France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency
French President Emanuel Macron, right, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attend video conference with Jordan's King Abdullah II, on screen, to work on a concrete proposal for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 18, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 19 May 2021

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency

France files Israel-Gaza cease-fire resolution at UN: presidency
  • The three countries agreed on the resolution during a video-conference

UNITED NATIONS: China’s UN ambassador says France is seeking a UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestinian militants who control Gaza.
Zhang Jun, the current council president, confirmed that France’s UN Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere informed the council during the third round of closed consultations Tuesday on the conflict that a resolution was being prepared.
The United States has blocked the UN’s most powerful body, which is charged with maintaining international peace and security, from issuing a press statement calling for a halt to the violence, insisting that it would not help diplomatic efforts to end the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Diplomats said the 14 other council members supported the statement proposed by China, Tunisia and Norway. But Security Council press and presidential statements require approval of all 15 members. Resolutions, which are legally binding, do not. They require at least nine “yes” votes and no veto by a permanent member. This would put the United States in the position of voting in favor, abstaining, or vetoing a cease-fire call.
Zhang told reporters that China, Tunisia and Norway “haven’t given up our effort ... and that draft statement stays there on the table, and we will continue to make our effort, making sure that the Security Council is fulfilling its mandate and responsibilities.”
He said US President Joe Biden’s support for a cease-fire is “consistent with what we are proposing in the Security Council,” and China will support “all efforts facilitating the cease-fire, facilitating the ending of the crisis, and the coming back of peace in the Middle East.”
The proposed French resolution, drafted in coordination with Egypt and Jordan, could be circulated to council members as early as Wednesday and put to a quick vote, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were private.

UNITED NATIONS — The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations is challenging the Biden administration to show results from its diplomatic efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, pointing to the US repeatedly blocking UN Security Council action on grounds it would interfere with its diplomatic efforts.
Riyad Mansour said “if the Biden administration can exert all of their pressure to bring an end to the aggression against our people, nobody is going to stand in their way.”
But he said the facts speak for themselves, and nobody has succeeded yet, so the US argument that a council statement would interfere with efforts to achieve a cease-fire “does not hold water.”
Mansour spoke at a press conference Tuesday as the Security Council again met in closed consultations at the request of China, Norway and Tunisia who have been pressing for the UN’s most powerful body to respond to the Gaza conflict, now in its second week. But council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussion was private, said the United States reiterated again that a statement would not help diplomatic efforts despite the 14 other members calling for council action.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Palestinian militants have been dealt “unexpected blows” in more than a week of Israeli bombardments in the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu’s office released a video of the prime minister speaking in front of an F-16 fighter jet at an air force base in southern Israel on Tuesday.
“I have no doubt that we set them back many years,” Netanyahu said. “I am sure that all our enemies around us see the price we have levied for the aggression against us, and I am sure they will learn the lesson.”

BEIRUT — Scores of Palestinians and Lebanese protesting along the border with Israel threw rocks and climbed the cement wall snaking around the frontier, and drew tear gas from Israeli forces Tuesday.
Lebanon’s National News Agency said five people were injured and others suffered from smoke inhalation. A number of protesters in the Lebanese border village of Adaisseh had climbed the wall to plant Lebanese flags and the yellow flags of the militant Hezbollah group.
It was the fifth straight day of protests along the border as support for the Palestinians swelled against an Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Hundreds of protesters also marched in Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday in support of Gaza, which has been under Israeli airstrikes since last week. The march went from Beirut’s refugee camp of Mar Elias toward the city center.
On Monday, rockets fired from Lebanon fell inside Lebanese territory.
Last week, the Israeli army shot and killed one protester along the border. The Lebanese militia Hezbollah later identified the person killed as one of its fighters.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian Health Ministry says a Palestinian protester was killed and dozens more were wounded when gunshots rang out at a large demonstration in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military says protesters opened fire at troops at Tuesday’s demonstration. It says two soldiers were shot in the leg and had to be hospitalized. Palestinian protesters often clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank but the demonstrators are rarely armed.
The Health Ministry identified the deceased as 25-year-old Muhammad Hamid. It says 46 others were wounded, including 16 with bullet wounds. It says four of them are in serious condition.
Hundreds of protesters had gathered on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered, to protest against Israel’s actions in Gaza and Jerusalem. They burned tires and hurled stones at the Israeli troops, who fired tear gas at them.
At one point, seven shots rang out, but it was unclear where they came from. Israeli soldiers on a hillside opposite the protest could be seen taking cover behind mounds of sandbags.
Tensions are soaring over the latest Gaza war, as well as recent clashes in Jerusalem and cities across Israel. A general strike on Tuesday was observed by Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories.

CAIRO — Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has announced the allocation of $500 million for reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.
El-Sisi’s office said in a Facebook post Tuesday that Egyptian firms would contribute in the re-building efforts.
Egypt, which is leading mediation efforts to reach a cease-fire, has sent some two dozen trucks carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Gaza through the Raffah crossing point.
It has also received wounded people from the latest round of violence to be treated in Egyptian hospitals.

REYKJAVIK, Iceland — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Israel has given the United States information about its bombing of a Gaza building housing The Associated Press and other media outlets.
Israel had claimed that Hamas had a military intelligence office in the Gaza building which it leveled in a weekend airstrike. But Israel has not publicly provided any evidence backing up that claim. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would share any evidence of Hamas’ presence in the targeted building through intelligence channels.
Blinken said from Iceland on Tuesday that “we have received some further information through intelligence channels.” He declined to characterize the material, saying “that’s not something I can comment on.”
Press freedom groups condemned the attack, which leveled the building and marked a new chapter in the already rocky relationship between the Israeli military and the international media.
AP President Gary Pruitt has called for an independent investigation into the attack.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli police say two Thai workers inside Israel have been killed in a strike launched from the Gaza Strip.
Another seven people were wounded in that attack Tuesday afternoon that hit a packaging plant in southern Israel, authorities said.
Militants from Gaza have launched thousands of rockets at civilian targets in Israel since last week. Israel has responded with airstrikes against what it says are militant targets in Gaza.

VIENNA — Austria has summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about comments in which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted Austrian officials’ decision to fly the Israeli flag over government buildings as a signal of solidarity.
The Israeli flag was raised over the chancellery and foreign ministry in Vienna on Friday amid rocket attacks by the Hamas militant group on Israel. In a televised address to the nation on Monday, Erdogan said: “I curse the Austrian government which raised the Israeli flag over its (chancellery) building.”
He added that “flying the flag of a terrorist nation over such an official (building) is akin to living a life with terror. Presumably the Austrian government is trying to make Muslims pay the price of their own genocide against the Jews.” The latter is a reference to the fact that, after its annexation in 1938, Austria was part of Nazi Germany.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said Turkey’s ambassador was summoned Tuesday over “these absurd comments by President Erdogan.”
Schallenberg added that “it won’t be possible to solve the Middle East conflict while foaming at the mouth.” He said that “instead of pouring oil on the fire, Turkey is urgently called on to contribute to de-escalation.”

GENEVA — The UN humanitarian agency is describing an increasingly dire situation inside the Gaza Strip as the war between Israel and the territory’s Hamas rulers rages with no end in sight.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says nearly 47,000 Palestinians have fled their homes during more than a week of heavy Israeli airstrikes. Hamas and other militants have fired more than 3,400 rockets into Israel.
Laerke says electricity across Gaza is only available for six to eight hours a day.
Citing Palestinian authorities, he said 132 buildings comprising 621 housing and commercial units have been destroyed in Gaza. He says another 316 housing units have been severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007. Israel says the closures are needed to keep the group from rearming, while rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.
Laerke welcomed Israel’s decision to open Gaza’s main commercial crossing, allowing essential supplies to flow in for the first time since war broke out on May 10.
COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in Gaza, said the crossing was closed after a mortar attack, several hours after it had been opened in order to allow medical equipment in.

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister visited Turkey on Tuesday seeking to mobilize international pressure on Israel to halt attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The latest development comes a day after Pakistan’s lower house of parliament passed a unanimous resolution denouncing Israel’s attacks on Palestinian people.
Before leaving on his diplomatic mission, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan stands firmly with the Palestinians.
Qureshi will also travel to New York to address the UN General Assembly later this week on the matter.
A day before, Pakistan’s opposition parties and the government issued a call for nationwide rallies on Friday to express solidarity with Palestinians.
Pakistan is among those countries that does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is “imperative” to end the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
Speaking at a ceremony with new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin on Tuesday, Putin noted that “the outburst of confrontation between the Palestinians and the Israelis has already led to a large number of casualties among civilian population, including children.”
“We consider it imperative to end violent actions on both sides and to actively seek a solution based on a relevant resolution of the United Nations Security Council and universally recognized principles of international law,” Putin said.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden expressed support for a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But the American leader stopped short of demanding an immediate stop to the eight days of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages that have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinian.
Biden’s carefully worded statement, in a White House readout Monday of his second known call to Netanyahu in three days as the attacks pounded on, came with the administration under pressure to respond more forcefully despite its determination to wrench the US foreign policy focus away from Middle East conflicts.
Biden’s comments on a cease-fire were open-ended and were similar to previous administration statements of support in principle for a cease-fire.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinians across Israel and the occupied territories went on strike in a rare collective action against Israel’s policies on Tuesday as Israeli strikes rained down on Gaza and militants fired dozens of rockets from the Hamas-ruled territory.
With the war in Gaza showing no sign of abating and truce efforts apparently stalled, the general strike and expected protests could again widen the conflict after a spasm of communal violence in Israel and protests across the occupied West Bank last week.
Tuesday’s airstrikes toppled a six-story building that housed libraries and educational centers belonging to the Islamic University, leaving behind a massive mound of rebar and concrete slabs. Desks, office chairs, books and computer wires could be seen in the debris. Residents sifted through the rubble, searching for their belongings.

Massive fire ‘almost under control’ in north Lebanon

Massive fire ‘almost under control’ in north Lebanon
Updated 3 min 33 sec ago

Massive fire ‘almost under control’ in north Lebanon

Massive fire ‘almost under control’ in north Lebanon
  • Lebanese Red Cross reports 5 hospitalized and 17 evicted due to blaze
  • More than 16 firefighting brigades from Tripoli and Beirut respond as Aoun has Cypriot authorities on standby

BEIRUT: A massive fire broke out in the Qobayat area north of Lebanon on Wednesday and spread so fast that many families were stuck in their properties.
A spokesperson for the Lebanese Civil Defence (LCD) told Arab News the blaze was a result of high temperatures, humidity, and winds but was “almost under control” after more than 16 firefighting brigades responded to the fire.
“Fire brigades from Tripoli and Beirut have been extinguishing the enormous flames that we face every summer season,” the LCD spokesperson said. “The head of LCD operations is supervising the fire-extinguishing process.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Lebanese Red Cross (LRC) told Arab News it also dispatched teams to the Qobayat area when the fire broke out.
“We evicted families including women, children, and the elderly as our teams remain on the ground,” the LRC spokesperson said.
According to the LRC Twitter account, 17 people were evicted, 10 were treated at the site and five were hospitalized as a result of the fire.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun ordered the Lebanese Army and LCD to exert all efforts to extinguish the fire and prevent it from reaching homes and properties. He also gave orders to evict any families that could be in the path of the fire.
Aoun asked local authorities to communicate with Cypriot authorities for assistance if the fire escalated. 
The National News Agency (NNA) said the Lebanese Army rescued a number of citizens from their cars after they were surrounded by fires that broke out near the Qobayat-Rowaymah Highway.
One of Qobayat mayors, Youssef Nader, told Al-Jadeed TV that 60 percent of the fire that surrounded residential areas had been brought under control, but blazes in the nearby fields “remain out of control.”
One wounded person was transferred to the Al-Salam Hospital Emergency Department in Qobayat.
Lebanese Army helicopters, civil defense teams, and volunteers from Qobayat and other areas in Akkar continued to battle the blaze on Wednesday, which expanded towards new areas in Mount Akroum, the NNA reported.

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials
Updated 28 July 2021

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials

Tunisia in political turmoil as president dismisses more officials
  • Late Tuesday, Saied issued decrees sacking a list of government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor
  • He has also lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers, and assumed judicial powers

TUNIS: Tunisia lurched further into political uncertainty Wednesday, as President Kais Saied sacked more officials, days after he suspended parliament and assumed executive powers in what opponents labelled a “coup.”
Key civil society groups warned against any “illegitimate” extension of Saied’s 30-day suspension of parliament, and demanded in a joint statement a timeline for political action.
After suspending parliament and sacking Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Sunday, and firing the defense and justice ministers on Monday, Saied then ordered the dismissal of several top officials.
Late Tuesday, 63-year-old Saied, a former law lecturer who was a political newcomer when he won a landslide 2019 presidential election victory, issued decrees sacking a long list of senior government officials, including the army’s chief prosecutor.
He has also lifted the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers, and assumed judicial powers.
Saied say his actions are justified under the constitution, which allows the head of state to take unspecified exceptional measures in the event of an “imminent threat.”
On top of the political turmoil, the North African nation is beset by a crippling economic crisis including soaring inflation and high unemployment, as well as surging Covid-19 infections.
The moderate Islamist Ennahdha party, which was the largest faction in the coalition government, has labelled the power grab a “coup d’etat,” while the US, EU and other powers have voiced strong concern.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday urged Tunisia to rapidly appoint a new prime minister and government.
Further ramping up tensions, the Tunisian prosecutor’s office announced on Wednesday the judiciary has opened an investigation into allegations that Ennahdha and two other political parties received illegal funding ahead of elections in 2019.
The financial arm of the judiciary opened the probe on July 14, focusing on “the foreign financing and acceptance of funds of unknown origin,” prosecution spokesman Mohsen Dali said.
Tunisians are waiting anxiously for clarity on the next political steps.
Saied, an austere law academic who has said he is determined to revolutionize the political system through the law, said he would assume executive power “with the help” of a government whose new chief he would appoint himself.
Names of possible candidates circulated Wednesday after Saied met with representatives of national organizations late Monday.
“President Saied will be very careful in choosing the future head of government, because he wants a trustworthy and loyal person who would adopt the same policies as him,” said political scientist Slaheddine Jourchi.
The young democracy had often been cited as the sole success story of the Arab Spring.
But, a decade on, many in the nation of 12 million people say they have seen little improvement in living standards, and have grown infuriated by protracted political deadlock with infighting among the elite.
The ousted government had also been criticized for its handling of the Covid pandemic. Tunisia has one of the world’s highest official per-capita death tolls.
“President Saied is faced with a great challenge: to show Tunisians and the world that he made the right decisions,” added Jourchi.
After violent clashes outside the army-blockaded parliament on Monday, the Ennahdha party said “organized thugs” were being used to “provoke bloodshed and chaos.”
On Tuesday Ennahdha said that, “for the sake of the democratic path,” it is “ready to go to early legislative and presidential elections” while demanding “that any delay is not used as a pretext to maintain an autocratic regime.”
Noureddine B’Hiri, a senior Ennahdha leader, said the party had “decided to campaign peacefully to defeat” the president’s plans.
But before any elections, “parliament should resume its activities and the military end its control,” B’Hiri told AFP.
In the 10 years since Tunisia’s popular revolution toppled dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has had nine governments.
Some have lasted just months, hindering the reforms needed to revamp the country’s struggling economy and poor public services.

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials
Updated 28 July 2021

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials

US imposes sanctions on Syrian prisons, officials
  • The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said
  • The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it had imposed sanctions on eight Syrian prisons run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s intelligence apparatus and five senior officials who control the sites, where human rights abuses have taken place.
The Treasury Department also put sanctions on Syrian armed group Ahrar Al-Sharqiya, which operates in northern Syria, for abuses against civilians, as well as on two of the group’s leaders, it said in a statement.
“Today’s designations promote accountability for abuses committed against the Syrian people and deny rogue actors access to the international financial system,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Andrea Gacki. “This action demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to targeting human rights abuses in Syria, regardless of the perpetrator.”
The prisons “have been sites of human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees,” the statement said. It accused Ahrar Al-Sharqiya of numerous crimes against civilians, especially Syrian Kurds, “including unlawful killings, abductions, torture, and seizures of private property.”
In a separate statement, the Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on one Turkey-based Al-Qaeda financial facilitator for materially assisting the militant group as well as one Syria-based terrorist fundraiser and recruiter for providing material support to Hay’et Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a militant group previously sanctioned under US counter-terrorism authorities.

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
Updated 28 July 2021

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system

Schools in Egypt flourishing with Tokkatsu system
  • Japanese system develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination
  • Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October

CAIRO: The Japanese education system, Tokkatsu, continues to flourish in Egypt as the country had 48 schools that used the system during the last academic school year. 

These Egyptian-Japanese schools teach Egyptian curriculum in addition to the Japanese Tokkatsu educational system, which develops all the skills of the student, focusing on creativity and thinking rather than conservation and indoctrination.

Safwat Al-Jamai, an educationist, told Arab News the Tokkatsu method relies on activities that help the students with daily life, self-development, health, safety, and creativity.

“It encourages students to help with the management and planning of the activities, and there are cultural exchange programs for different age groups within the school,” Al-Jamai said.

“It also entails activities that develop a sense of belonging and solidarity toward others and working for the public interest through practical activities carried out by students."

These activities, according to Al-Jamai, transform the role of the teacher into that of a facilitator. They no longer merely teach facts and concepts leading students to a right-or-wrong answer, but rather facilitate social and emotional learning for the student through trial and error in an individual or group environment.

The activities also enable the development of the personal and social skills needed when students enter the real world, and it requires them to share tasks, set rules, experience leadership as well as follow rules and adhere to order.

Egyptian-Japanese schools in Egypt are preparing for the new academic year, which begins in October. One of them is in Sharm El-Sheikh, which was inaugurated by the Egyptian Minister of Education, Tariq Shawky, and the Governor of South Sinai, Maj. Gen. Khaled Fouda, last March.

The Egyptian-Japanese School in Sharm El-Sheikh is located near King Salman University and consists of 28 classrooms from kindergarten to secondary school. It is the second such school in the governorate after another that was established in Tur Sinai in October 2018.

The Egyptian-Japanese School finished conducting personal interviews for students initially accepted to the school for the academic year 2021-2022. Prospective students applied to enroll in the school through the school's website, under the supervision of the Egyptian-Japanese Schools Administration Unit at the Ministry of Education.

They canceled paper submissions due to coronavirus (COVID-19) safety precautions. 

The admission process for students included a personal interview with parents, submission of supporting documents with the application, a math test, and a cognitive skills test for the child. Personal interviews were also conducted for students applying for kindergarten.

Mahmoud Abdel-Aal, director of the Egyptian-Japanese School, said interview results will be announced after they are completed in all schools nationwide.

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
Updated 28 July 2021

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon

Lebanon's Mikati hopes to form government soon
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said he hoped to form a government in the "near future"

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said on Wednesday that he hoped to form a government shortly after securing the approval of President Michel Aoun for most of his nominees.
Mikati, a businessman, is the third potential prime minister to be nominated since Hassan Diab's government resigned after an explosion in Beirut's port area on Aug. 4 last year that killed more than 200 people and flattened large areas of the city. He spoke to reporters after meeting Aoun.
Diab's government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity, but Lebanon's currency has collapsed, jobs have vanished and banks have frozen accounts in the country's worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.
"I gave my proposals, President Aoun approved most of them and he made some remarks which are acceptable; God willing ... we will be able to form a government soon," Mikati said.
Mikati has been prime minister twice before and, unlike many Lebanese leaders, does not represent a political bloc or hail from a dynasty.
Like the previous nominee, Saad Al-Hariri, he must navigate the sectarian, power-sharing structure and secure agreement on a cabinet equipped to address the financial meltdown in Lebanon, one of the world's most heavily indebted states.