15-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

An member of the Israeli security forces mans a position during scuffles with Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank town of Hauwara, on May 27, 2022. (AFP)
An member of the Israeli security forces mans a position during scuffles with Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank town of Hauwara, on May 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2022

15-year-old Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

A member of the Israeli security forces mans a position during scuffles with Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank
  • US secretary of state stresses importance of concluding Israeli probe into Abu Akleh’s killing

JERUSALEM, WASHINGTON: The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager on Friday during an operation in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The ministry identified the slain teen as Zaid Ghunaim, 15. It said he was wounded by Israeli gunfire in the neck and back and that doctors failed to save his life.
The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in the past month.
Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified in recent weeks with near-daily arrest raids in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and tensions around a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, cited witnesses as saying Ghunaim came upon the soldiers in Al-Khader and tried to run away but the troops fired at him.

SPEEDREAD

Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified in recent weeks with near-daily arrest raids in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and tensions around a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

Online videos purportedly of the shooting’s aftermath show bloodstains near a white car parked in a passageway.
The Israeli military, which has stepped up its operations in the West Bank in response to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, said soldiers opened fire at Palestinians who threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, endangering the troops.
“The soldiers provided an injured suspect with initial treatment at the scene” before transferring him to Palestinian medics, the military said in a statement.
Palestinian Premier Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israeli forces “deliberately” shot at Ghunaim with the intention to kill him.
On Sunday, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City of Jerusalem. The compound houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The hilltop site is also the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.
Separately, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Friday to Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and stressed the importance of concluding Israel’s probes into the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
“Secretary Blinken underscored the importance of concluding the investigations into the death of Palestinian-American Shireen Abu Akleh,” the US State Department said in a statement.
The Palestinian Authority said earlier that its investigation showed that Abu Akleh was shot by an Israeli soldier in a “deliberate murder.”
Israel denied the accusation and said it was continuing its own investigations.
Abu Akleh was shot dead on May 11 while she was covering an Israeli military raid in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
She had been wearing a helmet and a press vest that clearly marked her as a journalist.
Israeli police officers, on May 13, charged at Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Abu Akleh, before thousands led her casket through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outpouring of grief and anger over her killing.
The Israeli Army had said previously that she might have been shot accidentally by one of its soldiers or by a Palestinian militant in an exchange of fire.
Palestinian Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib told reporters that its enquiry showed there had been no militants close to Abu Akleh when she died.
Abu Akleh had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades. Qatar’s Al Jazeera TV Network, which also says Israel had killed the reporter, said it would refer the killing to the International Criminal Court.


Saudi doctor says yoga may be prescription for better health

Saudi doctor says yoga may be prescription for better health
Updated 11 min 14 sec ago

Saudi doctor says yoga may be prescription for better health

Saudi doctor says yoga may be prescription for better health
  • Shaikhah Alorf said that as a preventive physician and yoga instructor, she appreciates the power of lifestyle, movement and mind-body practices

JEDDAH: Yoga is gaining popularity as a fitness trend in Saudi Arabia, and a doctor specializing in preventive medicine and public health believes it is as important as any medication to improve the quality of our lives.

Shaikhah Alorf said that as a preventive physician and yoga instructor, she appreciates the power of lifestyle, movement and mind-body practices, such as yoga, which “bring greater balance into our lives and improve our health.”

Alorf began practicing yoga during the coronavirus pandemic. “During quarantine I was struggling with all what was happening in the world, and I found peace in yoga,” she said.

“I was in my second year of the Saudi Board of Preventive Medicine, preparing for an important exam and working through the pandemic. This created a lot of anxiety and stress, and affected my mental and physical health. I used to do sport, but I noticed that it was another source of stress for me in that period. So, when I started yoga, it felt good, my sleeping started to get better, I started to feel relaxed more and I never stopped until today.”

Alorf said that her love of yoga comes from being a doctor, which prompted her to explore scientific research on the practice.

“I always say that yoga changes the way you deal with every negative thing that happens during your day. We can’t control the bad thing that happens to us, but we can control how we react to it,” she said.

Alorf’s love for yoga is obvious, from encouraging people to opt for a healthy lifestyle to posting yoga tips on her social media account. “I often make sure to spread motivational messages to practice yoga as a sport, and I always say to those around me: Give it 10 minutes a day and you will notice a psychological and physical difference.”

Aside from the physical improvements, one of the greatest benefits of yoga is how it helps people manage stress and anxiety, she said.

Alorf was recently ranked sixth in the the 3rd Online International Yoga championship, which had 170 participants from all over the world. “I feel so happy and blessed. I hope to achieve success in the upcoming international competitions, and this is what I am working on through extensive training.”

She said that people in Saudi Arabia are turning to yoga. “The Saudi Yoga Committee has been playing a major role in promoting yoga. It’s a new sport here, but it’s rising. I can see awareness about yoga is increasing. Taking care of your body and mind is becoming a priority in Saudi Arabia,” she said.

Asked how she focuses on both as a preventive physician and a yoga instructor, she said: “Time is my secret weapon, I love my job and I love yoga, and I find myself in all of them, therefore I am working on improving in both fields. During the day I focus on medical work, and at night I focus on studying and understanding yoga.”


Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen
Updated 19 min 59 sec ago

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen

Lebanon public sector faces paralysis as strikes widen
  • Move to raise customs dollar rate plunges markets into turmoil 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s public sector and legal system are under growing strain amid widening strike action over the plunging value of salaries in the crisis-hit country.

Hundreds of judges continued their strike on Thursday in protest at having their salaries based on exchange rate of 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.

Civil servants have also decided to go on strike again for the same reason, despite being granted monthly aid.

Meanwhile, Lebanese university professors are continuing their open-ended strike, while students wait for work to resume so they can take last year’s final exams.

Lebanon took preliminary steps to raise the customs dollar rate from 1,507 Lebanese pounds — the rate adopted before the economic crisis hit three years ago — to 20,000 pounds.

The move created confusion in markets, adding to the chaos they were already facing.

The customs dollar is the price for calculating the customs value of imports, and is paid in Lebanese pounds.

On Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati sent a letter to Finance Minister Youssef Khalil demanding the customs dollar rate of 20,000 pounds be adopted.

Khalil told an expanded ministerial consultative meeting about the move.

The ministerial committee enjoys exceptional powers that allow it to adjust the customs dollar rate without the need for Cabinet approval.

Amin Salam, the caretaker economy minister, told a press conference on Thursday that the preliminary decision will be the subject of discussions between the finance minister and the central bank governor.

Salam said that the impact of the new customs dollar rate on prices of goods would be “insignificant,” adding that the current rate was no longer fair.

“We want to adjust the wages and salaries of civil servants,” he said.

Salam also voiced fears that traders might store goods to be sold later under the new rate.

“We are waiting for traders to provide us with the lists of goods they purchased previously,” the minister said.

Foodstuffs that will be subject to the customs dollar can be substituted by alternative products available in Lebanon, in order to encourage the industrial sector and the Lebanese industry, he said.

Salam said that expensive cheese and canned vegetables are among products that will be subject to the customs dollar.

He warned traders against pricing old products based on the new customs dollar rate.

The customs dollar is one of the main elements feeding the Lebanese treasury, which receives a percentage of the price of imported goods.

MP Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the parliamentary finance and budget committee, said that he doubted the customs dollar would take into consideration people’s means and needs.

“How can we come up with the customs dollar? What are the covered and non-covered goods, and who is going to monitor the prices?” he asked.

Four rates are currently adopted in Lebanon by the state and banks, in addition to the black market rate, which reached about 33,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on Thursday.

Economic analysts have predicted that the country will witness a new wave of price increases while social security measures are negligible in the face of worsening economic pressures.

Observers are worried that this might encourage smugglers crossing Lebanese-Syrian border.

Hani Bohsali, head of the Food Importers’ Syndicate, told Arab News: “There are no luxury goods anymore. If we want to speak logically and put things in perspective, the interests of Lebanese come before the traders’ interests.”

Bohsali said the customs dollar “will affect oils and canned vegetables, and we are afraid that those demanding a wage increase might request another one after a while.”

He added: “We will all pay the price of and be affected by ill-considered decisions.

“Do we know what the repercussions of increasing the customs dollar are? Is it really going to profit the state? They calculated it based on how things stand currently, but what if the value of importation dropped by half as a result of the Lebanese low purchasing power.”

MP Ziad Hawat said that increasing the rate without a complete economic plan would not achieve the desired objectives.

He called for a consolidation of the exchange rate instead of “stealing people’s deposits.”

 


StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait

StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait
Updated 20 min ago

StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait

StarzPlay partners with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait
  • The telecoms company’s subscribers on selected plans will get free access to the streaming service
  • StarzPlay is one of Virgin’s first partners in Kuwait to offer free subscriptions bundled with mobile plans

DUBAI: Streaming platform StarzPlay has partnered with Virgin Mobile to offer the telecoms company’s subscribers in Kuwait free access to its library of movies and TV shows.

Virgin Mobile users who sign up for selected monthly, six-monthly or annual plans will receive a free StarzPlay subscription. The cost of eligible mobile plans range from 7 Kuwaiti dinars ($23) to 19 dinars a month.

StarzPlay is one of Virgin Mobile’s first partners in Kuwait to offer free subscriptions bundled with mobile plans as a value-added benefit for customers.

“Bolstering our telcos (telecommunications companies) portfolio has been a strong focus for us from the start,” said Raghida Abou Fadel, StarzPlay’s senior vice-president of business development and sales. “Virgin Mobile has been a strong partner for us across the region.”

Last year, for example, StarzPlay partnered with Virgin Mobile in Saudi Arabia to offer free subscriptions to customers with selected plans.

“We want to make content easily accessible for our subscribers in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, and partnering with local telco players offers us a great opportunity to reach and connect with newer audiences,” said Abou Fadel.

Benoit Janin, the CEO of Virgin Mobile, said: “Our continued partnership with StarzPlay highlights our commitment to providing excellence and additional benefits to our customers and we are excited to extend this partnership in Kuwait.”

StarzPlay is home to original shows such as “Baghdad Central,” “Power,” and “Vikings,” among others. It also offers Western classics such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Office,” as well as Arabic and anime content.

It ranks among the region’s top three subscription video-on-demand services, according to the company, and is available in 19 countries across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.


Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen
Updated 12 min 28 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister welcomes agreement to operate Aden hospital in Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman on Thursday congratulated Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council and the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen for signing a contract to operate Aden General Hospital for three years.

SDRPY on Wednesday signed the contract to operate and manage the hospital in the de facto capital and serve 438,000 patients a year, at a cost of more than SR330 million ($87.9 million)

“In continuation of the Kingdom’s efforts to provide support to the Yemeni people in the humanitarian, relief and economic aspects, we congratulate the Presidential Leadership Council in Yemen and SDRPY for signing a contract to operate Aden General Hospital for a period of three years, with a value exceeding SR330 million, to provide health care to the brotherly Yemeni people,” Prince Khalid said in a tweet.

Operations at the hospital will begin within 90 days of completing of staff preparations, taking delivery of medicines and medical equipment, and testing health care devices.

The hospital will operate at 50 percent capacity during its first year of responding to the urgent needs of the people of Aden and neighboring governorates, increasing to full capacity by year two.


A new honeymoon for Turkey-Israel ties may begin with envoy exchange

A new honeymoon for Turkey-Israel ties may begin with envoy exchange
Updated 35 min 37 sec ago

A new honeymoon for Turkey-Israel ties may begin with envoy exchange

A new honeymoon for Turkey-Israel ties may begin with envoy exchange
  • Timing coincides with efforts by both countries to build relationships in region, analyst tells Arab News

ANKARA: Israel and Turkey have announced the upgrading of diplomatic relations and the return of their ambassadors and consuls general after years of strained ties between the two nations. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid greeted such a diplomatic breakthrough as an “important asset for regional stability and very important economic news for the citizens of Israel.

According to Dr. Nimrod Goren, president of the Mitvim Institute and co-founder of Diplomeds — The Council for Mediterranean Diplomacy — the announcement on the upgrading of ties marks a diplomatic success.

"It is the culmination of a gradual process that has taken place over more than a year, during which Israel and Turkey have worked to rebuild trust, launch new dialogue channels, adopt a positive agenda, re-energize cooperation, confront security challenges, and find ways to contain differences," Goren told Arab News.

“Based on these positive developments, restoring relations at the ambassadorial level is now seen as a natural step, perhaps even a long overdue one,” he said. 

“It was important to seal this move before internal politics gets in the way, as elections in both countries are drawing near,” Goren added.

Goren said that the timing also “coincides with efforts by both Israel and Turkey to improve and deepen their various relationships in the region.”

Turkey and Israel, once regional allies, expelled their ambassadors in 2018 over the killing of dozens of Palestinians by Israeli forces during protests along the Gaza border.

Relations were completely frozen after the death of nine Turkish activists over an Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish Mavi Marmara ship in 2010. 

Since then, many attempts have been made to mend ties, especially in the energy sector, and in trade and tourism, which emerged as strategic avenues for cooperation. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli President Isaac Herzog have spoken on the phone several times and Herzog visited Ankara last March. 

As part of mutual trust-building efforts, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also visited Jerusalem in May, marking the first visit to Israel by a Turkish foreign minister in 15 years. His visit was reciprocated by Lapid, then Israeli foreign minister, in June. 

The two countries also cooperated in counter-terrorism efforts following Iranian assassination plots against a Turkish-Israeli businessperson as well as Israeli tourists in Istanbul. Turkey took steps to curtail the movements of Hamas within the country. 

They also signed a civil aviation agreement last month. 

Dr. Gokhan Cinkara, an expert from Necmettin Erbakan University, thinks that shifts in regional geopolitics are the main determinants for Turkey’s new efforts for normalization. 

“The competition between status quo and revisionism in the region is over. Consequently, every country has alternatives and can be replaced, which is also the case for Turkey. Due to the economic crisis and geopolitical deadlock that the country is passing through, it was inevitable for Turkey to search for new options,” he told Arab News.  

“The appointment of diplomats will ensure that bilateral relations will continue to operate under an institutional routine.”  

The ambassador to Israel is expected to be appointed soon. Both countries are also set to hold a joint economic commission meeting in September. 

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that Ankara would continue to support the Palestinian cause. 

“Despite the new chapter in relations, Israel and Turkey still have differences of opinion on key policy issues, including Israeli-Palestinian relations and the Eastern Mediterranean,” Goren said. 

“These differences will not go away, but Israel and Turkey are aware of the need to be sensitive in how they deal with them and to put in place bilateral mechanisms to regularly engage on these issues,” Goren said.

“If Israel and Turkey can somehow support each other on the road to conflict resolution with third countries (e.g., Turkey with Egypt, Israel with the Palestinians) — that will be a major benefit of the new chapter in ties.”

As bilateral relations have been moving on a positive trajectory since Israeli President Herzog’s visit to Ankara, Selin Nasi, London representative of the Ankara Policy Center and a respected researcher on Turkish Israeli relations, pointed to the timing of the envoy exchange. 

“The Israeli side has been taking the process a bit slowly in order to understand whether Ankara was sincere in its efforts to mend fences,” she told Arab News. 

Ankara’s “calm and measured response in the face of tensions in Jerusalem and in Gaza in the last couple of months and its full cooperation with Israeli intelligence against Iranian plots which targeted Israeli citizens in Turkey have seemingly reassured Israel’s concerns,” she said.

Nasi thinks that the ambassadorial exchange shows Turkey and Israel’s willingness to give the normalization process a formal framework, as well as their readiness to move to the next phase. 

“Considering the upcoming elections in Israel in November, normalization of diplomatic ties is likely to provide a shield against the interference of domestic politics,” she said. 

Although Turkey and Israel have managed to turn a new page in bilateral relations, Nasi thinks that it is equally important to see what they are going to write in this new chapter.  

“Both countries have a lot to gain from developing cooperation at a time when the US is shifting its focus and energy to the Pacific region and Iran is about to become a nuclear power,” she said.

“On the other hand, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has put energy security front and center once again. It revived hopes that the pipeline project that would carry Israeli natural gas via Turkey could be eventually realized,” she said. “While the unsettled Cyprus question remains the elephant in the room, it all comes down to the sides’ mending political trust. We may therefore see some openings in the future.”

Goren thinks that a relaunching of the Israel-Turkey strategic dialogue and the resumption of regular high-level contacts will also assist the countries lessen mutual misperceptions — related, for example, to Israel’s ties with the Kurds and Turkey’s ties with Iran — and avoid gaps in expectations.  

“Israel and Turkey should make sure that this time — unlike what happened in the previous decade — their upgrade of ties will be sustainable and long-term,” Goren said. 

The exchange of ambassadors has been also welcomed by the US.

“Today’s announcement that Israel and Turkey are fully restoring their diplomatic relations. This move will bring increased security, stability, and prosperity to their peoples as well as the region,” tweeted Jake Sullivan, national security adviser at White House. 

Nasi also said that Turkey’s relations with Israel “have always been a factor of its relations with the West and with the US in particular. In the backdrop of the ongoing war in Ukraine, Ankara has been threading a fine path with Russia.”

Nasi said “normalization of ties with Israel may aim to send a message to the US Congress, whose favorable view and support on the modernization of F16s is very much sought for.”