Morocco: 18 migrants dead in stampede in bid to enter Spain's Melilla

Update Morocco: 18 migrants dead in stampede in bid to enter Spain's Melilla
Migrants arrive on Spanish ground after crossing the fences separating the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco in Melilla, on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 25 June 2022

Morocco: 18 migrants dead in stampede in bid to enter Spain's Melilla

Morocco: 18 migrants dead in stampede in bid to enter Spain's Melilla
  • About 2,000 migrants breached the border between Morocco and Melilla on Friday
  • The casualties occurred when people tried to climb the iron fence

RABAT, Morocco: At least 18 African migrants died when a huge crowd tried to cross into the Spanish enclave of Melilla in northern Morocco, according to an update from Moroccan authorities.
Around 2,000 migrants approached Melilla at dawn Friday and more than 500 managed to enter a border control area after cutting a fence with shears, the Spanish government’s local delegation said in a statement about the first such incursion since Spain and Morocco mended diplomatic relations last month.
Moroccan officials said late Friday that 13 migrants had died of injuries sustained in the incursion, in addition to five who were confirmed dead earlier in the day.
“Some fell from the top of the barrier” separating the two sides, a Moroccan official said, adding that 140 security personnel and 76 migrants were injured during the attempt to cross.
The Spanish Civil Guard, which monitors the other side of the fence, said it had no information on the tragedy and referred enquiries to Morocco.
The border of the Spanish enclave and the neighboring Moroccan city of Nador were calm early Saturday, without police deployment, AFP journalists said.
Morocco had deployed a “large” number of forces to try to repel the assault on the border, who “cooperated actively” with Spain’s security forces, it said earlier in a statement.
Images on Spanish media showed exhausted migrants lying on the pavement in Melilla, some with bloodied hands and torn clothes.
Speaking in Brussels, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the “violent assault,” which he blamed on “mafias who traffic in human beings.”
Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s other tiny North African enclave, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa, making them a magnet for migrants.
On Thursday night migrants and security forces had “clashed” on the Moroccan side of the border, Omar Naji of Moroccan rights group AMDH told AFP.
Several of them were hospitalized in Nador, he added.
The AMDH’s Nador chapter called for the opening of “a serious investigation to determine the circumstances of this very heavy toll” which shows that “the migration policies followed are deadly with borders and barriers that kill.”
It was the first such mass incursion since Spain and Morocco mended diplomatic relations last month.
In March, Spain ended a year-long diplomatic crisis by backing Morocco’s autonomy plan for Western Sahara going back on its decades-long stance of neutrality.
Sanchez then visited Rabat, and the two governments hailed a “new stage” in relations.
The row began when Madrid allowed Brahim Ghali, leader of Western Sahara’s pro-independence Polisario Front, to be treated for Covid-19 in a Spanish hospital in April 2021.
A month later, some 10,000 migrants surged across the Moroccan border into Spain’s Ceuta enclave as border guards looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat.
Rabat calls for the Western Sahara to have an autonomous status under Moroccan sovereignty but the Polisario Front wants a UN-supervised referendum on self-determination as agreed in a 1991 cease-fire agreement.
In the days just before Morocco and Spain patched up their ties, there were several attempted mass crossings of migrants into Melilla, including one involving 2,500 people, the largest such attempt on record. Nearly 500 made it across.
Patching up relations with Morocco — the departure point for many migrants — has meant a drop in arrivals, notably in Spain’s Atlantic Canary Islands.
The number of migrants who reached the Canary Islands in April was 70 percent lower than in February, government figures show.
Sanchez earlier this month warned that “Spain will not tolerate any use of the tragedy of illegal immigration as a means of pressure.”
Spain will seek to have “irregular migration” listed as one of the security threats on the NATO’s southern flank when the alliance gathers for a summit in Madrid on June 29-30.
Over the years, thousands of migrants have attempted to cross the 12-kilometer (7.5-mile) border between Melilla and Morocco, or Ceuta’s eight-kilometer border, by climbing the barriers, swimming along the coast or hiding in vehicles.
The two territories are protected by fences fortified with barbed wire, video cameras and watchtowers.
Migrants sometimes use hooks and sticks to try to climb the border fence, and throw stones at police.


Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK visits Oxford Center for Islamic Studies

Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK visits Oxford Center for Islamic Studies
Updated 11 sec ago

Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK visits Oxford Center for Islamic Studies

Bahrain’s ambassador to the UK visits Oxford Center for Islamic Studies
  • Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa saw his country’s pavilion at the center and reviewed research in a number of fields

LONDON: Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, the Bahraini ambassador to the UK, visited his country’s pavilion at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

He also met the founder and director of the center, Farhan Ahmad Nizami, and reviewed its research into history, economics, arts and social science in the Islamic world. The envoy highlighted the role the center plays in bringing together elite scholars and researchers.

Nizami congratulated the ambassador on his recent appointment as the Dean of the Arab Diplomatic Corps.

The center is a registered educational charity that describes itself as being dedicated to the study of all aspects of Islamic culture and civilization, and of contemporary Muslim societies.


Aid workers face ‘alarming’ levels of incitement, violence in Yemen: UN humanitarian envoy

Aid workers face ‘alarming’ levels of incitement, violence in Yemen: UN humanitarian envoy
Updated 19 August 2022

Aid workers face ‘alarming’ levels of incitement, violence in Yemen: UN humanitarian envoy

Aid workers face ‘alarming’ levels of incitement, violence in Yemen: UN humanitarian envoy
  • Gressly said that aid workers in Yemen — more than 95 percent of whom are Yemenis – work to ensure that 12.6 million people receive humanitarian assistance
  • In first half of 2022, one aid worker was killed, two injured, seven kidnapped and nine detained.

LONDON: Attacks on aid workers in Yemen have increased at an “alarming” rate, the country’s UN humanitarian coordinator said on Friday.

David Gressly marked World Humanitarian Day on Aug. 19 by highlighting the “extremely challenging” environment that aid workers face in war-torn Yemen, especially amid Houthi attempts to control food aid distribution.

In a statement, Gressly said that aid workers in Yemen — more than 95 percent of whom are Yemenis – work to ensure that 12.6 million people receive humanitarian assistance or protection support every month.

But in the first half of 2022, one aid worker was killed, two injured, seven kidnapped and nine detained.

Gressly also pointed out 27 incidents of threat and intimidation between January and June, compared with 17 such incidents recorded in the whole of 2021.

He added that there were also 28 carjacking incidents recorded in the first six months of the year, 17 more than in 2021, and 27 attacks on aid organizations’ premises and facilities — including the looting of humanitarian supplies and other assets.

Gressly also highlighted how aid workers have been targets of disinformation and incitement in recent months, including “false allegations that they corrupt Yemeni values, including the morals of young women.”

He added: “Such baseless allegations jeopardize the safety and security of humanitarian workers, especially Yemeni female aid workers at a time when women and girls are experiencing increased levels of violence and a rollback of their rights in many parts of the globe.

“Violence and threats against humanitarian workers undermines the delivery of aid, further jeopardizing the lives of those most in need,” he said.

“Aid workers in Yemen deserve to be celebrated for their selfless dedication.”

While the UN-brokered ceasefire between the Houthis and the Arab Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen has provided relief to civilians since going into effect in April and deserves full backing, the humanitarian crisis is as dire as ever.

More than 23 million people need some form of humanitarian assistance or protection, according to Gressly.

The number of people facing food insecurity is projected to increase to 19 million by December. The malnutrition rate among women and children is among the highest in the world and a third of the 4.3 million internally displaced people in Yemen continue to live under extreme conditions, his statement said.

Without the tireless commitment of humanitarians in Yemen, the situation would be far worse, Gressly added.

“Aid workers in Yemen remain unwavering in their mission. These selfless women and men continue to step up to every day, providing millions of people in need with food and cash, health services and clean water, protection and emergency education.

“We should all do everything we can to protect them and support their critical work.”


US says ‘concerned’ by Israeli closure of Palestinian NGOs

US says ‘concerned’ by Israeli closure of Palestinian NGOs
Updated 19 August 2022

US says ‘concerned’ by Israeli closure of Palestinian NGOs

US says ‘concerned’ by Israeli closure of Palestinian NGOs
  • Six of the Palestinian organizations were labeled last October as terrorist organizations by Israel
  • The NGOs have all denied any links to the PFLP, which many western nations have designated a terrorist group

WASHINGTON: Washington said Thursday it was “concerned” by the Israeli government’s forced closure of several Palestinian NGOs operating in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli military announced earlier in the day that it had conducted overnight raids of seven organizations in Ramallah, the West Bank city where the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters are located.
Six of the Palestinian organizations were labeled last October as terrorist organizations by Israel for their alleged links to the leftist militant group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), though Israeli officials have not publicly shared any evidence of the links.
The NGOs have all denied any links to the PFLP, which many western nations have designated a terrorist group.
“We are concerned about the Israeli security forces’ closure of the six offices of the Palestinian NGOs in and around Ramallah today,” said US State Department spokesman Ned Price at a press briefing.
“We have not changed our position or approach to these organizations,” said Price, though he noted that Washington does not fund any of them.
“We have seen nothing in recent months to change (our position)” he added.
US officials have reached out to their Israeli counterparts “at the senior level” to obtain additional information, which Israel has promised to provide, according to Price.
The seventh organization raided by Israel on Thursday, the Union of Health Work Committees, was banned by Israel from working in the West Bank in 2020.


Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits
Updated 19 August 2022

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits
  • A further 1,500 people from the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip would be allowed to work in Israel from Sunday

JERUSALEM: Israel said Friday it plans to grant more work permits to Palestinians in blockaded Gaza, reviving a pledge made ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden but later scrapped.
A further 1,500 people from the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip would be allowed to work in Israel from Sunday, the military said in a statement.
“The decision will take effect ... on condition that the security situation remains quiet in the area,” said COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories.
The move to boost to 15,500 the total number of work permits was initially announced on July 12, on the eve of Biden’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
But it was scrapped four days later, in the wake of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and retaliatory strikes by Israeli warplanes.
The work permits provide vital income to some of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who have been living under a strict blockade imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power in 2007.
Friday’s announcement follows three days of fighting this month between Islamic Jihad militants and Israel.
At least 49 Gazans were killed and hundreds wounded, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry.
The plan to issue additional permits follows a decision by Hamas largely to stay out of the recent fighting.


Market blast in north Syria kills at least 13, injures dozens

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 13, injures dozens
Updated 19 August 2022

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 13, injures dozens

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 13, injures dozens
  • The attack on the town of Al-Bab came days after a Turkish airstrike killed at least 11 Syrian troops and US-backed Kurdish fighters

BEIRUT: A rocket attack on a crowded market in a town held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters in northern Syria Friday killed at least nine people and wounded dozens, an opposition war monitor and a paramedic group reported.
The attack on the town of Al-Bab came days after a Turkish airstrike killed at least 11 Syrian troops and US-backed Kurdish fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, blamed Syrian government forces for the shelling, saying it was in retaliation for the Turkish airstrike.
The Observatory said the attack killed at least 13 and wounded more than 30.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, had a lower death toll, saying nine people, including children, were killed and 28 were wounded. The paramedic group said its members evacuated some of the wounded and the dead bodies.
Discrepancies in casualty figures immediately after attacks are not uncommon in Syria.
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and controls some territories in the north.
Although the fighting has waned over the past few years, shelling and airstrikes are not uncommon in northern Syria that is home to the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
President Bashar Assad’s forces now control most parts of Syria with the help of their allies, Russia and Iran.