Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion

Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
1 / 2
Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion
2 / 2
Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 17 July 2022

Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion

Crossing of humiliation: Palestinian families lament travel delays, congestion
  • Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians travel from the West Bank through Jordan in a year
  • Thousands of Palestinians who live abroad and have not been able to visit their families in the West Bank during the past three years due to COVID-19 restrictions have decided to travel this summer, adding pressure to the overcrowding

RAMALLAH: Palestinians traveling from and through Jordan to the West Bank via an Israeli crossing are experiencing long delays and overcrowding.

The Palestinians, who do not have an airport, are forced to travel through Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan.

Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians travel from the West Bank through Jordan in a year.

According to Palestinian sources, about 7,000 passengers cross daily from Jordan to the West Bank and from the West Bank through Jordan, reaching up to 10,000 passengers per day on holidays.

The crossings, which are controlled by Israeli authorities, open for 13 hours daily and for five hours on Fridays and Saturdays, contributing to the overcrowding.

Thousands of Palestinians who live abroad and have not been able to visit their families in the West Bank during the past three years due to COVID-19 restrictions have decided to travel this summer, adding pressure to the overcrowding.

The US and Morocco mediated with Israel to open the crossings around the clock, and Israel said it agreed but needed to prepare the logistics by the end of September. But Palestinian sources told Arab News that they had not yet received any notification about such a possibility.

Passenger anger was expressed on social media.

BACKGROUND

A senior official at the Palestinian General Administration for Borders and Crossings said that the Palestinian crossings were witnessing unprecedented overcrowding due to the holidays, the return of pilgrims, and the arrival of citizens after a three-year hiatus due to coronavirus.

Abu Adam Al-Khalili wrote on the King Hussein Bridge Facebook page on Friday: “The King Hussein Bridge problem is that there is no will to improve people's travel. The system that has existed for 30 years is the same.”

Bilal Abed wrote: “It is now 3 a.m., and there is heavy congestion on the Jordan Bridge departing to the West Bank. To those whose travel is not obligatory, please postpone your travel until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.”

One of the passengers waiting on the Jordanian side reported on Facebook that the bridge, which links the Palestinian territories in Jordan, would receive passengers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, starting at the end of September. But, a short time later, Khadija Al-Ghorani replied: “The decision must be immediate and not for September because the crisis these days is stifling.”

A woman who identified herself as Um Moataz Mustafa wrote on Saturday morning: “We demand that the bridge be opened 24 hours to solve the overcrowding. Oh, officials, make things easy for travelers because they are humans, not animals. Travel to the North and South Poles is easier than passing over the bridge. Why, officials?”

The Jordanian side calls the bridge at its border crossing — 2 kilometers east of the Jordan River — the King Hussein Bridge.

The Israelis call their crossing — 500 meters west of the Jordan River — the Allenby Crossing.

But Palestinians call both of them the Dignity Crossing, a reference to a 1968 battle that saw the first armed military clash between Israel and Palestinian fighters and the Jordanian army. Israel occupied the West Bank the previous year.

Angry travelers said on social media that it was a crossing of humiliation, not dignity.

The King Hussein Bridge is located in the Jordan Valley, more than 300 meters below sea level.

The summer temperatures in that area peak at 45 degrees Celsius, with children, the elderly, and the sick suffering more while waiting for long hours in the blazing sun.

Ahmed Amer, one of the service drivers on the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News that he had seen more than 2,000 passengers spending the night waiting in front of the bridge gate until 7 a.m. — its opening time — waiting to leave for the West Bank.

He added that the VIP crossing — where each passenger paid between an extra $110 to $200 to cross — was also crowded with 1,600 passengers.

Amer estimated the number of passengers crossing toward the West Bank daily as between 5,000 and 7,000.

“Hundreds of travelers have spent two nights sleeping in front of the bridge gate, waiting to be able to travel to the West Bank,” Amer told Arab News, noting that the temperature in that area reached 45 degrees Celsius in the middle of the day.

He said the morning hours were overcrowded as thousands tried to enter the West Bank.

A senior Palestinian official at the Palestinian General Administration for Borders and Crossings told Arab News that the Palestinian crossings were witnessing unprecedented overcrowding due to the holidays, the return of pilgrims, and the arrival of citizens after a three-year hiatus due to coronavirus.

He said the Palestinian side had made efforts with all relevant parties, meaning Jordan and Israel, to alleviate the problem and the severity of the crisis.

He added there was international interest from the US and Europe in facilitating the movement of Palestinian citizens through the crossings to and from Jordan.

Palestinian officials are aware of the passenger crisis and are trying to solve it quietly with their Jordanian counterparts, avoiding any media statement that could anger them.

A senior Palestinian official told Arab News that the Palestinian Authority's Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Malki had been tasked by the prime minister to contact the Jordanians to overcome the problem.


Family home of ‘heroine’ Iranian climber demolished amid hijab row

Family home of ‘heroine’ Iranian climber demolished amid hijab row
Updated 04 December 2022

Family home of ‘heroine’ Iranian climber demolished amid hijab row

Family home of ‘heroine’ Iranian climber demolished amid hijab row
  • Elnaz Rekabi’s house lacked permit, says state news agency
  • Athlete was ‘forced to apologize’ after contest abroad

LONDON: The home of the Iranian climber who competed abroad without wearing a headscarf has been demolished, according to reports.

Elnaz Rekabi flouted Iran’s mandatory dress code during a competition in South Korea, but claimed it had fallen off inadvertently.

She had been forced to apologize, according to the BBC.

Protesters across Iran have hailed Rekabi, who had been whisked back from South Korea and was met by dozens of cheering supporters at the airport.

Widespread protests have rocked Iran for months following the death of 22-year-old Kurd Mahsa Amini, who died on Sept. 16 after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the dress code.

A video purportedly showing the ruins of the Rekabi family house with sports medals on the ground started circulating this week and Davood, Rekabi’s brother, is seen crying in the clip.

Tasnim news agency confirmed that the house had been demolished, but said it was due to Rekabi’s family not having a valid permit for its construction, and that it had taken place before she had competed abroad.

It is not clear when the viral footage was shot.

In October, the US criticized the Iran regime’s treatment of Rekabi and warned that the “world was watching.”

State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters: “The Iranian regime and its leaders have a long history of abusing the rights of women and violating their freedom of expression, including through threats, through intimidation and violence.”


Yemen foreign minister meets Italian counterpart

Yemen foreign minister meets Italian counterpart
Updated 04 December 2022

Yemen foreign minister meets Italian counterpart

Yemen foreign minister meets Italian counterpart

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed bin Mubarak, met on Sunday with the Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antonio Tijani, and discussed the political, security and humanitarian situation in Yemen.

Tijani affirmed Italy's support for efforts being made to resume negotiations to reach a peaceful resolution and end the conflict, stressing the importance of renewing and extending the armistice.

Mubarak thanked the Italian government for its firm and continuous political support of the Yemen’s internationally recognised government in its endeavor to establish peace, restore state institutions and end the Houthi coup, state news agency SABA reported.

Mubarak touched on the repeated Houthi attacks civilians, civilian infrastructure, and oil installations.

Mubarak also discussed his government’s decision to classify the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization, and called for support from the international community to implement that decision.

Mubarak spoke about the Houthi militia ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and their smuggling of Iranian weapons and drones.


Former British Daesh bride ‘will die without medical aid’ in Syrian camp, neurologist warns

Former British Daesh bride ‘will die without medical aid’ in Syrian camp, neurologist warns
Updated 04 December 2022

Former British Daesh bride ‘will die without medical aid’ in Syrian camp, neurologist warns

Former British Daesh bride ‘will die without medical aid’ in Syrian camp, neurologist warns
  • UK government inaction in Layla case amounts to ‘barbarism,’ says Dr. David Nicholl

LONDON: A former British Daesh bride detained in a prison camp in northeast Syria will die without medical intervention, with the UK government’s inaction amounting to “barbarism,” a neurologist told The Times.

The woman in her 40s, who is known by the pseudonym Layla, first traveled to Syria to join Daesh during the country’s conflict.

Following the collapse of the terror group and detainment of thousands of former fighters and their families, Layla — who is epileptic and partially paralyzed as a result of a shrapnel wound — has repeatedly appealed for medical aid through National Health Service consultant neurologist Dr. David Nicholl.

But despite his repeated warnings to the government that Layla will die without urgent medical aid, the government has yet to respond.

He first examined her via an online meeting late last year. Following another Zoom video call in November, Nicholl found that Layla’s condition had significantly worsened, with shrapnel in her neck having moved dangerously close to the aorta.

He said: “She’s ill and at risk of dying and needs to be got out of there and brought back immediately. It’s utterly inhumane.”

Layla, who has a university degree and held a high-level public sector job in the UK before traveling to Syria with her husband, suffered a stroke in 2019. “She has had life-changing neurological injuries as a consequence of her stroke,” Nicholl added.

“She does not speak Arabic so it is hard for her to understand the medical advice she is being given.

“It troubles me that my previous assessment has still not been acted on, the case for her urgent transfer still remains.

“Everything about this is a mess. Her son is also vulnerable and watching all this and is in a place where no child should be.”

Layla spoke to the Sunday Times in June, claiming: “I was never a threat.” She added: “Whatever people think I have done I am prepared to face trial. I made a mistake, why should my son pay?

“Life in the camp is really, really hard. It’s hard to walk on the stones with my crutches. I am embarrassed to have to ask for help for everything, and the tent is so hot and when it’s windy the whole tent moves.”

Human rights group Reprieve has also appealed to the UK government to act urgently and rescue Layla.

The organization sent a letter to Foreign Secretary James Cleverly that said: “Her condition has become critical and a local doctor told her that without urgent surgery, she will die. She requires immediate medical assistance that cannot be provided in northeast Syria.”

In response to the appeals, Cleverly told The Times: “I am not comfortable going into specific cases. They are difficult, they are sensitive, we do always look at the cases.”


Iran scraps morality police after months of deadly protests

Iran scraps morality police after months of deadly protests
Updated 04 December 2022

Iran scraps morality police after months of deadly protests

Iran scraps morality police after months of deadly protests
  • The morality police — known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” — were established under hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN: Iran has scrapped its morality police after more than two months of protests triggered by the arrest of Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating the country’s strict female dress code, local media said Sunday.
Women-led protests, labelled “riots” by the authorities, have swept Iran since the 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin died on September 16, three days after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.
“Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary” and have been abolished, Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
His comment came at a religious conference where he responded to a participant who asked “why the morality police were being shut down,” the report said.
The morality police — known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” — were established under hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to “spread the culture of modesty and hijab,” the mandatory female head covering.
The units began patrols in 2006.
The announcement of their abolition came a day after Montazeri said that “both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue)” of whether the law requiring women to cover their heads needs to be changed.
President Ebrahim Raisi said in televised comments Saturday that Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations were constitutionally entrenched “but there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible.”
The hijab became mandatory four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Morality police officers initially issued warnings before starting to crack down and arrest women 15 years ago.
The vice squads were usually made up of men in green uniforms and women clad in black chadors, garments that cover their heads and upper bodies.
The role of the units evolved, but has always been controversial even among candidates running for the presidency.
Clothing norms gradually changed, especially under former moderate president Hassan Rouhani, when it became commonplace to see women in tight jeans with loose, colorful headscarves.
But in July this year his successor, the ultra-conservative Raisi, called for the mobilization of “all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law.”
Raisi at the time charged that “the enemies of Iran and Islam have targeted the cultural and religious values of society by spreading corruption.”
In spite of this, many women continued to bend the rules, letting their headscarves slip onto their shoulders or wearing tight-fitting pants, especially in major cities and towns.
Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia also employed morality police to enforce female dress codes and other rules of behavior. Since 2016 the force there has been sidelined in a push by the Sunni Muslim kingdom to shake off its austere image.


State news: Iran executes 4 people it says spied for Israel

State news: Iran executes 4 people it says spied for Israel
Updated 04 December 2022

State news: Iran executes 4 people it says spied for Israel

State news: Iran executes 4 people it says spied for Israel
  • Executed prisoners identified as Hossein Ordoukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmoudabadi, Milad Ashrafi and Manouchehr Shahbandi

TEHRAN: Iranian authorities executed four people Sunday accused of working for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, the state-run IRNA news agency said.
IRNA said the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guard announced the arrests of a network of people linked to the Israeli agency. It said members stole and destroyed private and public property and kidnapped individuals and interrogated them.
The report said the alleged spies had weapons and received wages from Mossad in the form of cryptocurrency.
Israel and Iran are regional arch-enemies.
IRNA identified the executed prisoners as Hossein Ordoukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmoudabadi, Milad Ashrafi and Manouchehr Shahbandi.