General strike against Israel ‘shows Palestinian unity’

A man smokes near closed shops at a market in Jerusalem's old city, during a general strike called by Palestinians (Reuters)
A man smokes near closed shops at a market in Jerusalem's old city, during a general strike called by Palestinians (Reuters)
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Updated 18 May 2021

General strike against Israel ‘shows Palestinian unity’

A man smokes near closed shops at a market in Jerusalem's old city, during a general strike called by Palestinians (Reuters)
  • Haifa-based Arab Follow-up Committee arranges Tuesday protest in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank
  • Different Palestinian factions join the strike as laborers and professionals stay home in an attempt to paralyze the Israeli economy

AMMAN: Residents of Gaza and the West Bank held a historic general strike on Tuesday that reflected the unity of the Palestinian people.

The Haifa-based Arab Follow-up Committee arranged the protest as the call was picked up by all the Palestinian communities that have been targeted by unprecedented and unrelenting Israeli shelling over the past two weeks.

Palestinians laborers and professionals stayed home in an attempt to paralyze the Israeli economy. The Committee of East Jerusalem Merchants put out a statement calling on all shops to close as Palestinians of all walks of life adhered to the protest call.

Mohammad Baraka, head of the Higher Follow-up Committee of Arab Citizens in Israel, told Arab News that the strike idea was agreed upon in a meeting in Jaffa on Sunday.

“As soon as we announced our decision, we got calls from different Palestinian factions, led by Fatah, which wanted to join the strike call,” he said. “Others also followed and the strike encompassed all of historic Palestine.”

Officials said the strike was in response to the brutal Israeli attack on the Al-Aqsa compound, Israeli efforts to evict Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and the “attacks against our people in Israel.”

According to Baraka, more than 1,000 Palestinian youth have been imprisoned and 200 have been charged during the conflict while only 150 Jewish people have been picked up and none have been charged.

“The deeper meaning of this strike is that anyone who wants to break the Palestinian spirit because of the weakness of the Arab world will be disappointed,” Baraka said. “Armies may lose a war but people never lose.”

Vera Baboun, former mayor of Bethlehem and member of the Palestine National Council, called the strike historic. 

“The May 18 strike is a protest of our dignity that shines the light on 73 years of violations to our people’s rights in the occupied territories and in the 1948 areas,” she said.

Khalil El-Halabim, whose son was jailed for allegedly diverting money to Hamas, told Arab News that the strike has united all Palestinians. 

“Our goals are clearly united now,” he said. “This strike has illustrated the fact that the Palestinian cause has returned to center stage on the international community’s political agenda.”

Adnan Tarabshe, a Galilee-based theater actor, told Arab News that the strike reflected Palestinian anger but had a much more significant purpose. 

“It destroyed the claims by (former fourth Israeli premier) Golda Meir that older people will die and the young will forget,” he said. “The Palestinian people are here to stay and will not forget.”

Ghassan Khatib, the former Palestinian minister of labor, said the strike was a rejection of the racist Israeli policy toward Palestinians. 

“It is a reflection of the failure of Israel in absorbing Palestinians in the 1948 areas or oppressing Jerusalemites and Palestinians in the West Bank,” he told Arab News.

Khatib blamed the US for the Israeli arrogance “that we are witnessing now.”

Salah Zuheika, a political activist in Jerusalem, compared the strike to the Land Day Protest that was held on March 30, 1976, which is an important date on the Palestinian national calendar.

Jerusalem-based Orthodox Bishop Atallah Hanna told Arab News that the strike sent a message to all Palestinians to protest against unjust Israeli policies, especially the destruction in Gaza. 

“Children and elderly, men and women are all being attacked,” he said. “This strike was a civilized and effective way to send a message to the world that we seek peace with justice.”

William Tarazi, a Gaza-based businessman, told Arab News: “The strike was a simple response. We do not need only a strike or protest. We need a holistic approach that includes political and military actions as well as protests.”

Radi Jirai, a Fatah activist who supports the one-state solution, told Arab News that the strike was another sign that the Palestinian national identity has survived despite Zionist attempts. 

“This unity of Palestinians paves the way for a new Palestinian strategy based on the unity of the people and land in Palestine,” he said. “It is the defeat of the Zionist program and stresses the need for a single democratic state to be established on the ruins of the Zionist apartheid.”

Tourism businesswoman from Jerusalem, Margo Tarazi, believed the strike showed Israel that the Palestinian people are united. 

“Israel and our leaders have seen that after 73 years, the people of Palestine are united from the sea to the river (the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea) and we will get our legitimate rights through our unity,” she told Arab News.


Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
Updated 22 January 2022

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
  • Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent
  • The Sultanate suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity

DUBAI: Oman has updated its coronavirus precautionary measures effective for two weeks starting on Jan. 23 due to a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections.
Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent, state news agency ONA reported.
The government has further suspended all conferences and exhibitions. Congregational activities have also been halted and organizers have been advised to hold them without audiences. Participants and organizers would now also be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The Sultanate further suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity.
The country’s Supreme Committee has called on all public establishments to stick to the measures set for their businesses, including operating at a capacity of 50 percent, requiring proofs of vaccination for customers, observing physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Oman shifted to distance learning for all schools earlier this month for four weeks as a precaution against the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.


US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals
Updated 22 January 2022

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals

US Treasury imposes more sanctions on Hezbollah-linked Lebanese individuals
  • Lebanon’s economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it collapsed under a mountain of debt

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on three Lebanese nationals and 10 companies it said were part of an international Hezbollah network, accusing them of evading sanctions on the powerful group with an armed militia that is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by Washington.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said it designated Adnan Ayad, who it said was a Hezbollah member and businessman, as well as other members of an international network of facilitators and companies connected to him and his business partner, Adel Diab, who was designated by Washington on Tuesday.
Friday’s move comes after the United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on three businessmen, including Diab, with ties to Hezbollah, saying their activity as financial facilitators for the Iran-backed group was exploiting Lebanon’s economic resources at a time of crisis for that country.
“Treasury is committed to disrupting Hizballah’s illicit activity and attempts to evade sanctions through business networks while the group doubles down on corrupt patronage networks in Lebanon,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement on Friday.
Lebanon’s economy has been in crisis since 2019 when it collapsed under a mountain of debt. Its currency plunged to a new low last week, and swaths of the country have been driven into poverty.
Lebanon’s Cabinet will hold its first meeting in three months next week, local media reported on Monday, after Hezbollah and another group, Amal, ended their boycott of the Cabinet over the weekend.
The two groups, which back several ministers, had been boycotting the Cabinet in a dispute over the conduct of an investigation into a huge explosion at Beirut’s port in 2020.


Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen
Updated 22 January 2022

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen

Coalition denies targeting detention center in Yemen
  • Coalition blames the Iran-backed Houthi militia for spreading misinformation

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen said media reports about it targeting a detention center in Saada are false.
The coalition blamed the Iran-backed Houthi militia for spreading misinformation, saying it fits the group’s usual deceptive approach.
The Coalition’s Joint Forces Command will brief the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the facts and details, Al Ekhbariya reported early on Saturday.


Lebanese elections: Former PM Hariri in key meetings

Saad Hariri. (Supplied)
Saad Hariri. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

Lebanese elections: Former PM Hariri in key meetings

Saad Hariri. (Supplied)
  • Former MP and Vice-President of the Future Movement Mustapha Allouch told Arab News: “So far, we haven’t been informed of Hariri’s decision and all the other matters affiliated to that decision”

BEIRUT: Just four people have submitted their candidacies for Lebanon’s parliamentary elections planned for May since the nomination process opened on Jan. 10.
The next house of representatives will elect a new president in October, five months after the parliamentary elections.
Some 250,000 Lebanese expats have registered abroad to vote in the upcoming elections to choose 128 MPs.
Only one-third of them registered for the previous elections, reflecting enthusiasm for change.
Zeina Helou, an expert in local affairs, told Arab News that those who submitted their candidacies belonged to the opposition.
Helou said there was a delay in the process because opposition figures had been questioning the possibility of parliamentary elections going ahead.
There were further delays due to the electoral law requiring candidates to join electoral lists to qualify as a contestant.

FASTFACT

The parliamentary elections are expected to be heated as the Lebanese people are motivated for political upheaval in a system accused of corruption.

Candidates are also required to deposit LBP30 million ($19,800), which is far higher than the LBP8 million deposit for previous parliamentary elections.
Helou said that things might take shape when registration of the candidates’ lists begins, with the deadline set between Mar. 16 and April 4.
Amid the low candidacy numbers, the ruling political forces were still studying the possibility of maintaining their electoral allies, with several alliances broken up as a result of the political crisis.
The mystery surrounding the position of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who returned to Beirut on Thursday morning, has increased their frustration.
He left Lebanon last June following his refusal to form a government.
Hariri met with the members of his bloc, with reports indicating that he will not nominate himself for the upcoming elections, leaving his bloc’s MPs the choice to participate or not.
Former MP and Vice-President of the Future Movement Mustapha Allouch told Arab News: “So far, we haven’t been informed of Hariri’s decision and all the other matters affiliated to that decision.”
Allouch said Hariri was holding several meetings and the picture might be clearer next week.
The political rumor mill has suggested that Hariri’s political allies, led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt, will seek to convince him to run for elections or to let the Future Movement participate, as their absence will leave a void on the Sunni scene.
There are mounting fears regarding Sunni representation as influential figures are reluctant to run for elections. Former Prime Minister Tammam Salam announced on Thursday that he was unwilling to run for parliament.  Nazih Njeim, a member of the Future Movement, revealed that a number of the party’s MPs will not run for elections if Hariri does not put himself forward.
He said: “When the Sunni component is not doing well, this reflects badly on the country.”
Public affairs expert Dr. Walid Fakhreddin said: “Hariri’s decision not to run for elections seems to be settled, knowing that he partly bears responsibility for the collapse of the country and specifically for the settlement that brought about Michel Aoun as the president.”
He added that other political forces in power were also hit at the core.
“The Free Patriotic Movement is destroyed at the grassroots level, and at the internal level, there will be fights between rivals of the same party on the same seat. The Progressive Socialist Party will re-nominate its deputies.”
He said: “We can also say while the popularity of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement was affected in some districts, it is no longer impossible to break it in other districts.
“We will witness a confrontation between the ruling class and the opposition.
“The ruling parties will fight each other, and the opposition may have more than a list in a few districts.”


Sudanese judges, US denounce deadly crackdowns on protests

Young women and men take to the streets of Khartoum to protest against the killings of dozens in a crackdown since last year’s military coup. (AFP)
Young women and men take to the streets of Khartoum to protest against the killings of dozens in a crackdown since last year’s military coup. (AFP)
Updated 22 January 2022

Sudanese judges, US denounce deadly crackdowns on protests

Young women and men take to the streets of Khartoum to protest against the killings of dozens in a crackdown since last year’s military coup. (AFP)
  • Military leader Gen. Al-Burhan announces appointment of 15 Cabinet ministers amid call for dialogue

KHARTOUM: Sudanese head of judiciary and judges condemned violence against anti-military protesters in a rare public statement, while the US said it would consider unspecified steps against those holding up efforts to resolve Sudan’s political crisis.

At least 72 civilians have died and more than 2,000 have been injured as security forces have cracked down on frequent demonstrations since a military takeover on Oct. 25, according to medics aligned with the protest movement.
Angered by the killing of seven civilians earlier this week, protesters took to the streets once more on Thursday in eastern Khartoum and other locations across Sudan.
Military leaders have said that the right to peaceful protest is protected and have commissioned investigations into the bloodshed.
The violence has deepened the deadlock between pro-democracy groups and the military leadership.
In a statement, Sudan’s ruling council affirmed the need for national dialogue, a technocratic Cabinet, and adjustments to a transitional constitutional document negotiated after the ousting of former leader Omar Bashir in a 2019 uprising.
The document formed the basis for a power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that was halted by the coup.

BACKGROUND

Military leaders have said that the right to peaceful protest is protected and have commissioned investigations into the bloodshed.

After a failed bid by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok to salvage some civilian control following the coup, the UN has been trying to facilitate dialogue between opposing factions.
Late on Thursday, military leader Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan announced the appointment of 15 Cabinet ministers, most of whom had been promoted to acting roles by Hamdok.
No prime minister or defense or interior ministers were named.
The coup drew condemnation from Western powers that largely froze badly needed economic assistance to Sudan.
That assistance would only be restarted if violence ended and a civilian-led government was restored, visiting US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee and newly appointed special envoy David Satterfield said.
Condemning the use of force on protesters, they “made clear the United States will consider measures to hold accountable those responsible for failure to move forward” with a political transition and an end to violence, a US statement said.
A statement from 55 Sudanese judges to the judiciary chief said military leaders had “violated agreements and covenants since the Oct. 25 coup, as they have carried out the most heinous violations against defenseless protesters.”
They called for an end to the violence and a criminal investigation.
In response, the head of the judiciary said in a statement that the ruling sovereign council must do the utmost to prevent violations.
“We in the judiciary affirm that we will not hesitate to take the measures we have at hand to protect the lives and constitutional rights of citizens,” the statement said.
Separately, more than 100 prosecutors announced they would stop work from Thursday to call for security forces to cease violations and lift a state of emergency. They said prosecutors had been unable to carry out their legal duty to accompany police to protests and determine the acceptable use of force.
It is unusual for Sudan’s judges and prosecutors to make public statements about the conduct of the security forces.
Asked for comment, acting Information Ministry Minister Nasreldin Ahmed noted that Gen. Al-Burhan had ordered an investigation into protester deaths on Monday and a probe was underway.
Protesters in the capital could be seen pulling up paving and barricading a main road and several side streets.
One, a student named Taysir, said they were doing so to protect themselves from security forces.
She dismissed Gen. Al-Burhan’s moves to appoint a caretaker Cabinet.
“He doesn’t want to give up, but we don’t want to give up either,” said another protester, who gave her name as Muzan.