Dozens wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound

Update Dozens wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound
Palestinian youths hurled stones toward police at a gate leading into the compound, according to two Palestinian witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns. (AP)
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Updated 22 April 2022

Dozens wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound

Dozens wounded in clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa compound
  • UN voices deep concern at worsening violence between Israel and the Palestinians
  • Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas left in a difficult position by actions of coalition  

RAMALLAH: The UN voiced deep concern at the worsening violence between Israel and the Palestinians, as clashes erupted again at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Friday.

“We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Palestinian medics said at least 57 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police at the compound on Friday.

People were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets, along with dozens of cases of suffocation, during a raid by Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Jerusalem earlier reported that its crews dealt with 31 injuries caused by rubber-coated metal bullets, including two serious injuries.

The Israeli police arrested a young man with bullet wounds from the mosque’s courtyard, restricting access to the mosque for worshippers.

Nearly 150,000 Palestinians performed the third and penultimate Friday prayer of Ramadan at Al-Aqsa, despite the restrictions imposed on the checkpoints at the entrances to Jerusalem and in the city’s streets.

Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that tens of thousands were able to arrive and perform Friday prayers, despite the violence at the compound.

“We expected that the number of worshipers on the third Friday of Ramadan would reach more than 300,000, but the Israeli restrictions and barriers prevented that,” he told Arabs News.

The Israeli authorities had imposed a strict security closure on the Palestinian Territories from April 21-23, which prevented Palestinians from entering Israel, even with permits, but relented for those over the age of 50 and with permits ahead of Friday prayers.

Dozens of citizens, including women and children, were suffocated after tear gas canisters were fired at the mosque  compound from Israeli drones.

The Israeli Channel 12 reported that a high-level Israeli-Jordanian meeting would be held after Ramadan to discuss the situation.

The police deployed 3,000 personnel in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and the surrounding streets leading to the mosque in anticipation of trouble. The Israeli government has also indicated that it intends to stop Jewish visits to Al-Aqsa Mosque from Friday until the end of Ramadan.

“The Israeli authorities informed us officially through Jordanian channels that Jewish visits to Al-Aqsa would be stopped until the end of Eid Al-Fitr on May 7,” Al-Kiswani confirmed to Arab News.

The continuation of Israeli security operations at Al-Aqsa has posed problems for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition government.

On April 17, the United Arab List suspended its participation in the coalition in protest against Israeli security operations during the second weekend of Ramadan, coinciding with Passover.

Intensified operations at the Al-Aqsa compound throughout Ramadan and potentially during the Nakba and Jerusalem Day commemorations on May 15 and 28-29 will further pressure the list to consider permanent withdrawal, precipitating the collapse of the coalition, which lost its majority after Idit Silman’s resignation on April 6.

The Palestinians believe Bennet’s government has demonstrated that its policy is based on accepting the temporal division of Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews, as happened previously with the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

Given the importance and sensitivity of the issue of Al-Aqsa Mosque, it would be embarrassing for Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas to remain in a government responsible for such a division, given his faction’s opposition to it.

Many of the 1.5 million Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship believe Abbas has fallen victim to a political trap by Bennett.

May 8 will be the real test after the Knesset returns from its holiday, and it seems Bennett is not confident of his coalition’s survival.

Political experts believe the coalition may collapse in the second half of May.

Israeli and Arab political affairs expert Mohammed Darawsheh told Arab News that Bennett’s “right-wing positions were known to us before, but his extreme right-wing performance surprised us a lot, as he tries to restore his legitimacy in the Israeli right-wing frameworks.”

Bennett’s policies, especially toward the Arabs and Al-Aqsa Mosque, have put Abbas in a difficult place.

At the same time, many Palestinians believe Abbas’s response is late, arguing that if he had had a political vision, he would have set clear limits for Bennett before things escalated.

Darawsheh said: “Abbas is in a bad situation and needs a miracle to save him, and suspension of his participation in the Knesset is not a political maneuver but rather an attempt to delay the government’s fall. But Abbas’s stay in the government would constitute suicide for him and the movement that supports him.

“Abbas entered the government at an economic price without even asking for the legislation of an equality law or amending or cancelling the racist national law. However, he did not achieve any economic achievement,” he added.

“Abbas thought that Arab society would accept an equation of money in exchange for dignity, but he learned a harsh lesson when he realized that the Arab society belongs to his national cause more than he belongs to his pocket.”

In a statement by the spokesperson for the UNHCR on the situation obtained by Arab News on Friday, deep concerns were raised about the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month.

“Last weekend saw Israeli security forces injure around 180 Palestinians, including at least 27 children, during tensions in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The witnessed conduct of Israeli security forces on April 15, captured in numerous videos, raises serious concerns that the use of force was widespread, unnecessary, and indiscriminate,” it said.

“Several Palestinians, including elderly, women, children and at least one journalist, did not appear to pose any threat to the Israeli security forces in any manner.

“The use of force in law enforcement operations is strictly limited and governed by international norms and standards. The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently and transparently investigated.

“Those responsible for any violations should be held to account, and policies and procedures on using force reviewed to avoid any further violations. The tension in Jerusalem has impacted other areas as between April 18-21, Palestinian armed groups launched six rockets and one mortar shell toward Israel.”


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
  • The Cabinet shake-up was approved by parliament in an emergency session and affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries
  • President El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly

CAIRO : An emergency session of parliament on Saturday approved several cabinet changes in Egypt’s first major reshuffle since 2019, with 13 ministers moved, the National Media Authority reported.
A statement said the House of Representatives had approved “all the nominations set forth in a letter from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding a ministerial reshuffle.”
El-Sisi’s official Facebook page said the president had urged parliament to discuss the changes in the more than 30-strong cabinet, which were agreed following consultations with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli.
The president said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
There has been only one reshuffle since Madbouli took office in 2018, in December 2019.
Following parliamentary approval, the new ministers are now expected to be sworn in.
The reshuffle does not include the key defense, interior, finance or foreign ministries.
But it does appoint new ministers of health, tourism and antiquities, commerce and industry, irrigation, civil aviation, immigration, education, higher education, military production, manpower, public business sector, culture and local development.
Banker Ahmed Issa took over the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, replacing Khaled Al-Anani who led Egypt’s efforts in recent years to revive the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy. Such efforts included displaying ancient discoveries, opening new museums to attract international tourists.
Hani Sweilam, professor of water resources management at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University, was named as Irrigation Minister. He replaced Mohammed Abdel-Aty who oversaw years of technical negations with Ethiopia over its controversial dam on the Nile River’s main tributary.
The decision to replace outgoing irrigation minister Aty comes just a day after Addis Ababa announced it had finished its third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The Ethiopian water project damming the Nile is proceeding without agreement from downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The new irrigation minister is Hani Sewilam, a professor of sustainable development and water resources management at the American University in Cairo.
He assumes the post amid increasing fears over water security and an impending water crisis.
Other notable swaps include tourism and antiquities. Khaled Anani is credited with several high-profile attempts to revive Egypt’s vital tourism industry, and he is succeeded by Ahmed Issa Abu Hussein.
The health portfolio has been filled by Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the acting minister since October.
Abdel Ghaffar’s former post of higher education minister will be filled by his deputy, Ayman Ashour.
Another notable appointment is Egyptian Air Force chief Mohamed Abbas Helmy, who takes on the civil aviation portfolio.
The government has held talks in recent months with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan to support its reform program and to help address challenges caused by the war in Europe. The government has received pledges from wealthy Arab Gulf nations for billions of dollars in investments, some of which are for private industry.
(With AFP and AP)


15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 13 August 2022

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.