Gaza braces for virus surge in wake of deadly clashes

Gaza braces for virus surge in wake of deadly clashes
Palestinian volunteers clear rubble and clean a road in Gaza City, on May 29, 2021, more than a week after a ceasefire brought an end to 11 days of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Gaza braces for virus surge in wake of deadly clashes

Gaza braces for virus surge in wake of deadly clashes
  • People ‘completely forgot about the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic’ while the fighting raged

GAZA CITY: Health authorities in Gaza fear a third wave of COVID-19 disease after emergency measures collapsed during 11 days of fighting with Israel.

Gazans “completely forgot about the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic” while the fighting raged, officials said.
Gaza has witnessed a frantic return to life after clashes that killed more than 250 people, wounded 1,950, and destroyed residential buildings and key commercial facilities.
The Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza said that it is struggling to return to its work confronting the pandemic with the same energy it had shown before the conflict erupted.
Ashraf Al-Qidra, a ministry spokesman, said that Gazans were unable to follow health protocols and preventive measures during the fighting.
He said that before the recent conflict the health ministry had been expecting a decrease in the epidemiological curve, but now there were fears of a third wave of the pandemic.

FASTFACT

More than 100,000 Palestinians are believed to be sheltering in homes and schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Rami Al-Abadla, director of the ministry’s safety and infection control unit, agreed, adding that “the outbreak of a third wave of coronavirus is strongly expected.”
Thousands of Palestinians have been forced from their homes and are sheltering in crowded facilities, he said.
More than 100,000 Palestinians are believed to be sheltering in homes and schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Al-Abadla said that reimposing strict health measures in Gaza will be difficult.
“People will not follow any measures at the present time after facing difficult times and dangerous days,” he said.
Muhammad Abbas was among those who fled to schools run by UNRWA to escape the violence.
Abbas said that he took his pregnant wife, five children and disabled father to a school in Jabaliya camp in northern Gaza after fleeing his home in the village of Umm Al-Nasr in Beit Lahia, which was hit by Israeli airstrikes.

 


Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU
Updated 13 min 18 sec ago

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU

Parties to Iran nuclear deal to hold formal meeting on Sunday: EU
  • The meeting comes amid the sixth round of indirect talks between Washington and Tehran
  • These formal meetings are usually an indication that the latest round will be adjourned
PARIS, June 19 (Reuters) - Parties negotiating a revival of the Iran nuclear deal will hold a formal meeting in Vienna on Sunday, the European Union said on Saturday.
The meeting comes amid the sixth round of indirect talks between Washington and Tehran and these formal meetings are usually an indication that the latest round will be adjourned. (Reporting by John Irish Editing by Frances Kerry)

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day
Updated 19 June 2021

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day

Turkey highlights Syrian success stories on World Refugee Day
  • Turkey provides refugees with education and health care facilities
  • The country is home to 4 million refugees, including about 3.7 million Syrians

ANKARA: Turkey, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population, will mark UN World Refugee Day on June 20 with a focus on integration under the motto “Together we heal, learn and shine.”

The country is home to 4 million refugees, including about 3.7 million Syrians. 

Omar Kadkoy, a migration policy analyst at the Ankara-based think tank the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, is a Syrian refugee whose success story is a source of inspiration for many in Turkey.  

Kadkoy moved from Damascus to the Turkish capital in 2014. He began learning Turkish, which is now his second foreign language. 

The policy analyst is now viewed as one of the key experts on integration issues in Turkey, is also a student at Ankara’s prestigious Middle East Technical University and is writing his master’s thesis on the naturalization of Syrian students in Turkey’s tertiary education system.

He is looking forward to beginning his Ph.D. studies once he graduates. 

Kadkoy is proud of his professional, academic and linguistic efforts. 

“Achieving is limitless. In terms of integration, I find myself on a journey of a thousand miles. I began with the necessary steps, but there is much more to explore, learn and contribute,” he told Arab News.

Turkey is both a reception and transit country for refugees. About half of the Syrian refugees in the country are children. 

As part of its social cohesion and integration policies, Turkey provides refugees with education and health care facilities, and helps them find employment opportunities. 

However, with more than 4 million refugees in the country, Turks are growing less willing to accept new arrivals. 

According to the latest Ipsos survey, 75 percent of Turkish respondents support closing borders to refugees entirely, while 60 percent believe that government spending on refugees should be decreased, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A 2020 survey by Bilgi University and the German Marshall Fund of the United States revealed that 86 percent of Turks support the repatriation of Syrians. Meanwhile, other surveys show that 90 percent of Syrians do not want to return to their homeland now.

Philippe Leclerc, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Turkey, recently said that Turkey should be given more support by the international community to handle the refugee issue. 

The EU has been supporting Turkey, with €6 billion ($7.1 billion) committed to helping refugees and hosting communities in key areas such as education, health, socio-economic development and basic needs.

Cash assistance provided by the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net helps Syrian refugee households cover some of their debts and daily living costs.  

According to Kadkoy, providing access to health care and education, and building the vocational and language skills of refugees does not necessarily result in integration. 

“There are many ways to look at integration. For example, are refugee students integrating well into schools? The answer would be by looking at the performance of refugee students in Turkey’s national education system and comparing it with that of the citizens,” he said. “Differences would tell us what is and isn’t working and allow us to revamp what didn’t work.”

He added: “When similar and other pointers are absent, it is difficult to talk about integration collectively. Instead, we end up with ad hoc celebrations of individual stories.”

Kadkoy said that the post-pandemic era could be a time to readdress the issue in Turkey, especially the discriminatory practices refugees face in the labor market. 

“Most of the 3.7 million Syrians seem to consider Turkey as a permanent destination. In Turkey, Syrians under the Temporary Protection rule enjoy access to public education. Around 650,000 Syrian students attend Turkish schools, access to free public health services, and there are roughly 820,000 Syrians in the labor market as either wage-workers or business owners,” he said. 

According to last year’s official statistics, there were 9,041 firms with Syrian owners in Turkey. 

The Turkish government cooperates with the international community, especially with the UN, to provide vocational training to Syrian refugees.

The education ministry recently announced that Syrian students can attend vocational training centers once a week. Students will be supported with one-third of the minimum wage during their four-year education while they receive skills training in business on other days.

World Refugee Day was established by the UN to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  


UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia
Updated 19 June 2021

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

UAE to suspend entry of travelers on flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia

CAIRO: The United Arab Emirates will suspend travelers from entering the country from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Namibia on national and foreign flights from Monday, June 21, Emirates News Agency (WAM) said on Saturday.
WAM said the restrictions would also include transit passengers, with the exception of transit flights traveling to the UAE and bound for those countries.


Israeli airstrikes on Gaza test patience of Hamas military wings

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza test patience of Hamas military wings
Updated 19 June 2021

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza test patience of Hamas military wings

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza test patience of Hamas military wings
  • Tensions have remained high since the ceasefire on May 21
  • Latest Israeli airstrikes in Gaza brought back fears of a military escalation

GAZA CITY: Gazans had hardly recovered from the sound of the explosions during the 11-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip when they returned less than a month later.

The Israeli bombing of Hamas military training sites in the Gaza Strip on Thursday night was in response to incendiary and explosive balloons launched toward neighboring Israeli towns. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The helium-filled balloons are intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding the Gaza enclave.

Tensions have remained high since the ceasefire on May 21.

The explosions in the Gaza Strip brought back fears of a military escalation, especially in light of the Israeli restrictions in place since May.

Israel have kept the two crossings with the Gaza Strip, Kerem Shalom for commerce and Erez for individuals, semi-closed, only allowing food and some other items, as well as medical emergencies.

The closure of the two crossings severely affected the daily lives of Gazans, stopping the flow of goods to shops of all kinds and mail between Gaza and the West Bank and the outside world, including thousands of passports printed in Ramallah, as well as visas, making it hard for merchants to travel.

Iman Shaheen, 33, who suffers from breast cancer, said: “I am waiting to get my passport, the application for which I sent to Ramallah before the war, but the mail has stopped since then, preventing me from completing the process of traveling to Jordan for treatment. I follow the news daily and wait impatiently for the crossing to be re-opened for mail.”

Israel also prevents construction materials from entering the Gaza Strip, which affects the reconstruction process war, prevents fuel from entering the power plant and blocks Qatari grants to poor families.

Hamas and Israel reached an agreement to facilitate the entry of Qatari funds and increase the capacity of the Kerem Shalom crossing, and to allow some materials that it classifies as dual-use in exchange for stopping the demonstrations along the border, known as the Great Return March, which lasted for about two years.

Hamas spokesman Hazim Qassem tweeted that the bombing of the Gaza Strip “is a failed attempt to stop the solidarity of our people and the resistance with the Holy City” (Jerusalem), and to “cover up the unprecedented state of confusion of the Zionist establishment” by organizing the so-called Flags March.

Hamas military wings seem to have limited patience over the Israeli bombing.

Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad official, said that “the resistance factions informed Egypt in a message that they would respond in kind to any upcoming military attacks, and would not allow the occupation government (Israel) to impose its conditions on the resistance or isolate Gaza.

“The joint operations room of the resistance factions has crystallized a final and unified position to deal with the repetition of Israeli behavior in the coming days, and it will not hesitate to confront it, whatever the results.

“The launching of incendiary and explosive balloons from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli towns is linked to the occupation’s continued imposition of the siege on the Gaza Strip and its closure of the crossings for more than a month and a half.”

However, commentators have said that Hamas and the other factions will not be in a hurry to return to war again.

Mukhaimar Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said: “Hamas needs to restore what was destroyed in the last war, whether at the level of its military capabilities or the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and use this opportunity for funds to enter the Gaza Strip.”

Husam Al-Dajani, a political analyst, said: “The resistance factions do not want to return to military confrontation again, but if the reality remains unchanged on the ground, things may escalate in the Gaza Strip.”

Al-Dajani believes that Hamas’ failure to respond to the Israeli bombardment is “to give the mediators an opportunity to put pressure on Israel and improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip.”


Oman reinstates movement ban to curb coronavirus spread

Oman reinstates movement ban to curb coronavirus spread
Updated 19 June 2021

Oman reinstates movement ban to curb coronavirus spread

Oman reinstates movement ban to curb coronavirus spread
  • The ban will remain in place until further notice
  • Public spaces and commercial establishments will also remain closed

DUBAI: Oman’s Supreme Committee will reinstate a movement ban between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. starting June 20, state news agency ONA reported.

The ban will remain in place until further notice.

Public spaces and commercial establishments will also remain closed as a continuing precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

The committee also said that the national immunization program will continue as planned.

It has also called on the relevant target groups to take the initiative to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their families and the rest of the society from COVID-19.