Jordanian PM reshuffles cabinet as anger grows over pandemic response

Jordanian PM reshuffles cabinet as anger grows over pandemic response
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh was appointed last October by King Abdullah to restore public trust over the handling of the coronavirus health crisis, among others. (AFP)
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Updated 07 March 2021

Jordanian PM reshuffles cabinet as anger grows over pandemic response

Jordanian PM reshuffles cabinet as anger grows over pandemic response
  • The ministers were sworn in before King Abdullah

AMMAN: Jordan’s Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh on Sunday carried out his first cabinet reshuffle since taking office in October last year.

A royal decree was issued on Sunday approving the reshuffle, which observers have said is a sign of the government struggling to get to grips with the the coronavirus pandemic.

Mohammad Najjar was appointed minister of water and irrigation, Ali Ayed as minister of culture, Wajih Azaizeh as minister of transport, Ahmad Ziadat as minister of justice and Khaled Hneifat as minister of agriculture.

The decree also approved the appointment of Mohammad Khair Abu Qudais as minister of education and minister of scientific research, Mahmoud Kharabsheh as minister of state for legal affairs, Maen Qatamin as minister of labor, Sakher Dudin as minister for media affairs and Mazen Faraya as minister of interior.

The ministers were sworn in before King Abdullah.

King Abdullah tasked Al-Khasawneh in October with forming a new government to follow Omar Razzaz’s cabinet. The government won a lower house vote of confidence on Jan. 16.

Political analyst Abdelhafez Hrout said that Al-Khasawneh reshuffling his cabinet so soon after becoming prime minister is a response to his government’s floundering amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It showed that the government is either incapable of addressing the pandemic, or has no concise strategy to deal with it,” Hrout said.

Political commentator Khaled Qudah said that the move followed a similar pattern to other Jordanian governments that have often resorted to reshuffles “with the aim of alleviating public dismay and experimenting with new options with no clear strategy.”

Qudah said that the former government of Razzaz featured the appointment of 52 ministers in five cabinet reshuffles carried out during his tenure of little more than two years.

“The only solution to such chaotic scene is through a progressive election law that can bring fully fledged parliamentary government,” Qudah said.


Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
Updated 11 sec ago

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit

Kuwaiti people look forward to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit
  • Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations

DUBAI: Kuwaiti people are looking forward to the scheduled visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, due to take place on Wednesday.

The crown prince will hold talks with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah as well as Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah during his visit, a report from state news agency KUNA said quoting Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Ahmad Naser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

Al-Mohammad clarified that the visit will be an addition to the strong bilateral ties between both nations. 

On Tuesday evening, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in the UAE for the second leg of his official tour of the Gulf Cooperation Council nations. 

He was welcomed by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, marking his first visit to the UAE since November 2019. 

This came after Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s overnight visit in Muscat earlier, where he met with Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, the ruler of Oman, as well as other senior Omani officials.


US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
Updated 2 min 34 sec ago

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis

US thwarts smuggling attempt of Iranian arms in Arabian Sea bound for Yemen’s Houthis
  • The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran"

DUBAI: The US seized two large caches of Iranian arms, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, intended for the Houthi militia in Yemen. 
The US justice department on Tuesday said navy troops seized the weapons from two vessels in the Arabian Sea while conducting routine maritime security operations. 
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a designated foreign terrorist organization, orchestrated the arms shipments, which were destined for Houthi militants in Yemen,” the statement added. 
Approximately 1.1 million barrels of Iranian petroleum products were also seized from four foreign-flagged tankers in or around the Arabian Sea while en route to Venezuela, the justice department said. 
“The actions of the United States in these two cases strike a resounding blow to the Government of Iran and to the criminal networks supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
The seized petroleum products were sold for over $26 million, pursuant to a court order, with the proceeds directed, “in whole or in part, to the US Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.” 
The operation represents the US “government’s largest-ever forfeitures of fuel and weapons shipments from Iran,” the statement noted.


French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
Updated 3 min 45 sec ago

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement

French ambassador to Lebanon’s Aoun: Implement Jeddah Agreement
  • Judiciary challenges political pressures, returns Beirut blast file to judicial investigator

BEIRUT: On Tuesday, at the request of President Emmanuel Macron, French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Griot briefed Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Macron’s Gulf tour, especially his visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which “expressed its commitment to helping Lebanon, pointing out the need to implement the commitments that have been undertaken,” as stated by the media office of the Lebanese presidency.

During the meeting, Griot stressed that “Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are ready to undertake the required steps, and that for its part, Lebanon should undertake what is required from it and prove its credibility in its commitment to reforms, especially the structural reforms that require new work tools to confront the deep crisis.”

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the “need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.”

The two sides also stressed the “need to limit possession of arms to legitimate state institutions,” and that “Lebanon should not serve as a base for terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a base for drug trafficking,” further stressing “the importance of strengthening the role of the Lebanese Army in maintaining the security and stability of Lebanon.”

The pair had made a joint phone call during the meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

During her talks with Aoun, Griot stressed the importance placed by the international community and France in the legislative, municipal, and presidential elections due next year.

In response to the Saudi-French statement, on behalf of Hezbollah, former minister Mohammed Fneish said on Tuesday that the group “will not … substitute the symbol of our dignity and freedom with bare essentials of living conditions.

“The attempts to make us relinquish the resistance and its arms in return of resolving the economic crisis is something unacceptable to us,” he added.

BACKGROUND

The meeting held last Saturday in Jeddah between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron saw the issuing of a statement concerning Lebanon, in which the pair stressed the ‘need (for) the Lebanese government to undertake comprehensive reforms.’

Cabinet sessions have been suspended since Oct. 12 over Hezbollah’s stubbornness over the  investigation into the Port of Beirut explosion. Judicial investigator Tariq Bitar is accused by the group of being biased against it, according to its chief, Hassan Nasrallah.

On Tuesday, the Civil Court of Appeal of Beirut, headed by Judge Randa Harrouq, rejected a lawsuit submitted by former minister Youssef Fenianos against Bitar “for lack of qualitative jurisdiction.”

Harrouq decided to “fine the plaintiff an amount of 800,000 Lebanese pounds ($530) and inform Judge Bitar of the content of the decision, which entails that he continues his investigations related to the file of the Port of Beirut explosion.”

A judicial source told Arab News that the defendants have exhausted all the steps that could be undertaken at the Court of Appeal, and that they might resort to the Court of Cassation to obstruct the interrogation of 4 former ministers in addition to former Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Bitar has not yet undertaken any indictments despite the fact that nearly 16 months have passed since the disaster.

According to another judicial source, Bitar has rejected all attempts to remove the brief from him and to refer the ministers and the prime minister to a court that would be formed by Parliament to try presidents and ministers, a request made by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.


Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz
Updated 08 December 2021

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

Gazan who lost 6 family members in Israeli strike loses case against Gantz

THE HAGUE: A Dutch appeals court on Tuesday upheld  a lower court’s decision to throw out a civil case against Israel’s defense minister and another former senior military officer over their roles in a deadly 2014 airstrike.

The Hague District Court ruled in January 2020 that the case against Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and former air force commander Amir Eshel couldn’t proceed because the men have “functional immunity from jurisdiction.”

The Hague Court of Appeal said on Tuesday that the lower court was right to rule that Gantz, who was military chief of staff at the time of the airstrike, and Eshel had immunity because they were carrying out Israeli government policies.

The case was brought by Ismail Ziada, who lost six members of his family in the airstrike that lawyers for the men argued was part of an Israeli military operation during the 2014 Gaza conflict.

A military slaughter in Gaza. A legal slaughter in The Hague. That’s how it feels.

Ismail Ziada

He wanted the Dutch court to order Gantz and Eshel to pay damages and his lawyers argued that the men didn’t have immunity because their actions amounted to war crimes.

Ziada said Tuesday’s ruling was “in contradiction with any sense of justice” and branded the judges “cowards” for their decision.

“A military slaughter in Gaza. A legal slaughter in The Hague. That’s how it feels,” he said.

Responding to the Dutch court decision while on a tour of the Gaza border, Gantz said he was proud of his command of the Israeli military, which he said “adheres to values and human rights” and observes international law ”with a real goal to protect the citizens of Israel and allow them to live in peace and calm.”

Roy Schondorf, a deputy Israeli attorney general, welcomed the ruling.

“The appeals court recognized their immunity from civil prosecution for anti-terror activities in the framework of operation ‘protective edge.’ This is a very important legal precedent that protects all IDF (Israeli military) commanders from similar attempts,” Schondorf tweeted.

The lower court also said Ziada was free to sue the men in Israel. At hearings in 2019, Ziada rejected the idea that he has access to justice in Israel as “farcical as well as vicious.”

Ziada told an earlier hearing that he lost his mother, three brothers, a sister-in-law and a 12-year-old nephew in the airstrike.

Israel’s Justice Ministry told the court before the 2020 decision that an internal Israeli military investigation determined the airstrike had killed four militants hiding in the house.

It said the attack was permissible under international law. Gaza’s Hamas rulers themselves have said that two militants were in the building.

Ziada’s lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said the judges had taken a conservative interpretation of the law.

“They had the ... legal space to decide differently in our favor, legally speaking, but then there’s no precedent,” Zegveld said. “So they had to do something not so much new, but something that hadn’t happened before.”

The ruling can be appealed to the Dutch Supreme Court.

 


Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp
Updated 08 December 2021

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

Geneva sisters repatriated from Syrian desert camp

GENEVA: Two Swiss half-sisters whose mother took them out of the country with her when she joined the Daesh militant group in the Middle East in 2016 have been repatriated from a desert camp in northeastern Syria, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

The older girl, now 15, had suffered a severe shrapnel wound to her leg, requiring three operations, while the younger was said to be in poor health.

The ministry confirmed that it had repatriated the two minors from the Al-Roj camp in northeast Syria.

“The children arrived on Swiss soil on Dec. 6 at Geneva airport, having passed through Iraq,” it said in a statement.

FASTFACT

The Al-Hol and Al-Roj camps hold nationals from some 60 countries who fled from Daesh’s last enclaves.

The repatriation, believed to be the first of its kind to Switzerland, was carried out with the consent of their mother.

The government has previously said she was still in the camp and has several nationalities, although her Swiss citizenship had been withdrawn for security reasons. The girls have different fathers in Geneva.

The case had been raised by UN  human rights experts in April.

The experts said then that the girls had been allegedly abducted in 2016 by their mother who joined Daesh. A senior Swiss official said at the time that it was working hard to have the girls sent home.

More than 60,000 people, two-thirds of them children, are held in camps for families associated with Daesh. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which visits the camps, has described them as a “tragedy in plain sight.”