Israel launches direct flights to Morocco

Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
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Israeli tourists arrive at the Marrakech-Menara International Airport on the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Morocco, on June 25, 2021. (AFP)
Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
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An Israeli tourist check his phone upon arrival at the Marrakech-Menara International Airport on the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Morocco, on June 25, 2021. (AFP)
Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
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Israeli tourists arrive at the Marrakech-Menara International Airport on the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Morocco, on June 25, 2021. (AFP)
Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
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An Israeli tourist gestures in greeting upon arrival at the Marrakech-Menara International Airport on the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Morocco, on June 25, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 25 July 2021

Israel launches direct flights to Morocco

Israel launches direct flights to Morocco
  • About 100 passengers from Tel Aviv arrived on an Israir flight early on Sunday afternoon
  • Israeli national carrier El Al announced it too had launched a service to Marrakesh on Sunday

MARRAKESH: The first direct commercial flight between Israel and Morocco landed in Marrakesh on Sunday, AFP correspondents said, more than seven months after the countries normalized diplomatic relations in a US-brokered deal.
About 100 passengers from Tel Aviv arrived on an Israir flight early on Sunday afternoon to be met with dates, cakes and mint tea at a welcoming ceremony organized in their honor.
“I am originally from Marrakesh. I’ve come back here around 30 times but this time, the trip has a special flavour — it’s as if it were the first time!” an emotional Pinhas Moyal told AFP from the tarmac, his mask and bag in the colors of the Moroccan flag.
Israir spokeswoman Tali Leibovitz told AFP that two to three flights per week were planned on the route.
Israeli national carrier El Al announced it too had launched a service to Marrakesh on Sunday, and planned five flights per week there and to Casablanca.
At a ceremony sending off the El Al flight attended by Moroccan envoy Abderrahim Beyyoudh, Israel’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov said the service would boost “trade, tourism and economic cooperation between the countries,” according to an El Al statement.
The El Al flight was expected in Marrakesh later in the afternoon.
Morocco was one of four regional states to agree to normalize ties with Israel last year, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.
The move came as the administration of former US president Donald Trump recognized Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed and divided former Spanish colony.
Morocco is home to North Africa’s largest Jewish community, which numbers around 3,000. Some 700,000 Jews of Moroccan origin live in Israel.
“It’s great to return to the land of my ancestors,” said 58-year-old Sophie Levi, originally from Casablanca, who was on the Israir flight.
“We’re finally breathing again after two years of Covid.”
Some 50,000 to 70,000 tourists annually traveled to Morocco from Israel via third countries before the coronavirus pandemic, many of them of Moroccan origin.
In December last year, a direct flight carrying Israeli officials traveled from Tel Aviv to Rabat, where they signed several bilateral deals, including on air links.
Rabat had a liaison office in Tel Aviv but relations came to a halt during the 2000-2005 second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
The normalization deals between Arab states and Israel have been deemed a “betrayal” by the Palestinians, who believe the process should only follow a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said last week that he would visit Morocco shortly after direct flights commenced.


Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
Updated 55 min 52 sec ago

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port

Jordan prime minister promises inquiry into deadly blast at Red Sea port
  • A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke

AQABA, Jordan: Jordan’s prime minister said Tuesday that he has instructed authorities to launch an investigation into the deadly blast the previous day at the Red Sea port of Aqaba that killed at least 13 people.
A crane loading chlorine tanks onto a ship on Monday dropped one of them, causing an explosion of toxic yellow smoke. Along with those killed, some 250 were sickened, authorities said.
Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh visited the site Tuesday and, citing civil defense and environmental authorities, said the gas concentration in the area had returned to normal. He said that most movement at the port has resumed, except for the exact site of the incident which was being cleaned and inspected.
Al-Khasawneh said “other nationalities” were among the dead, without elaborating. He said many of those in hospitals were being discharged.
Video carried on state TV showed the moment the tank exploded, sending dockworkers scrambling to escape the toxic cloud. Some 200 people were hospitalized.
The Public Security Directorate, which initially described it as a gas leak, said authorities sealed off the area after evacuating the injured and sent specialists in to address the situation.
State-run Jordan TV said 13 people were killed. Al-Mamlaka TV, another official outlet, said 199 were still being treated in hospitals. The Public Security Directorate said a total of 251 people were injured.
Aqaba is on the northern tip of the Red Sea, next to the Israeli city of Eilat, which is just across the border. Both are popular beach and diving destinations.
Eilat’s emergency services said in a statement that there was no impact on the city but that they were following the situation closely.


Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice
Updated 28 June 2022

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

Kuwait suspends family, tourist visas until further notice

DUBAI: Kuwait’s interior ministry said Tuesday that it has suspended issuing tourist visas for those wishing to visit the gulf state. 

“The interior ministry has announced that it has stopped issuing family and tourist visit visas from Monday until further notice,” read a statement on state-run news agency KUNA.

The decision comes in light of preparations for a new regulations to serve the interests and develop the process, it said.


Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
Updated 28 June 2022

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections

Libyan rival officials meet for UN-led talks on elections
  • Talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of discussions

GENEVA: Two senior Libyan officials began two days of talks Tuesday on constitutional arrangements for elections, the latest UN effort to bridge gaps between the country’s rivals.
Aguila Saleh, the influential speaker of the country’s east-based parliament, and Khaled Al-Meshri, head of the government’s Supreme Council of State, based in the west, in the capital of Tripoli, met at the UN headquarters in Geneva.
According to the United Nations, the talks will focus on a draft constitutional framework for elections after Libya’s rival factions failed to reach an agreement in their last round of talks in the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The criteria for a presidential candidacy were a contentious point in the talks, according to Libyan media. The Tripoli-based council insisted on banning military personal from running for the country’s top post — apparently a move directed at the divisive commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces are loyal to the east-based administration.
Haftar had announced his bid in elections slated for last December but the vote was not held because of myriad issues, including controversial hopefuls who had announced bids and disputes about election laws.
There are growing tensions on the ground, and sporadic clashes between rival militias recently erupted in Tripoli. Living conditions have also deteriorated, mainly because of fuel shortages in the oil-rich nation. Tribal leaders have shut down many oil facilities, including the country’s largest field.
The blockade was largely meant to cut off key state revenues to the incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who has refused to step down even though the vote was not held in December.
Now, Dbeibah and another prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, appointed by the east-based parliament to lead a transitional government, are claiming power. The rivalry has sparked fears the oil-rich country could slide back to fighting after tentative steps toward unity last year.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.


UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011
Updated 50 min 43 sec ago

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011

UN: Syria civilian death toll over 306,000 since 2011
  • Toll includes those killed as a direct result of war operations and not those who died from lack of access to basic needs

GENEVA: The first 10 years of Syria’s conflict, which started in 2011, killed more than 300,000 civilians, the United Nations said Tuesday — the highest official estimate to date of conflict-related civilian deaths in the country.
The conflict began with anti-government protests that broke out in March 2011 in different parts of Syria, demanding democratic reforms.
However, it quickly turned into a full-blown civil war that killed hundreds of thousands and destroyed large parts of the country.
Tuesday’s report published by the UN Human Rights Office followed what it said were rigorous assessment and statistical analysis of the available data on civilian casualties. According to the report, 306,887 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Syria between March 1, 2011 and March 31, 2021 because of the conflict.
The figures released by the UN do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands. The numbers also do not include people who were killed and buried by their families without notifying authorities.
“These are the people killed as a direct result of war operations. This does not include the many, many more civilians who died due to the loss of access to health care, to food, to clean water and other essential human rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
The report, mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, cited 143,350 civilian deaths individually documented by various sources with detailed information, including at least their full name, date and location of death.
Also, statistical estimation techniques were used to connect the dots where there were missing elements of information. Using these techniques, a further 163,537 civilian deaths were estimated to have occurred.
“The conflict-related casualty figures in this report are not simply a set of abstract numbers, but represent individual human beings,” Bachelet said. She added that the work of civil society organizations and the UN in monitoring and documenting conflict-related deaths is key in helping families and communities establish the truth, seek accountability and pursue effective remedies.
The estimate of 306,887 means that on average, every single day, for the past 10 years, 83 civilians suffered violent deaths due to the conflict, the report said. It was based on eight sources of information — including the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, the Center for Statistics and Research-Syria, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Violations Documentation Center.


US drone strike kills militant leader in Syria

US drone strike kills militant leader in Syria
Updated 28 June 2022

US drone strike kills militant leader in Syria

US drone strike kills militant leader in Syria
  • The strike took out a man described as a leader of the Hurras Al-Deen group
  • Hurras Al-Deen is a relatively small but powerful armed group led by Al-Qaeda loyalists

IDLIB, Syria: A US drone strike in northwestern Syria killed a Yemeni leader of a local militant group affiliated to Al-Qaeda, the US military and a Syrian war monitor said.
The strike, carried out on Monday just before midnight (2100 GMT) on the eastern edge of the city of Idlib, took out a man described as a leader of the Hurras Al-Deen group.
“Abu Hamzah Al-Yemeni was traveling alone on a motorcycle at the time of the strike,” US Central Command said in a statement, adding that an “initial review indicates no civilian casualties.”
The US is “highly confident” that the strike, carried out from a drone, killed Abu Hamzah Al-Yemeni, a US official with knowledge of the operation told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a wide network of sources inside Syria, confirmed on Tuesday that Yemeni was killed in the attack, saying it was the second such attempt to neutralize him after a similar strike last year.
An AFP correspondent in Idlib said that members of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a rival militant group that dominates the area, gathered at the scene of the strike shortly after it happened and took away Yemeni’s charred remains.
HTS, whose leadership includes many ex-members of Al-Qaeda’s former Syria franchise, has tried to cast itself as a credible political force in the Idlib region.
Since a 2020 cease-fire agreement reached by Moscow and Turkey, the main foreign broker in northern Syria, HTS has come under pressure to crack down on the myriad of other militant factions still present in the Idlib region.
Monday’s strike was the second US operation in June to target a senior militant in Syria.
US forces captured Hani Ahmed Al-Kurdi, a leader of the Daesh group, on June 16 during a raid in Aleppo province.
They also killed Daesh leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi during an operation in Atme, a region of Idlib province, on February 3.
Hurras Al-Deen is a relatively small but powerful armed group led by Al-Qaeda loyalists.
It is estimated to have 2,000 to 2,500 fighters in rebel-held Syria, according to the UN.