Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits
The announcement followed weeks driven by music, sporting stars and high numbers of visitors showing interest in the November Weekday Pass. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 29 November 2021

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits

Expo 2020 Dubai receives 4.8 million visits
  • The announcement followed weeks driven by music, sporting stars and high numbers of visitors showing interest in the November Weekday Pass
  • Expo 2020 Dubai runs until Mar. 31 next year, with Christmas festivities and a performance by Alicia Keys lined up for December

Dubai: Expo 2020 Dubai announced that visit figures reached more than 4.8 million since its launch. 

According to the figures released by Expo 2020, numbers show an increase to 4,766,419. 

The announcement followed weeks driven by music, sporting stars and high numbers of visitors showing interest in the November Weekday Pass.

The Jubilee stage hosted an array of performances, including Kuwaiti singer Abdullah Al-Ruwaished and Egyptian artist Mohamed Hamaki. 

The Dubai Millennium Amphitheatre saw artists from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala while Ireland’s Grammy Award-winning Riverdance ended its toe-tapping run with a series of performances.

Other activities included the FIDE World Chess Championship, which was launched on Nov. 24, gaining the interest of both players and fans. The tournament, which runs until Dec. 16, will award the overall winner with $2.25m in prize money. 

Expo 2020 Dubai runs until Mar. 31 next year, with Christmas festivities and a performance by 15-time Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys lined up for December.


Syria prison battle toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors

Syria prison battle toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors
Updated 24 January 2022

Syria prison battle toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors

Syria prison battle toll tops 150, concern over fate of minors
  • More than 100 Daesh fighters late Thursday stormed Ghwayran prison using suicide truck bombs and heavy weapons
  • The fighting died down Sunday evening as the US-backed SDF consolidated control over areas around the jail and declared the entire city locked down for a week

HASAKAH: Kurdish forces locked down a Syrian city Monday to trap Daesh group fighters who attacked a prison there five days earlier, leaving more than 150 dead in fierce battles.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) charged that the Daesh militants were using hundreds of minors as “human shields” inside the Ghwayran prison in the northeastern city of Hasakah.
The UN childrens’ agency UNICEF called for the protection of some 850 minors detained inside the jail, some as young as 12, warning that they could be “harmed or forcibly recruited” by the Daesh.
More than 100 Daesh fighters late Thursday stormed Ghwayran prison using suicide truck bombs and heavy weapons, setting off days of clashes both inside the facility and in surrounding neighborhoods.
The fighting died down Sunday evening as the US-backed SDF consolidated control over areas around the jail and declared the entire city locked down for a week.
“To prevent terrorist cells from escaping... the Kurdish administration in northeast Syria announces a complete lockdown on areas inside and outside Hasakah city for a period of seven days starting on January 24,” the administration said.
Businesses were ordered to close with the exception of essential services, such as medical centers, bakeries and fuel distribution centers.
Civilians were hunkering down Monday in their homes as Kurdish fighters backed by the US-led coalition combed the area for hideout extremists, said an AFP correspondent.
The SDF erected several checkpoints at the entrances to Hasakah, with even tighter security measures imposed in neighborhoods adjacent to the jail, the correspondent said.
The SDF said in a statement its advances inside the prison where stymied by the use of hundreds of minors as “human shields” by Daesh extremists holed up in a dormitory.
The group said the adolescents, who had been detained over suspected links to extremists, were being kept in a “rehabilitation center” in the jail.
The Britain-based group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday that a precarious lull in fighting continued to hold, as holdout extremists were refusing to surrender.
The group raised the death toll from the clashes to 154 killed since Thursday, including 102 extremists, 45 Kurdish fighters and seven civilians.
In other parts of Syria’s northeast under the administration’s control, a nightime curfew was set to go into force Monday from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 am.


Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
Updated 24 January 2022

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan

Countries, organizations condemn Houthi missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, Jazan
  • Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted
  • Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia

DUBAI: Countries and organizations have condemned the extremist attacks carried out by the Houthi militia towards the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country on Monday, state news agency WAM reported.

An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al-Jawf, Yemen immediately after the attack.

In Saudi Arabia, two residents sustained minor injuries after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile that fell in the industrial area of Ahad Al-Masarihah, Jazan on Sunday.

Bahrain said it denounced the Houthi attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE where civilians have been targeted.

Similarly, Kuwait condemned the attacks and stressed the need for an international stance against the militia.

Turkey’s foreign ministry has also said the attacks against both countries are a clear violation of international law.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has further said the continued Houthi attacks reflect the militia’s rejection of all peace efforts in Yemen.

Developing


UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi
Updated 24 January 2022

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

UAE confirm missile launcher site in Yemen destroyed after second attack on Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: An F-16 destroyed a ballistic missile launcher in Al Jawf, Yemen in the early hours of Monday immediately after the Houthis fired two ballistic missiles at Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s MOD Joint Operations Command said.

The UAE’s defense ministry said earlier on Monday that it had shot down two Houthi missiles targeting the country, state news agency WAM reported.

There were no injuries from the shrapnel which fell in over the emirate of  Abu Dhabi.

A statement on WAM said the ministry was “ready to deal with any threats and that it takes all necessary measures to protect the state from all attacks.”

Last week, three people were killed after a drone attack by the Iran-backed militia on Abu Dhabi, sparking international condemnation of the group’s indiscriminate actions against civilians.

Early on Monday, Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile targeting the southern province of Asir, prompting the coalition supporting the Yemeni government to hit a launchpad used by the Houthis in Al-Jouf.

On Sunday, two people where injured following ballistic missile in Jazan.

 


Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 January 2022

Iran nuclear agreement unlikely without release of US prisoners - Malley

U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley and Barry Rosen, campaigning for the release of hostages imprisoned by Iran, sit at a table during an interview with Reuters in Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round

VIENNA: The United States is unlikely to strike an agreement with Iran to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage, the lead US nuclear negotiator told Reuters on Sunday.
The official, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley, repeated the long-held US position that the issue of the four people held in Iran is separate from the nuclear negotiations. He moved a step closer, however, to saying that their release was a precondition for a nuclear agreement.
“They’re separate and we’re pursuing both of them. But I will say it is very hard for us to imagine getting back into the nuclear deal while four innocent Americans are being held hostage by Iran,” Malley told Reuters in an interview.
“So even as we’re conducting talks with Iran indirectly on the nuclear file we are conducting, again indirectly, discussions with them to ensure the release of our hostages,” he said in Vienna, where talks are taking place on bringing Washington and Tehran back into full compliance with the deal.
In recent years, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.
Rights groups have accused Iran of taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage, while Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.
Tehran denies holding people for political reasons.

MESSAGE SENT
Malley was speaking in a joint interview with Barry Rosen, a 77-year-old former US diplomat who has been on hunger strike in Vienna to demand the release of US, British, French, German, Austrian and Swedish prisoners in Iran, and that no nuclear agreement be reached without their release.
Rosen was one of more than 50 US diplomats held during the 1979-1981 Iran hostage crisis.
“I’ve spoken to a number of the families of the hostages who are extraordinarily grateful for what Mr.Rosen is doing but they also are imploring him to stop his hunger strike, as I am, because the message has been sent,” Malley said.
Rosen said that after five days of not eating he was feeling weak and would heed those calls.
“With the request from Special Envoy Malley and my doctors and others, we’ve agreed (that) after this meeting I will stop my hunger strike but this does not mean that others will not take up the baton,” Rosen said.
The indirect talks between Iran and the United States on bringing both countries back into full compliance with the landmark 2015 nuclear deal are in their eighth round. Iran refuses to hold meetings with US officials, meaning others shuttle between the two sides.
The deal between Iran and major powers lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear activities that extended the time it would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb if it chose to. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018, reimposing punishing economic sanctions against Tehran. Iran responded by breaching many of the deal’s nuclear restrictions, to the point that Western powers say the deal will soon have been hollowed out completely.

LEVERAGE
Asked if Iran and the United States might negotiate directly, Malley said: “We’ve heard nothing to that effect. We’d welcome it.”
The four US citizens include Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, 50, and his father Baquer, 85, both of whom have been convicted of “collaboration with a hostile government.” Namazi remains in prison. His father was released on medical grounds in 2018 and his sentence later reduced to time served. While the elder Namazi is no longer jailed, a lawyer for the family says he is effectively barred from leaving Iran.
“Senior Biden administration officials have repeatedly told us that although the potential Iranian nuclear and hostage deals are independent and must be negotiated on parallel tracks, they will not just conclude the nuclear deal by itself,” said Jared Genser, pro bono counsel to the Namazi family.
“Otherwise, all leverage to get the hostages out will be lost,” he added.
The others are environmentalist Morad Tahbaz, 66, who is also British, and businessman Emad Shargi, 57.


Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
Updated 24 January 2022

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid

Palestinian minister says holds first meet with Israel’s Lapid
  • The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top diplomat held an official meeting Sunday evening with a Palestinian minister, the latter said, the first such encounter between the Jewish state’s current foreign minister and a Palestinian official.
“I met this evening with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and we discussed several political and bilateral issues,” Palestinian civil affairs minister Hussein Al-Sheikh said on Twitter.
“I have highlighted the need for a political horizon between the two parties based on international legitimacy,” he added, without saying where the encounter took place.
The Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment to AFP but did not deny that the meeting took place.
In late December, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosted talks with Mahmud Abbas on the Palestinian president’s first visit to Israel for an official meeting since 2010.
At that time, Israel’s defense ministry announced “confidence-building measures” with the Palestinian Authority.
These included a $32 million (100 million shekel) advance payment to the PA in taxes collected on its behalf by Israel, and the granting of 600 extra permits allowing Palestinian businessmen to cross into Israel.
It also announced the regularization of 6,000 more Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, which has been under Israeli control since the Six-Day War of 1967.
Sheikh had welcomed Abbas’ meeting with Gantz, saying at the time that it had been a “serious and courageous effort” toward a “political” solution.
After Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was formed in June, Gantz visited the PA’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah in August for talks with Abbas, the first official meeting at such a level for several years.
Right-winger Bennett leads a motley coalition of parties ranging from the Jewish nationalist right to the center and left, and includes an Israeli Arab party for the first time.
After those talks, hawkish Bennett, the former head of a settler lobby group who opposes Palestinian statehood, underlined that there was no peace process under way with the Palestinians, “and there won’t be one.”