Gaza girl, 13, teaches neighborhood children during school closure

A Palestinian school girl Fajr Hmaid, 13, teaches her neighbours' children an Arabic language lesson as schools are shut due to the coronavirus. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 May 2020

Gaza girl, 13, teaches neighborhood children during school closure

  • Only 20 people have tested positive for the virus in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave

GAZA: In a wooden shack in the Gaza Strip, a 13-year-old girl holds classes for neighborhood children who have missed out on their studies since schools were closed in March due to the novel coronavirus crisis.
Only 20 people have tested positive for the virus in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, where cross-border traffic has long been limited by Israel and Egypt and those entering Gaza in recent months have gone into quarantine.
Fajr Hmaid, who hopes to become a professional teacher one day, provides English, Arabic and math lessons to a class that has grown from four pupils to 15.
“I wanted to bring them here and teach them, this is my talent,” Hmaid said, wearing a white head-covering in the religiously conservative enclave.
“I have one girl in first grade. If she is absent from school for a period of time, she will forget how to grab the pen and how to write.”
Gaza teachers have also been giving lessons online during the health crisis.
Fajr’s father, Bandar Hmaid, said he was fine with the role his daughter has taken on.
“I said okay — but don’t make noise,” he said.

A never-ending eastern Med saga of brinkmanship

This handout photograph released by the Turkish Defence Ministry on August 12, 2020, shows Turkish seismic research vessel 'Oruc Reis' (C) as it is escorted by Turkish Naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, off Antalya on August 10, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2020

A never-ending eastern Med saga of brinkmanship

  • Expert says neither Greece nor Turkey can afford dispute over drilling rights escalating into a war

JEDDAH: As tensions between Athens and Ankara continue to run high in their dispute over oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, it emerged on Friday that a Greek and a Turkish warship were involved in a minor collision on Wednesday.

Analysts said it is unlikely the dispute will escalate as neither side would be willing to risk the political and economic costs. Nevertheless, the war of words continues.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday that if any Turkish ships in the disputed eastern Med are attacked, there would be serious consequences.

“We said that if you attack our Oruc Reis (a Turkish research vessel that began looking for oil and gas on Monday) you will pay a high price, and they got their first answer today,” said Erdogan, apparently in reference to the collision between the warships.

His comments came hours after Greek and French military forces conducted exercises in the vicinity of Crete, close to the location where the Oruc Reis is operating, accompanied by a military escort.

In an attempt to gain international support for its claims in the maritime dispute with Turkey, Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias met 27 EU foreign ministers and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Vienna on Friday for urgent talks about the rising military tensions.

So far, only France has provided tangible support for the Greek cause, by sending two warships to the region and staging the joint military exercises.

Ankara, meanwhile, is lobbying German Chancellor Angela Merkel and EU Council President Charles Michel.

So far, the only action the EU has taken over the Turkish drilling activity is to impose sanctions on two energy-company executives in the country.

“Although it appears to be a major crisis between Greece and Turkey, as they are seemingly at the brink of war, the situation will not escalate beyond what it already is,” said Paul Antonopoulos, an expert on Turkish-Greek relations.

He added that the dispute with Greece has been manufactured by Ankara, along with Turkey’s activities in Syria and Libya, to distract the Turkish population from their country’s dire economic situation. The lira is trading at more than 7.30 to the dollar, the unemployment rate has reached 24.6 percent and the prices of fuel and other commodities are rising.

“Greece is not interested in a war and will continue on a path of diplomatically isolating Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, which it has thus far successfully done,” said Antonopoulos. “While Greece has gotten firm support to oppose Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean from France, Cyprus, the EU, Israel, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Turkey remains completely isolated and will likely soon face sanctions that could escalate the economic situation.”

A maritime border deal signed last week by Greece and Egypt added another layer of tension as it includes an area claimed by Ankara as part of a controversial deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord. Turkey dismissed the agreement between Greece and Egypt as “null and void”.

Despite the strong rhetoric and posturing from both Athens and Ankara, Antonopoulos reiterated that the dispute is unlikely to escalate into open hostilities. A conventional war with Greece would be a completely different scenario from Turkey's interventions in Syria and Libya, he added, and the final nail in the coffin of the Turkish economy.

However, the next crisis in the saga is looming, if Ankara goes ahead with its previously announced plans to issues gas-exploration licenses for the area. Antonopoulos said that any additional EU sanctions could further weaken the Turkish economy and give Erdogan an excuse to create another crisis that will distract the Turkish people from their nation’s economic problems.

Meanwhile two US senators and two members of Congress urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to encourage Turkey to end its drilling plans, on the grounds that they risk an escalation that would jeopardize American strategic interests and create challenges to regional cooperation and US-Turkey ties.