Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
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Muslim children celebrate after the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer at the Al-Aqsa mosques compound in Old Jerusalem Friday early morning. (AFP)
Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
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Muslim women blow up balloons as worshippers celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holiday after the morning prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosques compound. (AFP)
Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
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Muslims celebrate after the morning Eid al-Fitr prayer outside the Dome of the Rock mosque in Al-Aqsa in Old Jerusalem early on Friday. (AFP)
Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
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A Palestinian youth performs a jump outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday during Eid al-Fitr first day. (AFP)
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Updated 13 May 2021

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan

Holy city of Jerusalem marks sad end to Ramadan
  • Violence lay heavy on hearts of parents of children dressed in new clothes and clutching balloons reveling to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in Jerusalem’s Old City
  • As sun began to break over al-Aqsa mosque crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark Ramadan’s end

JERUSALEM: Dressed in sparkly new clothes and clutching balloons, excited children Thursday revelled in the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But days of violence lay heavy on their parents’ hearts.
As the first rays of sun began to break over the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, crowds of Palestinians gathered for the first prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
The three-day festival is traditionally celebrated with mosque prayers, family feasts and shopping for new clothes, gifts and sweets.
Stalls stacked high with colorful plastic toys, or tasty sesame-dipped snacks that are a Jerusalem specialty, tempted the crowds snaking along the Old City’s narrow stone streets.
At the centuries-old Damascus Gate, scene of violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and police at the start of Ramadan, two huge bundles of helium-filled balloons fluttered in the spring breeze. Mickey Mouse and Spiderman could be spotted bobbing among them.
Just three days ago, Israeli police deployed so-called skunk water there — a putrid mixture of sewage water — to disperse the crowds after a weekend of unrest in different parts of Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem.
Hundreds of Palestinians were injured as well as dozens of Israeli police in the clashes which also erupted on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site in Judaism, on which the Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock shrine also stand.
The convulsion of violence has since spread, engulfing the Gaza Strip run by the Islamic militant Hamas movement, the Palestinian territory of the West Bank and Israeli cities which have seen unprecedented mob clashes between Jewish and Arab residents.
On Thursday the boom of rocket fire could be periodically heard in Jerusalem, where calm has mainly returned to the streets. But many believe it may just be the calm before a further storm.
“Do you see any problems, there, right now? No,” said Jabbar, who is in his 60s, pointing at crowds of Palestinians being carefully watched by heavily-armed Israeli police at Damascus gate.
“But it could flare up again at any minute,” he warned grimly.
“Everything will return to normal if God so wishes it,” said Fefka, who lives in the east Jerusalem quarter of Issawiya.
“The violence has to stop, but everything is only done for the settlers here,” she added angrily.
“Jerusalem is also ours,” she insisted, denouncing Israeli settlers who have moved into the east of the city since it was seized in the 1967 war.
According to the United Nations, east Jerusalem has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel since then.
Hiba, 26, and Soujoud, 21, have been visiting the Al-Aqsa compound since Friday, the day the troubles erupted, triggered by the threat of evicting Palestinian families from their east Jerusalem homes to allow settlers to move in.
“Morning and evening, we stayed at Al-Aqsa,” said Soujoud, a secretarial student. “We don’t want any problems (with the police), but the mosque is ours and we have to defend it,” she added.
On the site, which overlooks the sprawling Old City below, children were entertained by a clown, while adults brandished Hamas flags and rolled out banners praising the Islamist movement.
“Jerusalem is a red line,” read one of the banners.
On Al-Wad Street which crosses the Old City, some passers-by were wearing shirts decorated with Palestinian flags, others had painted them on the cheeks.
Many were wearing the black-and-white chequered keffiyah scarf which has become a symbol of the Palestinian cause.
“We feel very sad for the Eid today, because of the situation and the violence,” said Hiba.
“We can’t be happy when we see what is happening in Gaza and elsewhere.”


Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
Updated 18 sec ago

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
  • Abdel Ghaffar said Egypt will launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers
  • The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries

CAIRO: Egypt will launch two satellites next year, including NExSat-1, a lightweight vessel that will be used for remote sensing and scientific research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egyptian minister of higher education and scientific research, announced on Saturday.
Space authorities will also launch EgyptSat 2, which weighs 330 kilograms and will use sensor applications to employ a photographic accuracy of two meters from space.
The minister revealed the plans at the European-African Space Forum being held in Lisbon, Portugal. Mohamed El-Koosy, head of the Egyptian Space Agency, was also present.
Abdel Ghaffar said that Egypt will also host the headquarters of the African Space Agency, which includes all 54 countries on the continent.
The Egyptian Space Agency will be equipped with the latest equipment and space technology, he added.
The African Space Agency will be an “essential accelerator” for cooperation with Europe, he said, adding that Egypt will “spare no effort” in promoting multilateral cooperation in space activity.
“All the facilities and infrastructure for space projects are available in Egypt, and we are ready to become a reliable partner,” Abdel Ghaffar said, adding that all support will be “provided to Africa to benefit from space technology and its applications.”
He called on the EU to discuss the establishment of the European-African Space Training Program in Egypt, adding that the Egyptian agency will provide full logistical support for the program, which can provide annual training courses and degrees for African students and researchers.
Abdel Ghaffar said that next month Egypt will also launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers in various space fields.
The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries, which will provide researchers and students with experience and technical skills, enabling them to conduct further space research, he said.
“We aim to transform Egypt into a center for training, research and development in space activities, adopt and encourage African youth to explore new horizons in space science, prepare them for the transformation of the digital economy, develop and support emerging technologies, spread the use of satellite images to support activities, especially in the field of agriculture, and stimulate exploration and innovation and provide social and economic benefits to improve the lives of all Africans,” the minister said.


Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges
Updated 21 min 38 sec ago

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges
  • Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital
  • The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year

VIENNA: Talks between Iran and global powers restarted Saturday with the goal of trying to restore a landmark agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that the Trump administration abandoned in 2018.
Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital.
Top Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov said in a tweet that the talks would allow the participants to “exchange views on how to arrange further work in order to complete the negotiations successfully and expeditiously.”
The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year. But the administration of President Joe Biden has signaled willingness to rejoin the deal under terms that would broadly see the United States scale back sanctions and Iran return to abiding by the limits on its nuclear activity contained in the 2015 agreement.
Diplomats say complicating factors include the sequence of the proposed measures, dealing with advances in Iran’s nuclear processing capability since the United States withdrew, and the presidential election in Iran next week.


Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
Updated 24 min 20 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
  • El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure
  • He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries

CAIRO: Egypt is working with Sudan to connect the Cairo-Cape Town railway route to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Kamel El-Wazir, Egypt’s transport minister, has said.
Speaking on Saturday at a forum for heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure.
He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries.
El-Wazir said that the Ministry of Transport is executing 360-kilometer rail lines inside Egyptian territory, in addition to a six-kilometer line across Nasser Lake to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.
The government is executing another line to connect the monorail stretching from Matrouh governorate with a special link to El-Saloum city, he said.
Egypt is also coordinating with the Libyan government to extend a railway line to the city of Benghazi, he said.
Efforts exerted to develop land transport networks, railways, as well as sea and land ports have improved Egypt’s rank in the Road Quality Index featured in the Ease of Doing Business’ latest report, El-Wazir said.
The report also underlined Egypt’s readiness to transfer its expertise in making smart roads to other African countries.
Dhieu Mathok Diing, South Sudanese minister of investment, said that his government hopes that South Sudan will be connected to Egypt via a railway line in two to three years after the Egypt-Sudan link is completed.
Diing said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s announcement that he is committed to the African agenda for development, as well as Egypt’s launching of the Cairo-Cape Town railway line and the Investment Promotion conference are decisions that demonstrate Egypt’s keenness to develop African countries.
He said that South Sudan has “high hopes” for the Cairo-Cape Town railway line, adding that the areas which will be included in the project inside South Sudan have been developed.
Diing said: “Cooperation among Africa’s great economic powers like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria with the rest of African countries makes us believe that we can achieve growth, development and African integration.”


Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
Updated 43 min 30 sec ago

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project
  • The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries

CAIRO: Egypt’s electrical interconnection project with Saudi Arabia — a scheme that will increase grid capacity to 2,000 megawatts — will be launched shortly, according to Mohammed Shaker, Egyptian minister of electricity.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first forum of heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, Shaker said that tenders for the implementation of the project have been finalized but the winning company has yet to be announced.
Shaker said that a global consultant will undertake studies to adjust the paths of the power lines.
Transmission lines between the two countries will be established under the DC (direct current) system, the latest in Egypt and the Arab region, he said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project. 
The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries.
Shaker said that Egypt has become a center for electrical interconnection after dramatically increasing its power production, “thanks to the presidential support for plans.”


Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port
Updated 12 June 2021

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port
  • In Iraq, every port and border crossing has its corrupt placemen appointed by political parties or armed groups
  • In Umm Qasr, it is mainly pro-Iranian armed groups who dominate through their nominees in the customs department and the security forces, officials say

BAGHDAD: Iraq announced Saturday it has arrested two generals on suspicion of taking bribes to waive customs duties, a practice estimated to cost the state $6.3 billion a year in lost revenues.
Both men worked at the Gulf port of Umm Qasr, a key entry point for imports of foodstuffs and medicines which is reputed to be the most corrupt in Iraq.
The sums allegedly found in their position were tiny given the scale of corruption in Iraq, which is estimated to have cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars since the US-led invasion of 2003.
"$1,000 were found in the office of the general in charge of Umm Qasr North, while the other general had hidden $2,100 in a waste basket in his office," a source in the state anti-corruption body, the Commission for Integrity, told AFP.
"These were bribes intended to facilitate the smooth passage of cargos," the source said.
In Iraq, every port and border crossing has its corrupt placemen appointed by political parties or armed groups, who ensure a steady flow of illicit revenues to their patrons.
In Umm Qasr, it is mainly pro-Iranian armed groups who dominate through their nominees in the customs department and the security forces, officials say.