Gaza fish restaurants thrive far from the foodie trail

Gaza fish restaurants thrive far from the foodie trail
Palestinian fishermen unload their catch from a boat, upon their return to the coastline of Gaza City, in this file photo taken on Sept. 22, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2021

Gaza fish restaurants thrive far from the foodie trail

Gaza fish restaurants thrive far from the foodie trail
  • Of the 4,200 tons of fish and seafood netted from Gaza’s waters last year, just 300 tons were exported to the West Bank

GAZA CITY: The Gaza Strip might be off-limits for foreign foodies but the coastal Palestinian enclave is brimming with seafood restaurants, many owned by one local family whose culinary hook is their matriarch’s spicy fish tajine.

Munir Abu Hasira arrives at the Gaza port’s fish market at daybreak, but holds back as traders snatch up sardines and other fish caught during the night.

He is angling for more discerning catches like grouper, sea bream and large shrimp, which can go for around 70 shekels ($22) a kilo — a small fortune in the impoverished enclave, under Israeli blockade since 2007.

“It’s expensive because of the economic situation, but we buy the fish to supply restaurants and to export” to the occupied West Bank, he says, as workers pile fresh fish into a van.

For decades, the Abu Hasira family were fishermen, but since opening their first restaurant in the 1970s, they have gradually traded their fishing kit for chef’s tools.

Gaza fishermen say they struggle to eke out a living, snared by Israeli restrictions on the enclave’s fishing zone and on importing equipment into the enclave, from boat motors to sonar devices for finding shoals.

Problems like overfishing and pollution blight the local industry.

Some 4,200 tons of fish and seafood were netted from Gaza’s waters last year, according to the Israeli authorities. Just 300 tons were exported to the West Bank.

Sitting on a chair in a Gaza courtyard, Eid Abu Hasira, in his 80s, said he was the last of the family’s fishermen.

“I sold everything in 2013,” said the head of the family, sporting a white moustache and wearing a traditional robe and headdress.

“Today, we are in the fish trade, and have 13 Abu Hasira restaurants,” he said, clutching Muslim prayer beads as he leaned on a wooden cane.

One of his ancestors was a prominent Jewish Moroccan rabbi, who died during a trip to Egypt in the 19th century.

A descendent in Egypt had a vision that “they had to go to Gaza,” Eid Abu Hasira said.

“So we came here. My grandfather chose to live off the sea,” he said, adding that a Jewish branch of the family lives in Israel, while those in Gaza are Muslim.

As a young boy, his mother would cook up a seafood tajine that has become the Abu Hasira family chain’s signature dish.

Moeen Abu Hasira, 56, paid homage to his family’s culinary heritage, from their signature shrimp and tomato tajine, known as “zibdiyit,” to a fish tajine made with tahini, herbs and pine nuts, to grilled grouper.

“The secret of Gaza cuisine is strong chili,” he said from the kitchen of his restaurant, which he opened earlier this year.

The Abu Hasira family’s clientele has changed over time.

“Until the start of the first intifada, our restaurants were packed. Israelis came to eat here and so did tourists,” Moeen Abu Hasira said, referring to the first Palestinian uprising in 1987.

Since the Israeli blockade began in 2007 after the Islamist group Hamas took control of the enclave, few international tourists, foodies or gastronomic guide writers have visited.

Now, the family’s restaurants cater to a well-off Palestinian clientele, but Moeen Abu Hasira said times were hard as unemployment in Gaza hovers around 50 percent.

“Nobody will give you a star” in recognition of your restaurant, said the chef, who trained in French cuisine in a restaurant in the Israeli city of Jaffa.

“We did not learn in cooking schools or universities. There is none of that in Gaza,” he said. “We all learn from each other.”


Iran gives European nuclear deal parties drafts on sanctions removal, nuclear issues

Iran gives European nuclear deal parties drafts on sanctions removal, nuclear issues
Updated 7 sec ago

Iran gives European nuclear deal parties drafts on sanctions removal, nuclear issues

Iran gives European nuclear deal parties drafts on sanctions removal, nuclear issues
  • A European diplomat confirmed draft documents had been handed over
VIENNA: Iran has provided European powers involved in its 2015 nuclear deal two drafts on sanctions removal and nuclear commitments, Iranian state media reported on Thursday.
“Iran’s chief negotiator, Ali Bagheri, announced at the Vienna talks that ...Iran has delivered its proposed text on two issues of lifting oppressive sanctions and nuclear issues,” the official IRNA news agency reported. It did not give further details.
A European diplomat confirmed draft documents had been handed over.

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions
Updated 31 min 48 sec ago

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions

Israeli PM slammed for family trip amid travel restrictions
  • Israelis are still allowed to fly to other countries and must quarantine when they return
  • Bennett was attacked by political rivals and everyday Israelis itching to return to normalcy

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett came under fire Thursday after his wife and children flew abroad just days after the Israeli leader urged citizens to avoid international travel because of the new coronavirus variant.
Gilat Bennett and her children took off Wednesday on a personal visit, triggering a storm of criticism against the prime minister for not following his own guidelines.
Their trip comes after Israel tightened travel restrictions in light of the omicron variant. Israel closed its border to foreign visitors and barred travel to much of Africa but Israelis are still allowed to fly to other countries and must quarantine when they return.
The episode drew comparisons to incidents at the beginning of the pandemic, when former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spent the Passover holiday with members of their family who lived outside their residence, even as they urged Israelis to celebrate away from their relatives. That sparked an outcry and raised questions about the public’s trust in leaders at a time of a major crisis.
Bennett was attacked by political rivals and everyday Israelis itching to return to normalcy.
“It’s a testament to his behavior, to his responsibility to the public, to the lack of personal example. He thinks he can do what he wants,” opposition lawmaker Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio.
Israelis took to social media to berate the prime minister on his social media pages, questioning his leadership.
“Send regards to the family abroad while we are all languishing here with the restrictions,” a user named Anna Gechtman wrote.
In a Facebook post Wednesday answering questions about the new variant, Bennett was asked about his family’s trip and said they were not violating the new travel rules. He said they were expected to fly to a country that subsequently was banned to travel for Israelis and then changed their destination. He also said more had been revealed about where the virus has spread since his decision to limit travel.
“I understand the criticism,” Bennett wrote. “Everyone is leaving while following the restrictions and will of course quarantine as is required.”
Bennett on Friday announced the tightened measures in a press conference on Friday. He counselled Israelis not to bother booking holidays because he expected more countries to be added to the no-travel list.
“If you ask me, I don’t recommend flying abroad right now with such a level of uncertainty,” he said.


Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada
Updated 02 December 2021

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada

Arab coalition carries out air strikes on military targets in Sanaa, Saada
  • Operation in Sanaa targeted one of the main stores of weapons and other supplies
  • The coalition also destroyed workshops that store ballistic missiles and drones in Saada

DUBAI: The Arab coalition on Thursday carried out air strikes on military targets in Yemen’s Sanaa and Saada, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
It further called on civilians not to approach the targeted sites.
The coalition said the operation in Sanaa targeted one of the main stores of weapons and other supplies. “In east of Sanaa, we destroyed two sites under construction as warehouses for military use,” it said.
The coalition also destroyed workshops that store ballistic missiles and drones in Saada.
Earlier on Wednesday, the coalition said they intercepted and destroyed a drone over Amran province after it was launched from Sanaa International Airport.
The Iran-backed Houthis have repeatedly target Saudi Arabia with explosive-rigged drones, mostly without causing much damage because of the Kingdom’s air defenses.
The coalition has carried out multiple sorties against targets in Sanaa, particularly hitting the airport after surveillance pictures and videos showed it has been converted into a military base for experts of the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah.


Unvaccinated expats in Jordan face strict measures, including deportation

Unvaccinated expats in Jordan face strict measures, including deportation
Updated 02 December 2021

Unvaccinated expats in Jordan face strict measures, including deportation

Unvaccinated expats in Jordan face strict measures, including deportation
  • Foreign workers are allowed to receive the vaccine for free

DUBAI: Foreign workers who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by December 15 face strict measures from the government, including deportation.

“The decision aims to protect public health, noting that prompting foreign workers to get vaccinated protects them against future infections and disease transmission,” a report from state news agency Petra said, quoting a statement from Jordan’s interior ministry.

Foreign workers are allowed to receive the vaccine for free, without the need to present their residency or work permits.

A total 4,142,489 individuals have received their first COVID-19 jab, while 3,754,055 are now fully vaccinated, a health ministry briefer noted.

Health officials on Wednesday reported 5,047 new coronavirus infections, putting Jordan’s caseload to 958,990, with 56,991 active cases currently receiving treatment.

Jordanian authorities earlier declared that the country had entered a third wave of the coronavirus ‘with the increase in the number of delta variant infections and hospital admission rates.’ The second wave occurred during the first quarter of this year.

Authorities have banned travelers South Africa and six other African countries from entering the, with the emergence of the omicron COVID-19 strain from these nations. It was first detected in South Africa.


UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question
Updated 02 December 2021

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question
  • General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid reiterated that a two-state solution is the only way forward and said ‘we cannot give up hope’
  • His comments came days after the 74 th anniversary of Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states

NEW YORK: There is more at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than peace and security in the Middle East, according to Abdulla Shahid, the president of the UN General Assembly.

The reputation of the global community and its ability to work together to resolve international disputes, in keeping with the founding vision of the UN, is also on the line, he warned.

“That is why we cannot give up hope,” said Shahid as he called on member states to make every effort to join forces to resolve the conflict in line with international human rights and humanitarian laws, and the UN charter.

“We must maintain the credibility of this great institution and push for positive dialogue and engagement between the parties involved.”

Speaking on Wednesday during a plenary meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the Palestinian question and the situation in the wider Middle East, Shahid described as “disheartening” the lack of progress on an issue that has been on the UN agenda since the organization’s earliest years.

The situations in Palestine and the wider region are “deeply intertwined,” he said.

“We have seen time and time again how the spillover effects of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute undermine the stability of the broader region,” he added.

“As long as the Palestinian people are deprived of statehood, as long as illegal settlements continue to be built on land that Palestinians are justly entitled to, as long as Palestinian families are forced to flee the violence and injustices against them and they cannot return home, anger and bitterness will fester.

“This will contribute to a cycle of violence that has gone on for far, far too long.”

The plenary session came days after the 74th anniversary of resolution 181, which was passed by the General Assembly on Nov. 29, 1947. It called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem a separate entity to be governed by an international regime.

Facilitating a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders is the “most important thing” the world can do to help resolve the conflict, said Shahid, who called for an acceleration of the multilateral political process to find a just and peaceful settlement.

Turning to key issues affecting Palestinians, he said it is time for the international community to back its words with actions in terms of humanitarian assistance, support for efforts to resolve the conflict, and upholding the dignity of Palestinians.

“Year after year we speak of the appalling humanitarian crisis in Palestine, especially the Gaza strip,” Shahid said. “But words are insufficient. Words cannot substitute for the lack of running water, electricity, proper sanitation, and decent living conditions that millions of Palestinians endure.

“Words can express how COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges but they cannot resolve them. Words cannot save Palestinian people suffering from decades of occupation, arbitrary arrests and the use of excessive force against them. Words cannot restore their demolished homes or halt the proliferation of illegal settlements on their land.”

More than half of the five million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. That number rises to 80 percent in Gaza, where residents “cry out for access to even basic amenities and services,”  Shahid said.

The many Palestinian refugees across the Middle East are also in jeopardy, he added, highlighting the large shortfall in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. He called on the international community to ensure it provides enough financial support to maintain the life-saving work of the agency.

“Let us all come together as an international community and reiterate our commitment to protect the rights of the Palestinian people,” said Shahid.

“Let us grant them what they have been justly demanding for so long: dignity, statehood and respect.”