Bahrain’s King, Egyptian President officially open Bahrain International Airport’s new passenger terminal

Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during the inauguration of the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Bahrain’s King, Egyptian President officially open Bahrain International Airport’s new passenger terminal

Bahrain’s King, Egyptian President officially open Bahrain International Airport’s new passenger terminal
  • Passenger terminal is considered largest infrastructure project in the civil aviation sector in Bahrain
  • Construction started in April 2016 and was completed in 2020

DUBAI: Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport on Wednesday.
In the presence of Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, King Hamad and El-Sisi were welcomed by the airport’s Board of Directors Chairman Kamal bin Ahmed bin Mohammed, Transportation and Telecommunications Minister, Mohammed bin Thamer Al-Kaabi, and senior officials.
The new passenger terminal is considered the largest infrastructure project in the civil aviation sector in the kingdom and represents a qualitative leap in the field of services and airport facilities, Mohammed said.
Mohammed added the project was implemented in a record period of time that’s considered the fastest in building airports in the world.
The construction started in April 2016 and was completed in 2020.
“We have invested in national competencies and cadres during the implementation period, and we are proud today that they are the ones who operate and maintain the airport,” he said.
Mohammed pledged to spare no efforts in order to continue enhancing the kingdom’s status regionally and internationally.
The King and El-Sisi unveiled a commemorative plaque, thus officially opening the new passenger terminal at the Bahrain International Airport.
King Hamad, El-Sisi and Prince Salman toured the departure hall building and were informed about its various facilities.
The King expressed delight at El-Sisi’s participation in the inauguration of the new Bahrain International Airport, which confirms the depth of the solid Bahraini-Egyptian relations.
He affirmed that the new Bahrain International Airport will consolidate the kingdom’s status as a pioneering regional and international aviation sector hub, as well as support the national economy.
Moreover, the King congratulated the Chairman and members of the Board of Directors of the Bahrain Airport Company after naming the Bahrain International Airport as the ‘World’s Best New Airport’ at the Skytrax 2022 World Airport Awards held at the Passenger Terminal EXPO in France.
 


Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal
Updated 12 sec ago

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal

Negotiators optimistic about progress on Iran nuclear deal
  • Negotiators from Iran, the US and the European Union resumed indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal Thursday after a months-long standstill in negotiations

VIENNA: Top negotiators in renewed talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal indicated Sunday that they are optimistic about the possibility of reaching an agreement to impose limits on Tehran’s uranium enrichment.
“We stand 5 minutes or 5 seconds from the finish line,” Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov told reporters outside Vienna’s Palais Coburg, four days into the talks. He said there are “3 or 4 issues” left to be resolved.
“They are sensitive, especially for Iranians and Americans,” Ulyanov said. “I cannot guarantee, but the impression is that we are moving in the right direction.”
Enrique Mora, the European Union’s top negotiator, also said he is “absolutely” optimistic about the talks’ progress so far.
“We are advancing, and I expect we will close the negotiations soon,” he told Iranian media.
Negotiators from Iran, the US and the European Union resumed indirect talks over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal Thursday after a months-long standstill in negotiations.
Since the deal’s de facto collapse, Iran has been running advanced centrifuges and rapidly growing its stockpile of enriched uranium.
Iran struck the nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Then US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the accord in 2018, saying he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.


Battles between Israel and Palestinian groups trap Gaza in a recurring nightmare

Battles between Israel and Palestinian groups trap Gaza in a recurring nightmare
Updated 08 August 2022

Battles between Israel and Palestinian groups trap Gaza in a recurring nightmare

Battles between Israel and Palestinian groups trap Gaza in a recurring nightmare
  • Humanitarian situation worsened and civilian toll rose as Israeli military targeted Palestinian Islamic Jihad
  • Israel claimed militants in Gaza were planning attacks in retaliation for arrest of a PIJ official in the West Bank

DUBAI: What began as a routine Israeli security operation on Aug. 1 in a flashpoint Palestinian town in the West Bank quickly took on the trappings of a full-blown conflict. As of Sunday night, the death toll on the Palestinian side stood at 43, including 15 children, with an Egyptian-brokered truce agreement providing a glimmer of hope to the Gaza Strip’s war-weary population.

The target of the Israeli military’s “Operation Breaking Dawn” was the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, which is backed by Iran and has its headquarters in the Syrian capital Damascus. But the idea of a “quick, clean war,” with minimal civilian suffering and confined to just the Gaza Strip, could yet elude Israel if the ceasefire deal falls through.

During a recent visit to Tehran to meet the Iranian leadership, Ziad Al-Nakhalah, the PIJ general-secretary, warned that all Israeli towns — including Tel Aviv — could be struck by rockets and urged other Palestinian factions to join forces. For days, Israeli media had been showing images of the skies above the southern and central parts of the country lighting up with rockets and interceptors from the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Predictably, parallels were being drawn between the current flare-up and the 11-day conflict in May 2021 that left more than 200 Palestinians and a dozen Israelis dead. The big difference this time was that Hamas, the Palestinian group which controls Gaza, did not jump into the fray, a move that cannot be ruled out if the truce fails to hold and civilian casualties continue to mount.

 Children react following an Israeli air strike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on Aug.6, 2022. (AFP)

As is invariably the case when Israel launches an assault on Palestinian militant groups, ordinary residents of Gaza neighborhoods in the military’s crosshairs pay the biggest price. Images of half-destroyed buildings and damaged possessions of impoverished civilians starkly contradicted the official Israeli narrative of “a pre-emptive counterterror operation against an immediate threat” posed by the PIJ.

On Saturday, flames poured out of a building in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike while wounded Palestinians were evacuated by medics. Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that “a five-year-old girl, targeted by the Israeli occupation” was among those killed. “This is not Ukraine! This is #Gaza Strip yesterday!” tweeted Jasika, a Palestinian, along with four photos of destruction under the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack.

Mourners pray over the bodies of six children killed in an explosion in Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip on  Aug. 6, 2022. (AP/Abdel Kareem Hana) 

Abdullah Al-Arayshi summed up the collective plight of Palestinians in Gaza when he told the AFP news agency: “The country is ravaged. We’ve had enough of wars. Our generation has lost its future.” The reference was to the many wars and battles Israel and Hamas have fought since 2007 and which have imposed a staggering cost on Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents.

Palestinians inspect the ruins of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on August 6, 2022. (AFP)

Egypt, whose mediation has helped to end many Gaza flare-ups in the past, once again stepped in, reportedly sending a delegation of officials to Israel to act as a go-between. The PIJ leadership may not have been in the mood to negotiate, but its options were limited.

On Saturday, the group lost a second senior commander, Khaled Mansour, in an Israeli military strike on a house in the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. The previous day, the PIJ had acknowledged the death of senior leader Taysir Al-Jabari in an airstrike on a building in the west of Gaza City.

Relatives react during the funeral of Khaled Mansour, an Islamic Jihad commander killed in an Israeli air strike on Rafah on August 7, 2022. (Said Khatib / AFP)

The killing of Al-Jabari’s predecessor, Baha Abu Al-Ata, in Gaza by the Israeli military in 2019 sparked a five-day conflict that left 34 Palestinians, including many PIJ fighters, dead and 111 injured. Then, as now, Israel claimed that the PIJ was plotting an imminent attack.

This time around, Israel said that PIJ militants in Gaza were planning to hit southern Israel in retaliation for the arrest on Aug. 1 of Bassem Al-Saadi, a senior member of the PIJ’s political wing in the West Bank, during a security operation in Jenin. Al-Saadi had been living there since February 2013, when he was released from an Israel jail after serving two years.

In this photo taken on April 17, 2022, Islamic Jihad fighters enter an underground tunnel in the Gaza strip. (Mahmud Hams / AFP) 

Jenin has been a frequent target of Israeli arrest operations in the West Bank since a wave of deadly attacks by Palestinians hit Israel in late March as two of the attackers came from the town.

“It seems that Israel acted on intelligence reports that the PIJ was about to launch a number of attacks against Israel and Israel decided to take the initiative in this case to deliver a big blow to the PIJ,” Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer and Middle East analyst at Reichman University, told Arab News.

“Based on this thesis, it was difficult for Israel to avoid this action. If you know your enemy is going to attack, then you take away the initiative from it, and that really turns the tables on your enemy.”

Israel’s rationale, though, failed to convince not only Palestinian civilians in the line of fire but also critics of the military doctrine of pre-emptive force, including the UN special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a tweet on Saturday, Francesca Albanese said: “I condemn Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza to allegedly ‘deter’ Islamic Jihad’s possible retaliation for its leader’s arrest. As Intl’ Law only permits the use of force in self-defense, Operation Breaking Dawn is a flagrant act of aggression. Illegal. Immoral. Irresponsible.”

Francesca Albanese

In addition to the diplomatic backlash, Israel’s government, led by Yair Lapid, a politician with no military record or experience in senior security posts, would sooner or later have had to contend with the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

There has been almost no reconstruction in Gaza since the May 2021 war, and the population remains mired in poverty, with unemployment hovering around 50 percent. Israel has closed its crossing with the territory and, on Saturday, reports said the only power station there shut down after Israel called off an expected fuel delivery.

Yahya Al-Sarraj, the mayor of Gaza City, said on Sunday that municipal services were being affected by the lack of power. “This will minimize the supply of domestic water (at a time of peak consumption during July and August),” he said. “Raw sewage will be spilled to the sea because the plants are not functioning in full capacity.”

Unsurprisingly, the potential of a propaganda coup was not lost on the PIJ’s patrons in Tehran. President Ebrahim Raisi was quoted by Iran’s Fars News agency as saying that “the resistance of the people of Gaza will speed up the decline of this child-killing (Zionist) regime.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with Ziyad Nakhaleh, secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, in Tehran on August 4, 2022. (WANA via REUTERS)

Separately, in remarks reported by Iranian state television on Saturday, Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said: “The Israelis will pay yet another heavy price for their recent crime.”

Earlier, Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Salami as saying: “In Lebanon, tens of thousands, even more than one hundred thousand missiles, are ready to be fired to create a hell for the Zionists at the moment of making the divine predestination happen.”

Javedanfar considers the PIJ-Iranian nexus a probable second reason for Israel’s decision to crack down on the group. “Given that the Israeli attacks happened when the head of the PIJ was in Tehran, the Iranian context of the current operation cannot be overlooked,” he told Arab News.

Palestinians rally in Lebanon's refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh on Aug. 7, 2022, in support of the Islamic Jihad group march in its fight with Israel. (Anwar Amro / AFP) 

“The PIJ is an Iranian proxy, much more an Iranian proxy than Hamas, and is more dependent on Iran than Hamas. Israel does not want to let Iran dictate the rules of the game through its proxy in Gaza. I think Israel is trying to disarm Iran’s options for undermining Israeli security in both Gaza and Syria.”

Lapid, the Israeli prime minister, had averred that “Israel isn’t interested in a broader conflict in Gaza but will not shy away from one either.” A broader conflict was sure to expose Israel to not just higher civilian casualties but also greater political heat, including potentially from the Arab signatories of the Abraham Accords.

In the best-care scenario for Israel, the PIJ’s military wing would have been decapitated, the diplomatic storm would have passed quickly, and the civilian death toll in Gaza would have stayed low. But given the dark shadow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to cast over the new geopolitical alignments in the Middle East, Israel could well have ended up wining the battle yet losing the war.

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More than 250 migrants ‘rescued’ off Tunisia

More than 250 migrants ‘rescued’ off Tunisia
Updated 07 August 2022

More than 250 migrants ‘rescued’ off Tunisia

More than 250 migrants ‘rescued’ off Tunisia
  • The attempted crossings — 17 in total — took place on the night of Friday to Saturday from the east of Tunisia, according to National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli

TUNIS: Tunisian coast guards “rescued” more than 250 migrants who were attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy, the North African country’s National Guard said on Sunday.

Maritime authorities “were able ... to rescue 255 would-be migrants, including 170 people of various African nationalities, with the remainder Tunisians,” the National Guard said in a statement on Facebook.

The attempted crossings — 17 in total — took place on the night of Friday to Saturday from the east of Tunisia, according to National Guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli. The statement did not indicate whether any vessels had got into difficulty or sunk, but did note that an unspecified sum of cash was seized during the operations.

The National Guard also on Friday carried out a “pre-emptive operation,” arresting five people who were “preparing to lead an illegal immigration bid departing from the coast of Sousse province in the east of the country,” Jebabli said.

The Tunisian coast guard announced in mid-July that 455 migrants had been “rescued” in several operations off the northern, eastern and southern coasts of the country.

Attempts by migrants to reach Europe from the North African coastline tend to increase in spring and summer, due to the lower risk of stormy seas.

Tunisia and Libya are principal departure points and Italy a favored destination.


Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike

Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike
Updated 07 August 2022

Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike

Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike
  • On Sunday morning, residents sifted through the rubble at the camp, a warren of alleys that is home to Palestinians whose families fled or were expelled from towns and villages in 1948 during the war of Israel’s creation

GAZA: When Israeli rockets slammed into her neighborhood in a crowded refugee camp in the Gaza strip on Saturday night, nine-year-old Leen Matar said she was so scared that she began to recite Islam’s final prayers.

“We were at my grandfather’s house when suddenly the rubble started to fall on us,” she told Reuters from a hospital bed, her father beside her as she was treated for a broken leg.

“We started to cry until the neighbors arrived and rescued us.”

“I was saying the last prayers; I didn’t expect I would live until the moment they rescued me,” she said.

“We sat like this for 10 minutes until they broke down the door.”

Matar was wounded in an Israeli strike that killed a senior commander with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group late on Saturday evening, the second day of a major flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

On Sunday morning, residents sifted through the rubble at the camp, a warren of alleys that is home to Palestinians whose families fled or were expelled from towns and villages in 1948 during the war of Israel’s creation.

Some carried away a small bike and some books. Another dragged pieces of furniture away. Others looked for family documents and photo albums.

The casualties add to the toll of the most serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in more than a year.

The sides have agreed to observe an Egyptian-proposed truce from Sunday evening, sources said.

Israel began mounting airstrikes on Friday against what it described as Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza.

Around 30 Palestinians have been killed, at least a third of them civilians. Israel says it does not target civilians.

Islamic Jihad has fired hundreds of missiles into Israel, where anti-missile defenses have prevented casualties but people have still been driven into shelters.

Palestinian residents said six homes had been destroyed in Rafah. The senior Israeli officer said Israel had destroyed the house Mansour was in and not the surrounding houses, and the strike was timed to minimize “collateral damage.”

Ahmed Temraz, whose house was damaged, said six missiles had hit the area and there had been no forewarning of the attack.

“It was a horrifying scene, words can’t explain — injustice, terror and the fear of children and women,” Temraz, 46, told Reuters. “It was very scary. People were dismembered.”

Residents had joined emergency workers and medics in rescue operations that continued until dawn, witnesses said.

Ashraf Al-Qaissi, whose house was about 50 meters from the targeted area, described chaotic scenes as residents sought to flee while aiding casualties.

“They hit the area without forewarning, I ran with my children, and my daughter got wounded in her hand,” said Qaissi, 46.

He spoke sitting atop the ruins of his home, saying he had allowed rescue workers to knock it down so they could access the targeted area with a bulldozer to help search for victims under rubble.

“The trapped people are more precious,” Qaissi said.


Israel, Palestinians set for truce from Sunday night

Israel, Palestinians set for truce from Sunday night
Updated 07 August 2022

Israel, Palestinians set for truce from Sunday night

Israel, Palestinians set for truce from Sunday night
  • Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza

GAZA: Islamic Jihad militants on Sunday agreed terms of an Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel, intended to end three days of intense conflict that has left at least 43 Palestinians dead.
The deal raises hopes of an imminent cessation of the worst fighting in Gaza since an 11-day war last year devastated the impoverished Palestinian coastal territory.
“A short while ago the wording of the Egyptian truce agreement was reached,” senior Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi said in a statement.
Since Friday, Israel has carried out heavy aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in Gaza, with the militants firing hundreds of rockets in retaliation.
Gaza’s health ministry on Sunday evening raised the death toll to 43 including 15 children, with more than 300 people wounded in the Palestinian enclave, which is run by the Islamist group Hamas.
Two Israelis have been injured by shrapnel over the same period, medics reported.
Islamic Jihad’s Hindi said the deal “contains Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of two prisoners, (Bassem) Al-Saadi and (Khalil) Awawdeh.”
Saadi, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad’s political wing, was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, while militant Awawdeh is also in Israeli detention.
Earlier in the day, an Egyptian security source said that Israel “has accepted” a cease-fire.
Buildings in Gaza have been reduced to rubble, while Israelis have been forced to shelter from a barrage of rockets.
Nour Abu Sultan, who lives west of Gaza, said earlier Sunday that she was “awaiting the declaration of the cease-fire on tenterhooks.”
“We haven’t slept for days (due to) heat and shelling and rockets, the sound of aircrafts hovering above us... is terrifying,” the 29-year-old said.
Dalia Harel, a resident in the Israeli town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, said she was “disappointed” at news of a truce despite her five children being “traumatized.”
“We’re tired of having a military operation every year,” she said. “We need our military and political leaders to get it over with once and for all... we’re not for war, but we can’t go on like this.”
An AFP photographer saw two rockets being intercepted in the center of Israel’s commercial capital Tel Aviv on Sunday evening.
Two Islamic Jihad rockets earlier in the day had targeted Jerusalem, but they were shot down by the Israeli army.
Islamic Jihad is aligned with Hamas but often acts independently. Hamas has fought four wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza in 2007, including the conflict last May.
The Israeli army has said the entire “senior leadership of the military wing of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza has been neutralized.”
Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director general of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said medics were treating wounded people in a “very bad condition,” warning of dire shortages of drugs and fuel to run power generators.
“Every minute we receive injured people,” he said earlier Sunday.
Israel said it had “irrefutable” evidence that a stray rocket fired by Islamic Jihad was responsible for the deaths of several children in Gaza’s northern Jabalia area on Saturday.
An AFP photographer saw six dead bodies at the hospital there, including three minors.
“We came running to the place and found body parts lying on the ground... they were torn-apart children,” said Muhammad Abu Sadaa, describing the devastation in Jabalia.
The army said it had struck 139 Islamic Jihad positions, with the militants firing over 600 rockets and mortars, but with more than 100 of those projectiles falling short inside Gaza.
Amid the high tensions, Jews in Israel-annexed east Jerusalem marked the Tisha Be’av fasting day Sunday at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known in Judaism as the Temple Mount.
Some Palestinians shouted “God is greatest” in response, and an AFP photographer was briefly detained by Israeli police, but commemorations passed without major incident.
Israel has said it was necessary to launch a “pre-emptive” operation Friday against Islamic Jihad, which it said was planning an imminent attack.
The army has killed senior leaders of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, including Taysir Al-Jabari in Gaza City and Khaled Mansour in Rafah in the south.
In southern and central Israel, civilians were forced into air raid shelters. Two people were hospitalized with shrapnel wounds and 13 others lightly hurt while running for safety, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.