Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change
The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change — and already the effects are being seen. (File/AP)
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Updated 25 July 2022

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change

Middle Eastern nations wake up to damage from climate change
  • In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have repeatedly smothered cities this year
  • Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is eating away at crucial farmland

CAIRO — Temperatures in the Middle East have risen far faster than the world’s average in the past three decades. Precipitation has been decreasing, and experts predict droughts will come with greater frequency and severity.
The Middle East is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change — and already the effects are being seen.
In Iraq, intensified sandstorms have repeatedly smothered cities this year, shutting down commerce and sending thousands to hospitals. Rising soil salinity in Egypt’s Nile Delta is eating away at crucial farmland. In Afghanistan, drought has helped fuel the migration of young people from their villages, searching for jobs. In recent weeks, temperatures in some parts of the region have topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
This year’s annual UN climate change conference, known as COP27, is being held in Egypt in November, throwing a spotlight on the region. Governments across the Middle East have awakened to the dangers of climate change, particularly to the damage it is already inflicting on their economies.
“We’re literally seeing the effects right in front of us. ... These impacts are not something that will hit us nine or 10 years down the line,” said Lama El Hatow, an environmental climate change consultant who has worked with the World Bank and specializes on the Middle East and North Africa.
“More and more states are starting to understand that it’s necessary” to act, she said.
Egypt, Morocco and other countries in the region have been stepping up initiatives for clean energy. But a top priority for them at COP-27 is to push for more international funding to help them deal with the dangers they are already facing from climate change.
One reason for the Middle East’s vulnerability is that there is simply no margin to cushion the blow on millions of people as the rise in temperatures accelerates: The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even in normal circumstances.
Middle East governments also have a limited ability to adapt, the International Monetary Fund noted in a report earlier this year. Economies and infrastructure are weak, and regulations are often unenforced. Poverty is widespread, making job creation a priority over climate protection. Autocratic governments like Egypt’s severely restrict civil society, hampering an important tool in engaging the public on environmental and climate issues.
At the same time, developing nations are pressuring countries in the Mideast and elsewhere to make emissions cuts, even as they themselves backslide on promises.
The threats are dire.
As the region grows hotter and drier, the United Nations has warned that the Mideast’s crop production could drop 30 percent by 2025. The region is expected to lose 6 percent-14 percent of its GDP by 2050 because of water scarcity, according to the World Bank.
In Egypt, precipitation has fallen 22 percent in the past 30 years, according to the World Bank.
Droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe. The Eastern Mediterranean recently saw its worst drought in 900 years, according to NASA, a heavy blow to countries like Syria and Lebanon where agriculture relies on rainfall. Demand for water in Jordan and the Arabian Gulf countries is putting unsustainable pressure on underground water aquifers. In Iraq, the increased aridity has caused an increase in sandstorms.
At the same time, warming waters and air make extreme and often destructive weather events more frequent, like deadly floods that have repeatedly hit Sudan and Afghanistan.
The climate damage has potentially dangerous social repercussions.
Many of those who lose the livelihoods they once made in agriculture or tourism will move to the cities in search of jobs, said Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at Chatham House. That will likely increase urban unemployment, strain social services and could raise social tensions and affect security, said Elgendy, who is also a non-resident scholar with the Middle East Institute.
Adapting infrastructure and economies to weather the damage will be enormously expensive: the equivalent of 3.3 percent of the region’s GDP every year for the next 10 years, the IMF estimates. The spending needs to go toward everything from creating more efficient water use systems and new agricultural methods to building coastal protections, beefing up social safety nets and improving awareness campaigns.
So one of top priorities for Mideast and other developing nations at this year’s COP is to press the United States, Europe and other wealthier nations to follow through on long-time promises to provide them with billions in climate financing.
So far, developed nations have fallen short on those promises. Also, most of the money they have provided has gone to helping poorer countries pay for reducing greenhouse gas emissions — for “mitigation,” in UN terminology, as opposed to “adaptation.”
For this year’s COP, the top theme repeated by UN officials, the Egyptian hosts and climate activists is the implementation of commitments. The gathering aims to push countries to spell out how they will reach promised emission reduction targets — and to come up with even deeper cuts, since experts say the targets as they are now will still lead to disastrous levels of warming.
Developing nations will also want richer countries to show how they will carry out a promise from the last COP to provide $500 billion in climate financing over the next five years — and to ensure at least half that funding is for adaptation, not mitigation.
World events, however, threaten to undercut the momentum from COP26. On emissions cuts, the spike in world energy prices and the war in Ukraine have prompted some European countries to turn back to coal for power generation — though they insist it’s only a temporary step. The Middle East also has several countries whose economies rely on their fossil fuel resources — Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf most obviously, but also Egypt, with its increasing natural gas production.
Persistent inflation and the possibility of recession could make top nations hesitant on making climate financing commitments.
With international officials often emphasizing emission reduction, El Hatow said it should be remembered the countries of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere in the developing world have not contributed substantially to climate change, yet are bearing the brunt of it.
“We need to talk about financing for adaptation,” she said, “to adapt to a problem they did not cause.”


Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike

Palestinians sift through rubble at Gaza camp hit in Israeli strike
Updated 15 sec ago

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 24 min 40 sec ago

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.


Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2022

Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
  • Settlers prostrate themselves in mosque's courtyards

RAMALLAH: Tensions rose in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday after more than 2,000 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tight Israeli police protection throughout the Old City and at the gates leading to the mosque.

Hundreds of settlers will participate in the incursion to revive the so-called “destruction of the temple.”

They had gathered since Saturday evening in the Old City and its surroundings before reaching the Western Wall/Al-Buraq, ahead of their overnight preparation for the incursions, with the participation of far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir.

At dawn on Sunday, Israeli police stopped people under 50 from entering Al-Aqsa to prevent them from confronting the settlers. An arrest campaign was launched on Saturday night, with at least six young men targeted.

The settlers began storming the courtyards of Al-Aqsa in successive groups, with the first group of 50 provided by extremist Yehuda Glick.

Israeli police deployed members of its special units in the courtyards to provide guards for the intruders, keep Palestinians away from the path of the incursions, and prevent their movement during the tours.

Settlers raised the Israeli flag while storming the courtyards.

They organized dancing and singing sessions near the Al-Silsila Gate from the outside. There were also tours and prayers at all the gates of Al-Aqsa from the outside.

Several settlers prostrated themselves in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa, as Muslim worshippers confronted the intruders and their provocations.

A statement from the Islamic Awqaf, which is affiliated with Jordan and in charge of Al-Aqsa, was signed by other Islamic commissions in Jerusalem and obtained by Arab News.

It said: “In an attempt to change the religious, legal, and historical status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the occupation authorities and their police and intelligence forces turned this morning, Sunday, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque into a military barracks to secure the storming of groups of Jewish extremists to the premises of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, after their calls to mobilize large numbers to storm the mosque in remembrance of the so-called ‘Destruction of the Temple.’”

According to the Islamic Awqaf, about 2,176 Jewish extremists stormed the courtyards under the protection of the Israeli police and intelligence forces who secured their tours, dances, singing, and laying down as part of their rituals in an apparent provocation to the feelings of Muslims, in return for emptying the mosque of worshippers, pursuing several young men and women, forcibly expelling them outside the mosque, arresting a number of them, and preventing the entry of a large number of worshippers.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it held the Israeli government fully and directly responsible for its ongoing aggression against Christian and Islamic holy sites, the foremost of which was Al-Aqsa, and for its repercussions and dangers on the conflict and the entire region.

 


Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
Updated 07 August 2022

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
  • Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government on Sunday appealed for emergency humanitarian assistance for thousands of internally displaced people who were affected by torrential rains and flash floods that hit the central city of Marib.

Flash floods triggered by heavy rains coupled with strong winds battered dozens of camps, mud houses and huts that host thousands of people in different areas, killing one person and displacing thousands.

The Yemeni government’s Executive Unit for IDP Camps said in a statement seen by Arab News that the rains, floods and winds have completely destroyed the shelters and houses of 5,287 families and partially ruined the property of 11,448 others, urging local and international relief organizations and donors to urgently send aid in the form of shelter, food and medication to the affected people.

“We call on all humanitarian partners to provide urgent aid to the affected families, especially shelter and food,” the government body said, calling for permanent and disaster-resilient buildings to replace tents and mud houses.

The city of Marib had become a safe haven for more than 2 million Yemenis who fled fighting and political, religious and social oppression by the Iran-backed Houthis since the beginning of the war.

Local aid workers said that the affected people were transferred to schools and other public facilities and hotels, while many others went to live with relatives in the city of Marib.

Mohammed Al-Soaidi, an aid worker with the Executive Unit for IDP Camps, told Arab News that the rains and winds “uprooted” the camps and huts of the displaced people, and one person died while trying to rescue trapped children and women.

“People are in need of shelter and food. Tents that cannot protect people from harsh weather or rains must be replaced,” Al-Soaidi said.

Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country, mainly in the northern province of Hajjah.

Local social media accounts said on Sunday that hundreds of people are still trapped in mountainous villages in Hajjah and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance after floods and rockslides blocked or washed away many roads. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicted in its Agrometeorological Early Warning Bulletin on Sunday that heavy rains and flooding would continue hitting many areas in Yemen and are expected to affect nearly 20,000 people in Mahwit, Taiz, Saada, Hodeidah, Raymah, Lahj, Hadramout and Shabwah.

“Forecasts for the period 01 – 20 August indicate sustained heavy rainfall threatening the already battered parts of Yemen, causing further displacement and loss of livelihoods,” the FAO said. 


Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
Updated 07 August 2022

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
  • Airstrike kills second senior Islamic Jihad commander; 31 Palestinians, including 6 children and 4 women, dead

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Ministry of Health has warned that its hospital services would stop within 48 hours if operations at the power plant in Gaza were not restored.

The power station has stopped working since noon on Saturday, as fuel supplies ceased with the closure of Kerem Shalom last week.

During its continuous raids since Friday, Israeli forces have killed at least 31 Palestinians, including six children and four women, and wounded more than 270 others.

Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that services would be suspended if around-the-clock electricity was not restored within two days.

“The Ministry of Health needs half a million liters of fuel per month to be able to operate the private generators,” Abbas said. 

He fears a real disaster soon, as fuel is currently unavailable.

Gaza City Mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj said that municipal services were also being negatively impacted due to the lack of electricity.

“As a result of the power plant shutdown, municipal services will be minimal or even stopped. It will minimize the supply of domestic water, the consumption of which increases especially during July and August,” Al-Sarraj said.

“Raw sewage will drain into the sea because the plants are not functioning at full capacity,” he added. 

The power supply has been reduced to four hours a day, and the resulting situation will affect water distribution as well as sewage treatment plants, Abbas said.

Efforts to reach a ceasefire continued with Egyptian and UN mediation.

Local and Arab media quoted Egyptian sources as saying that they were making efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

But Israeli warplanes continued to bomb various targets in the Gaza Strip for the third day in a row.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired dozens of missiles toward Israeli cities.

Missiles were also directed toward Jerusalem for the first time since the start of the latest fighting round. Israel’s assassination of Khaled Mansour, the Al-Quds Brigade commander in Rafah, was a new blow to the Islamic Jihad in Gaza in the wake of the killing of Taysir Al-Jabari, another Islamic Jihad commander.

The Military Council of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza consists of 10 members under the leadership of Akram Al-Ajouri, whom Israel tried to assassinate in Beirut previously.

Abu Hamza, a spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said in a press statement: “What has emerged from our missile capabilities, which today are draining our foolish enemy, is a small part of what we have prepared.”

He asked the Palestinian people in the West Bank to get involved in the resistance. 

“We call on all the resistance fighters and free people in the West Bank and occupied lands to engage in this epic, and let it be a massive intifada that establishes the demise of our enemy.”

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement: “Around the clock, we are making all required efforts to protect our people and stop the aggression.”