UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
Laboratory workers bag a biological sample at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing centre in al-Khawaneej district of the gulf emirate of Dubai, UAE. (File photo: AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2021

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
  • The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275

DUBAI: The UAE’s daily coronavirus cases continue to decline, with health officials on Friday confirming 303 new infections and three virus-related deaths.

The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275 with 2,086 fatalities related to the disease. 

The government’s inoculation program, coupled with an active testing policy for the early detection and intervention for coronavirus cases, has provided at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 90.8 percent of the UAE population.

The recent decline in daily infections comes just days before the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which the emirate hopes will draw millions from around the globe.


Fire reported at an oil waste disposal unit in Jebel Ali in Dubai

 Fire reported at an oil waste disposal unit in Jebel Ali in Dubai
Updated 48 min 20 sec ago

Fire reported at an oil waste disposal unit in Jebel Ali in Dubai

 Fire reported at an oil waste disposal unit in Jebel Ali in Dubai

DUBAI: Dubai Civil Defense is working to put out a fire that broke out at an oil waste disposal unit in the Jebel Ali Industrial Area. No casualties have been reported.


Fire at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait under control

Fire at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait under control
Updated 39 min 48 sec ago

Fire at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait under control

Fire at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait under control
  • A number of minor injuries and cases of suffocation were reported

DUBAI: A fire broke out at the Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery in Kuwait on Monday morning is now under control, state-run news agency KUNA has reported.

Kuwait National Petroleum Company earlier said in a tweet that fire broke out in one of the facility’s atmospheric residue desulphurization (ARD) units.

“The firefighting teams in the refinery are currently dealing with the fire, knowing that no injuries occurred as a result of the accident,” KNPC earlier said in a tweet.

A number of minor injuries and cases of suffocation as a result of inhalation of fumes occurred among the contractor’s workers, the company said.

First aid was provided to the injured on the site and all of them are in good condition, and other injured were transferred to Al-Adan Hospital and their condition is stable, it added.

“ARD Unit No. 42 and all lines leading to it have been isolated and the refinery’s fire brigade is still dealing with the accident,” KNPC said.

“The refinery and export operations were not affected, and the local marketing and supply operations of the Ministry of Electricity and Water were not affected by the fire.”

The Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery, on a 10.5 square-kilometer site, began operating in 1949. It is the largest of three refineries of the state petrol company, producing about 466,000 barrels of petrol per day.

A fourth refinery with a production capacity of 615,000 barrels per day is under construction and set to begin operation by the end of the year.

The oil-rich Gulf emirate produces about 2.4 million barrels of petrol per day, most of which is exported.

with AFP


Palestinians defend their olive trees as settler assaults escalate

Palestinians defend their olive trees as settler assaults escalate
Updated 18 October 2021

Palestinians defend their olive trees as settler assaults escalate

Palestinians defend their olive trees as settler assaults escalate
  • Around 10,000 olive trees planted every year in West Bank

AMMAN: Palestinians are bracing themselves for settler assaults on their land as the olive harvesting season kicks into high gear.

Palestinian farmers, civil society, local and international volunteers, as well as video have documented Israeli settlers uprooting olive trees, stealing olive crops, and starting fires on nearby land.

Anees Sweidan, deputy mayor of Nablus, told Arab News that every year at this time settlers invaded the governorate of Nablus and stole ripe olives, cut down trees and burned them.

Sweidan said that Nablus municipality had paved parts of the road connecting areas to the east of the city with the village of Assera Al-Shamieh to help Palestinians protect their land from settler assaults.

He called on the international community to provide protection to Palestinians from settlers who attacked them and also to the international volunteers who came to help during the short but intense harvest season.

The biggest danger was always on Palestinian land closest to illegal Israeli settlements, he added.

Atallah Hanna, bishop of Sebastia, said God did not justify the injustice that was affecting people’s holy places and even olive trees.

“Olive trees are a symbol of peace in Palestine. They are also a symbol of our heritage in this holy land,” he told Arab News. “Jewish settlers might steal and burn, our Palestinian people will stand and we as Christians stand with justice and the case of justice of our Palestinian people.”

Israeli media reported that Defense Minister Benny Gantz had ordered the army to act “systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly — together with the Shin Bet security service and the police — against all forms of violence, against Palestinians, Jews and of course against security forces.”

But Knesset member Sami Abu Shehadeh questioned the Israeli will as, he said, settler attacks against Palestinians were supported by the government and the army.

“If there was no political and military support for those racist individuals these attacks would not have continued all this period. This protection is a green light enabling the continuation and the escalation of these barbaric attacks by Jewish settlers,” he told Arab News.

The National Bureau for Defending the Land and Resisting Settlements has launched a “Protectors of the Land” campaign, while the Agricultural Relief Committee has launched its annual volunteer campaign with a slogan aimed at helping farmers harvest olives in areas threatened by settlement.

Palestinians plant around 10,000 olive trees in the West Bank each year, most of which are oil-producing varieties.

According to UN monitors, more than 4,000 olive trees and other tree crops were burned or removed by Israeli settlers in 2020.


More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits

More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits
Updated 18 October 2021

More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits

More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits
  • Since Hamas seized control of Gaza by force in 2007, Israel has imposed a siege that has caused Palestinians’ economic conditions to suffer

GAZA CITY: Mahmoud al-Dakhni was one of the thousands of Palestinians gathered in front of the Chambers of Commerce headquarters in Gaza to apply for work permits inside Israel.

They were of different age groups and backgrounds, including degree holders, and crowded outside the building in the hope of obtaining Israeli approval to apply for a permit that would allow them to pass through the Erez crossing and escape Gaza’s deteriorating economic reality.

Since Hamas seized control of Gaza by force in 2007, Israel has imposed a siege that has caused Palestinians’ economic conditions to suffer.

The situation worsened due to Israeli restrictions since the last war in May 2020.

Al-Dakhni said he had worked for a few days not exceeding the number of “fingers of the hand” since that war.

“Working in Israel is more profitable than in Gaza where the worker gets ILS300 ($93.12) or more, while the wages of a worker in Gaza do not exceed ILS50 per day, and with longer and more miserable working hours,” said the 33-year-old construction worker, who has six children.

To obtain a work permit Al-Dakhni, like others, resorted to opening a commercial registration with the Chamber of Commerce to prove he was a merchant, which is a condition for obtaining Israeli approval.

Al-Dakhni borrowed the amount he had paid for the commercial register. “Everyone does this,” he explained. “Israel does not announce that these are work permits, but rather permits for merchants, but the truth is that those who obtain them use them to work in Israel.”

Mahmoud Haniyeh and four of his friends resorted to the same approach, obtaining a commercial registration after sharing its costs. “We each paid ILS1,700 and we hope to compensate for it by working in Israel.”

Haniyeh, 45, used to work as a tailor in the Erez industrial zone, before losing his job completely with the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Haniyeh, who supports a family of eight, said he had to buy a car in instalments to work as a taxi driver to provide for his family’s needs. But it became a burden on him due to the poor economic conditions of the majority of the population.

“I work on the car every day from six in the morning until the evening hours, and on many days what I get does not meet the basic needs of the family … We only want our children to live a decent life.”

Video clips of work permit seekers circulated on social media. They directed their anger at Fatah and Hamas and held them responsible for the crises afflicting Gaza.

One clip showed a man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, saying he graduated from university in 2009 while his wife had graduated this year and that they had no hope of getting a job.

“University degrees have become useless in light of the division, especially if you are not affiliated with a political faction,” he said in the clip.

Egypt is currently working to consolidate the truce that it sponsored between Hamas and Israel that halted the 11-day war last May. But the Egyptian mediation has not yet resulted in bringing the two sides closer together.

Israeli public radio said the total number of permits granted to Palestinian workers from Gaza to work inside Israel was 7,000, after their number was about 5,000 workers and traders last August.

In 2019, Israel allowed Gaza residents to submit job applications for the first time, with the number of workers in Israel from Gaza standing about 120,000 before the second Intifada in 2000.

At the time, the labor of these workers contributed to about 20 percent of the Palestinian economy in Gaza, according to local data.

The Chamber of Commerce said it received about 10,447 applications — in one day — to obtain work permits in Israel and the West Bank.

The Ministry of Labor in Gaza held the “responsibility for the accumulation of unemployment in Gaza, which has reached unprecedented numbers, due to the continuation of the siege imposed for the 15th year in a row, and the policy of closing the crossings.”

Permit applicants must meet several criteria. They must be aged between 26-60, married, unemployed, and vaccinated against COVID-19.

More than 2 million people in Gaza suffer from poor economic conditions resulting from an Israeli blockade since 2006, which has caused a rise in poverty and unemployment rates.

According to a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics last August, the number of unemployed people in the Gaza Strip had reached 212,000, with an unemployment rate of 45 percent.

The head of the Gaza Labor Union, Sami Al-Amsi, said Israel had not yet allowed Gaza workers to work inside Israel and that all the permits issued were for merchants.

Al-Amsi believed that Israel’s issue of permits to merchants, and not as part of worker permits, did not obligate employers in Israel to show rights toward these workers.


Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign
Updated 18 October 2021

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign

Shooting in Syria could mark new phase in Israeli campaign
  • Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic territory

JERUSALEM: The death of a former Syrian Druze lawmaker, allegedly by Israeli sniper fire, could mark a new phase in what Israel calls its war against Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria.

Syria’s state-run news agency said that Midhat Saleh was fatally shot Saturday in Ein el-Tinneh, a village along the Israeli frontier in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office. Israeli media said Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military against Israel.

The Israeli military declined to comment, but if Saleh was indeed killed by Israel, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border. Israel has said it will not tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria and has acknowledged carrying out scores of airstrikes on alleged Iranian arms shipments and military targets in Syria in recent years.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the strategic territory, which overlooks northern Israel. Most of the world does not recognize the annexation, though the Trump administration declared the territory to be part of Israel.

Saleh was born in Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, and was jailed several times by Israel, most recently for 12 years until 1997. He later moved to Syria, was elected to parliament in 1998 and served as an adviser to the government on the Golan issue.

The small Druze community living in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan generally has good relations with Israel. But many members still profess loyalty to Syria, in part because they have relatives on the other side of the border.

Samih Ayoub, a resident on the Israeli side of the Golan, told Israel’s Army Radio station Saleh had “no connection” to Iran or to any militia. “He’s just a quiet man who works in an office. They killed him next to his house,” he said.

Saleh’s brother, Yasser Saleh, a doctor in Damascus, said his brother also lived in the Syrian capital but visited the border area periodically, slept there and sometimes spoke with relatives across the frontier. He said his younger brother had survived an earlier assassination attempt in early 2011 and remained committed to ending Israel’s control over the Golan Heights until the end. He said his brother was survived by a wife and two children, including a son named Golan.

While there was no official comment, Israeli military commentators — who are given high-level background briefings with top army brass — said Saleh was intimately involved in assisting the Iranians build up their capabilities along the Israeli front. Iran has sent thousands of forces to Syria to back the army of President Bashar Assad during the country’s decade-long civil war.

“He answered directly to the Iranians,” wrote Yossi Yehoshua, a military correspondent for Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest paid daily newspaper.

Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, told Army Radio that if Israel killed Saleh, it was meant to send a message to the Iranians and not connected to the past. “I assume this was not an act of revenge,” he said. “We’re not talking about a mass murderer.”

Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank, said it was not a sure thing that Israel had even been involved. He said that Saleh was not an especially valuable target and also had tense relations with Iranian proxy Hezbollah and objected to the group’s activities in the Golan.

But he said that if Israel did indeed kill Saleh through an unprecedented sniper attack, it sent a powerful message to Iran and Syria about their activities near the Israeli border.

“It says that we have many ways and many techniques,” he said. “We’re watching you.”