UN agency says 52,000 displaced in Gaza, Amnesty wants war crimes investigation

UN agency says 52,000 displaced in Gaza, Amnesty wants war crimes investigation
Palestinians sit on a couch as they return to the remains of their house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli offensive, in the east of Gaza City August 27, 2014. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 May 2021

UN agency says 52,000 displaced in Gaza, Amnesty wants war crimes investigation

UN agency says 52,000 displaced in Gaza, Amnesty wants war crimes investigation

GENEVA: More than 52,000 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli air strikes that have destroyed or badly damaged nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip, the UN aid agency said on Tuesday.
In a separate statement on the conflict, rights group Amnesty International said Israel air strikes on residential buildings might amount to war crimes. Israel says it hits only legitimate military targets and that it does all it can to avoid civilian casualties.
About 47,000 of the displaced people have sought shelter in 58 UN-run schools in Gaza, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva, told reporters.
Laerke said 132 buildings had been destroyed and 316 had been severely damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary health care centers as well a desalination plant, affecting access to drinking water for about 250,000 people.
The UN agency welcomed the fact that Israel had opened a border crossing for humanitarian supplies but called for another crossing to also be opened.
The UN and its humanitarian partners are providing food and other assistance to displaced families when the security situation allows, Laerke said.

(AFP video)

There is a severe shortage of medical supplies, a risk of water-borne diseases and the spread of COVID-19 because of displaced people crowding into schools, said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization.
London-based Amnesty International called for an investigation into air strikes on residential buildings in Gaza.
“Israeli forces have displayed a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out a number of airstrikes targeting residential buildings in some cases killing entire families — including children — and causing wanton destruction to civilian property, in attacks that may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said.
Israel says it strikes only sites it deems military targets used by militants and that it regularly issues prior warnings to evacuate buildings it sees as legitimate targets as part of wider efforts to avoid civilian casualties.
Amnesty, which urged both sides last week not to violate humanitarian law, said it had documented four deadly attacks by Israel launched on residential homes without prior warning and called on the International Criminal Court to investigate.
It said Israeli strikes on May 11 destroyed two residential buildings belonging to the Abu Al-Ouf and Al-Kolaq families, killing 30 people, 11 of them children. A mother and three children were killed on May 14 when the Al-Atar family’s three-story building was hit, it said.
It said the home of Nader Mahmoud Mohammed Al-Thom, where he lives with eight others, was attacked without warning on May 15.
Israel did not immediately comment on the specific cases.


Egypt to open complex for vaccine production

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production
Updated 13 min 20 sec ago

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production
  • Minister Hala Zayed inspected the factory complex of the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) in the Sixth of October City
  • Minister confirmed that the VACSERA factories will be the largest vaccine production complex in the MEA region and will contribute to raising the production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed inspected the factory complex of the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (VACSERA) in the Sixth of October City.

The minister followed up on the final preparations being made on the new production lines for the manufacture of vaccines, with equipment costing about $17 million, in addition to $5.1 million in construction.

Khaled Mujahid, the spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Health, said that the minister confirmed that the VACSERA factories will be the largest vaccine production complex in the Middle East and Africa and will contribute to raising the production capacity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in cooperation with various vaccine-producing companies in the world.

During her visit to the complex, Zayed inspected the departments dedicated to the production of the vaccines, including a production line, eight central laboratories to monitor the vaccines and a central refrigerator that can store 150 million doses. The production capacity of the factories can reach 3 million doses per day, equivalent to six times the production capacity of the company’s factories in Agouza.

The minister praised the readiness of the VACSERA factory complex, which is environmentally friendly and which was built according to the highest levels of quality and according to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). Last September, the WHO sent a delegation of experts to evaluate the production lines at the VACSERA factories and praised the designs and construction.

Zayed confirmed that the company is the state’s strong arm in the manufacture of vaccines, which will put Egypt in the ranks of the leading countries in this field.

The factory complex is scheduled to manufacture polio vaccines of all kinds, as well as the pneumococcal bacteria vaccine in cooperation with European companies.

Mujahid added that the complex will work in parallel with the company’s production lines in the Agouza area, which have already started manufacturing the vaccine in cooperation with the Chinese company Sinovac.


Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
Updated 22 min 13 sec ago

Not guilty pleas entered in Jordan sedition trial

Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hasan bin Zeid escorted to state security court by security guards for their high-profile sedition case. (Supplied)
  • The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips
  • The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday

AMMAN – The suspects in Jordan’s high-profile “sedition case,” former minister Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid, appeared in court on Monday over their alleged roles in a plot to “destabilize the country.”

Dozens of reporters had been outside the State Security Court (SSC) since the early hours on Monday waiting for permits to enter the heavily-guarded court but were told it was a closed-door hearing.

Images on social media showed Awadallah, a former royal court chief, and bin Zaid both wearing blue prison uniforms as they were escorted by security guards to the SSC building.

Sources who attended the session said that the judges read out the charge sheet against the defendants, who pleaded not guilty. The court also heard testimonies of two prosecution witnesses related to leaked audio clips.

The court is scheduled to hold another closed-door session on Tuesday.

Last week, the SSC prosecution office leveled sedition and incitement charges against Awadallah and bin Zaid and accused them of conspiring with former crown prince Hamzah to destabilize the country and fuel unrest against the monarch in collaboration with foreign parties.

Bin Zaid was also charged with possessing illegal narcotics (hashish).


Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
Updated 28 min 42 sec ago

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
  • Manchester United defender Harry Maguire didn’t play in England's first two matches
  • "Obviously with the ankle injury, it's getting stronger, I'm getting more confident," said Maguire

LONDON: Harry Maguire says he is fit to feature for England in their decisive Euro 2020 Group D clash against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Manchester United defender Maguire did not play in England’s first two matches against Croatia and Scotland as he recovers from ankle ligament damage sustained against Aston Villa in May.
England manager Gareth Southgate included the center-back in his Euro squad in the belief he would be back in time to play some part in the tournament.
Maguire was on the bench for Friday’s 0-0 draw against Scotland and now he is ready to return to action for the Czech showdown at Wembley.
“I’m feeling good. Obviously with the ankle injury, it’s getting stronger, I’m getting more confident,” Maguire told The Lions’ Den.
“The more sessions I do, the more games I play, I’m sure I’ll get more confidence and that’s the thing with these type of injuries.
“I think it’s just about building the confidence. It’s all stable now and I’m available and I’m ready to go.”
England will finish top of Group D if they beat the Czechs and Maguire urged his side to get back on track after the drab Scotland stalemate.
“The boys have put ourselves in a great position in the group — four points from two games — although obviously we want to win every football match so we’d like to be on six,” he said.
“But it’s still in a strong position and now it’s another big game against the Czechs and one we’re looking forward to and we go there and try and get three points.”


Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
Updated 21 June 2021

Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
  • ‘NAFES’ launched to encourage investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies and centers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is inviting global investors to take full ownership of clubs, academies and centers across 27 of its most popular sports. 

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets.

“We are inviting the world to partner with us on our journey of sporting transformation. Our country’s incredible passion for sport is well known and, as more get active and take up sport, the economic opportunity is exciting,” said Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.

He added: “Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030, and we would not have achieved these massive strides if it were not for the unconditional support by our Kingdom’s leadership led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

NAFES will attract private investment to help increase the number of clubs, academies and centers across sport and to boost competition among athletes. 

The Saudi sports economy has grown 174 percent in the last three years and its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 22 percent.

“NAFES is our invitation to overseas partners to drive our sporting investment to the next level and to collaborate across our sports clubs, academies and centers,” Prince Abdulaziz said, adding: “It is a turning point for the Kingdom’s sports sector. Our message to investors and the private sector both in Saudi Arabia and across the globe is direct and clear, establish your clubs, compete and draw the future path of Saudi sports investment.”

The launch of NAFES falls under Saudi Arabia’s “Quality of Life” sports program, which is part of the country’s Vision 2030 reform plans. 

It has already launched partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports events and governing bodies.

The investments have resulted in a 37 percent growth in Saudis participating in weekly sport activities between 2015 and 2019, alongside a 149 percent increase in women and girls exercising during the same time period. During the coronavirus pandemic, over four million enjoyed home fitness classes as part of the “Baytak Nadeek” initiative by the Saudi Sports For All Federation.

Saudi Arabia has hosted around 50 international events in the last three years. These have included events in international football, the PGA European Tour golf, WWE, tennis and boxing. The country’s motorsport calendar features the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and from December, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Historically, the Saudi sports industry was wholly reliant on government funding. But following this policy change, the government is aiming to accelerate the growth of the sports industry by increasing the role of the private sector.

NAFES will also aim to raise the percentage share of the sports industry’s contribution towards the Kingdom’s GDP, in addition to increasing and diversifying local and foreign investment opportunities, and ultimately raising the number of competitive clubs across a wide range of sports.

“This was an organic development that falls in line with our efforts to position Saudi at the forefront of the sporting world globally and that is a crucial part in Saudi Vision 2030,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “As our sporting ambitions continue, we seek to collaborate with partners and strike a healthy balance between public and private sector investment.” 

The sports being offered for ownership via NAFES include football, basketball, swimming, equestrian, tennis, electronic sports, gymnastics, cycling and combat sports. 

Investors are urged to visit this website for more information on all the required steps to apply for their license.


France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran
Updated 9 min 32 sec ago

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran

France condemns Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia, concerned about human rights in Iran
  • Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed 17 Houthi drones launched toward the Kingdom’s southern region on Saturday
  • Rights groups said Raisi’s election as Iran’s new president was a blow for human rights

LONDON: France said it strongly condemned the Houthi drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and called on the militia to immediately stop their destabilizing attacks in the region.
Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed 17 drones launched toward the Kingdom’s southern region on Saturday, the Arab coalition said.
A booby-trapped drone targeted Khamis Mushait early in the morning before seven more targeting the southern region were intercepted in Yemeni airspace during the afternoon.
Khamis Mushait was again targeted by two drones in the evening and another drone targeted Najran late Saturday before six more were shot down near midnight.
The Arab coalition said the Houthi’s deliberate and systematic escalation against Yemen constituted a war crime, as the Iran-backed Houthis have been attacking the Kingdom with explosive-laden drones on an almost daily basis in recent weeks despite calls from the international community for a cease-fire in Yemen.
France said it was also concerned about human rights in Iran after Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as president.
President-elect Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.
Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace former President Hassan Rouhani.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Saturday said Raisi’s election as Iran’s new president was a blow for human rights and called for him to be investigated over his role in what Washington and rights groups have called the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
(With AFP and Reuters)