Winners of the 12th Makkah Award for Excellence honored by governor in Jeddah

Winners of the 12th Makkah Award for Excellence honored by governor in Jeddah
Prince Khaled Al Faisal, governor of Makkah region. (File/Internet)
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Updated 10 June 2021

Winners of the 12th Makkah Award for Excellence honored by governor in Jeddah

Winners of the 12th Makkah Award for Excellence honored by governor in Jeddah
  • The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) won the award for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic

RIYADH: The recipients of the 12th Makkah Award for Excellence were honored by the region’s governor, Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, during a ceremony on Wednesday, at the Jeddah International Exhibition & Convention Center.

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) won the award for its work during the COVID-19 pandemic, by providing digital support and assistance to the authorities managing the crisis, state news agency SPA reported. 

The launch of the “Tawakkalna” and “Tabaud” applications — released three weeks after development — contributed significantly to helping the relevant authorities combat the epidemic, by providing services necessary for citizens, residents and visitors.

Prince Khaled said the Makkah Excellence Award is a “civilizational landmark” and a source of pride for everyone who participated in the national achievement.


Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
Updated 3 min 30 sec ago

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public

Lebanese woman assaulted by bodyguards after shaming lawmaker Gebran Bassil in public
  • Video showing brawl between Bassil’s entourage & young woman goes viral on social media, triggers waves of criticism
  • Bassil’s media office denied beating incident and said ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’

BEIRUT: A video of a brawl between a Lebanese woman and Head of Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil’s bodyguards after she publicly told him ‘shame on you’ went viral on Sunday.

The woman was having lunch with friends in a newly-opened restaurant at Al Batroun, the birthplace of Bassil, Lebanese President’s son-in-law and a strong political ally of Iran-backed party Hezbollah, when the altercation happened.

Once the woman, identified by media as Yasmine Al-Masri, saw Bassil at the restaurant she yelled at him saying the Arabic for “shame on you.”

She is believed to have been provoked by his audacity showing up in public as if he is not one of the major instigators and those responsible for the country’s political deadlock, economic collapse and corruption.

It was reported in different media outlets that Bassil’s entourage instantly rushed toward Al-Masri, whacked her brutally and pinned her down to the floor. Meanwhile as the bodyguards were violently silencing and preventing her from shouting, Bassil made his way hurriedly to his car.

Arab News contacted the restaurant where the incident happened.

“The incident happened around lunchtime. She yelled at lawmaker Bassil and told him what means ‘shame on you’ for what you’ve been doing to the people… she reacted like any other independent citizen would do as to how dare he provocatively show his face in public,” a waiter told Arab News. He declined to give his name due to the sensitivity of the issue and fear of losing his job.

In the video that Al-Masri recorded using her mobile phone, the footage showed the entourage escorting Bassil to his waiting car while her voice could be heard heatedly arguing with one of the bodyguards who walked toward her and battered her hand. The video footage was clearly flipped upside down after Al-Masri was attacked by the bodyguard and her phone got broken.

Revealing what happened, Al-Masri told MTV channel she yelled at Bassil once he entered the restaurant by telling him ‘tfeh 3lek’ [shame on you] maintaining that it is not a curse. “That is the least I could tell him. His bodyguard told me to keep my mouth shut and assaulted me. I stood up after I fell down due to the assault, grabbed my phone and followed the entourage wanting to film what they did,” she told the MTV stressing that her friend called others for help because she was brutally attacked.

Towards Sunday afternoon the video showing the incident snowballed on social media especially Twitter and Instagram.

Bassil’s media office claimed that he and his family were about to ride their car when a woman used foul language against him.

His entourage responded ‘naturally, peacefully and modernly’ to stop her from cursing, according to the media statement that confirmed the woman wasn’t beaten.

Bassil told Free Patriotic Movement supporters and members that ‘the era of leaving swearwords unanswered is over’ and to respond accordingly.

In response to that, popular TV host Ghada Eid tweeted saying ‘the era of leaving corruption unfought is over’.

Following the incident, a hashtag with Al-Masri’s phrase [tfeh 3lek] became trending in Lebanon.

A twitter user called Hassan said ‘This is the best trending topic in Lebanon this year so far’

Mariana tweeted ‘By showing violent behavior, bullies try to hide their own weakness.’

Another used tweeted about Bassil saying ‘Small Man with a Giant Ego’.

Samer Al Khoury tweeted ‘so lovely how you [Bassil] always trend when it’s an insult or corruption what a disgrace you are’.

International Lebanese artist Elissa said on twitter ‘every hand that beats a woman should be broken’.


Saudi Arabia aims to be Egypt’s top trading partner

Saudi Arabia aims to be Egypt’s top trading partner
Updated 5 min 20 sec ago

Saudi Arabia aims to be Egypt’s top trading partner

Saudi Arabia aims to be Egypt’s top trading partner
  • Saudi investors are especially interested in the water desalination and water treatment sector, says Egyptian Trade Minister

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia plans to be Egypt’s top trading partner within five years, said Saudi Commerce Minister Majid Al-Qasabi.

He made the pledge at the Egyptian-Saudi Joint Trade Committee on Monday.

The minister highlighted the presence of 6,225 Saudi companies operating in Egypt with investments amounting to some $30 billion.

At the same time, 518 Egyptian are estimated to operate in the Saudi market, with 285 Egyptian brands in the Kingdom.

Saudi investors are especially interested in the water desalination and water treatment sector, Egyptian Trade Minister Nevine Gamea told Asharq Business.

She added that the cooperation between the two countries was reflected in the trade volume, which exceeded $5.5 billion in 2020.

The volume of Egyptian investments in the Kingdom reached $1.4 billion at the end of last year, she added.


UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
Updated 20 min 48 sec ago

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel

UK MPs debate Palestinian statehood, sanctions against Israel
  • Labour’s Katherine McKinnell: Palestinians’ ‘aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support’
  • MENA minister: ‘We’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel’

LONDON: British MPs on Monday debated implementing two petitions that call for economic sanctions against Israel and for the UK government to recognize the state of Palestine.

The petitions garnered over 100,000 signatures each, which according to British law means they must be considered for debate in Parliament.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle urged the government to push forward the two-state solution by recognizing the state of Palestine, but the majority of MPs that took part in the debate rejected the idea of sanctions against Israel.

Chairing the debate, Labour’s Katherine McKinnell said: “I share the deeply held concerns for the plight of the Palestinian people. Colleagues who have visited the region will know that the desire of the Palestinians to live in dignity and in peace in a state of their own is unmistakable. 

“Their aspiration for self-determination is one that we should wholeheartedly support. It’s right for the Palestinian people, and it’s right for the Israeli people.”

She added: “However, I don’t believe that sweeping sanctions of the kind proposed by the second petition would bring the prospect of a two-state solution any closer.”

That petition, which currently has over 386,000 signatures, said: “The government should introduce sanctions against Israel, including blocking all trade, and in particular arms.”

It added that Israel’s “disproportionate treatment of Palestinians and settlements that are regarded by the international community as illegal are an affront to civilised society.”

James Cleverly, the UK’s minister for the Middle East and North Africa, reiterated the government’s position on economic sanctions against Israel, saying: “While we don’t hesitate to express disagreement with Israel whenever we feel it necessary, we’re firmly opposed to boycotts or sanctions against Israel.”

Cleverly also rejected the second petition’s demand — that Britain immediately recognize a sovereign Palestinian state.

“There have, of course, been many calls over the years for recognition of Palestinian statehood,” he said.

“The UK government position is clear: The UK will recognize a Palestinian state at a time when it best serves the object of peace. Bilateral recognition in itself cannot and will not end the occupation,” he added.

“The UK government continues to believe that without a negotiated peace agreement, the occupation and the problems that come with it will continue.”

Cleverly did, however, criticize Israel’s continued assaults on Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

“The UK position on evictions, demolitions and settlements is longstanding, is public, and has been communicated directly to the government of Israel. That is: We oppose these actions,” he said.

Steve Baker, a Conservative MP, said he had made a “mistake” by deprioritizing the Israeli-Palestinian issue during a period of relative calm.

“The problem, of course, is that the conflict hadn’t gone away and has since returned with a ferocity,” he added.

Baker urged the government to actively pursue a two-state solution, a policy that he and other MPs pointed out has been endorsed by the government without ever being actively pursued. 

“I voted to recognize the state of Palestine,” he said. “I think if we’re serious about a two-state solution, it’s important that this Parliament and parliaments elsewhere, governments elsewhere, recognize the state of Palestine.”

Labour’s Naz Shah said she had a message for Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: “Those who support you in the Knesset (Parliament), the mood music is changing, the world is waking up to Israel’s actions, and all those who want to see lasting peace in the region know that to achieve such peace we must end the occupation, injustice and oppression. This starts with recognizing a viable Palestinian state.”

She warned Bennett: “We won’t be silent in pushing for Israel to be tried in the International Criminal Court for war crimes if any more Palestinian blood is unjustly spilled under a perverted interpretation of a right to self-defense.”


Saudi Arabia’s FlyNAS to start direct flights to Seychelles

Saudi Arabia’s FlyNAS to start direct flights to Seychelles
Updated 46 min 38 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s FlyNAS to start direct flights to Seychelles

Saudi Arabia’s FlyNAS to start direct flights to Seychelles
  • With the arrival of FlyNAS to our shores, the Ministry of Tourism is looking forward to (seeing) an increase in the number of visitors from the Saudi Arabian region

RIYADH: Saudi airline FlyNAS is starting direct flights to the Seychelles from July 1.

It will operate three times a week from Jeddah to Mahé, using an A320 Neo aircraft, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with up to 174 passengers. The flight time is five hours and 40 minutes.

Seychelles foreign affairs and tourism minister, Sylvestre Radegonde, said: “The destination has recorded approximately some 300 Saudi Arabians since January 2021. With the arrival of FlyNAS to our shores, the Ministry of Tourism is looking forward to (seeing) an increase in the number of visitors from the Saudi Arabian region. The three weekly flights to Seychelles from Jeddah represent another great opportunity for our destination, as not only will the Seychelles be accessible directly to Saudi Arabian nationals but also the expatriates living in the Kingdom.”

All passengers must present a negative PCR test and proof of valid travel health insurance covering any potential coronavirus-related costs as part of the Seychelles COVID-19 measures.


England delays full lifting of virus restrictions

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions
Updated 45 min 21 sec ago

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions
  • Newspapers had been counting down to what had been dubbed "Freedom Day"
  • Johnson said a sharp rise in infections had prompted a decision to "ease off the accelerator"

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a four-week delay to the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England due to a surge in infections caused by the Delta variant.
The delay comes as a blow to Johnson’s plans to fully reopen the UK economy on June 21 after months of gradually easing restrictions since March.
Newspapers had been counting down to what had been dubbed “Freedom Day,” which was set to mark an end to all social distancing restrictions and the reopening of nightclubs.
But Johnson said a sharp rise in infections had prompted a decision to “ease off the accelerator” and focus instead on ramping up vaccinations.
“On the evidence I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks and won’t need to go beyond July 19,” Johnson told a press briefing.
Health policy is devolved in the four nations that make up the UK, handled separately in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland, which was due to move to the lowest level of restrictions on June 28, is also expected to announce a delay to its reopening.
In England, most current rules — including limits on the number of people who can meet in pubs and restaurants — will remain in place until July 19, although restrictions on the number of guests allowed at weddings will be lifted.
Large scale pilot events, such as Euro 2020 football matches, will also go ahead as planned.
The more transmissible Delta variant, first identified in India, is now responsible for 96 percent of UK cases, and positive tests have jumped 50 percent in the last week.
Total reported cases are now at their highest since February — around 8,000 new infections a day.
The Delta variant is believed to be around 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, southeast England.
That strain forced the country to go into another three-month lockdown in January.
Nevertheless hospital admissions and deaths remain low, thanks in large part to Britain’s rapid vaccination rollout.
More than 55 percent of adults in the UK have had two vaccine jabs.
Newspapers have hinted at dissent within Johnson’s cabinet over the delay, with The Times citing an unnamed minister as saying it was “a very odd decision.”
Johnson accepted that “we cannot simply eliminate Covid, we must learn to live with it,” but added that “once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated... we will be in a far stronger position to... live with this disease.”
The government hopes that two thirds of all adults will have received two shots by July 19.
A study released Monday found that two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine stopped the need for in-patient treatment in 96 percent of cases of the new variant.
With a double dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot, the rate was 92 percent.
The government had hoped to allow crowds to return unrestricted to pubs and clubs next week, with the hard-hit hospitality industry warning it is on its last legs.
Trade association UKHospitality estimated that a month’s delay in lifting the restrictions would cost the sector around £3 billion ($4.23 billion) in sales.
“A full and final ending of restrictions is the only way to ensure that businesses in this sector can trade profitably,” said its chief executive Kate Nicholls.