18 traveling outside Saudi Arabia since they are not required to take a vaccine under global protocols, he said.
Husain Quhal, a senior executive with a leading insurance company, told Arab News: “The Saudi Central Bank has launched a campaign to educate people on the importance of travel insurance covering COVID-19 risks as well as reducing costs of traveling abroad.”
Feroz Khan, vice president of sales in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for Webbeds, a leading accommodation supplier to the travel industry, told Arab News: “Resumption of flights in May, opening of borders, and relaxation in travel and quarantine protocols have all resulted in positive travel sentiments.”
Webbeds is in touch with its partner company in the Kingdom and will make this travel insurance available for travel agents to book online shortly, he said.
Saudis travelers will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna.
Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders.