In Egypt’s Red Sea, corals fade as oceans warm

In Egypt’s Red Sea, corals fade as oceans warm
Healthy corals provide a habitat to nearly quarter of marine life, besides shielding the world from natural disasters. These reefs with their dazzling hues are threatened by rising sea temperatures due to climate change and global warming. (AFP)
Updated 07 October 2021

In Egypt’s Red Sea, corals fade as oceans warm

In Egypt’s Red Sea, corals fade as oceans warm

SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt: Standing on a boat bobbing gently in the Red Sea, Egyptian diving instructor Mohamed Abdelaziz looks on as tourists snorkel amid the brilliantly colored corals, a natural wonder now under threat from climate change.
“If they disappear, we’ll disappear with them,” he says of the vibrant corals on the reef, a species-rich ecosystem just below the turquoise waters that is beloved by diving enthusiasts worldwide.
Coral reefs — often dubbed the “rainforests of the oceans” for their rich biodiversity — are under threat everywhere as rising sea temperatures and acidification cause catastrophic “bleaching” events.
Along with pollution and dynamite fishing, global warming wiped out 14 percent of the world’s coral reefs between 2009 and 2018, says a new survey by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the biggest ever carried out.
Some studies have suggested that many species of coral in the Red Sea — which is also bordered by the Saudi peninsula, Sudan and Eritrea — are unusually heat-resistant, but local professionals say they have already witnessed the damage.
“We can see the effects of global warming before our eyes,” said Islam Mohsen, 37, another local diving instructor at the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.
“We can see the coral discoloring and turning white.”
Coral reefs cover only a tiny fraction — 0.2 percent — of the ocean floor, but they are home to at least a quarter of all marine animals and plants.
The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden boast the most biologically diverse coral reef communities outside of Southeast Asia.
The Red Sea — with just over five percent of the world’s coral reefs — is home to 209 types of coral, according to Egypt’s environment ministry.
The new global survey said that live hard coral cover in the region fluctuated over recent decades but declined overall, from 36.1 percent in 1997 to 34.3 percent in 2019.
Causes for the degraded reefs varied by location but included tourism activities, coastal development, land runoff and overfishing, the report said.
Steps have been taken in Egypt to protect reefs and marine life that are crucial to the local tourism sector.
Egypt’s Chamber of Diving and Water Sports — which oversees 269 diving centers and over 2,900 professional divers — has protected fragile areas with buoys to keep boats from mooring.
It has also suspended beginners’ diving classes in some areas to allow damaged reefs to recover.
But the largest looming threat, far harder to fix, is global warming.
Oceans absorb more than 90 percent of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions, shielding land surfaces but generating huge, long-lasting marine heatwaves.
These are pushing many species of corals past their limits of tolerance.
“When the temperature of the ocean goes up, it absorbs more carbon dioxide, which creates carbonic acid,” said Cairo-based climate change consultant Katherine Jones.
“So not only will the temperature increase, but the PH level will change too,” affecting all animals with shells, she said. “We will lose a lot of wildlife, and the ecosystem will be changing in a way that affects us as humans in terms of resources.
“The coral reefs are nurseries to baby fish and a feeding ground to bigger fish ... it’s an essential part of the ecosystem.”
Sharm El-Sheikh hosted a United Nations agencies conference in 2018 that called for the protection of coral reefs “before it’s too late.”
Egypt also plans to host the Climate Conference of the Parties (COP27) in November next year.
A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that up to 90 percent of coral reefs “may be gone by mid-century” even if the rise in temperatures stabilizes below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Jones warned that, as things stand now, climate change and its impacts can no longer be reversed — only slowed — to prevent the worst consequences.
“Even if humans completely disappear from Earth tomorrow or we stopped producing any kind of emissions,” she said, “the temperature will continue to rise by itself.”

13 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

13 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
Updated 10 sec ago

13 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

13 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army on Friday set up checkpoints in the Tayouneh area and on roads leading to Beirut’s northern and southern suburbs after gunfights left seven people dead on Thursday.
Investigations by specialized military units have not identified the direct cause of the clashes between armed members from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on one side, and opposing gunmen that the two parties claimed were from the Lebanese Forces Party.
“The army command’s statement about Thursday’s events left things ambiguous until further investigations,” a military source told Arab News. “But what we are sure of is that the sniper shots fired at Hezbollah and Amal targeted the head, chest, and abdomen areas as most injuries were among those.”
The shootout lasted more than three hours and also left 32 people injured, including two soldiers. 
What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration on Thursday quickly turned into anarchy. Hezbollah and the Amal Movement had hit the streets demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation of the Beirut port blast before bullets and rocket-propelled grenades started flying.
On Friday, the military source said “13 persons were arrested, including concierges of the buildings that snipers used to shoot at the demonstrators in the streets from their rooftops. Members affiliated with the Lebanese Forces party, who were spotted on the battlefield, were also arrested. The army resorted to CCTV footage for evidence.”
A national day of mourning for the victims was declared on Friday as schools, banks, and government offices across Lebanon were shut down. Guns were fired in the air during funerals for the victims in Beirut’s southern suburbs and Bekaa.
The full extent of damage caused to buildings, properties, and parked cars during the shootout was revealed on Friday. People who returned to their homes expressed deep anger at the events and asked, “Who will compensate us for the human and material losses?”
Signs of destruction were left by the B7 grenades while bullet holes were very clear on the buildings in the Tayouneh area. An uneasy calm reigned on Friday as shops were closed and very few people walked in the streets. All cars and motorcycles that passed through the area were searched by authorities.
In order to prevent more escalation, a military source said the airborne division was assisting the army in Ain Remaneh and Chiyah, “in case something happens, given that this area has become very sensitive.”
Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said he is “certainly worried” about the political and economic situation in Lebanon as it requires action “now.” He said the events over the past two days showed that Lebanon needs real, serious change and that the responsibility lies with the country’s leaders.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom is following events in Lebanon closely. The Kingdom hopes the situation will stabilize as soon as possible and that Saudi Arabia stands with the people of Lebanon, the statement said.
According to their sources, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have requested to remove Bitar from the investigation into the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands.
“The judiciary must find a formula that can restore the constitutional order and declare that the defendants, who are former ministers and deputies, should be prosecuted before the Court of Ministers and Presidents,” An official source from Amal Movement told Arab News.
Lawmaker Jalal Abdullah said the case is very sensitive and requires accurate follow-up. 
“Why did a demonstration, which was supposed to be peaceful, turn into an armed clash? The truth needs to come out,” he said. “The demarcation lines carry a bloody history in the memories of the Lebanese, and we do not want to reminisce these memories regardless of what happened.”
Abdullah told Arab News that “after what happened on Thursday, all kinds of immunity of the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking security officials must be lifted to allow the truth to come out. Some are very concerned about this investigation and the role of Judge Bitar in his investigations. What is needed today is for everyone to abide by the process of the law.”
Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications and a fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said the Tayouneh crime might be used politically to counter the port crime.
“I do not think that Hezbollah was not expecting blood by getting its supporters into this sensitive area,” he said. “Hezbollah is very concerned about the investigations and the possibility of being accused by Judge Bitar. This is only a possibility. But what we know so far at face value, is that Hezbollah is defending its allies, the Amal Movement and Marada Movement, whose ministers are defendants in the port explosion case.”
Ali expressed concern about Hezbollah’s behavior and feared assassination attempts in the near future. 
“Just like what happened after the assassination of (former premier) Rafic Hariri until the assassination of (author and activist) Luqman Slim,” he said.
The EU condemned the use of violence and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, calling for “utmost restraint to avoid further senseless loss of life.”

Islamic Jihad threatens to go to war for prisoners in Israel

Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
Updated 15 October 2021

Islamic Jihad threatens to go to war for prisoners in Israel

Palestinian members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad terror group, parade with a replica rocket on a truck during a march in Gaza in 2018. (AP/File Photo)
  • The movement, along with Hamas, said the alleged abuse of the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners will lead the ‘region toward a wide explosion’
  • Palestinian Prisoners Club said 250 of Islamic Jihad’s detainees in Israeli prisons started an open hunger strike to protest ‘atrocious measures’ against them

GAZA CITY: In a move that may create a new armed confrontation between the Palestinian factions and Israel, the Islamic Jihad movement has threatened to go to war in support of its prisoners in Israeli jails, while its military wing Al-Quds Brigades has announced a general mobilization.

Ziad Al-Nakhala, secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, said the movement would support the prisoners with everything it has, “even if it requires us to go to war for them, and no agreements or other considerations will prevent us from that.”

The Al-Quds Brigades responded to Al-Nakhala’s threats, with the announcement of a “general mobilization” and confirmation that it was “fully ready.”

In light of these developments, a meeting — whose venue was not specified — brought together a leading delegation headed by Al-Nakhala, and the other from Hamas, headed by Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of its political bureau.

The two sides stressed that Israel’s abuse of Palestinian prisoners inside its prisons “leads the region toward a wide explosion,” according to a statement issued by Hamas.

The statement said the two movements warned “the enemy government against testing the patience and resistance of our people,” stressing that “harming the prisoners is an insult to all our people, and the occupation must bear the consequences of this foolish policy that may lead the region toward a wide explosion.”

Qaddoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said on Wednesday that 250 of Islamic Jihad’s detainees in Israeli prisons have started an open hunger strike to protest the “atrocious measures” against them, noting that “after seven days, 100 of them will also stop taking water.”

Of the approximately 5,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons, about 400 are affiliated with Islamic Jihad.

According to the Prisoner's Club, the striking prisoners are calling for “the prison administration to stop the abusive measures that it had imposed doubly against them after Sept. 6, the date of the Freedom Tunnel operation,” a reference to the escape of six prisoners — five of them from Islamic Jihad — through a tunnel from Israel’s Gilboa Prison. They were captured within two weeks.

Hasan Lafi, an analyst and political writer affiliated with Islamic Jihad, said Al-Nakhala’s statements and the quick response of the military wing, “are not an option or a threat, but rather a decision to go to war in the event that the lives of our prisoners in the occupation’s prisons are affected.

“Al-Nakhla possesses a balance of action and the ability to carry out promises, and he has already done so when he issued a threat in the matter of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and followed it with the launch of a missile.”

The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar quoted Islamic Jihad sources as saying that it conveyed a message to Israel via Egypt that it is “going toward escalating steps, including firing rockets and igniting the border with the Gaza Strip, if the enemy does not reverse its measures against its prisoners.”

Complexities in the Palestinian arena are increasing. Hamas’ dialogue with Egyptian officials in Cairo over the course of six days on enhancing the Hamas-Israel truce and the prisoner-exchange deal did not result in a “real breakthrough.” The movement, however, received Egyptian promises to speed up the reconstruction process, without setting timetables.

Palestinian and Egyptian sources close to these meetings affirmed that they reject what they describe as “Israeli prevarication and betting on the time factor,” and categorically refuse to conclude agreements related to the truce and the exchange deal that does not meet its conditions.

Hamas demands the release of 48 prisoners, who were re-arrested by Israel following their release under the Gilad Shalit (Israeli soldier) prisoner-exchange deal, and also the release of the six who fled the Gilboa prison through a tunnel. 

Also on the demand list is the release of Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Fouad Al-Shobaki, and a number of its military leaders serving life sentences.

Hamas is betting on its demands with four Israelis detained in Gaza, including two soldiers it captured during the third war on Gaza in 2014. It refuses to reveal their fate. The other two are an Arab and an Ethiopian who entered Gaza under mysterious circumstances.

But Cairo, according to the sources, told Hamas that it does not expect the Israeli government to respond to its conditions due to “what it suffers internally and its fear of collapse.” 

However, Egyptian officials promised to continue their efforts to reach an exchange deal, which Cairo sees as a basis for cementing the truce and preventing any deterioration that leads to military confrontation.

Zaher Jabarin, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that Israel offers lies and misinformation regarding the developments of the exchange deal. “We will not give up on our demands,” he said.

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles
Updated 15 October 2021

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles

Lebanese hold funerals for 7 killed in Beirut gunbattles
BEIRUT: Lebanon on Friday mourned seven people killed in gunbattles in the streets of Beirut the previous day. The confrontation erupted over a long-running probe into last year’s massive port blast in the city and raised fears of the country being drawn into further violence.
Underlying the violence are Lebanon’s entrenched sectarian divides and growing pushback against the port investigation by the two main Shiite Muslim parties, the powerful Hezbollah militant group and its allied Amal Movement.
Schools, banks and government offices across Lebanon shut down for a day of mourning Friday, while funerals were held in several parts of the country.
At a cemetery in a southern suburb of Beirut, Hezbollah members in military uniforms paid their respects, standing before three coffins draped with the group’s yellow flag and covered with white roses. Senior Hezbollah officials were present. Hundreds of women, dressed in black robes, also attended the funeral.
At a separate funeral for an Amal fighter, also in southern Beirut, gunmen opened fire in the air for several minutes.
Thursday’s clashes saw gunmen battling each other for several hours with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in the streets of Beirut. It was the most violent confrontation in the city in years, echoing the nation’s darkest era of the 1975-90 civil war.
The firefight raised the specter of a return to sectarian violence in a country already struggling through one of the world’s worst economic crises of the past 150 years.
The violence broke out at a protest organized by Hezbollah and Amal which called for the removal of the lead judge investigating last year’s massive explosion at Beirut port. Officials from both parties have suggested the judge’s investigation is heading toward holding them responsible for the blast, which killed at least 215 people.
Many of the protesters on Thursday had been armed.
Ali Haidar, a 23-year-old Shiite who took part in the protest, said nearby residents first started throwing rocks, bottles and furniture, before snipers on rooftops opened fire on the protesters from two directions, leaving people stuck in the middle.
“Then everyone started defending their neighborhood,” he said.
It was not clear who fired the first shot, but the confrontation quickly devolved into heavy exchanges of gunfire along a former civil war front line separating predominantly Muslim and Christian areas of Beirut.
The two Shiite groups accused the Christian Lebanese Forces party of starting the shooting. The Lebanese Forces party denied the charges.
The death toll rose to seven of Friday, after an man succumbed to his injuries, the Health Ministry said. The dead included two fighters from Hezbollah and three from Amal.
Residents in the Tayouneh area of Beirut, where most of the fighting played out, swept glass from the streets in front of shops and apartment buildings. Soldiers in armored personnel carriers deployed on the streets, and barbed wire was erected at some street entrances. Several cars were still parked in the area, damaged in Thursday’s firefight.
Tayouneh has a huge roundabout that separates Christian and Muslim neighborhoods. Newly pockmarked buildings off the roundabout sat next to the ones scarred from the days of the civil war.
One of those killed in the neighborhood was identified as Mariam Farhat, a mother of five. She was shot by a sniper bullet as she sat near the door of the balcony of her second floor apartment, her family said Friday.
“We started screaming, she was taken on a stretcher but did not reach the hospital,” said Munira Hamdar, Farhat’s mother-in-law. She said Farhat’s youngest daughter does not know that her mother was killed, and has been staying with her maternal aunt since Thursday.
Farhat was laid to rest Friday, along with the two Hezbollah fighters, in the Hezbollah ceremony in south Beirut. Her casket also draped with a Hezbollah flag.
Tensions over the port blast have contributed to Lebanon’s many troubles, including a currency collapse, hyperinflation, soaring poverty and an energy crisis leading to extended electricity blackouts.
The probe centers on hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate that were improperly stored at a port warehouse that detonated on Aug. 4, 2020. The blast killed at least 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed parts of nearby neighborhoods. It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history and further devastated the country already beset with political divisions and financial woes.
Judge Tarek Bitar has charged and issued an arrest warrant for Lebanon’s former finance minister, who is a senior member of Amal and a close ally of Hezbollah. Bitar also charged three other former senior government officials with intentional killing and negligence that led to the blast.
Officials from both Shiite parties, as well as Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, had attacked Bitar for days, accusing him of politicizing the investigation by charging and summoning some officials and not others.
A senior Hezbollah official, Mohammed Daamoush, said in a sermon during Friday prayers that the group will keep pushing to get Bitar removed and “return the port investigation on its right track.” He did not elaborate but analysts close to Hezbollah said they expect Shiite Cabinet ministers and some of their allies to boycott Cabinet meetings.
No Hezbollah officials have so far been charged in the 14-month investigation.
Bitar is the second judge to lead the complicated investigation. His predecessor was removed following legal challenges.

Arab coalition: Over 180 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia operations

Arab coalition: Over 180 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia operations
Updated 15 October 2021

Arab coalition: Over 180 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia operations

Arab coalition: Over 180 Houthis killed, 10 military vehicles destroyed in Abedia operations
  • Coalition said it had carried out 40 operations targeting Houthis in Abedia district over the past 24 hours

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Friday that ten military vehicles were destroyed and over 180 Houthis killed in operations it carried out in Abedia.

The coalition said that it had carried out 40 operations targeting Houthis in Marib’s Abedia district and the villages surrounding it over the past 24 hours.

Abedia is a district in Yemen’s Marib which has been under a Houthi siege since Sept. 23, hindering movement of civilians and impeding humanitarian aid flows, including medical supplies, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said earlier this week.

The Houthi militia continues to ignore international humanitarian laws by threatening the lives of civilians in villages and towns with missiles and sieges, the coalition said.

Russia urges restraint in crisis-hit Lebanon

Russia urges restraint in crisis-hit Lebanon
Updated 15 October 2021

Russia urges restraint in crisis-hit Lebanon

Russia urges restraint in crisis-hit Lebanon
  • In its statement, Russia’s foreign ministry called on the Lebanese government to return to resolving the current issues “without external interference"

MOSCOW: Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday called on all sides in Lebanon to “show restraint” after deadly clashes rocked its capital Beirut as tensions rise over last year’s port explosion.
Six people were killed and dozens wounded on Thursday when violence erupted following a rally by Shiite protesters demanding the removal of the judge investigating last August’s blast that left at least 210 people dead.
“Moscow is extremely concerned about the growing political tensions in Lebanon,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We call on all Lebanese politicians to show restraint and prudence.”
The ministry added that it hoped the government of new Prime Minister Najib Mikati would be able to cope with a “dangerous and considerably difficult challenge.”
France, the United States and United Nations earlier appealed for calm but also insisted on the need to allow the port explosion probe to continue unhindered.
In its statement, Russia’s foreign ministry called on the Lebanese government to return to resolving the current issues “without external interference.”