Palestinians feeling the pinch as prices soar

The Islamic Awqaf Department in East Jerusalem has completed preparations for Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque, including arrangements for worshippers, planning of religious sessions and free meals. (Supplied)
The Islamic Awqaf Department in East Jerusalem has completed preparations for Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque, including arrangements for worshippers, planning of religious sessions and free meals. (Supplied)
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Updated 01 April 2022

Palestinians feeling the pinch as prices soar

The Islamic Awqaf Department in East Jerusalem has completed preparations for Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque, including arrangements for worshippers, planning of religious sessions and free meals. (Supplied)
  • Wage cuts, rising food costs add up to an anxious Ramadan, experts say

RAMALLAH: Growing numbers of Palestinians are struggling to prepare for Ramadan in the face of soaring prices for essential items and rising jobless rates, consumer experts warn.

An unprecedented wave of increases in the cost of basic commodities and fuel in recent weeks, together with pressure on incomes, have left many in the Palestinian territories increasingly anxious on the eve of the holy month.

Incomes have failed to keep pace with the hefty price rises, an added burden for both middle and low-income families.

With the Palestinian Authority experiencing a worsening financial crisis, about 140,000 public workers have been paid only 75-80 percent of their monthly salary at a time when many face added social duties and additional expenses that come with Ramadan.

A senior Palestinian official told Arab News that the government will decide the value and percentage of what it pays to its employees based on the amount it receives in tax funds collected by Israel on its behalf.

Unfortunately, during Ramadan, the price of meat, poultry and vegetables will rise dramatically, which is an unjustified increase.

Salah Haniyeh, Head of Palestinian Consumer Protection Association

“The government understands the employees’ obligations during Ramadan, and is making the utmost efforts to alleviate their suffering and economic hardship,” he said.

Meat, vegetables and everyday items, as well as medicines, have become more expensive after authorities failed to curb the price spiral.

At the same time, there are growing fears of significant increases in the cost of fuel because of the Palestinian market’s ties with the Israeli economy, which is also feeling the strain amid the global pressure on energy prices.

Salah Haniyeh, head of the Palestinian Consumer Protection Association, told Arab News that Palestinians’ purchasing power has declined dramatically ahead of Ramadan, with public employees receiving limited salaries, and joblessness and poverty in the Palestinian territories also high.

The association had worked with the Ministry of National Economy to delay price increases until the end of Ramadan, and also coordinated with the chambers of commerce and the governorates to monitor prices during the celebrations, he said.

“Unfortunately, during Ramadan, the price of meat, poultry and vegetables will rise dramatically, which is an unjustified increase.”

The consumer protection association has set up a social media page and phone numbers to handle consumer complaints. These will be transferred to the authorities to follow up and take action against violators, he said.

However, Haniyeh said that basic foodstuffs, such as flour and wheat, are in good supply, and that authorities have issued new livestock import licenses to meet demand during Ramadan.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Awqaf Department in East Jerusalem has completed preparations for Ramadan at Al-Aqsa Mosque, including arrangements for worshippers, planning of religious sessions and distribution of free meals.

A team of paramedics will be on hand to provide immediate medical assistance if needed, while the Palestinian Red Crescent Society has allocated 23 ambulances to Al-Aqsa on Fridays.

Referring to what he described as Israeli settlers’ incursions into Al-Aqsa, a senior department official told the Arab News: “We hope that the Israeli government and the police will be wise and prevent any provocation to the feelings of Muslims coming to the mosque.”

Israeli authorities have promised to provide facilities for almost 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank during Ramadan, allowing worshippers to visit Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers.

However, following a security crackdown amid a wave of terror attacks on Israeli civilians, some facilities have yet to approved.

 


Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
Updated 57 min 55 sec ago

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians

Iran ready to swap prisoners, urges US to free jailed Iranians
  • Iran called on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows”

DUBAI: Iran is ready to swap prisoners with the United States, its foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying on Wednesday, calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to “act instead of performing theatrical shows.”
Tehran has sought the release of over a dozen Iranians in the United States, including seven Iranian-American dual nationals, two Iranians with permanent US residency and four Iranian citizens with no legal status in the United States.
“We are ready to swap prisoners with Washington ... The US must release jailed Iranian citizens without any conditions,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying.
On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that Siamak Namazi had now spent 2,500 days “wrongfully detained” in Iran and Washington was determined to secure the freedom of all Americans held by its Middle East adversary.
Kanaani spoke as Tehran and Washington sought to revive a 2015 nuclear pact after lengthy negotiations. The European Union and United States said on Tuesday they were studying Iran’s response to what the EU has called its “final” proposal to save the deal, after Tehran called on Washington to show flexibility.


Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic relations

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic relations
Updated 38 min 55 sec ago

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic relations

Israel, Turkey to restore full diplomatic relations

JERUSALEM: Israel and Turkey have decided to restore full diplomatic ties and will return ambassadors to each other’s country following a steady improvement in relations, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office said on Wednesday.
“Upgrading relations will contribute to deepening ties between the two peoples, expanding economic, trade, and cultural ties, and strengthening regional stability,” the statement said.


Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change
Updated 17 August 2022

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

Egypt’s FM addresses Caribbean meeting on climate change

CAIRO: In his capacity as president-designate of the 27th UN Climate Change Conference, Egypt’s foreign minister delivered a speech via video at the opening of a Caribbean regional meeting on climate change, hosted by the Bahamas.

Sameh Shoukry presented Egypt’s vision for the UN conference and the most prominent topics on its agenda.

He stressed the importance of shifting from promises to implementation, and of mobilizing the necessary support for global climate action.

Shoukry highlighted the need to support developing countries, including island nations, against the repercussions of climate change.

Before participating in the meeting, he held a video conference call with the Bahamas’ Prime Minister Philip Davis.


Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive
Updated 17 August 2022

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive

Syria denies holding US journalist Tice captive
  • US is certain Tice is being held by the government of President Bashar Assad

DAMASCUS: The Syrian government on Wednesday denied holding American nationals captive, including journalist Austin Tice who was abducted a decade ago in Damascus.
It issued a statement in response to US President Jo Biden saying last week that he knows “with certainty” that Tice “has been held by the Syrian regime,” and calling on Damascus to help bring him home.
The foreign ministry denied the accusation in a statement carried by the official SANA news agency.
“The Syrian Arab Republic denies that it has kidnapped or forcibly disappeared any American citizen who entered its territory or resided in areas under its authority,” the statement said.
It said it would only accept “official dialogue or communication with the American administration if the talks are public and premised on a respect for Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on August 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he went missing, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later, but there has been little news of him since.
Biden’s statement came on the tenth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“There is no higher priority in my administration than the recovery and return of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden said.
The previous administration under Donald Trump sent a White House official on a rare mission to Damascus in 2020, aiming to seek Tice’s freedom.
But that mission yielded no visible results.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to the journalist’s recovery.


Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report
Updated 17 August 2022

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

Egypt to release 25 pretrial detainees: report

CAIRO: Egypt will release 25 pretrial detainees pending investigations on Wednesday, according to a member of the Presidential Pardon Committee. 

The group of pretrial detainees are to be released within around 24 hours, said Tarek El-Kholy, as quoted by Ahlam Online.   

This will be the latest batch of pretrial detainees released pending investigations.

The Presidential Pardon Committee is mandated to review the cases of pretrial detainees for political crimes.

El-Kholy previously noted in an interview with The Africa Report that only individuals who have not participated in violent acts or killed military personnel or civilians will be considered for pardon.  

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi re-affirmed on several occasions that Egypt holds no political prisoners and that the government promotes respect for human rights.