Israel, Hamas cease fire but Jerusalem clashes break out

Palestinians run from sound grenades thrown by Israeli police in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem, as a cease-fire took effect between Hamas and Israel after 11-day war. (AP)
Palestinians run from sound grenades thrown by Israeli police in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem, as a cease-fire took effect between Hamas and Israel after 11-day war. (AP)
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Updated 21 May 2021

Israel, Hamas cease fire but Jerusalem clashes break out

Israel, Hamas cease fire but Jerusalem clashes break out
  • Rockets and air strikes cease in Egypt-mediated deal, Biden promises aid, UN urges dialogue
  • Brief clashes broke out around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

GAZA CITY: A truce between Israel and Hamas took hold on Friday after the worst violence in years, but brief clashes broke out around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem where similar scenes had touched off the Gaza conflict.
Israel's bombardment of Gaza and militant rocket attacks on Israeli towns ceased after 11 days under an agreement mediated by Egypt, which is negotiating with both sides on ways to maintain stability.
The Gaza violence was set off in part by Israeli police raids of East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and clashes with Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Thousands had gathered there for Friday prayers, with many staying on to demonstrate in support of Gaza.
Israeli police fired stun grenades towards Palestinians, who threw rocks and petrol bombs at officers, a Reuters witness said, and Palestinian medics said some 20 Palestinians were wounded.
The confrontations died down within about an hour, with Israeli police retreating to positions at the compound's gates.
In Gaza, five more bodies were pulled from the rubble in the densely populated Palestinian enclave, taking the death toll to 243, including 66 children, with more than 1,900 wounded.
The Israeli military said a soldier had been killed as well as 12 civilians; hundreds have been treated for injuries after rocket salvoes that caused panic and sent people rushing into shelters as far away as Tel Aviv.
Palestinians who had huddled in fear of Israeli shelling poured into Gaza's streets, embracing one another in celebration in front of bombed-out buildings. Mosque loudspeakers feted "the victory of the resistance". Cars drove around flying Palestinian flags and honking horns.

In the countdown to the 2 a.m. (2300 GMT Thursday) cease-fire, Palestinian rocket salvoes continued and Israel carried out at least one air strike.

Egypt said it would send two delegations to monitor the truce as the warring parties said they were ready to retaliate for any violations.
Civilians on both sides of the front line were sceptical.
"I don't agree to (a truce). What is truce? What does it mean?" said Samira Abdallah Naseer, a mother of 11 children sitting near the wreckage of a building near Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip.
"We returned to our houses, and we found no place to sit, no water, no electricity, no mattresses, nothing," she said.
In a cafe in the Israeli port city of Ashdod, north of Gaza, student Dan Kiri, 25, said Israel should continue targeting Hamas until it collapsed.
"The fact that we are sitting here, peacefully drinking coffee and eating our croissant, it's only a matter of time until the next operation in Gaza," he said.
The violence erupted on May 10, triggered by Palestinians' anger at what they saw as Israeli curbs on their rights in Jerusalem, including during police confrontations with protesters at Al-Aqsa mosque during the Ramadan fasting month.

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the operation had hit the ability of Hamas, the Islamist group which runs Gaza, to launch missiles at Israel.
Netanyahu said the Israeli military had attacked and destroyed Hamas’s extensive tunnel network in Gaza, its rocket factories, weapons laboratories and storage facilities, and killed more than 200 militants, including 25 senior figures.
"Hamas can't hide anymore. That's a great achievement for Israel," he said in a televised address. "We eliminated an important part of Hamas's and Islamic Jihad's command echelon. And whoever was not killed, knows today that our long arm can reach him anywhere, above ground or underground."
Hamas however cast the fighting as successful resistance to a militarily and economically stronger foe.
"It is true the battle ends today but Netanyahu and the whole world should know that our hands are on the trigger and we will continue to grow the capabilities of this resistance," said Ezzat El-Reshiq, a senior member of the Hamas political bureau.
El-Reshiq told Reuters in Doha that the movement's demands included protecting Al-Aqsa and stopping Palestinians being evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem.
Saleh Diab, who was among those threatened with eviction, was relieved but wary. “This is a morning of freedom, a morning of victory," he said, adding that he hoped to remain in his home but feared what Israel would do next.
Amid growing global alarm, U.S. President Joe Biden had urged Netanyahu to seek de-escalation, while Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations sought to mediate.
The truce appeared to be part of a two-stage deal with Cairo sending security delegations to Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories to agree on measures to maintain stability.
After days of Israeli air strikes, Gaza officials said 16,800 homes were damaged and residents were getting three or four hours of power compared with 12 hours before the fighting.
Palestinian officials put the cost of Gaza reconstruction in the tens of millions of dollars, while economists said the fighting could curb Israel's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden said on Thursday aid would be sent quickly to Gaza. It would be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority - run by Hamas' rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, backed by the West and based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank - "in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal".
Hamas is deemed a terrorist group in the West and by Israel, which it refuses to recognise.


Egypt to open complex for vaccine production

Egypt to open complex for vaccine production
Updated 7 min 40 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 16 min 33 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).


Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
Updated 21 June 2021

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
  • The $136,000 award is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation in collaboration with UNHCR
  • RefuSHE was acknowledged for its efforts in protecting, educating and empowering refugee girls, children and young women (13-21)

SHARJAH: RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency, was conferred with the 2021 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) at a virtual ceremony.
Founded in 2008, RefuSHE addresses the significant, unmet needs for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya.
The $136,000 award, now in its fifth edition, is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organization dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
With the COVID-19 pandemic deepening the vulnerabilities of marginalized women and girls, the SIARA selection committee acknowledged the leading contributions of RefuSHE, a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organization, for its efforts in protecting, educating, and empowering orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls, children and young women aged 13 — 21 in the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Through a holistic model comprising of trauma-informed and girl-centric interventions and long-term programs that address urgent safety, shelter and health care concerns to economic empowerment, vocational training, and mental health initiatives, among others, RefuSHE has enabled 5,000 individuals, and around 20,000 indirect beneficiaries build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children.
Three entities shortlisted for SIARA 2021, namely, RefuSHE from Kenya, International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance (INARA), which works for forcibly displaced children and youth in Lebanon and Turkey, and Iraq’s The Lotus Flower from Kurdistan which economically empowers vulnerable women and girls through innovative projects.
They are also recipients of a special grant this edition instituted by TBHF, in collaboration with UAE-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA). The $300,000-grant will be divided evenly among the three non-profit organizations.


Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
Updated 21 June 2021

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
  • The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talk
  • The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days”

TEHRAN: Iran’s only nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a “technical fault,” the country’s atomic energy body said in a statement.
The Bushehr plant and its 1,000-megawatt reactor, on Iran’s southern coast, were completed by Russia after years of delay and officially handed over in September 2013, raising regional concerns in what is an earthquake prone area.
The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talks, which an EU negotiator said Sunday were moving “closer to a deal.”
That agreement is staunchly opposed by Israel, which Tehran has accused in the past of sabotage against its nuclear enrichment efforts.
“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant, and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on its website around Sunday midnight.
The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days,” but did not elaborate further.
Iran’s national electricity company had in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimize consumption during peak hours due to a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs” at Bushehr.
The company said that the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.
In 2016, Russian and Iranian firms began building two additional 1,000-megawatt reactors at Bushehr. Their construction was expected to take 10 years.
Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors have often raised concerns about the reliability of the facility and the risk of radioactive leaks in the event of a major earthquake.
In April, Bushehr province was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, leaving five people injured but causing “no damage” to the nuclear complex, according to authorities.
Also in April, Iran accused Israel of being behind a “terrorist” attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after a “small explosion” at that facility’s electricity distribution center.
Iran started rolling blackouts in May this year after Tehran and several other cities were hit by unannounced power cuts that sparked complaints from consumers and an apology from the energy minister.
The shortages were blamed on heat, drought impacting hydropower generation, and surging electricity demand blamed in part on crypto-currency mining.
Power cuts in the peak summer months are not uncommon in Iran, but a government report last month said precipitation was down 34 percent compared to the country’s long-term average, and warned of reduced water supplies for the year.
Since late May, the energy ministry regularly notifies citizens of “potential blackouts” lasting at least two hours, unless consumption in their area drops.
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani last month announced a ban on all crypto-currency mining until September to reduce the pressure on the power grid.
The Islamic republic has announced plans to construct 20 nuclear power plants in the long-term in order to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The 2015 nuclear deal promised Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 after the former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
But Trump’s successor Joe Biden favors rejoining the accord and the remaining parties are engaged in negotiations in Vienna to try to salvage it.
On May 23, nine people were injured in a blast at a plant producing explosive materials in central Iran, local media reported, and three days later, a pipeline explosion at a petrochemical complex near Iran’s Gulf coast left one dead.
Some in the Islamic republic see the various events as the result of attacks by Israel’s security forces. Others consider US sanctions — which almost completely isolate Iran from the rest of the world, complicating the maintenance of industrial facilities — as a more likely cause.
In July last year, a “worn out transformer” was blamed by a provincial electricity company for an explosion that hit a thermal power plant in the central province of Isfahan.


UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
Updated 21 June 2021

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
  • Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries

DUBAI: UAE public schools will fully reopen in September with a remote option, the country’s Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) announced.
A special protocol for returning to school will be developed in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, ESE said, aimed at ensuring the safety of students and faculty.
The announcement comes as more than 72 percent of the staff at public schools have been inoculated against the coronavirus, paving the way for in person learning, according to authorities.
Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries.
Nurseries, which have been operating at limited capacity, can now increase the number of children in each group or “bubble.”
For those aged between 45 days and two-years-old, a bubble can now include 12 children, up from eight, while for the age group of two-years-old to four, a bubble can include 16 children, up from 10.
Nurseries, however, must continue ensuring a minimum space requirement of 3.5 square meters per child in each classroom and an area of 5 square meters in open areas.
The decision came following a review of COVID-19 statistics related to cases in children’s nurseries in Abu Dhabi, which showed a consistently low infection rate, authorities said. 
The latest developments in the sector will be a welcoming sight for parents, more than a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted education procedures globally.