Israel to resume stampede funerals after Sabbath pause

Israel to resume stampede funerals after Sabbath pause
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An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man comforts a woman as he weeps during the funeral of one of the victims of a stampede in the Israeli city of Meron, where tens of thousands of people were gathered to celebrate the festival of Lag Ba'omer at the site in northern Israel early, on April 30, 2021. (AFP)
Israel to resume stampede funerals after Sabbath pause
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An Ultra Orthodox Jewish man weeps at a cemetary in Benei Brak, during the funeral of one of the victims of a stampede, where tens of thousands of people were gathered to celebrate the festival of Lag Ba'omer at a site in Meron in northern Israel early on April 30, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 01 May 2021

Israel to resume stampede funerals after Sabbath pause

Israel to resume stampede funerals after Sabbath pause

JERUSALEM: Israel was preparing Saturday to bury more victims of a stampede that killed at least 45 people at a Jewish pilgrimage site, one of the nation’s worst peacetime disasters.
Most of the victims were ultra-Orthodox Jews and funerals were expected to be held after sunset which ends the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest.
Some funerals had already taken place on Friday, just hours after the overnight disaster.
Tens of thousands of people had thronged to Mount Meron and the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai to mark the Lag BaOmer holiday and commemorate the second-century Talmudic sage’s death.
“So far, the bodies of 32 victims of the Meron disaster have been identified,” the Israeli Health Ministry said late Friday, adding that 22 bodies had been released for burial.
“Due to the start of the Sabbath, and by order of the Chief Rabbi of Israel, it is not possible to continue the process” of identification or to hold funerals, it said, adding that this would resume from Saturday evening.
Identification of some of the bodies may require fingerprinting, DNA and dental testing, the ministry said.
“We are working hard, but you have to understand that this is a complex and sensitive process,” said Dr. Chen Kugel, director of the National Center of Forensic Medicine.
Work must be done “responsibly” to avoid mistakes, he added.
The pilgrimage was one of the largest public gatherings in Israel since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted last year.
In a cruel irony, the Lag BaOmer holiday celebrates the end of a plague that killed thousands of Talmudic students at the time of Rabbi Bar Yochai.
Israel has fully vaccinated more than half of its 9.3 million population against the coronavirus, but restrictions remain on large public gatherings.
Officials had warned overcrowding could lead to a spike in infections, and only authorized 10,000 to attend.
Several Israeli media outlets reported that about 100,000 people had attended the pilgrimage, although AFP could not immediately confirm that figure.
Before the tragedy, a tightly-packed crowd was singing and dancing, praying and lighting candles, according to images filmed by AFP.
Men and women were separated, and children were also present.
There were conflicting reports about what caused the crush, but multiple witnesses said scores of people trampled each other as they moved through a narrow passage.
Some blamed police for blocking access to a ramp that could have allowed some to escape.
The police “closed it (the ramp). Then, more people arrived, and more and more... and police wouldn’t let them exit, so people started to fall on top of each other,” Shmuel, 18, told AFP.
There were also indications that pilgrims had tried to burst through iron barricades as the choke-point formed.
The Magen David Adom rescue agency said an estimated 150 had been injured, and dozens of ambulances, military and civilian helicopters rushed them to hospital.
“What happened here is heartbreaking,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday after visiting the site.
The disaster was “one of the worst to hit” Israel since its foundation seven decades ago, he added, promising a “thorough, serious and in-depth investigation in order to ensure that such a disaster does not recur.”
Northern Israel’s police chief Shimon Lavi said his officers had done all they could to save lives on a “tragic night,” but that he was prepared to assume “overall responsibility.”
On Friday, funerals were held in Jerusalem and the mainly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, where men in traditional long black coats lined the streets to mourn.
Among the victims was 38-year-old Elazar Goldberg.
“Ask up there that God protects your children,” his father said, as his son was laid to rest in Jerusalem.
US President Joe Biden led world leaders expressing their condolences, saying “the loss of life among worshippers practicing their faith is heartbreaking.”
The State Department said several US citizens were among the casualties.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas sent prayers “for the victims and hope for the recovery of the injured.”
European Council chief Charles Michel wished “strength and courage” to the Israeli people, while Britain’s Queen Elizabeth said she was “deeply saddened by news of the disaster.”


More blackouts ahead as Lebanon generators starved of fuel

More blackouts ahead as Lebanon generators starved of fuel
Updated 43 min 51 sec ago

More blackouts ahead as Lebanon generators starved of fuel

More blackouts ahead as Lebanon generators starved of fuel
  • National network run by Electricité du Liban is prone to blackouts as some areas only gets provided power for 2 hours a day
  • Many Lebanese pay a separate bill for a backup from neighbourhood generators run by private firms

BEIRUT: The owners of private generators that provide a vital backup to Lebanon’s decrepit power grid warned Wednesday of their own cuts due to lack of fuel as the country’s economic crisis deepens.
The national network run by Electricité du Liban is prone to blackouts and in some areas only manages to provide power for two hours a day.
That forces many Lebanese to pay a separate bill for a backup from neighborhood generators run by private firms.
With the Lebanese economy facing its worst crisis in a generation and the currency in freefall, private suppliers have warned they are struggling to secure enough fuel to keep running.
The crisis is so acute that on Wednesday the lights went out in a building belonging to the foreign ministry, forcing employees to stop work, Lebanese media reported.
“Generator owners in several regions started telling customers on Wednesday that they would not be able to provide electricity for lack of mazout,” a widely used petrol derivative, said Abdu Saadeh, head of a syndicate for generator owners.
“We had warned late last week that the stocks would start running dry... and so far we haven’t found a solution.”
Lebanon has been roiled since autumn 2019 by an economic crisis the World Bank says is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.
The collapse has sparked outrage at Lebanon’s political class, seen as woefully corrupt and unable to tackle the country’s many difficulties.
Officials have blamed the current fuel shortages on stockpiling by traders and a surge of fuel smuggling into Syria.
Several people have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling in recent weeks, according to the police.
The central bank has set up a mechanism to subsidise fuels by up to 85 percent, but fuel importers have accused it of failing to implement the program.
The head of public Internet provider Ogero has warned that electricity cuts could also threaten Lebanon’s access to the web.


Saudi Arabia wins 4 medals at 2021 Arab Athletics Championship 

Saudi Arabia wins 4 medals at 2021 Arab Athletics Championship 
Updated 40 min 19 sec ago

Saudi Arabia wins 4 medals at 2021 Arab Athletics Championship 

Saudi Arabia wins 4 medals at 2021 Arab Athletics Championship 
  • The Kingdom’s track team claimed a first-place podium finish in the men’s 4x100-meter relay race at the Stade Olympique de Radès in Tunisia
  • Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Saqr was in attendance when the national team members from the short-distance relay were awarded their gold medals

Saudi Arabia’s athletes returned home from the 2021 Arab Athletics Championship with a medal haul that included two golds, a silver and a bronze, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The Kingdom’s track team claimed a first-place podium finish in the men’s 4x100-meter relay race at the Stade Olympique de Radès in Tunisia.

Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Saqr was present when the national team members from the short-distance relay were awarded their gold medals.

More than 500 athletes from 14 countries competed in 44 events while Morocco won 31 medals, followed by Algeria (21), Egypt (19) and host Tunisia (16).


Egypt stresses need for negotiated settlement on Renaissance Dam 

Egypt stresses need for negotiated settlement on Renaissance Dam 
Updated 23 June 2021

Egypt stresses need for negotiated settlement on Renaissance Dam 

Egypt stresses need for negotiated settlement on Renaissance Dam 
  • Minister Abdel-Ati arrived in Juba, South Sudan, along with an official delegation for a five-day visit to hold talks on promoting bilateral cooperation, including in the field of water management
  • Abdel-Ati said Egypt was implementing projects in all Nile Basin countries and African countries, and that the projects implemented in South Sudan aimed to serve its people

CAIRO: Egypt is keen to complete negotiations on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) issue, a government minister said, as Sudan on Wednesday asked the UN Security Council to meet and discuss the dam dispute.

Ethiopia is pinning its hopes of economic development and power generation on the GERD, but Egypt fears it will threaten its water supply from the Nile. Sudan is concerned about the dam’s safety and its own water flow.

Mohamed Abdel-Ati, who is Egypt's minister of water resources and irrigation, emphasized his country’s persistence in preserving its water rights and achieving the benefit for all parties in any GERD agreement that was reached.

On his visit to South Sudan, where he met the First Vice President Riek Machar and Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Manawa Peter, he stressed the pursuit of a just and binding legal agreement that met the aspirations of all countries in development.

He also highlighted Egypt's flexibility in negotiations during the past few years which, he added, had been met with the “intransigence of the Ethiopian side.”

Abdel-Ati arrived in Juba on Monday along with an official delegation for a five-day visit to hold talks on promoting bilateral cooperation, including in the field of water management.

They discussed the latest developments on the Nile water issue and their countries' current positions on the GERD.

Abdel-Ati said Egypt was implementing projects in all Nile Basin countries and African countries, and that the projects implemented in South Sudan aimed to serve its people and achieve stability for them by solving drinking water problems and protecting against the dangers of floods.

He added that projects were currently being implemented in seven countries and that the number was expected to increase to 10 soon.

His remarks came as Sudan asked the UN Security Council to meet and discuss the dam dispute.

Foreign Minister Mariam Sadiq Al-Mahdi called on the council to hold a session as soon as possible to discuss the GERD and “its impact on the safety and security of millions of people,” Reuters reported, quoting a government statement.

She called on the council’s leader to urge Ethiopia to stop the “unilateral” filling of the dam “which exacerbates the dispute and poses a threat to regional and international peace and security.”

The Arab League’s envoy to the UN, Maged Abdel Fattah, said on Tuesday that Sudan and Egypt were working on a draft resolution to the council on the GERD if Ethiopia did not reach a deal.

Arab states would lobby for the draft resolution to be approved, he told Egyptian TV, adding that he did not expect world powers to block it.


Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death
Updated 23 June 2021

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death

Police officer guilty of manslaughter in soccer star’s death
LONDON: A British police officer was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter in the death of Dalian Atkinson, a former professional soccer player who died after being Tasered and kicked in the head.
A jury unanimously found Constable Benjamin Monk guilty of manslaughter but cleared him of murder.
Former Aston Villa star Atkinson, 48, died in August 2016 after police were called to his father’s home in Telford, central England. He went into cardiac arrest on the way to a hospital and died around an hour after officers used a Taser to subdue him. Prosecutors said Monk used a stun gun for 33 seconds against Atkinson — more than six times longer than was standard.
Monk, 43, said he had been afraid for his life after Atkinson, who appeared to be having a mental health crisis, made threats and smashed a glass door pane. He claimed he acted in lawful self-defense, first using a stun gun eight times and then aiming kicks at the athlete’s shoulder. His boot hit Atkinson at least twice in the head.
The officer was convicted after a six-week trial. Atkinson’s family members said in a statement they were “hugely relieved that the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.”
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court are still deliberating on an assault charge against another police officer who was Monk’s girlfriend at the time.
It is extremely rare for police in Britain to be convicted of manslaughter or murder over deaths in custody or during contact with the public. According to the charity Inquest, the last such conviction was in 1986.
Atkinson was a forward who played in England’s top division for Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa. During a Villa game against Wimbledon in October 1992 he scored one of the Premier League’s most famous goals when he ran from inside his own half, evaded a number of challenges, then chipped the ball over the goalkeeper.
He scored 20 Premier League goals for Villa and also netted in the 1994 League Cup final in the team’s 3-1 win over Manchester United. Atkinson also had spells with Real Sociedad in Spain, Fenerbahce in Turkey and in South Korea.

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan
Updated 29 min 12 sec ago

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan

Saudi air defenses intercept drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward Jazan
  • Arab coalition says taking operational measures to protect civilians and deal with the imminent threat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed an explosive-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom’s southern region, state TV reported.
The Arab coalition said the drone was targeting the province of Jazan, adding that the Iran-backed militia continues its attempts to deliberately target civilians and civilian objects in Saudi Arabia.
“We are taking operational measures to protect civilians and deal with the imminent threat,” the coalition added.
On Tuesday, Saudi air defenses intercepted a booby-trapped drone launched by the Houthis toward the southern city of Khamis Mushait.
And on Saturday, the coalition said the Kingdom’s air force had intercepted and destroyed 17 explosive-laden drones launched by the Houthi militia toward Saudi Arabia’s southern region within 24 hours.
“The interception was successfully carried out in Yemeni airspace, and the hostile attempt was repelled,” Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday, citing the coalition.
The Houthis have stepped up cross-border attacks on southern Saudi Arabia since the start of the year with drones and missiles, and sometimes major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, in what the coalition has said are “deliberate and systematic hostile attempts” which constitute war crimes.