Palestinians offer Jerusalem Friday prayers in solidarity with eviction families 

A member of the Israeli security forces pulls a Palestinian woman during a protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, February 18, 2022. (Reuters)
A member of the Israeli security forces pulls a Palestinian woman during a protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, February 18, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 February 2022

Palestinians offer Jerusalem Friday prayers in solidarity with eviction families 

A member of the Israeli security forces pulls a Palestinian woman during a protest in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, February 18, 2022. (Reuters)
  • Tensions are increasing ahead of approaching implementation date of order to evict the Palestinian families
  • Evictees will be replaced with Jewish settlers under the plan

RAMALLAH: Dozens of Palestinians performed Friday prayers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem in a display of solidarity with families facing eviction by Israeli authorities in the area. 

The groups were provoked by opposition protests, who raised Israeli flags and insulted them.

The calls for evictions have been led by the extremist member of the Knesset, Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party who moved his office to the neighborhood six days ago. 

Ekrima Said Sabri, head of the Supreme Islamic Council, said in the Friday sermon: “The steadfastness of the people of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is a protection for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Denouncing the attempts to expel the residents from their homes, he added that the Jerusalemites are facing injustice and racial discrimination.

Israeli police officers were deployed to the streets of the sensitive neighborhood, cordoning entrances and the ​​prayer area. 

Police checkpoints were established throughout the neighborhood, while the Israeli Defense Force has reinforced its deployed forces across the West Bank in preparation for a Friday of anger called for by the Palestinians.

Palestinian citizens traveled from within the Green Line, Jerusalem and the West Bank to support the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in response to calls by activists and religious and national bodies.

Sareen Jabarin, a political activist from Umm Al-Fahm, who was on a bus with a group of fellow activists, told Arab News: “We are going to support our people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and what they are subjected to — ethnic cleansing and eviction of their homes — because of the apartheid policy pursued by the Israeli government.”

Jabarin, who participated in similar demonstrations last year, added that she would continue to protest against attempts to displace Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah.

Tensions are increasing ahead of the approaching implementation date of the order to evict the Palestinian families from their residences in the neighborhood and replace them with Jewish settlers. The violent action is expected in March.

The move has raised anger and concern not only among Palestinian groups but also among Arab and Islamic countries, international organizations and the EU.

In a tweet on Feb. 18, an EU delegation expressed its concern over ongoing developments in Sheikh Jarrah. It said that “incidents of settler violence, irresponsible provocations” and other acts in the neighborhood “only fuel "further tensions and must cease.”

The issue has united Jerusalemites of different religious and political affiliations to defend those threatened with eviction.

Palestinian activists from the neighborhood told Arab News that some social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook had blocked their accounts for highlight the controversial events that are taking place.

Fatah leader in East Jerusalem, Hatem Abdel Qader, said the people’s “presence today is to respond to the provocation from Knesset member Ben Gvir and the Israeli police that are trying to provoke Jerusalemites and are trying to create an environment that expels Jerusalemites from their homes.”

Meanwhile, a UN statement said: “The announcement of the scheduled eviction has recently raised tension in the Jerusalem neighborhood, with clashes involving Palestinian residents, Israeli settlers, and Israeli security forces resulting in property damage, multiple injuries and arrests, including the arrest of eight children since Feb. 11.”

Families have been subjected to attacks with pepper spray and stones resulting in injury and property damage, the UN added.

There are 218 Palestinian families, comprising 970 individuals, including 424 children, living in East Jerusalem, mainly in the neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, that are currently facing the threat of forced eviction by the Israeli authorities.

“The United Nations has repeatedly called for a halt to forced evictions and demolitions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem: Under international humanitarian law, forcible transfers of protected persons by the occupying power are forbidden regardless of their motive,” the statement said.

“Active steps must be taken to de-escalate the situation before another crisis erupts; we urge all political and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric. Israeli authorities must take steps to ensure the protection of civilians, including Palestine refugees,” it added.


Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations
Updated 10 sec ago

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations

Gaza’s economic crisis puts a damper on Eid celebrations
  • Commercial activity is unlikely to show much improvement during the Eid Al-Adha season as people further tighten their spending

GAZA CITY: Samira Shamali will not buy Eid clothes for her four children because of worsening economic conditions in Gaza, with businesses struggling to stay afloat, rising poverty and unemployment, and skyrocketing prices.

Commercial activity is unlikely to show much improvement during the Eid Al-Adha season as people further tighten their spending, say analysts.

“There are more (important) priorities than new clothes for Eid,” said Shamali. “I will only buy basic necessities so that we can celebrate Eid and receive guests. Prices are all on the rise, and our income is limited.”

The 47-year-old mother’s oldest child is 16 and the youngest seven.

In contrast, Mahmoud Al-Talouli, 33, has decided he will buy clothes for his children. He was out shopping with his wife and two daughters on Omar Al-Mukhtar Street in the Rimal area in search of suitable clothing.

“My two daughters are young, and they don’t know if the economic conditions are tough or good, so I can’t (have) Eid pass without buying them clothes,” said Al-Talouli, who is a carpenter and works for daily wages.

“The economic conditions are difficult, but the children should rejoice. Aren’t the difficult conditions and wars they witness sufficient (unhappiness) for them? At least (they should have a) celebration during the Eid period.”

The Gaza Strip has unemployment of over 45 percent due to the Israeli blockade.

About 80 percent of its population depends on food aid provided by UNRWA and international institutions, according to official UN reports.

Although Israel allowed about 12,000 workers from the Gaza Strip to work in the country after the last war in May last year, they were not better-paying jobs.

Hamed Jad, an economist and director of Al-Ayyam newspaper’s office in the Gaza Strip, believes that these workers are paying off old debt, and because of the uncertain job situation, are forced to save what little money is left over.

“The number of workers is limited, and the Gaza Strip has been (having these) harsh economic conditions for many years. Those who have money are afraid of the future. The political and security conditions are unstable,” Jad told Arab News.

The economy of the Gaza Strip depends mainly on the salaries of those working for the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza.

About 50,000 workers and retirees in the Gaza Strip receive salaries and pensions from the Palestinian Authority, while about 40,000 are employed by the Hamas government in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority has not yet paid the salaries of its employees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip because of the economic crisis. Payments are likely to be made on Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced on Monday.

Basem Skaik, a women’s clothing merchant, stood in front of the door of his shop, complaining about the lack of customers during the Eid season.

“The economy in Gaza has been suffering for years, (there is) security instability, high prices for most commodities, and instability in the exchange rate of the dollar, which increases prices for the consumer, reasons that may limit (people’s) purchasing (power),” Skaik told Arab News.

“We are merchants, but at the same time we live in Gaza and we also have needs. Many merchants and shop owners closed the doors of their stores, and some of them were imprisoned because they were unable to pay their debts,” he added.


Weathering sandstorms, Iraqis grit teeth and battle on

Weathering sandstorms, Iraqis grit teeth and battle on
Updated 20 min 16 sec ago

Weathering sandstorms, Iraqis grit teeth and battle on

Weathering sandstorms, Iraqis grit teeth and battle on

BAGHDAD: Another sandstorm has darkened Iraqi skies and it’s hard to breathe, but Baghdad motorcycle delivery rider Milad Mitti doesn’t have the luxury of missing a day’s work.

Like most people in the now blistering hot desert country, the 30-year-old battles on in frustration, wearing goggles and a grey neck warmer over his mouth and nose “so I can breathe.”

Iraq, still recovering from decades of war, is now facing new environment challenges on an unprecedented scale: Since mid-April it has weathered a dozen dust storms that have often shrouded it in an otherworldly orange glow.

Thousands have been rushed to hospitals so far, and on Sunday, as has happened many times in recent weeks, airports were again forced to delay flights for hours due to the poor visibility.

Most Iraqis never bothered with face masks when the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, but they do now.

“This is probably the first year that Iraq has had so many sandstorms,” said Mitti in a busy square in the center of the sprawling capital, which was baking in 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) heat.

“It is very difficult to see,” he said. “It’s suffocating. It’s hot. You have to drink juice and liquids to protect yourself.”

A married man, he said he relies on the job which pays him about $600 a month.

“I have a family,” he said. “I have responsibilities.”

On the deserted terrace of a cafe in the capital, the black faux-leather chairs were once more covered with a film of dust.

A waiter, with a brown apron tied around his waist, wiped them with a wet cloth, then hosed down the floor with water.

In May, the sandstorms sent at least 10,000 people to hospitals with respiratory problems, claiming at least one life.

Many patients were elderly or suffering from asthma, other respiratory ailments or heart disease, the most at-risk groups.

After Sunday’s dust storm, more than 500 people were rushed to hospitals across the country for respiratory problems, Health Ministry spokesman Seif Al-Badr said Monday.

At his Baghdad hospital, doctor Seif Ali Abdel-Hamza saw four patients on Sunday, as this time the sandstorm in the capital lasted just hours, not days.

“The more intense the storms get — the more storm days you have, as it has been the case in recent weeks — the more cases of choking there will be,” said the chief resident at Al-Kindy Hospital.

“The majority of patients suffer from chronic diseases, such as asthma or allergic bronchitis; the majority are elderly.”


Pressure to enforce death penalty mounts in Jordan after brutal murders

Policemen stand guard outside the State Security Court in the Jordanian capital Amman. (AFP)
Policemen stand guard outside the State Security Court in the Jordanian capital Amman. (AFP)
Updated 48 min 31 sec ago

Pressure to enforce death penalty mounts in Jordan after brutal murders

Policemen stand guard outside the State Security Court in the Jordanian capital Amman. (AFP)
  • Veteran MP calls on govt to ‘act with complete sovereignty to protect national security’
  • University student Iman Ersheid, 18, shot to death on campus last week

AMMAN: Public anger in Jordan over a series of murders described as “stomach-churning” has led to growing calls for the enforcement of the death penalty.

There are 219 convicts on death row in Jordan, including 22 women.

In February 2019, Jordanian MPs passed an amnesty law, the third of its kind since King Abdullah II took office in 1999.

Under the law, about 8,000 prisoners were pardoned, including people convicted of crimes ranging from slander, abuse, cybercrimes and tax evasion.

The crimes of murder, espionage and formation of illegal entities were not included in the law.

In response to an inquiry by veteran MP Saleh Armouti, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the longest serving death row inmate was convicted of murder in June 1976.

He added that if a complaint against a prisoner convicted of murder is withdrawn, their sentence is reduced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

His statement came days after Jordanian university student Iman Ersheid, 18, was reportedly shot dead on campus in a crime that has shaken Jordanian society.

Many Jordanians took to the social media after Ersheid’s killing last Thursday, demanding that the young nursing student’s killer receive the maximum punishment.

However, the killer, identified as Oday Khaled Abdallah Hassan, shot himself after being surrounded by police.

Before Hassan’s death came to light, some members of the public demanded that he be hanged in public.

Armouti, in his inquiry, accused the government of interfering in the judiciary by failing to execute death penalty court orders.

The veteran MP, who is also an established lawyer and former president of the Jordanian Bar Association, said that families and associates of murder victims have “all the right to see justice fully served and criminals receive the punishment for their heinous crimes.”

He added that Jordan should not listen to demands to end capital punishment, but should “act with complete sovereignty to protect security.”

Armouti said: “Ending the death penalty is a crime that has severe consequences on national security.”

Since March 2017, Jordan has not carried out any executions but has continued to hand down death sentences. In 2017, authorities hanged 15 convicts on charges related to murder and terrorism.

Jordan previously imposed an eight-year moratorium on capital punishment in 2008. But the policy ended in 2015 when 11 convicts were executed for murder.

Mohammed Eliyyan, a professor of Shariah, echoed Armouti’s remarks on the dangers of ending capital punishment.

He said: “Such punishment is not an end but a moral lesson and warning to people. Knowing that death is the inevitable punishment, one would think ten times before committing a murder.”

Khaled Qudah, a journalist and human rights activist, said that he supported the “gradual abolishment of the death penalty.”

He added: “I believe that capital punishment needs to be abolished, but gradually. And until it is completely ended, we need to adopt the ‘strategic litigation’ that examines the motives of the crimes and not their punishment.

“No one is born criminal. A human is good by nature but maybe the circumstances make him a criminal.”

But Qudah warned that ending capital punishment abruptly would lead to “heinous crimes again innocent people.”

 


Hezbollah drones expose Lebanon to unnecessary risks, say prime minister and foreign minister

A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 30 sec ago

Hezbollah drones expose Lebanon to unnecessary risks, say prime minister and foreign minister

A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
  • Plans drafted to ensure repatriation of 15,000 Syrian refugees a month

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister and foreign minister have criticized Hezbollah for sending three drones over an Israeli gas installation last week, saying any interference in US-mediated talks to demarcate the country’s maritime border with Israel was “unacceptable.”

The comments followed the movement’s launch of unarmed reconnaissance drones on Saturday toward the offshore Karish gas field.

Lebanon announced its official “rejection of the incident, which took place outside the framework of the state's responsibility and the diplomatic context, especially since the indirect negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders are underway and the efforts from US mediator Amos Hochstein have reached advanced stages.”

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdullah Bouhabib on Monday affirmed Lebanon’s support for Hochstein’s efforts to reach a solution that preserved “Lebanese rights in full and with complete clarity, and the demand to speed up the pace of negotiations.”

“Lebanon is counting on continued American efforts to support it, preserve its rights to its water wealth, and restore its economic and social strength,” they said. “Lebanon considers that any action outside the framework of the state's responsibility and the diplomatic context in which negotiations are taking place is unacceptable and exposes it to unnecessary dangers.

“Therefore, we call upon all parties to show a spirit of high national responsibility and abide by the previous declaration, which states that everyone without exception is behind the state in the negotiation process.”

The official position included the demand to stop the “continuous Israeli violations of Lebanon's sovereignty by sea, land, and air.”

Lebanon’s position on the drone incident is advanced, especially since Hezbollah and its allies still constitute a majority in authority.

The anti-Hezbollah grouping Our Lady of the Mountain Gathering, which includes political and intellectual figures, said the movement’s drone launch came hours after it leaked information about the Israeli response to Lebanon’s proposals on the maritime border demarcation that had been handed to Hochstein.

“This confirms that Hezbollah, which previously announced that it is behind the decision of the Lebanese state in the matter of demarcating the maritime borders in the south, is actually behind Iran's decision to demarcate the borders of its influence in the region, and the Lebanese demarcation file is nothing but a card in its (Hezbollah's) hands, on behalf of Iran and above the interests of the afflicted Lebanese people,” it added.

Reports said that Hochstein had made progress on the possibility of moving the indirect negotiations again after Lebanese authorities, represented by President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Mikati, abandoned the demand for Line 29 and the adoption of Line 23.

Lebanon has been unable to confirm that Line 29 — which includes the Karish gas field — is the maritime border of Lebanon due to the failure of Aoun to sign a draft amendment to Decree 6433.

It was issued in 2011 and specified that Line 23 was the point for negotiations with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders. However, Aoun considers Line 29 to be the point for negotiations.

Line 29 gives Lebanon an additional area estimated at 1,430 square km while, according to the decree deposited with the UN, Lebanon only gets 860 square km of the disputed area.

Lebanon is also dealing with the issue of Syrian refugees, with Aoun seeking to achieve a breakthrough before the end of his term in October.

The minister of the displaced in the caretaker government, Issam Sharaf El-Din, affirmed Lebanon's “total rejection of Syrian refugees not returning to their country after the war ended and it became safe.”

After meeting Aoun, Sharaf El-Din said that Lebanon planned to repatriate 15,000 displaced people per month.

He referred to proposals submitted by Lebanon to UNHCR regional director Ayaki Ito, who promised to refer the issue to his superiors and get a written answer.

The minister also referred to a plan to form a tripartite committee with the Syrian state and the UNHCR, and a four-party committee with Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan to achieve repatriation targets.

He claimed to be in touch with the Syrian side and said it was extending its hand to cooperate and facilitate the repatriation in a dignified and safe manner.

“There was an understanding with the regional director of the UNHCR regarding the request for the Syrian state to establish a tripartite committee that includes the Syrian state, the Lebanese state, and the UNHCR. If this committee is established, we will have made an important step. We proposed that the refugees receive material and in-kind assistance in Syria. Unfortunately, this was not accepted.

“We asked the UNHCR to stop aid for the 15,000 refugees whose turn comes to return to their country every month because paying aid to them in Lebanon is an incentive for them to stay in Lebanon.”

Sharaf El-Din said there was a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon, who was understanding and cooperative.

“We agreed on the gradual repatriation based on village-by-village or district-by-district.”

He said the Turkish side had an idea to establish a safe zone where refugees would return, but it was a political issue that Lebanon had nothing to do with.

“However, we agreed to form a quadripartite committee that includes the Turkish state, which hosts 3,700,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon, which hosts 1,500,000 refugees, Iraq, which hosts 170,000 refugees, and Jordan, which hosts 670,000 refugees, so that there will be a unified demand with UN agencies to facilitate the repatriation of refugees humanely.”

 


Yemen’s Taiz braced for new Houthi attacks

Yemen’s Taiz braced for new Houthi attacks
Updated 04 July 2022

Yemen’s Taiz braced for new Houthi attacks

Yemen’s Taiz braced for new Houthi attacks
  • Militia responsible for stoking humanitarian crisis in Yemen, displacing thousands, recruiting, indoctrinating juveniles: Official tells US envoy

AL-MUKALLA: Military officials and residents in Yemen’s city of Taiz are bracing themselves for intensified attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis after the militia group mobilized new fighters, heavy artillery, and military vehicles outside the city.

Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military officer in Taiz, told Arab News on Monday that the Houthis had deployed extra forces and equipment on all fronts outside the strategic city and that intelligence reports suggested they were preparing to launch more aggressive attacks and shelling on the city and military locations controlled by government troops.

He said: “They have brought in big military reinforcements to Taiz, including fighters, military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, heavy machine guns, and sniper rifles with night vision sight.”

Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, has been under a choking siege since early 2015 after the Houthis blocked its main entrances, barring people from leaving or entering the city and preventing vital humanitarian assistance from reaching thousands of needy inhabitants.

Under a UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2, the Houthis were supposed to partially ease the siege by opening a main road and several small secondary roads after the Yemeni government facilitated the departure of commercial flights from Sanaa airport and allowed fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports.

UN-sponsored discussions on opening roads in Taiz reached a stalemate as the Houthis refused to cooperate and insisted on opening only small and unpaved roads leading into and out Taiz.

Al-Baher noted that seven civilians and 13 soldiers had been killed and at least 100 civilians wounded since April 2 as the Houthis broke the terms of the truce on 2,849 occasions through missile and drone attacks and the deployment of forces.

“Our information says that the militia is planning attacks during Eid days (next week),” he added.

On Monday morning, explosions rocked the western and northern outskirts of Taiz after Yemeni government troops pushed back a Houthi assault and responded to shelling on their positions in Madrat and near an air-defense military base.

During the early hours, the Houthis used tanks and artillery fire to bombard an air-defense base in northwest Taiz before sending in ground troops to seize control of new areas.

Al-Baher said that government troops fired back at the Houthi positions and forced the ground troops to retreat.

Separately, during a meeting in Riyadh on Sunday, Othman Mujalli, a member of the Presidential Leadership Council, told the US envoy to Yemen, Steven Fagin, that the Houthis had been responsible for stoking up the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, displacing thousands of Yemenis, and recruiting and indoctrinating the country’s juveniles.

And he signaled the use of military operations to defeat the Houthis if they did not cooperate with peace efforts to end the war.

“Defeating the Houthi militarily is possible. Today the international community wants peace, and we want peace, but the militias refused to open a road that has existed for 40 years in Taiz,” Mujalli said, according to the official news agency SABA.