Syrian refugees stranded in Gaza ‘prison’ for a decade

Syrian refugees Lina Moustafa Hassoun and her son Nawras Deeb pose with their expired Syrian passports in a house in Gaza City on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
Syrian refugees Lina Moustafa Hassoun and her son Nawras Deeb pose with their expired Syrian passports in a house in Gaza City on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 December 2021

Syrian refugees stranded in Gaza ‘prison’ for a decade

Syrian refugees Lina Moustafa Hassoun and her son Nawras Deeb pose with their expired Syrian passports in a house in Gaza City on December 5, 2021. (AFP)
  • More than half of Gaza’s roughly two million population are descended from Palestinian refugees who fled their homes when Israel was created in 1948, and who today depend on United Nations aid

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Nearly 10 years after Imad Al-Hisso fled the civil war in Syria, he remains trapped in Gaza, a place he calls “a prison,” with no clear path to return home.
Gaza may seem an unlikely destination for those fleeing conflict.
The coastal Palestinian territory has been blockaded by Israel since 2007 when Hamas Islamists took power, and access to the enclave is tightly controlled by the Jewish state and Egypt.
But after being advised by a friend that he could live safely in the strip, Hisso along with dozens of other Syrians slipped into Gaza through tunnels dug under Egyptian land.
“After the events began in Syria, I fled to Gaza in the hope of a better life,” he said, adding that he believed he would able to retrace his steps when the time came to leave.
He now lives in Rafah, southern Gaza, in a small house without a kitchen or furniture and with expired Syrian identity papers that he cannot renew.
To get new documents he would have to return to war-torn Syria, but he can’t get out of Gaza the same way he arrived.
The Egyptian army began destroying some underground tunnels in 2012, then demolished many more the following year.
Israel says Hamas uses tunnels to smuggle weapons and other materials to attack Israelis, and that the blockade is essential to contain threats.
Since Hisso left Egypt illegally, he said the authorities there would probably block him from entering and might arrest him should he attempt to leave Gaza using the Rafah crossing.
Gaza’s other entry and exit points are controlled by Israel which is officially at war with Syria and only lets Gazans transit its territory under strict conditions, such as in grave medical cases.
So Hisso finds himself trapped with no way to leave a territory wracked by poverty and unemployment.
“There is no work and no money, no access to health care or education,” said Hisso, who sometimes works laying tiles to support his five children, who also have no papers.




Syrian refugee Nawras Deeb prepares mobile videography equipment as his mother Lina Hassoun folds clothes behind in a house in Gaza City on December 5, 2021. (AFP)

“I was surprised to find that the situation in Gaza was worse than in Syria,” he said.
“Gaza is the biggest prison in the world. If you go into Gaza, you can’t get out.”

More than half of Gaza’s roughly two million population are descended from Palestinian refugees who fled their homes when Israel was created in 1948, and who today depend on United Nations aid.
The UN agency serving Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, does not consider Syrian refugees to be their responsibility and only partly helps them, Syrians said.
“UNRWA does not recognize my children, they always tell me ‘you are Syrian refugees and we are taking care of Palestinian refugees’,” said Donia Al-Minyarawi, Hasso’s wife.
“When we arrived in Gaza, we thought it was a livable place. What we saw in Gaza is beyond imaginable. The situation is really miserable,” she said, adding that she suffered from several medical conditions she could not afford to treat.
Lina Moustafa Hassoun, 52, also arrived illegally in Gaza via a tunnel at the end of 2012 with her son Nawras, 24.
A Palestinian who formerly lived in Syria, Hassoun said she came to visit her sister and intended to stay for a month.
But mother and son were stranded when the tunnel they came through was closed. Their travel documents have also since expired.
“Life in Gaza is very difficult, it is impossible to travel and work. There is no stability there (in Syria) or here,” she told AFP.
Nawras films videos for another Syrian refugee, Warif Qassem, a chef who gives cooking lessons via his channel on YouTube.
Together with other Syrian refugees in Gaza, Qassem, 41, founded an association to advocate with Palestinian authorities and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Last year, UNHCR extricated nine Syrian families from Gaza through the Israeli airport in Tel Aviv.
Qassem said he was grateful for Gazans’ hospitality and appreciated their cuisine, but said their situation was complicated.
“We do our best to get around the challenges,” he said.


Jordan's Prince Faisal bin Hussain sworn in as deputy to the king

Jordan's Prince Faisal bin Hussain sworn in as deputy to the king
Updated 7 sec ago

Jordan's Prince Faisal bin Hussain sworn in as deputy to the king

Jordan's Prince Faisal bin Hussain sworn in as deputy to the king

Jordan's Prince Faisal bin Hussain sworn in as deputy to King Abdullah II of Jordan, Petra news agency reported on Friday


Yemen’s Presidential Council member, US ambassador discuss Houthi threats to peace 

Yemen’s Presidential Council member, US ambassador discuss Houthi threats to peace 
Updated 45 min 35 sec ago

Yemen’s Presidential Council member, US ambassador discuss Houthi threats to peace 

Yemen’s Presidential Council member, US ambassador discuss Houthi threats to peace 
  • Al-Alimi praised the US’ efforts in supporting the truce in Yemen, and its constructive approach when dealing with the humanitarian crisis in the country

DUBAI: Abdullah al-Alimi, a member of Yemen’s Presidential Council, warned that the Houthi militia’s mobilization, regrouping and constant breaches of the UN truce continue to threaten the peace process. 

The comments were made when al-Alimi met with Stephen Fagin, US Ambassador to Yemen, state news agency SABA reported on Thursday.

Al-Alimi said that the Houthi militia must honor its commitment by lifting the siege on Taiz, opening roads in and out of the city, and allowing Yemeni people to move safely and freely across the country. 

Fagin agreed that the commitment on the Houthi’s part is crucial to honor the UN truce, and he confirmed the US’ continuous support for Yemen's internationally-recognized government by helping it perform its responsibilities.

Meanwhile, al-Alimi pointed out that the Presidential Leadership Council has a clear work-plan to tackle challenges faced in the economic, service, security, and military fields, in addition to combating terrorism in the country. 

The two also spoke about ways to promote mutual relations between the two countries. 

Al-Alimi and Fagin addressed issues of common interest during their meeting, which include regional security and the latest methods for combating terrorism. 

Al-Alimi praised the US’ efforts in supporting the truce in Yemen, and its constructive approach when dealing with the humanitarian crisis in the country. 

Fagin also praised the positive position of the Presidential Leadership Council and the government in tightening the humanitarian truce and supporting all efforts for achieving peace in Yemen.


Tunisian president takes most powers in proposed constitution

Tunisian president takes most powers in proposed constitution
Updated 01 July 2022

Tunisian president takes most powers in proposed constitution

Tunisian president takes most powers in proposed constitution
  • Voters will be asked to approve the new constitution in a July 25 referendum for which there is no minimum level of participation

TUNIS: Tunisia’s president published a planned new constitution on Thursday that he will put to a referendum next month, expanding his own powers and limiting the role of parliament in a vote most political parties have already rejected.
Kais Saied has ruled by decree since last summer, when he brushed aside the parliament and the democratic 2014 constitution in a step his foes called a coup, moving toward one-man rule and vowing to remake the political system.
His intervention last summer has thrust Tunisia into its biggest political crisis since the 2011 revolution that ousted former autocrat Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali and introduced democracy.
Voters will be asked to approve the new constitution in a July 25 referendum for which there is no minimum level of participation.
With most of the political establishment opposed to his moves and urging their supporters to boycott the vote, analysts say the measure is likely to pass, but with only limited public involvement.
None of the major parties, including the Islamist Ennahda which is the biggest in parliament and has played a major role in successive coalition governments since the revolution, issued immediate comment on the draft constitution.
Meanwhile, many Tunisians are far more focused on a growing economic crisis and threats to public finances that have caused salary delays and the risk of shortages of key subsidised goods.
An online ‘consultation’ Saied held from January-March in preparation for drafting the constitution received scant attention from Tunisians, with very few taking part.

Power
The draft constitution published in the official gazette late on Thursday would bring most political power under Saied, give him ultimate authority over the government and judiciary.
Previously, political power was more directly exercised by the parliament, which took the lead role in appointing the government and approving legislation.
Under the new constitution, the government would answer to the president and not to parliament, though the chamber could withdraw confidence from the government with a two-thirds majority.
Saied would be allowed to present draft laws, have sole responsibility for proposing treaties and drafting state budgets, appoint or sack government ministers and appoint judges, the gazette said.
He could serve two terms of five years each, but extend them if he felt there was an imminent danger to the state, and would have the right to dissolve parliament while no clause allows for the removal of a president.
The constitution would allow Saied to continue to rule by decree until the creation of a new parliament through an election expected in December.
It would also create a new ‘Council of Regions’ as a second chamber of parliament, but it gives few details on how it would be elected or what powers it would have.
Saied, a political independent, has promised a new electoral law. Though he has not yet published it, he has indicated that voters would only choose candidates as individuals, not as members of political parties.
Meanwhile, although Islam will no longer be the state religion, Tunisia will be regarded as part of the wider Islamic nation and the state should work to achieve Islamic goals. The president must be Muslim.
However, Saied has maintained most parts of the 2014 constitution that enumerated rights and liberties, including freedom of speech, the right to organize in unions and the right to peaceful gatherings.
However, judges, police, army and customs officials would not have a right to go on strike. Judges have recently been on strike for weeks in protest at Saied’s moves to curtail judicial independence. 
 


Libya talks in Geneva end without breakthrough

Libya talks in Geneva end without breakthrough
Updated 30 June 2022

Libya talks in Geneva end without breakthrough

Libya talks in Geneva end without breakthrough
  • Many Libyans fear that a failure to set a path to elections and resolve an existing dispute about control of an interim government will thrust the country back toward territorial division or conflict

GENEVA: Libya talks in Geneva ended on Thursday without making enough progress to move toward elections, the United Nations Libya adviser Stephanie Williams said in a statement.

The talks between the House of Representatives and High State Council legislative bodies were aimed at agreeing on a constitutional basis and interim arrangements for holding elections that were originally scheduled for December 2021.

Many Libyans fear that a failure to set a path to elections and resolve an existing dispute about control of an interim government will thrust the country back toward territorial division or conflict.

Since the planned December election was abandoned, Libya’s rival factions have moved to a standoff over control of the government with both sides backed by armed forces in western areas of the country.

Williams said that in the Geneva talks and earlier meetings in Cairo the two sides had resolved previous disputes on the makeup of a future legislature, the powers of a future president and government, and how to allocate state revenues.

“Disagreement persists on the eligibility requirements for the candidates in the first presidential elections,” Williams said, adding that she would make recommendations on alternative ways forward.

Disputes over the eligibility of several controversial candidates were the trigger for the collapse of December’s election.


Beirut airport booming despite some departments on strike

Beirut airport booming despite some departments on strike
Updated 30 June 2022

Beirut airport booming despite some departments on strike

Beirut airport booming despite some departments on strike
  • Ninety-three flights carrying expatriates arrived in Lebanon, while pilgrim number decreased amid high prices

BEIRUT: Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport is perhaps the only active official facility in Lebanon these days.

Caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamiyeh said Thursday: “Ninety-three flights arrived at Beirut airport on Wednesday, carrying 15,444 passengers coming to spend summer vacation here.

“The number of planes arriving in Beirut will increase in the coming days,” Hamiyeh expected.

Lebanon is counting on summertime travel to pump hard currency into the economic cycle amid accumulated political and economic crises and their impact on the living situation of the Lebanese people.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who is also PM-designated, warned Thursday during the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee meeting: “Every delay in coming up with solutions to crises costs Lebanon $25 million a day.”

A source at the Middle East Airlines told Arab News: “As a result of the economic crisis, COVID-19 precautionary measures, and the decline in the financial capabilities of the Lebanese, only a few thousand pilgrims will be traveling to perform Hajj this year. Their numbers reached over 25,000 in previous years.”

On Wednesday, an MEA flight carrying the first batch of Lebanese pilgrims landed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. MEA is the only authorized airline in Lebanon to transport pilgrims to and from Saudi Arabia.

The economic collapse and the national currency’s depreciation made the pilgrimage more difficult for those wishing to go to Makkah.

Former MP Mohammed Al-Hajjar complained about “the inability of the Lebanese to travel to perform Hajj because the vaccine against meningitis, which Saudi Arabia requires from pilgrims for their safety, is not available in the Ministry of Health for lack of funding, or in pharmacies.”

Abdelrahman Al-Taweel, who is in charge of the Foutowa campaign for Hajj and Umrah, said: “The number of pilgrims this year did not reach 2,700, which is the quota allocated to Lebanon. The main reason is the high cost of the trip, which amounts to $6,000 per pilgrim. Everything is more expensive nowadays, [including] airline tickets, the price of which has risen globally as a result of the high cost of fuel, as well as tents and other supplies, and other additional fees.”

Al-Taweel noted: “The unavailability of the meningitis vaccine, which the Ministry of Health is supposed to provide to people, prompted the pilgrims to buy it at their own expense. It costs $60, which is equivalent to 1,800,000 LBP, according to the black-market exchange rate.”

Lebanon is trying to convey the image that it is doing well — despite the crises plaguing it — to visitors, including the Arab foreign ministers whom officials encouraged Thursday to hold their consultative meeting in Beirut ahead of the Arab Summit.

However, public-sector employees went on strike and will only resume work once their demands — including increased salaries, transportation allowances and health and educational benefits — are met.

In the absence of solutions, it seems that the general strike will continue, paralyzing the entire country.

MP Ghassan Hasbani, member of the Strong Republic bloc, warned after the Finance and Budget Committee meeting: “The government is yet to present a final financial…reform plan in order to interpret laws. The government must refer this plan to parliament as quickly as possible with a legislative roadmap and laws ready for implementation to speed up recovery and approve a budget that reflects the required reforms.”

It remains unknown whether the composition of the new government that Mikati handed over to President Michel Aoun on Wednesday morning will get the latter’s approval.

Less than 24 hours after the non-binding parliamentary consultations, Mikati drafted a government formation consisting of the current government, with some amendments, particularly to the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Economy.