Israel releases Palestinians held after eviction

Israel releases Palestinians held after eviction
A member of the Israeli forces escorts a man on crutches, supporter of the Palestinian Salhiya family, away from the ruins of the demolished house, in Sheik Jarrah neighborhood on January 19, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2022

Israel releases Palestinians held after eviction

Israel releases Palestinians held after eviction
  • Police had accused several Salhiya family members of “violating a court order” and public disturbance

JERUSALEM: Five members of a Palestinian family arrested after Israeli police demolished their house in East Jerusalem have been released, their lawyer said on Thursday.

The arrest of several members of the Salhiya family came as they were evicted from their house in the sensitive neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli authorities before dawn on Wednesday. Walid Abu Tayeh, the family’s lawyer, confirmed “the release of the five people detained since Wednesday, including Mahmoud Salhiya and his sons.”

Police had accused several Salhiya family members of “violating a court order” and public disturbance.

Abu Tayeh said the release of the five on Thursday was conditional on payment of a 1,000 Israeli shekel ($320) fine, and that the group was forbidden from entering Sheikh Jarrah for one month.

The looming eviction of other Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in May last year partly fueled an 11-day war between Israel and armed Palestinian factions in Gaza.

In those cases, Palestinians risked having to surrender plots of land to Jewish settlers who had mounted legal claims to the land.

But Jerusalem authorities have stressed the Salhiya family eviction is a different case and that the city intends to build a special needs school on the land, benefitting Arab residents of east Jerusalem.

The city has said it purchased the land from previous Arab owners and that the Salhiya’s had lived there illegally for years, but failed to agree to a compromise on an eviction order first issued in 2017. The foreign ministries of France, Germany, Italy and Spain urged Israeli authorities to stop the construction of new housing units in East Jerusalem.

In a statement, the European countries said that the hundreds of new buildings would “constitute an additional obstacle to the two-state solution,” referring to international peace efforts to create a state for Palestinians.

Israeli authorities recently approved plans for the construction of around 3,500 homes in occupied East Jerusalem, nearly half of which are to be built in the controversial areas of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa.

The foreign ministries said that building in this area would further disconnect the West Bank from East Jerusalem and that these settlements are a violation of international law.

The four countries also expressed concern about the evictions and demolitions in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel captured East Jerusalem including the Old City in a 1967 war and later annexed it, a move not recognized internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a state they seek in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which abuts the city, and the Gaza Strip. Israel views the entire city as its indivisible capital.

Most world powers deem the Israeli settlements illegal for taking in territory where Palestinians seek statehood.


Lebanese government goes into caretaker mode amid calls to expedite economic recovery plan

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (R) and Prime Minister Najib Mikati (C) heading the cabinet meeting in Beirut on May 20, 2022.
Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (R) and Prime Minister Najib Mikati (C) heading the cabinet meeting in Beirut on May 20, 2022.
Updated 42 sec ago

Lebanese government goes into caretaker mode amid calls to expedite economic recovery plan

Lebanon's President Michel Aoun (R) and Prime Minister Najib Mikati (C) heading the cabinet meeting in Beirut on May 20, 2022.
  • Rescue opportunities only available through IMF, says PM Najib Mikati
  • Hezbollah-backed MP Gebran Bassil draws fire over electricity crisis

BEIRUT: The mandate of the newly elected Lebanese parliament begins on Sunday amid warnings that any delay in the country's economic recovery plan would have a high cost. The term of the previous parliament expired on Saturday.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the government of Najib Mikati was considered to have resigned based on the constitution.

Aoun expressed his appreciation to the prime minister and ministers, asking the government to act in caretaker mode until a new government was formed.

The Cabinet held its final session on Friday fraught with last-minute decisions, including the approval of the economic recovery plan, amid objection from the ministers of Hezbollah and the Amal movement.

Mikati said: “Deposits of up to $100,000 will be fully protected,” stressing at the same time that there was “no economy without banks.”

The financial strategy in the plan includes a program to restore financial solvency “as a priority to enhance confidence in the state.”

In the medium and long term, it aims to put the debt on a regressive path through the introduction of gradual financial adjustments accompanied by permanent and strategic debt restructuring reforms.

The government also expects to cancel a large part of the Central Bank's foreign currency obligations to commercial banks.

The Cabinet approved an increase in the telecommunications tariff, starting July, accompanied by the formation of a ministerial committee to review the remarks from the communications minister’s plan.

It did not approve the item related to the customs dollar after the finance minister withdrew it from the agenda “to avoid public anger.”

The Cabinet approved allocating $35 million for chronic diseases and cancer drugs, provided that the amount was secured by the Housing Bank in US dollars, which would be enough for four months.

Mikati warned: “Any delay in the recovery plan will have a high cost. Had we resolved this two years ago, the cost would have been much lower.”

He stressed that rescue opportunities were only available through the International Monetary Fund, and the Central Bank should set the necessary standards to ensure the growth of the economy.

He criticized the attempts of some to prioritize their interest over the public interest, indirectly finding fault in how the Free Patriotic Movement had handled the electricity crisis.

“I personally received two offers from companies willing to operate the Al-Zahrani and Deir Ammar plants to produce electricity on gas at excellent prices. A consulting office was assigned to study the two offers, but unfortunately, the minister of energy withdrew this item from the Cabinet’s agenda to be further discussed.”

MP Ashraf Rifi, commenting on the electricity issue, said on Saturday: “What Mikati said about withdrawing these offers from the Cabinet’s agenda constitutes a continuation of a major crime committed against the Lebanese immersed in darkness. Hezbollah-backed Gebran Bassil is the one to blame.”

Bassil, he added, had taken over the Ministry of Energy since 2008 “as if it were his personal property, with all the failures, waste, and corruption practiced within it, and the Lebanese are paying the price.”

Rifi called on sovereign and reformist MPs to make the electricity issue their priority, agree on a plan of action, and hold those involved accountable.

The International Support Group for Lebanon has called on adopting the necessary legislation to secure economic stability in Lebanon, strengthen governance, and implement the reforms that Lebanon and its people urgently need to bring the country back up on its feet.

The ISG also called on all concerned parties to move quickly to form a government that can implement the vital reforms that are long overdue and to continue working with the IMF, including implementing the prior measures that Lebanon committed to in the staff-level agreement on April 7 to lay solid foundations for the sustainable social and economic recovery of Lebanon.

The US State Department urged the elected MPs and political leaders to respond to the Lebanese people's call for change and to work seriously and urgently to take the necessary measures to save the economy.

It called for the rapid formation of a government that was capable and committed to carrying out the serious work required to restore the confidence of the Lebanese people and the international community.

The elected parliament is meanwhile preparing to elect a speaker and deputy speaker.

The Development and Liberation bloc announced Najib Berri's nomination for the parliament speaker position at the end of a meeting headed by him. He has headed parliament since 1992 and nobody is running against him.

If Berri is elected by acclamation, this will be his seventh term.

The bloc stressed the need for the caretaker government to carry out its duties in the transitional period and follow up on issues that concerned people and their economic and social problems, especially controlling the exchange rate and securing fuel, bread, and other needs.

The FPM, the Lebanese Forces Party, and independent and reformist MPs are against Berri’s nomination.

Member of the Development and Liberation bloc, Dr. Michel Moussa, told Arab News: “In this defining stage, parliamentary blocs communicate with one another to voice their positions on Berri's candidacy, while it is only natural for him to be running.”

He explained that the blocs would hold their meetings next week. “But in Lebanon, everything is decided at the last minute.”

As of Sunday evening, the elected MPs will have 15 days to elect the speaker, said Moussa.

Otherwise, the process of assigning a new prime minister to form the next government would be disrupted, provided the caretaker government continued to function until a decree to form the new government was issued.

“All these things will become clear next week.”

 


Pressure mounts on Houthis to lift Taiz siege

Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 8 sec ago

Pressure mounts on Houthis to lift Taiz siege

Yemeni pro-government forces deploy on the road linking the districts of Hays and Al-Jarrahi on April 28, 2022. (AFP)
  • On April 7, the Yemeni government sent a list of four participants for the meeting, according to the UN Yemen’s office, almost three days after UN envoys asked both sides to nominate their negotiators

AL-MUKALLA: Iran-backed Houthis have named their representatives on a joint committee that will work to reopen roads in Taiz and other provinces, raising hopes of an end to the militants’ siege of the strategic city, a Yemeni government official said.

After weeks of delays, the Houthis sent a list of candidates for the committee to the office of the UN Yemen envoy, according to deputy head of the Yemeni government delegation on Taiz, Maj. Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mahmoudi.

The move comes as the militia faces growing pressure at home and abroad to end its eight-year siege of Yemen’s third-largest city.

Under the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2, warring factions were expected to stop hostilities on all fronts, allow commercial flights to operate out of Sanaa airport, permit fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaport, and nominate candidates for a joint committee to discuss the reopening of roads in Taiz and other provinces.

On April 7, the Yemeni government sent a list of four participants for the meeting, according to the UN Yemen’s office, almost three days after UN envoys asked both sides to nominate their negotiators.

The Houthis have been accused of failing to take the lifting of the blockade seriously, as they delayed naming representatives and kept up attacks on residents in the city.

Al-Mahmoudi told Arab News on Saturday that the Houthi delegation includes Yahyia Al-Razami, Hussein Dhaif, Mohammed Al-Mahtouri and Shukari Mahyoub.

“They are intelligence officers,” he said, adding that the committee might meet in the Jordanian capital Amman or elsewhere this week.

Al-Mahmoudi is joined on the government team by Abdul Kareem Shaiban, Abdul Aziz Al-Majeedi and Ali Al-Ajaar.

“We have been told to get ready for the meeting,” he said.

Pressure has increased on the Houthis to lift the siege of Taiz as the Yemeni government puts into place its commitments under the truce, including allowing about 12 fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaport, facilitating the departure of two commercial flights from Sanaa airport, and naming its representatives in talks over the future of the city.

In a rare challenge to the militants, hundreds of people gathered for Friday prayers near a closed road on the eastern outskirts of the besieged city, despite the risk of coming under fire from Houthi snipers.

After the prayers, people raised posters and chanted slogans that called for roads to be reopened and an end to the siege.

Abdul Jabar Noman, an activist, told Arab News that many people had died on rugged and dangerous roads while seeking to avoid Houthi checkpoints around the city.

Daily protests are aimed at highlighting residents’ suffering under the blockade, he said.

“Lifting the siege will help people to move between cities easily, bring down prices of basic commodities, and fuel will be sold at the official price,” he said.

Abroad, Saudi, Yemeni and Western diplomats and officials are also increasing pressure on the Houthis to lift the blockade and join efforts to end the war.  

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense, demanded the world, mainly the UN, order the Houthis to lift the siege, deposit revenues from Hodeidah port into the central bank, and comply with peace initiatives.

After meeting Timothy Lenderking, US special envoy for Yemen, in Washington, Prince Khalid tweeted: “Although the momentum of the truce remains high, I reaffirmed the need for the United Nations and the international community to pressure the Houthis into reopening the roads of Taiz, deposit revenues of the Hodeidah port, and engage with peace proposals.”

Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, Yemen’s foreign minister, met with Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa, in Washington, where he called for global pressure on the Houthis to respect the truce and reopen roads in Taiz.

“I stressed our appreciation for the US and the need to pressure the #Houthis to adhere to the #truce and end #Taiz siege,” the Yemeni minister tweeted.

The Yemeni Embassy in Washington accused the Houthis of using the blockade as a pressure tactic, adding that the siege has isolated thousands of Taiz residents from the rest of Yemen.

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of people in the third-largest city in Yemen —  #Taiz — feel like they are boxed in a besieged city since 2015. A city that is cut off from the rest of Yemen by the #Houthis only to be used as a political bargaining chip,” the embassy tweeted.


Turkey tightens foreign citizenship investment from June

A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
Updated 45 min 34 sec ago

Turkey tightens foreign citizenship investment from June

A general view of residential and commercial areas in Ankara, Turkey. (REUTERS)
  • Amid widespread criticism of skyrocketing house prices in the country, which has hit Turkish nationals the most, the government recently raised the amount that foreigners must invest in property in order to become eligible for citizenship

ANKARA: A price hike for foreigners seeking citizenship through real estate investment is the latest attempt by the Turkish government to ease the country’s financial woes.

The move is estimated to help Turkey overcome its current account deficit and change the profile of foreign investors.

“Only up to June 3 you can apply for Turkish citizenship by investing $250,000. Obtain a Turkish passport and citizenship in the most prestigious projects in Istanbul,” a popular advertisement reads.

Amid widespread criticism of skyrocketing house prices in the country, which has hit Turkish nationals the most, the government recently raised the amount that foreigners must invest in property in order to become eligible for citizenship.

Accordingly, any foreign national who buys real estate worth at least $400,000 — raised from $250,000 in the previous legislation — can get Turkish citizenship. The money should be deposited to a Turkish bank, and the house should not be sold for three years.

Foreign nationals who fulfill this condition, as well as their spouses and children below 18, automatically receive Turkish passports.

The purchase of housing by foreigners is expected to ease Turkey’s widening current account deficit and support the real estate sector, as well as construction companies.

Turkey’s budget deficit tripled in April compared with the previous year and the fiscal gap reached 50.2 billion liras ($3.23 billion). The country also posted a current account deficit of $5.5 billion.

Foreign nationals who join the private pension system with at least $500,000 or foreign equivalent and stay within the system for three years are also entitled to obtain Turkish citizenship.

Foreign businessmen who provide employment opportunities for 50 people in Turkey or those depositing $500,000 to Turkish banks without withdrawing it for three years can also get Turkish citizenship, according to the amended law.

The legislative change will apply from June 13.

For the moment, Russians, Ukrainians and Gulf nationals are the top clients in the Turkish real estate sector, and are buying up property in southern resort towns and Istanbul.

Russians also established a record number of companies — 64 — in March, quadrupling the figure from the previous month.

The number of houses sold in Turkey to foreign buyers soared 58 percent annually, according to official data. Russians topped the foreign buyers’ list with 1,152 houses. They were followed by Iranians and Iraqis, who bought 905 and 714 houses, respectively.

To facilitate sales, Turkish banks also began opening ruble-based accounts.

From January to April, residential property sales to foreigners increased by 49 percent, reaching 20,791 units.

“As the amount of investments required for citizenship was reduced from $1 million to $250,000 over the last four years, there is an increased demand for acquiring Turkish citizenship. But increasing it to $400,000 will also improve the foreign investors’ profile in Turkey,” said Selen Kolan-Imir, an attorney specializing in citizenship law.

However, experts note that the growing interest in the Turkish real estate market by foreigners risks increasing housing prices to uncontrollable levels.

The depreciation in the Turkish lira has also made Turkey’s real estate market more appealing to foreign investors.

“Rather than asking people to invest in real estate, there is a need to encourage foreigners to generate employment opportunities or open innovative startups to result in long-term advantages for the Turkish economy,” Kolan-Imir told Arab News.

With the increased number of foreign children as a result of Turkish citizenship investments, the country should also provide new educational and social facilities, she added.

“Recently there is a surge of private international schools that are opened for foreign children who are living in Turkey with their families or for those who become a new Turkish citizen.”

Bulut Bagci, president of the World Tourism Forum Institute, said that offering citizenship through investment is common in Europe, and that Turkey is choosing to follow a similar path.

“Compared to the similar cases in Europe, especially in the UK, this amount is still low. However, it will support tourism in Turkey and increase tourism revenues, because people who buy a house will visit the country frequently and go to the touristic destinations,” he told Arab News.

However, last month, some opposition lawmakers submitted a motion to parliament for a temporary ban on property sales to foreigners.

Bagci added that foreign nationals who receive Turkish citizenship should be encouraged to take part in the tourism sector by buying hotels and other facilities.

“Following prolonged conflicts in its neighborhood, Turkey needs tourism revenues to meet its foreign exchange needs. My only concern is that the purchase of houses should not be made open to abuse as it needs to be monitored closely with a strict regulation. I have heard so many cases where people sell their houses after getting citizenship to take benefits from this sector,” he said.

After the government recently revealed a new package to provide cheaper housing loans, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that property prices in Turkey should be tightly monitored.


One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan
Updated 21 May 2022

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan
  • The victim, who was not identified, died as a result of "a bullet to the chest" in the capital's twin city of Omdurman
  • Saturday's protests came after thousands took to the streets Thursday to oppose the power grab

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces killed one protester on Saturday during renewed demonstrations against a military takeover that derailed a transition to civilian rule last year, medics said.
The victim, who was not identified, died as a result of “a bullet to the chest” in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement.
The latest death brings to 96 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests which have taken place regularly since the October 25 military putsch led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the committee said.
Saturday’s protests came after thousands took to the streets Thursday to oppose the power grab, mainly in Khartoum but also elsewhere, renewing demands for civilian rule.
About 100 people were injured during Thursday’s demonstrations, according to the doctors’ committee.
At the same time two leading anti-coup figures from Sudan’s Communist Party were arrested. They were released on Friday.
The United Nations, along with the African Union and regional bloc IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis after the latest coup in the northeast African country, one of the world’s poorest.
But civilian forces have refused to enter negotiations involving the military, while Burhan has repeatedly threatened to expel UN envoy Volker Perthes, accusing him of “interference” in the country’s affairs.
In late March Perthes said Sudan was heading toward “an economic and security collapse” unless its civilian-led transition was restored.


Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report
Updated 21 May 2022

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

Kuwait ministry captures Iranian ship with 240 tons of smuggled diesel: report

DUBAI: Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior has seized an Iranian ship carrying 240 tons of smuggled diesel, a report by Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV said Saturday. 

The ministry said it has seized the ship in territorial waters and has arrested its crew members, who were Iranian. 

It said the Iranian ship crew were buying fuel from smaller ships at certain prices. 

The ministry also said an investigation is underway to reveal all the circumstances of the smuggling incident.