Yemenis ignore health warnings during Eid

Yemenis ignore health warnings during Eid
Many people in Yemen are not taking the threat of the COVID-19 seriously and not adhering to the rules necessary to check the spread of the virus. (AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2020

Yemenis ignore health warnings during Eid

Yemenis ignore health warnings during Eid
  • Yemen has taken measures since early April to stem the spread of the disease in the war-torn country

AL-MUKALLA: Thousands of mourners on Tuesday thronged the streets of Hadramout’s Tarim city to attend the funeral of a popular Islamic scholar, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

With no face masks or gloves people gathered in the city’s main mosque for prayer, then carried the scholar’s body in a procession to the graveyard for burial.

Several cases of coronavirus have been detected in Tarim and neighboring provinces in the last couple of weeks. After watching the large gathering in Tarim, health officials braced for a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“I feel so sad. We are contributing to killing each other,” Dr. Ishraq Al-Subaee, a spokesman for the Aden-based National Coronavirus Committee, told Arab News after seeing the images from Tarim.

Thousands of Yemenis have left their homes since the start of the Eid holidays on Sunday despite warnings about the perils of ignoring social distancing during celebrations.

People gathered inside mosques before moving from one house to another to offer Eid greetings.

Social media has been buzzing with videos and images of Yemenis with no protective gear posing for group photos in mosques and public parks.

Al-Subaee said thousands of people had flocked to beaches and parks in the port city of Aden, which was declared an infested city due to the rapid spread of coronavirus and other diseases.

“Aden’s beaches are full of men, women and children,” he added. “There is a great ignorance of health warnings. During the day, people mix with one another and in the evening they send us appeals for help. The quarantines are full of patients.” 

He urged religious figures, journalists, government officials and influential people to send a unified message warning people against ignoring social distancing.

 Yemen recorded its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in the southeastern province of Hadramout. Coronavirus infections increased from 233 on Monday to 248 on Tuesday after recording 15 new cases in government-controlled areas, Al-Subaee said.

Yemen has taken measures since early April to stem the spread of the disease in the war-torn country. All flights from and into the country were halted, schools were closed and many major cities were placed under partial or full curfews.

Despite staying indoors during the curfew people have ignored pleas from local health officials to limit their social contact and to wear masks when they go out. People flocked to markets during the last days of Ramadan to buy Eid clothes and other items.

Health officials said that, despite the high mortality rate among coronavirus patients in Yemen, many people still disputed the existence of the virus in the country.

“Unfortunately, daily deaths that filled graveyards could not convince people about the importance of social distancing,” Al-Subaee said.

In Hadramout province 20 out of the 63 people who tested positive for the virus died.

A young man named Mohammed from the city of Al-Mukalla, Hadramout’s capital, went on social media to plead with his followers to pray for his relatives who had been infected.

“A relative of mine died and two others have been infected and are currently receiving medication at the quarantine. We do not know how and where they contracted the disease,” he said, admitting that neither he nor his relatives had taken the warnings seriously.

Dr. Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that many people still refused to allow health workers to see those who had come into direct contact with patients testing positive for the virus, while others accused health officials of inventing reports about the virus in order to get financial help from international donors.

“There are some people who abuse health care providers and deny the existence of the pandemic and consider it a game to earn money. This derails health awareness efforts and contributes to the spread of the disease,” Al-Jariri told Arab News.

Local officials and experts believe that the lack of trust between authorities and the public was behind people’s inattentiveness to coronavirus warnings.

“The state’s conflicting messages about the disease have undermined people’s trust,” Taha Bafadel, a Yemeni journalist told Arab News. “This led the public into lightly treating or rejecting warnings from the government and public health bodies.” 

He added that local authorities one day imposed a curfew and then lifted it the next with no explanation.

 


New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
Updated 25 min 32 sec ago

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
  • Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in Khartoum
  • The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military has announced plans to create a joint force to “crack down on insecurity” and assert the state’s authority in the capital and nationwide as an economic crisis and regional tensions plague a fragile transition period.
The announcement was made in an order from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, that was published late on Thursday.
Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is head of the Rapid Support Forces which will be part of the new force with the police, armed forces, General Intelligence Service and “representatives” of rebel groups and the public prosecutor, the order said.
In a speech this week defending reforms meant to tackle a deep economic crisis and stabilize a political transition toward elections, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said there was a danger of chaos or civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous leadership.
The latest of those reforms was the removal of fuel subsidies last week at a time when annual inflation has risen to 379 percent, causing a public outcry.
Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in the capital, Khartoum, in recent days.
Sudan’s Darfur region has seen an uptick in deadly violence, as has the country’s eastern region, since the installation of a military-civilian power-sharing government in mid-2019.
A peace agreement signed late last year called for the integration of rebel groups into a unified national army which has not yet begun.
UN special representative Volker Perthes told a news conference he was concerned about the delay, adding that he considered the police to be best suited to protect civilians.
Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces, which emerged out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur’s conflict of the early 2000s, are viewed with mistrust by many in the country.
The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta, according to the order.
Dagalo also ordered the signatory rebel groups to get their members under control and designate gathering places. Many rebel troops had moved toward Khartoum as their leaders joined the government following the singing of the agreement.


Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
  • Vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
  • Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose

TEL AVIV: Israel will send at least 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under a deal to share shots, officials said on Friday, in a boost for the Palestinians’ vaccination campaign in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Under the terms of the deal, announced by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, the PA agreed to give Israel a reciprocal number of doses from one of its own shipments due to arrive later this year.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by Bennett since he was sworn in on Sunday, replacing veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” a joint statement from Bennett’s office and the health and defense ministries said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech doses earmarked for transfer “will expire soon,” the statement said, and they were “approved in light of the fact that Israel’s vaccine stock meets its needs today.”
A source in the PA health ministry confirmed the deal and said the Palestinians expect to receive a shipment of Pfizer doses in August or September. The Israeli statement said Israel would receive reciprocal doses from the PA in September or October.
Neither side said when the initial Israeli transfer to the PA would be made.
Israel, which led the world with its swift vaccine roll-out, had faced criticism for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in territory it captured in a 1967 war.
Around 55 percent of eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated — a turnout largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.


Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
  • Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty

DUBAI: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has affirmed Cairo’s support for the Libyan government to achieve stability, presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi said.

Radi issued the statement on Thursday following Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel’s visit to Tripoli, where he met with Abdel Hamid Al-Dabaiba, Libya’s Prime Minister-designate of the new Government of National Unity. They discussed how to strengthen cooperation relations and support the political process in the war-torn country.

Sisi affirmed that the efforts exerted for national unity in Libya are a key pillar for its stability, renewing Egypt’s support for carrying out the Libyan elections, local daily Egypt Today reported.

Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty, the report said.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry met with his Libyan counterpart Naglaa Al-Manqoush on the sidelines of an Arab ministerial meeting in Doha earlier this week.

Both ministers discussed developments in Libya steps to hold elections by the end of the year.


Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said.
The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting.
“Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement.
“In response... fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.”
AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people.
Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out.
US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement.
“They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said.
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices.
The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.


Iranians nonchalant as regime opens poll

Iranians nonchalant as regime opens poll
Updated 18 June 2021

Iranians nonchalant as regime opens poll

Iranians nonchalant as regime opens poll
  • Khamenei’s ally Raisi likely to succeed succeed the pragmatist incumbent Hassan Rouhani

JEDDAH: Iranians vote on Friday in a race that is seen by the regime’s critics as not democratic, fair, or free by any means.

The election, tightly managed by the nation’s top authorities, is likely to hand the presidency to a judge sanctioned by Washington for alleged involvement in executions of political prisoners.

Hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, an ally and protege of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the favorite to succeed the pragmatist incumbent Hassan Rouhani.

“The regime will attempt to project that it enjoys legitimacy during this election. Government employees will be instructed to go to the ballots in order to show the popularity of the regime, while the authorities may manipulate the statistics in order to show a high voter turnout,” Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, writes in Opinion.

Khamenei on Wednesday urged Iranians to turn out and vote, but a record number of people are expected to boycott the polls due to anger over worsening economic hardship and frustration with hard-line rule.

Another potential deterrent for voters is a hard-line vetting body’s disqualification of hundreds of would-be candidates, including many advocating more freedoms.

For an overwhelmingly young population chafing at political restrictions, the lack of choice at the ballot box means a vote serves little purpose, analysts of Iranian politics say.

Soraya, a student at Tehran University, told Arab News: “The government is telling people to vote. But I see voting as an insult. We are not going to vote in order to show the world that we Iranians are frustrated with this clerical establishment.

“We are not with a government that shoots down a passenger plane (Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was downed by the IRGC in January 2020), lies repeatedly, and kills and tortures its own citizens.

“We are not with a government that steals the nation’s natural resources and spends it on its militias. The old game of moderate or hard-liner is over. They are all the same.”

Within Iran’s mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters, including nuclear and foreign policies. But the elected president will be in charge of tackling an economy hammered by US sanctions.

Over 50 percent of Iran’s 85 million population has been pushed under the poverty line since 2018 when then US President Donald Trump ditched a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed nuclear-related sanctions that have squeezed Tehran’s oil income.

Aware of its vulnerability to anger over the economy, the leadership fears a revival of street protests that have erupted since 2017, in which protesters called for “regime change.”