Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara

Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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A young migrant who has been expelled from Algeria sits in a transit center in Arlit, Niger on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Aliou Kande, an 18-year-old who has been on the move from his home in Dakar, Senegal since he was 15 and was expelled from Algeria, poses for a photograph in an International Organization for Migration transit camp in the northern Nigerien desert city of Arlit on Thursday, May 31, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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A man stands by his hut in Niger's Tenere desert region of the south central Sahara on Wednesday, May 30, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Janet Kamara, from Liberia, sits during an interview conducted in an International Organization for Migration transit center in Arlit, Niger on Saturday, June 2, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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The frame of an abandoned Peugeot 404 rests in Niger's Tenere desert region of the south central Sahara on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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In this Wednesday, May 9, 2018 provided by Liberian Ju Dennis, fellow migrants being expelled from Algeria lie in a truck headed towards the Niger border at Point Zero, from which they must walk south into the Sahara Desert towards the Nigerien border post of Assamaka, 10 miles south. (Ju Dennis/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Migrants pay to head north into Algeria at the Assamaka border post in northern Niger on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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A migrant who was expelled from Algeria is restrained by others after he attempted to undress in the midst of a transit center in Arlit, Niger on Saturday, June 2, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Migrants climb into a truck to head north into Algeria at the Assamaka border post in northern Niger on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Sierra Leone migrants who were expelled from Algeria wait for repatriation in an International Organization for Migration center in Agadez, Niger on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
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Migrants and locals wait for trucks arriving from Algeria to unload their cargo on Sunday, June 3, 2018, in order to earn money to pay for the trip north, at a giant desert trading post called "The Dune" in the no-man's land separating Niger and Algeria north of the Assamaka border post in northern Niger. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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A migrant who was expelled from Algeria paces in a transit center in Arlit, Niger on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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Sierra Leone migrants who were expelled from Algeria wait for repatriation in an International Organization for Migration center in Agadez, Niger on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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A truck carrying goods and migrants drives through Niger's Tenere desert region of the south central Sahara on Sunday, June 3, 2018.(Jerome Delay/AP)
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In this Tuesday, May 8, 2018 photo provided by Liberian migrant Ju Dennis, Algerian gendarmes carrying AK-47 assault rifles load migrants onto trucks to drop them off at the Niger border. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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A smuggler counts his money as migrants climb into trucks to head north into Algeria at the Assamaka border post in northern Niger on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
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Three men head north towards Algeria after crossing the Assamaka border post in northern Niger on Sunday, June 3, 2018. (Jerome Delay/AP)
Updated 25 June 2018

Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara

Walk or die: Algeria abandons 13,000 migrants in the Sahara
  • The expelled migrants can be seen coming over the horizon by the hundreds, appearing at first as specks in the distance under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius
  • Algeria's mass expulsions have picked up since October 2017, as the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain

ASSAMAKA, Niger: From this isolated frontier post deep in the sands of the Sahara, the expelled migrants can be seen coming over the horizon by the hundreds. They look like specks in the distance, trudging miserably across some of the world's most unforgiving terrain in the blistering sun.
They are the ones who made it out alive.
Here in the desert, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).
In Niger, where the majority head, the lucky ones limp across a desolate 15-kilometer (9-mile) no-man's-land to Assamaka, less a town than a collection of unsteady buildings sinking into drifts of sand. Others, disoriented and dehydrated, wander for days before a UN rescue squad can find them. Untold numbers perish along the way; nearly all the more than two dozen survivors interviewed by The Associated Press told of people in their groups who simply could not go on and vanished into the Sahara.
"Women were lying dead, men..... Other people got missing in the desert because they didn't know the way," said Janet Kamara, who was pregnant at the time. "Everybody was just on their own."
Her body still aches from the dead baby she gave birth to during the trek and left behind in the Sahara, buried in a shallow grave in the molten sand. Blood streaked her legs for days afterward, and weeks later, her ankles are still swollen. Now in Arlit, Niger, she is reeling from the time she spent in what she calls "the wilderness," sleeping in the sand.
Quietly, in a voice almost devoid of feeling, she recalled at least two nights in the open before her group was finally rescued, but said she lost track of time.
"I lost my son, my child," said Kamara, a Liberian who ran her own home business selling drinks and food in Algeria and was expelled in May.
Another woman in her early twenties, who was expelled at the same time, also went into labor, she said. That baby didn't make it either.
Algeria's mass expulsions have picked up since October 2017, as the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain. These migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa — Mali, the Gambia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger and more — are part of the mass migration toward Europe, some fleeing violence, others just hoping to make a living.
A European Union spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that "sovereign countries" can expel migrants as long as they comply with international law. Unlike Niger, Algeria takes none of the EU money intended to help with the migration crisis, although it did receive $111.3 million in aid from Europe between 2014 and 2017.
Algeria provides no figures for the expulsions. But the number of people crossing on foot to Niger has been increasing steadily since the International Organization for Migration started counting in May 2017, when 135 people were dropped at the crossing, to as high as 2,888 in April 2018. In all, according to the IOM, a total of 11,276 men, women and children survived the march.
At least another 2,500 were forced on a similar trek this year through the Sahara into neighboring Mali, with an unknown number succumbing along the way.
The migrants the AP talked to described being rounded up hundreds at a time, crammed into open trucks headed southward for six to eight hours to what is known as Point Zero, then dropped in the desert and pointed in the direction of Niger. They are told to walk, sometimes at gunpoint. In early June, 217 men, women and children were dropped well before reaching Point Zero, fully 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the nearest source of water, according to the IOM.
Within seconds of setting foot on the sand, the heat pierces even the thickest shoes. Sweat dries upon the first touch of air, providing little relief from the beating sun overhead. Each inhalation is like breathing in an oven.
But there is no turning back.
"There were people who couldn't take it. They sat down and we left them. They were suffering too much," said Aliou Kande, an 18-year-old from Senegal.
Kande said nearly a dozen people simply gave up, collapsing in the sand. His group of 1,000 got lost and wandered from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., he said. He never saw the missing people again. The word he returned to, over and over, was "suffering."
Kande said the Algerian police stole everything he had earned when he was first detained — 40,000 dinars ($340) and a Samsung cell phone.
"They tossed us into the desert, without our telephones, without money. I couldn't even describe it to you," he said, still livid at the memory.
The migrants' accounts are confirmed by multiple videos collected by the AP over months, which show hundreds of people stumbling away from lines of trucks and buses, spreading wider and wider through the desert. Two migrants told the AP gendarmes fired on the groups to force them to walk, and multiple videos seen by the AP showed armed, uniformed men standing guard near the trucks.
"They bring you to the end of Algeria, to the end in the middle of the desert, and they show you that this is Niger," said Tamba Dennis, another Liberian who was in Algeria on an expired work visa. "If you can't bring water, some people die on the road." He said not everyone in his group made it, but couldn't say how many fell behind.
Ju Dennis, another Liberian who is not related to Tamba, filmed his deportation with a cell phone he kept hidden on his body. It shows people crammed on the floor of an open truck, vainly trying to shade their bodies from the sun and hide from the gendarmes. He narrated every step of the way in a hushed voice.
Even as he filmed, Ju Dennis knew what he wanted to tell the world what was happening.
"You're facing deportation in Algeria — there is no mercy," he said. "I want to expose them now...We are here, and we saw what they did. And we got proof."
Algerian authorities refused to comment on the allegations raised by the AP. Algeria has denied criticism from the IOM and other organizations that it is committing human rights abuses by abandoning migrants in the desert, calling the allegations a "malicious campaign" intended to inflame neighboring countries.
Along with the migrants who make their way from Algeria to Niger on foot, thousands more Nigerien migrants are expelled directly home in convoys of trucks and buses. That's because of a 2015 agreement between Niger and Algeria to deal with Nigeriens living illegally in their neighbor to the north.
Even then, there are reports of deaths, including one mother whose body was found inside the jammed bus at the end of the 450-kilometer (280-mile) journey from the border. Her two children, both sick with tuberculosis, were taken into custody, according to both the IOM and Ibrahim Diallo, a local journalist and activist.
The number of migrants sent home in convoys — nearly all of them Nigerien — has also shot up, to at least 14,446 since August 2017, compared with 9,290 for all of 2016.
The journey from Algeria to Niger is essentially the reverse of the path many in Africa took north — expecting work in Algeria or Libya or hoping to make it to Europe. They bumped across the desert in Toyota Hilux pickups, 15 to 20 in the flatbed, grasping gnarled sticks for balance and praying the jugs of water they sat upon would last the trip.
The number of migrants going to Algeria is increasing as an unintended side effect of Europe's successful blocking of the Libyan crossing, said Camille Le Coz, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Brussels.
But people die going both ways; the Sahara is a swift killer that leaves little evidence behind. The arid heat shrivels bodies, and blowing sand envelops the remains. The IOM has estimated that for every migrant known to have died crossing the Mediterranean, as many as two are lost in the desert — potentially upwards of 30,000 people since 2014.
The vast flow of migrants puts an enormous strain on all the points along the route. The first stop south is Assamaka, the only official border post in the 950-kilometer (590 mile) border Algeria shares with Niger.
Even in Assamaka, there are just two water wells — one that pumps only at night and the other, dating to French colonial times, that gives rusty water. The needs of each wave of expelled migrants overwhelm the village — food, water, medicine.
"They come by the thousands....I've never seen anything like it," said Alhoussan Adouwal, an IOM official who has taken up residence in the village to send out the alert when a new group arrives. He then tries to arrange rescue for those still in the desert. "It's a catastrophe."
In Assamaka, the migrants settle into a depression in the dunes behind the border post until the IOM can get enough buses to fetch them. The IOM offers them a choice: Register with IOM to return eventually to their home countries or fend for themselves at the border.
Some decide to take their chances on another trip north, moving to The Dune, an otherworldly open-air market a few kilometers away, where macaroni and gasoline from Algeria are sold out of the back of pickups and donkey carts. From there, they will try again to return to Algeria, in hopes of regaining the lives and jobs they left behind. Trucks are leaving all the time, and they take their fare in Algerian dinars.
The rest will leave by bus for the town of Arlit, about 6 hours to the south through soft sand.
In Arlit, a sweltering transit center designed for a few hundred people lately has held upwards of 1,000 at a time for weeks on end.
"Our geographical position is such that today, we are directly in the path of all the expulsions of migrants," said Arlit Mayor Abdourahman Mawli. Mawli said he had heard of deaths along the way from the migrants and also from the IOM. Others, he said, simply turned right round and tried to return to Algeria.
"So it becomes an endless cycle," he said wearily.
One man at the center with scars on his hands and arms was so traumatized that he never spoke and didn't leave. The other migrants assumed he had endured the unspeakable in Algeria, a place where many said they had been robbed and beaten by authorities. Despite knowing nothing about him, they washed and dressed him tenderly in clean clothes, and laid out food so he could eat. He embarked on an endless loop of the yard in the midday sun.
With no name, no confirmed nationality and no one to claim him, the man had been in Arlit for more than a month. Nearly all of the rest would continue south mostly off-road to Agadez, the Nigerien city that has been a crossroads for African trade and migration for generations. Ultimately, they will return to their home countries on IOM-sponsored flights.
In Agadez, the IOM camps are also filling up with those expelled from Algeria. Both they and the mayor of Agadez are growing increasingly impatient with their fate.
"We want to keep our little bit of tranquility," said the mayor, Rhissa Feltou. "Our hospitality is a threat to us."
Even as these migrants move south, they cross paths with some who are making the trip north through Agadez.
Every Monday evening, dozens of pickup trucks filled with the hopeful pass through a military checkpoint at the edge of the city. They are fully loaded with water and people gripping sticks, their eyes firmly fixed on the future.


Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
Updated 12 May 2021

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza

Eid festivities stop as Israel pounds Gaza
  • Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip echoed to the sound of explosions as fighting between Israel and Hamas in contested Jerusalem escalated on Tuesday.

Since Monday night, 26 Palestinians, including nine children and a woman, have been killed in Gaza, most by Israeli airstrikes, health officials said.

Eid preparations came to a halt on the largely empty streets as shops downed shutters and people stayed indoors.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: “As long as the Zionist aggression against our people continues, the Palestinian resistance, especially Hamas, will remain in a state of permanent clash with the occupation, which has made Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Gaza Strip a target and a scene for its crimes and violations.”

Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of sites in Gaza, including homes and farming areas, as well as military training sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We are in the midst of a military campaign. The Israeli army has been attacking hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.”

Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement: “The enemy bombed a target where our mujahideen were present to repel the aggression, and we have martyrs and missing persons.”

Gazans endured a long night of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.

Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said that the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.

From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”

Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

Eyewitnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman and her son on the floor below.


Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
Updated 11 May 2021

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians

Egypt, Saudi FMs discuss Israeli attacks against Palestinians
  • Cairo spokesperson briefs Prince Faisal on efforts Egypt is making to restore peace
  • FMs agree on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud discussed in a phone call on Monday attacks carried out by Israeli forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and other recent developments in Jerusalem.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades inside the mosque and at least three Palestinians lost an eye after being struck by plastic bullets that witnesses said were aimed directly at their heads.

Tensions on the Gaza Strip border with Israel continued to mount following recent violent confrontations at the mosque and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Ahmed Hafez, a spokesperson for the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Shoukry briefed Prince Faisal on the efforts Egypt is making to restore peace. He stressed the need for Israel to halt its aggression and to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people.

The two ministers affirmed their rejection of all illegal practices aimed at undermining legitimate Palestinian rights. They also agreed on prioritizing political solutions in a way that ensures strengthening stability in the region and the importance of all parties respecting international law.

In an official statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed its condemnation of “these rapid and dangerous developments.”

The statement emphasized the need to stop all practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, especially during the month of Ramadan. The statement also called for the protection of Palestinian civilians in the mosque and others in East Jerusalem.


Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
Updated 11 May 2021

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid

Gazans serving up smoked fish on first day of Eid
  • Palestinians say herring and fesikh fish increase the appetite and are useful for the stomach following a month of fasting
  • Local fish industry is flourishing as imported herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly

GAZA STRIP: Abed Rabbo Adwan, who learned a few years ago how to prepare herring, prefers to cook the fish at his home in the city of Rafah, which is in the southern Gaza Strip. 

Herring and fesikh fish are used as the main dish on the tables of the majority of Gaza residents during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr because they believe it increases the appetite and is useful for the stomach following a month of fasting.

Its popularity has spread throughout Palestinian homes, especially in the southern Gaza Strip, adjacent to the border with Egypt.

Adwan said that preparing herring at home guarantees quality, and at a much lower price compared to what is available in the market, which is usually prepared locally or imported from Israel.

He said his family helps him prepare the fish, which creates an atmosphere of happiness during the last days of Ramadan and ahead of Eid.

The local fish industry is flourishing as the import of herring fish from Israel, which for years had been the main supplier for Gaza’s needs, has decreased significantly. The price of a kilo of locally prepared smoked fish is 20 shekels ($6), about half the price of its imported counterpart from Israel.

To start, Adwan buys a kilo of mackerel or frozen tuna, cleans the fish, and then salts it with some help from his family. After that, he smokes the fish in a primitive way that does not cost much.

The preparation begins with removing its entrails, filling the cleaned fish with salt, and leaving it for 24 hours. After washing it well and then drying the fish, he hangs it vertically with iron clips over iron bars inside an oven. The flames are ignited with charcoal and sawdust.

Adwan does not have a furnace. He uses an iron container as an oven and closes it tightly to block the air so the fish inside does not catch fire or get spoiled.

“The fish remains in this position, exposed to smoke, for about two hours,” he said. “This gives the fish the taste of smoke and turns its color from white to yellowish to gold. Then it is ready to eat.”

As some in his family prefer fesikh to herring for breakfast on the first day of Eid, Adwan makes a limited amount of it using a different method. A kilo of fesikh in the market ranges between 10 and 30 shekels and it is stored in a place away from the air for about a month.

Traders say that Gaza produces large quantities of herring and fesikh which is sufficient for local consumption. Gaza can even export the fish if given the opportunity.

Ibrahim Hejazy, the owner of one of the largest herring plants in Gaza, said he started in the industry about seven years ago with a limited quantity that was for personal consumption. The idea developed and he set up a factory that started to produce quantity.

“I was encouraged by the great turnout to expand the factory and bring in a special oven for preparation,” Hejazy said. “Today, we have become the most famous factory in the Gaza Strip, distributing what we produce to merchants, distributors and shops.”

Hejazi took over other bakeries and doubled his workforce, which would have been overloaded with work in the middle of Ramadan. They work all night and day preparing smoked fish to meet the market’s needs.


Gaza violence: 40 killed, more than 200 wounded in relentless Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrage

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 11 min 53 sec ago

Gaza violence: 40 killed, more than 200 wounded in relentless Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrage

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11, 2021. (AFP)
  • At least 35 people in the Palestinian enclave and 5 in Israel have been killed so far
  • Israel Airports Authority halt take-offs at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport "to allow defense of nation's skies"

GAZA CITY/JERUSALEM/CAIRO: Dozens of people died in relentless Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip and a rocket barrage by Hamas militants on Israeli targets on Tuesday and early Wednesday.

It was the heaviest fighting between the bitter enemies since 2014, and it showed no signs of slowing.

The death toll in Gaza rose to 35 Palestinians, including 10 children, according to the Health Ministry. Over 200 people were wounded.

Five Israelis, including three women and a child, were killed by rocket fire Tuesday and early Wednesday, and dozens of people wounded. 

Israel stepped up its attacks Tuesday night, flattening a high-rise building used by the Hamas militant group and killing at least three militants in their hideouts as Palestinian rockets rained down almost nonstop on the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon.

Israeli firefighter extinguishes a burning vehicle on Tuesday after Hamas launched rockets from Gaza Strip to Ashkelon, at southern Israel. (AFP)

As the death toll mounted, Israel snubbed an offer by Egypt to broker an end to the violence. 

“Egypt extensively reached out to Israel and other concerned countries urging them to exert all possible efforts to prevent the deterioration of the situation,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said. “But we did not get the necessary response.” Instead, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to rain more death on Gaza. 

“Both the strength of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased,” he said, and military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel was increasing its forces on the Gaza border.

The US State Department urged restraint on both sides.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the attacks on Gaza were a “miserable show of force at the expense of children’s blood,” and “Israeli provocations” were an affront to Muslims on the eve of the Eid holiday.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which held an emergency meeting in Jeddah, “praised the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the occupied city of Jerusalem.”

Burnt vehicles are seen in the town of Holon near Tel Aviv after rockets were launched towards Israel from the Gaza Strip by Hamas. (AFP)

The conflict spread to Gaza after days of protests in occupied East Jerusalem, where hundreds of Palestinians — including worshippers praying in Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site — were injured in a violent Israeli crackdown with stun grenades, tear gas and plastic bullets.
On Monday and Tuesday, Gazans endured a long night and day of bombardment and terror. Some lost their loved ones, others their homes.
Rashad Al-Sayed, 57, who lives on the sixth floor of the Tiba building in Al-Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, said the roof of the house collapsed on his family as they tried to sleep after dawn prayers.
From a bed in Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, he told Arab News: “It was a harsh night, we could not sleep, and when we decided to sleep, the roof fell on us. Israeli warplanes struck an apartment above my flat on the seventh floor.”
Al-Sayed was slightly injured, but his eldest son, Ahmed, 23, was badly hurt and is in intensive care in the same hospital.

A huge column of smoke billows from an oil facility in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on May 11, 2021, after rockets were fired by the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)

Witnesses told Arab News that Israeli warplanes fired four missiles at an apartment on the seventh floor of a tower block during dawn prayers at about 4:30 a.m., causing damage in most of the building, and killing a woman, her 19-year-old disabled son and another man on the floor below.
At midday, an air strike hit a building in the city center, sending terrified residents running into the street, including women and barefoot children. The Islamic Jihad militant group said the strike killed three of its commanders.
A 13-story residential block in the Gaza Strip collapsed on Tuesday night after being hit by an Israeli air strike. Three plumes of thick smoke rose from the tower, its upper stories still intact until it collapsed to the ground. The tower housed an office used by the Hamas political leadership.
The Gaza Health Ministry said 28 people, including 10 children and the woman, had been killed and 152 injured since Monday. Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Kidra said Israel’s “relentless assault” was overwhelming the healthcare system, which has been struggling with COVID-19.
Electricity in the surrounding area went out, and residents were using flashlights.

Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike on Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. (AFP)

Shortly after the attack, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group said they would respond by firing rockets at Tel Aviv.
Air raid sirens and explosions were heard around the city, and the skies were lit up by the streaks of multiple interceptor missiles launched toward the incoming rockets.
Pedestrians ran for shelter, and diners streamed out of Tel Aviv restaurants while others flattened themselves on pavements as the sirens sounded.
Israeli television stations said three people had been wounded in the suburb of Holon.
The Israel Airports Authority said it had halted take-offs at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport “to allow defense of (the) nation’s skies.”
“We are now carrying out our promise,” Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement. “The Qassam Brigades are launching their biggest rocket strike against Tel Aviv and its suburbs, with 130 rockets, in response to the enemy’s targeting of residential towers.”
Hours earlier, Israel had sent 80 jets to bomb Gaza and massed tanks on the border as rocket barrages hit Israeli towns for a second day, deepening a conflict in which at least 28 people in the Palestinian enclave and two in Israel have been killed.
Residents of the block and people living nearby had been warned to evacuate the area around an hour before the air strike, according to witnesses, and there were no reports of casualties two hours after it collapsed.
The most serious outbreak of fighting since 2019 between Israel and armed factions in Gaza was triggered by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Monday.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, has been tense during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with the threat of a court ruling evicting Palestinians from homes claimed by Jewish settlers adding to the friction.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would step up its strikes on Gaza, an enclave of 2 million people, in response to the rocket attacks.
“Both the strength of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased,” he said in a video statement.
Within an hour, Israel said it had deployed jets to bomb rocket launch sites in and around Gaza City.Officials said infantry and armor were being dispatched to reinforce the tanks already gathered on the border, evoking memories of the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza to stop rocket attacks, in 2014.
More than 2,100 Gazans were killed in the seven-week war that followed, according to the Gaza health ministry, along with 73 Israelis, and thousands of homes in Gaza were razed.
On Tuesday, before the block collapsed, the Gaza health ministry said at least 28 Palestinians, including 10 children, had been killed and 152 wounded by Israeli strikes since Hamas on Monday fired rockets toward Jerusalem for the first time since 2014.
Israel’s national ambulance service said two women had been killed in rocket strikes on the southern city of Ashkelon.
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged all sides to step back, and reminded them of the requirement in international law to try to avoid civilian casualties.

(With AP, Reuters)


Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
Updated 12 May 2021

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says

Iran has enriched uranium to up to 63 percent purity, IAEA says
  • Iran made the shift to 60%, a big step towards nuclear weapons-grade from the 20% previously achieved
  • The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67% fissile purity, far from the 90% of weapons-grade

VIENNA: “Fluctuations” at Iran’s Natanz plant pushed the purity to which it enriched uranium to 63 percent, higher than the announced 60 percent that complicated talks to revive its nuclear deal with world powers, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday.
Iran made the shift to 60 percent, a big step toward nuclear weapons-grade from the 20 percent previously achieved, last month in response to an explosion and power cut at Natanz that Tehran has blamed on Israel and appears to have damaged its enrichment output at a larger, underground facility there.
Iran’s move rattled the current indirect talks with the United States to agree conditions for both sides to return fully to the 2015 nuclear deal, which was undermined when Washington abandoned it in 2018, prompting Tehran to violate its terms.
The deal says Iran cannot enrich beyond 3.67 percent fissile purity, far from the 90 percent of weapons-grade. Iran has long denied any intention to develop nuclear weapons.
“According to Iran, fluctuations of the enrichment levels... were experienced,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in the confidential report to its member states, seen by Reuters.
“The agency’s analysis of the ES (environmental samples) taken on 22 April 2021 shows an enrichment level of up to 63 percent U-235, which is consistent with the fluctuations of the enrichment levels (described by Iran),” it added, without saying why the fluctuations had occurred.
A previous IAEA report last month said Iran was using one cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-6 centrifuge machines to enrich to up to 60 percent and feeding the tails, or depleted uranium, from that process into a cascade of IR-4 machines to enrich to up to 20 percent.
Tuesday’s report said the Islamic Republic was now feeding the tails from the IR-4 cascade into a cascade of 27 IR-5 and 30 IR-6s centrifuges to refine uranium to up to 5 percent.