Drought tightens its grip on Morocco

A child crouches over cracked earth at al- massira Dam in Ouled Essi masseoud village amid morocco’s worst drought in at least four decades. (AFP)
A child crouches over cracked earth at al- massira Dam in Ouled Essi masseoud village amid morocco’s worst drought in at least four decades. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2022

Drought tightens its grip on Morocco

Drought tightens its grip on Morocco
  • The situation is critical, given the village’s position in the agricultural province of Settat, near the Oum Errabia River and the Al Massira Dam, Morocco’s second largest

OULED ESSI MASSEOUD, Morocco: Mohamed gave up farming because of successive droughts that have hit his previously fertile but isolated village in Morocco and because he just couldn’t bear it any longer.
“To see villagers rush to public fountains in the morning or to a neighbor to get water makes you want to cry,” the man in his 60s said.
“The water shortage is making us suffer,” he told AFP in Ouled Essi Masseoud village, around 140 km from the country’s economic capital Casablanca.
But it is not just his village that is suffering — all of the North African country has been hit.
No longer having access to potable running water, the villagers of Ouled Essi Masseoud rely solely on sporadic supplies in public fountains and from private wells.
“The fountains work just one or two days a week, the wells are starting to dry up and the river next to it is drying up more and more,” said Mohammed Sbai as he went to fetch water from neighbors.
The situation is critical, given the village’s position in the agricultural province of Settat, near the Oum Errabia River and the Al Massira Dam, Morocco’s second largest.
Its reservoir supplies drinking water to several cities, including the 3 million people who live in Casablanca. But latest official figures show it is now filling at a rate of just 5 percent.
Al Massira Reservoir has been reduced to little more than a pond bordered by kilometers of cracked earth.
Nationally, dams are filling at a rate of only 27 percent, precipitated by the country’s worst drought in at least four decades.
At 600 cubic meters of water annually per capita, Morocco is already well below the water scarcity threshold of 1,700 cubic meters per capita per year, according to the World Health Organization.
In the 1960s, water availability was four times higher — at 2,600 cubic meters.
A July World Bank report on the Moroccan economy said the decrease in the availability of renewable water resources put the country in a situation of “structural water stress.”
The authorities have now introduced water rationing.
The Interior Ministry ordered local authorities to restrict supplies when necessary, and prohibits using drinking water to irrigate green spaces and golf courses.
Illegal withdrawals from wells, springs or waterways have also been prohibited.
In the longer term, the government plans to build 20 seawater desalination plants by 2030, which should cover a large part of the country’s needs.
“We are in crisis management rather than in anticipated risk management,” said water resources expert Mohammed Jalil.
He added that it was “difficult to monitor effectively the measures taken by the authorities.”
Agronomist Mohamed Srairi said Morocco’s Achilles’ heel was its agricultural policy “which favors water-consuming fruit trees and industrial agriculture.”
He said such agriculture relies on drip irrigation which, although it can save water, paradoxically results in increased consumption as previously arid areas become cultivable.
The World Bank report noted that cultivated areas under drip irrigation in Morocco have more than tripled.
It said that “modern irrigation technologies may have altered cropping decisions in ways that increased rather than decreased the total quantity of water consumed by the agricultural sector.”
More than 80 percent of Morocco’s water supply is allocated to agriculture, a key economic sector that accounts for 14 percent of gross domestic product.
Mohammed, in his 90s, stood on an area of parched earth not far from the Al Massira Dam.
“We don’t plow the land anymore because there is no water,” he said, but added that he had to “accept adversity anyway because we have no choice.”
Younger generations in the village appear more gloomy.
Soufiane, a 14-year-old shepherd boy, said: “We are living in a precarious state with this drought.
“I think it will get even worse in the future.”


More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general
Updated 29 November 2022

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general

More than 300 dead in Iran unrest: Guards general
  • The toll includes dozens of police, troops and militia killed in clashes with demonstrators or murdered

TEHRAN: More than 300 people have been killed in Iran since protests erupted over the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini on September 16, a Revolutionary Guards general said Tuesday.
“Everyone in the country has been affected by the death of this lady. I don’t have the latest figures, but I think we have had perhaps more than 300 martyrs and people killed in this country, including children, since this incident,” Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajjizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division, said in a video published by the Mehr news agency.
The toll includes dozens of police, troops and militia killed in clashes with demonstrators or murdered.
The latest official toll is much closer to the figure of at least 416 “killed in the suppression of protests in Iran” published by Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The group says its toll includes those killed in violence related to the Amini protests and in distinct unrest in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.


UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’
Updated 29 November 2022

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’

UAE, Europol bust cocaine ‘super-cartel’
  • Dubai police arrest 6 ‘high-value’ suspects linked to Netherlands, Spain, France
  • Emirates committed to joint global security pacts, says deputy PM

DUBAI: The UAE’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan lauded on Monday the arrest of 49 drug kingpins, including six chief suspects in Dubai, involved in a “super-cartel” that controlled a third of Europe’s cocaine trade network.

The arrests were the result of coordinated efforts between the UAE’s Ministry of Interior, the Dubai Police General Command, the EU Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation Europol, and several overseas law enforcement agencies.

 

 

With the support of Europol, parallel investigations launched in Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UAE targeted the activities of the prolific criminal network involved in large-scale drugs trafficking and money laundering.

Over 30 tons of drugs were seized by law enforcement officers during the massive international operation, Europol said.

Dubai had arrested two “high-value” suspects with ties to the Netherlands, two with ties to Spain, and two with ties to France.

“One of the Dutch suspects is an extremely big fish,” a Europol source told AFP.

 

 

Another 13 people were arrested in Spain, six in France and 10 in Belgium, while 14 people were nabbed in 2021 in the Netherlands as part of the same operation, Europol said.

Sheikh Saif attributed the success of Operation Desert Light to the cooperation between nations and law enforcement agencies worldwide. Joint agreements remained a key part of the UAE’s commitment to global safety and security, he said.

In September, Europol and the UAE Ministry of Interior signed a Liaison Officer Agreement, as part of this commitment to tackle transnational crime, Europol said. The agreement ensures the deployment of UAE law enforcement liaison officers to Europol’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

A UAE official has already joined the network of over 250 liaison officers from more than 50 countries and organizations with permanent representation at Europol.


Israeli fire kills 3 Palestinians in West Bank

Israeli fire kills 3 Palestinians in West Bank
Updated 29 November 2022

Israeli fire kills 3 Palestinians in West Bank

Israeli fire kills 3 Palestinians in West Bank
  • Rioters hurled bombs and fired shots at soldiers who responded with live fire

JERUSALEM: Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank Tuesday, the Palestinian health ministry said, the latest deaths in a sharp uptick in violence in the occupied territory.
Two brothers were killed by Israeli fire in Kafr Ein, near Ramallah, while a third man died of bullet wounds to the head fired by Israeli troops in Beit Ummar, near the flashpoint city of Hebron, the ministry said.
Commenting on the Beit Ummar clash, the Israeli army said it had opened fire on “rioters” who “hurled rocks and improvised explosive devices at the soldiers” after two vehicles got stuck during an “operation patrol” in the area.
The Palestinian ministry said a man it did not identify had died “after being shot in the head.”
It named the dead in Kafr Ein as brothers Jawad Abdulrahman Rimawi, 22, and Dhafer Abdul Rahman Rimawi, 21.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army.
Palestinian Authority civil affairs minister Hussein Al Sheikh described the killing of the two brothers as an “execution in cold blood.”
Hamas, the Islamist movement which runs Gaza, said the Israeli “escalation” would be “confronted by escalating resistance” from Palestinians.
Violence has flared this year in the West Bank, where the Israeli army has launched near-daily raids across the territory.
This week the army announced it had made more than 3,000 arrests this year as part of Operation Break the Wave, a campaign it launched following a series of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians.
The United Nations says more than 125 Palestinians have been killed across the West Bank this year. Israel has occupied the territory since the Six-Day War of 1967.


Three Israeli soldiers detained for suspected revenge attack on Palestinians

Three Israeli soldiers detained for suspected revenge attack on Palestinians
Updated 29 November 2022

Three Israeli soldiers detained for suspected revenge attack on Palestinians

Three Israeli soldiers detained for suspected revenge attack on Palestinians
  • Palestinian gunmen seized the body of an Israeli Druze high-schooler from a hospital in Jenin
  • The incident fueled expectations that the military could launch an assault

JERUSALEM: Three Israeli soldiers were detained on Monday, the military said, after allegedly hurling an improvised bomb at Palestinians near the West Bank city of Bethlehem as revenge for the seizing of the body of a teenager last week.
On Wednesday, in the occupied West Bank, which has seen an intensification of violence since March, Palestinian gunmen seized the body of an Israeli Druze high-schooler from a hospital in the town of Jenin where he had been taken after a car accident, according to the Israeli Defense Forces.
The incident fueled expectations that the military could launch an assault to recover the teenager’s body. But it was quietly returned after some 30 hours following negotiations that, according to a diplomat, had involved the United Nations.
The gunmen did not announce their motivation, but Palestinians demonstrated in Jenin the same day, demanding the release of remains of their relatives which they said Israel was holding. The Druze are an Arab community in Israel whose members serve in its armed forces.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it had launched an investigation into the attack on Palestinians near Bethlehem on Monday by Israeli Druze soldiers but could not provide further details.
Israel’s defense minister Benny Gantz said if it came to light that the incident was an act of revenge, the military is dealing with a “severe incident which requires accountability.”
“Israeli soldiers don’t take the law into their hands and exact revenge,” Gantz tweeted.


197 organizations write to International Criminal Court demanding action over situation in Palestine

197 organizations write to International Criminal Court demanding action over situation in Palestine
Updated 29 November 2022

197 organizations write to International Criminal Court demanding action over situation in Palestine

197 organizations write to International Criminal Court demanding action over situation in Palestine
  • The letters cite examples of previous deterrent, preventive ICC statements that proved effective in preventing Israeli crimes against Palestinians
  • They also said recent raids on Palestinian civil society organizations could amount to “offenses against the administration of justice” under the ICC’s Rome Statute

RAMALLAH: Almost 200 organizations have sent letters to the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor and the president of the court’s Assembly of States Parties calling on them to take action over the situation in Palestine, the Palestine News and Information Agency reported on Monday.

It comes ahead of the 21st annual session of the ASP, the ICC’s governing body, which will meet from Dec. 5 to 10 at The Hague in the Netherlands to discuss hey issues relating to the court’s future operations.

The letter to ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan urges him to act to halt crimes committed by Israel’s apartheid regime in Palestine, reminding him that his mandate grants him the authority not only to investigate international crimes but also to monitor situations under investigation by his office and to provide an “early warning” function.

The letter — sent by 197 Palestinian, regional and international civil society organizations — refers to a policy paper from the Office of the Prosecutor that provides a framework for deterrent, preventive statements that allow the office to respond to outbreaks of violence and other crimes by quickly engaging with states and non-governmental organizations to “verify information on alleged crimes, to encourage genuine national proceedings and to prevent reoccurrence of crimes.”

It also gives examples of preventive statements that previously proved effective in Palestine. In 2018, for example, the Office of the Prosecutor issued a preventive statement regarding the planned forced eviction of Bedouin residents from the village of Khan Al-Ahmar in the West Bank. The Israeli foreign minister subsequently confirmed that Israeli authorities did not carry out the evictions “out of concerns of an ICC investigation.”

The letter stated that there have been “important missed opportunities for preventive statements in the past year.”

The letter sent to the ASP President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi highlighted the assembly’s proposal for the implementation of a recommendation by the Independent Expert Review, in which the organization reaffirmed its commitment to “uphold and defend the principles and values enshrined in the Rome Statute and to preserve its integrity undeterred by any threats or measures against the court, its officials and those cooperating with it, and renews its resolve to stand united against impunity.”

The Rome Statute is the treaty that established the ICC. It was adopted in July 1998 and came into force on July 1, 2002.

The ASP proposal reiterates that its president bears the primary responsibility for coordinating an appropriate response to any threat that could undermine the integrity, effectiveness or impartiality of the ICC.

Both letters note that on Oct. 22, 2021, Israel outlawed six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations, and that their offices, along with those of a seventh group, were raided on Aug. 18 this year by Israeli forces who confiscated computers and other equipment and sealed the entrances under military orders.

The letters stressed that such Israeli actions of effectively “tampering with or interfering with the collection of evidence” during an investigation or trial stage might amount to “offenses against the administration of justice” under Article 70 of the Rome Statute.

They also refer to a 2016 report by the Office of the Prosecutor on preliminary examination activities, which acknowledged that employees of Palestinian organizations, including human rights organization Al-Haq (one of the outlawed organizations) and Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, who had helped to gather information relevant to the office’s preliminary examination, had been subjected to threats and other forms of intimidation and interference.

The letters called on the ICC prosecutor and the ASP president “to respond to Israel’s latest attacks on Palestinian (civil society organizations) and defend human rights defenders who cooperate with the court.”

They added that such Palestinian organizations will continue to be active participants in the Rome Statute framework and cooperate with the court in its investigations into the situation in Palestine.