Jordan Cabinet reshuffle to boost modernization, IMF reforms: PM

Jordan Cabinet reshuffle to boost modernization, IMF reforms: PM
Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh has said a Cabinet reshuffle in the Jordanian government will aid the country’s modernization efforts and spur reforms recommended by the IMF. (Petra)
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Updated 28 October 2022

Jordan Cabinet reshuffle to boost modernization, IMF reforms: PM

Jordan Cabinet reshuffle to boost modernization, IMF reforms: PM
  • Khasawneh hails ‘exceptional’ atmosphere, achievements of outgoing ministers
  • Govt commits to structural changes amid sluggish economy

AMMAN: A Cabinet reshuffle in the Jordanian government will aid the country’s modernization efforts and spur reforms recommended by the IMF, Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh has said.
The newly reshuffled government held a session on Thursday, headed by Khasawneh, following the issuance of a royal decree approving the Cabinet reshuffle, Jordan’s News Agency (Petra) reported.
Khasawneh thanked the outgoing ministers for their efforts, stressing that all Cabinet members had worked in an “exceptional” atmosphere and assumed responsibility in difficult circumstances to serve the Hashemite leadership, Jordan and its people.
He congratulated the new ministers, said Petra.
The PM said that the earlier Cabinet accomplished many of its duties, under the King’s Letter of Designation to the government, including dealing with pandemic-related issues.
“The government was also formed in light of constitutional deadlines, after the end of the 8th Parliament’s tenure, and tasked the Independent Election Commission (IEC) to hold new parliamentary elections on their constitutional date,” he added.
The government also presented its first budget following an agreement with the IMF to speed up the pace of structural economic reforms. The government pledged to pursue structural reforms that revive the national economy, with a commitment to avoid imposing new taxes in any form.
Khasawneh said that the Cabinet was “proud” of its achievements in protecting Jordan’s economy, improving economic conditions, maintaining public finances and promoting monetary independence.
Referring to “great” achievements during Jordan’s first centenary, the prime minister said that the government has launched a comprehensive reform path along three main axes: Political, economic and public sector modernization.
The three modernization tracks will overlap and converge to make the comprehensive modernization endeavors “successful,” Khasawneh added.
 


Blast hits bus transporting police in Syria

Blast hits bus transporting police in Syria
Updated 14 sec ago

Blast hits bus transporting police in Syria

Blast hits bus transporting police in Syria
  • Seven officers were seriously wounded

BEIRUT: A roadside bomb targeting a bus transporting Syrian police in the country’s south on Monday wounded 15 of the officers, the Interior Ministry said.

The ministry said in a terse statement that the officers were returning to Damascus from the southern province of Daraa.

The bomb exploded on the north-south highway near the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh.

It said seven officers were seriously wounded.

Such attacks are not uncommon in Syria, where a nearly 12-year-old conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. 

In October, a bus bombing killed 18 Syrian soldiers in a Damascus suburb and wounded at least 27 others.

Similar attacks over the years have killed and wounded dozens of soldiers in government-held parts of the war-torn country.

In March last year, militants attacked a military bus near the historic town of Palmyra in central Syria, killing 13 troops and wounding 18 others.


Israel accused of ‘unprecedented’ security escalation against Palestinians as Blinken visits region

Israel accused of ‘unprecedented’ security escalation against Palestinians as Blinken visits region
Updated 50 min 5 sec ago

Israel accused of ‘unprecedented’ security escalation against Palestinians as Blinken visits region

Israel accused of ‘unprecedented’ security escalation against Palestinians as Blinken visits region
  • Field leader of Fatah movement in Nablus expresses fear that settler groups could commit ‘massacres’

RAMALLAH: Israel faced fresh accusations of launching an unprecedented security escalation against Palestinians as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Jerusalem on Monday to urge a deescalation in deadly violence.

Blinken called for “urgent steps” to calm spiraling violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after high-level talks in Jerusalem.

Tensions have risen further since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power in December, with religious nationalists in key Cabinet posts promising tougher stances and enraging Palestinians.

The Israeli army deployed checkpoints across West Bank cities and towns, with unprecedented settler attacks against Palestinian citizens preventing movement on main roads.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for placing violent settlers on terrorist lists.

Palestinian factions have called for broad participation at an open sit-in protest in Khan Al-Ahmar, which will start at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

They stressed that Khan Al-Ahmar is a “red line in front of the policies of demolition, forced expulsion and ethnic cleansing” that Israel is promoting.

Palestinian activists also called for people to attend a central sit-in in Ramallah at 4 p.m on Tuesday in rejection of favorable US policy toward Israel.

The protest coincides with Blinken’s visit to the city.

Palestinian residents and activists called for the formation of protection committees to address settler attacks.

Birzeit University, one of the largest Palestinian universities, has returned to the virtual e-learning situation of the COVID-19 pandemic after thousands of students from the West Bank were unable to reach its campus over security fears.

Palestinians spend hours waiting at Israeli checkpoints deployed across the West Bank during the daytime, and become targets for settler violence at night.

Ahmad Al-Chami, a researcher in political science from Ramallah, told Arab News that Palestinian citizens were forced to protect themselves individually due to the inability of the Palestinian Authority to safeguard them from attacks in Area C as well the north and south of the West Bank.

“The Palestinian Authority has become unable to protect the Palestinian citizen who travels between Ramallah and Jenin or any other place in the West Bank in front of the attacks of the army and settlers, and he realizes that if he was also killed, the authority could not prosecute the killers,” Al-Chami told Arab News.

“Therefore, citizens are thinking of protecting themselves by their means, away from relying on the fragile authority,” he added.

The Palestinian Authority ended security cooperation with Israel on Jan. 27 following the murder of nine Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp.

But many Palestinians view the measure as having failed to stop Israeli armed forces and settler attacks, Al-Chami said.

He added: “Did the Palestinian Authority’s decision to stop the security coordination save the lives of the Palestinians, bring them closer to reaching a solution or restore their rights?”

Hisham Al-Sharabati, a human rights activist from Hebron, agreed with the researcher, telling Arab News that Israel was failing to apply its laws against violent settlers, with most attacks against Palestinians occurring in the presence of the Israeli army.

Al-Sharabati said that some violent incidents were left unattended by Israeli police for long periods of time, despite authorities receiving requests for help by Palestinian victims.

“If a Palestinian tries to defend himself against settler attacks, the Israeli army forces will arrest him,” said Al-Sharabati.

He added that settler communities, in the wake of Netanyahu’s return to power, had become more aggressive and violent after being empowered by the new administration.

“The settlers’ feeling that they have government political support motivates and encourages them to commit more attacks,” Al-Sharabati said.

He added that the Palestinian Authority must safeguard Palestinians in Area C — which is under complete Israeli security control — and transform it from a functional apparatus into an authority.

Taysir Nasrallah, one of the field leaders of the Fatah movement in the Nablus region, told Arab News that it had become essential to activate and strengthen popular protection committees in Palestinian villages to discourage settler attacks in Area C.

Nasrallah expressed his fear that settler groups would commit massacres against Palestinian citizens, describing the behavior of the settler community as “very violent” and “reprehensible.”

He told Arab News: “Even during the Israeli military operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the Israeli army was the only group which attacked Palestinians. But now the army and the settlers are together, sharing roles among themselves in abusing Palestinian citizens and their property.”

Israel’s right-wing Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich lives in a settlement in the West Bank, demonstrating the new government’s close ties to the settler community, the Fatah leader said.

January was the deadliest month for Palestinians killed in Israeli raids in the West Bank since 2015, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said on Monday — with an average of more than one person killed each day.

It added that 35 Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli military and settlers in the new year as of Jan. 30.

The figure includes eight Palestinian children and an older woman. Twenty of the deceased were from Jenin in the northern West Bank, a ministry statement said.

The death toll includes Omar Al-Saadi, 24, who was shot on Thursday during an Israeli raid on Jenin refugee camp that has been described as a “massacre.”

Al-Saadi, who died from his wounds on Sunday, was the 10th person killed as a result of the raid.

Another Palestinian was killed in clashes with the IDF in Al-Ram on Thursday.

Palestinian National Economy Minister Khaled Al-Osaily said on Monday that the annual losses of the Palestinian economy since 2020 amounted to $3.4 billion primarily due to Israeli restrictions on Area C.

Palestinians are barred from using land — 65 percent of the state’s territory — in the area, which contains vital economic resources.


Yemeni leader creates military unit under reconstruction strategy

Yemeni leader creates military unit under reconstruction strategy
Updated 57 min 12 sec ago

Yemeni leader creates military unit under reconstruction strategy

Yemeni leader creates military unit under reconstruction strategy
  • Rashad Al-Alimi issues order establishing Nation Shield Force as reserves under his command
  • Advisory body cautions Leadership Council against legitimizing Houthi takeover in talks

AL-MUKALLA: A new military group in Yemen, the Nation Shield Force, has been created by Leadership Council President Rashad Al-Alimi as part of a push to unify armed groups and scattered units throughout government-controlled territories.

The official news agency SABA reported on Sunday evening that Al-Alimi issued a presidential order establishing the Nation Shield Force as reserve troops under his command and naming a little-known military officer, Brig. Basher Saif Qaid Ghobair Al-Subaihi, as the unit’s commander.

SABA said that the Yemeni leader will issue another decree specifying the number, purpose and deployment location of the forces.

Al-Subaihi was among thousands of Yemenis who fought against the Iran-backed Houthis during the militia’s 2015 conquest of the southern port city of Aden.

Officials and experts in Yemen said that resistance fighters as well as military and security forces that fought against the Houthis would be recruited and given formal military training, and ranks in the new unit.

Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Kumaim, a Yemeni military analyst, told Arab News that the new unit will incorporate active military and security forces on the ground, as well as units from military zones, adding that the procedure is part of a strategy to give active units on the ground legitimacy and unite them under the leadership of the country’s institutions.

“These forces are not new and are already present on the battlefield. This is in accordance with the Yemeni Ministry of Defense’s reorganization, repositioning and reorganization of its military,” Al-Kumaim said, adding that troops in the new unit will take part in military action against the Houthis across Yemen.

Al-Kumaim refuted opponents who said that the Yemeni leader is attempting to build a force under his command to compete with the private militaries of other council members.

“As commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, he commands all forces on the ground and has the authority to form any new forces. There is no competition,” Al-Kumaim said.

In an interview with Al Arabiya TV last month, Al-Alimi said that the council’s priority is on consolidating multiple military groups under a single command center, conceding that merging forces under the Defense Ministry may not occur in the near future.

In April, former president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi transferred his authority to the eight-member Presidential Leadership Council, led by Al-Alimi. It includes military and political officials and numerous provincial governors such as Aidarous Al-Zubaidi, the president of the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council; Tareq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh, the commander of Republic Guards forces; Abdul Rahman Al-Muharami, the commander of the Giants Brigades; and others.

Meanwhile, the Consultation and Reconciliation Commission, an advisory body to the Presidential Leadership Council, advised the Yemeni government to work toward achieving peace in Yemen and addressing the country’s economic woes, while cautioning against legitimizing the Houthi military takeover in any direct talks with the militia.

“We emphasized the need for thorough and direct political dialog between the legitimacy headed by the Presidential Leadership Council and the Houthi militia based on legitimacy and the coup,” Mohammed Al-Ghaithi, the body’s leader, said on Twitter after a virtual meeting with other members on Sunday.


Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
Updated 30 January 2023

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver as car speeds off: army
  • Killing marks the latest bloodshed in spiraling violence that comes as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits the region

HEBRON: Israeli troops killed a Palestinian driver in the occupied West Bank Monday, officials on both sides said, with the army saying the car had hit a soldier’s leg before speeding off.
Nassim Naif Salman Abu Fouda, 26, died from “a bullet wound to the head fired by the occupation (Israeli) soldiers in Hebron this morning,” the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Israeli army said that soldiers had “identified a suspicious vehicle” and “asked the driver to stop the vehicle in order to inspect it.”
“A soldier approached the vehicle and the driver rammed into his leg,” it added.
Troops then “fired toward the vehicle as it attempted to flee the scene and hits were identified,” the army statement said. “The vehicle continued driving and then crashed.”
An eyewitness told AFP that “four or five soldiers surrounded him (Abu Fouda) when he was in his car, front and behind.”
“They started shooting at him, then he was hit,” added the witness, Hazem Abu Sneineh.
The army said the driver was taken from the car by Palestinian medics and “was later declared dead.”
Abu Fouda’s body was wrapped in a green Islamic prayer rug as it was carried from a mosque in central Hebron for burial, surrounded by hundreds of mourners.
He is the 35th Palestinian killed in the conflict this month, in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem — including militants, civilians and several children — according to an AFP tally based on official sources from both sides.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967.
The funeral in Hebron was held just before US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel for a visit that will also include talks with the Palestinian leadership, amid one of the conflict’s deadliest phases in years.
Israel is reeling after a Palestinian killed six Israelis including a child and one Ukrainian citizen in a shooting on Friday outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.
The attack came a day after Israeli forces killed 10 Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp, in a raid the army claimed targeted operatives from Islamic Jihad.
On Sunday, CIA Director Williams Burns held talks in the West Bank with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to discuss the “dangerous developments,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The US embassy declined to comment to AFP on CIA chief’s meeting.


Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2023

Iran summons Ukraine envoy over top aide’s drone strike remarks

Footage shows what is said to be the moment of an explosion at a military industry factory in Isfahan, Iran. (Reuters)
  • Podoliak linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site

TEHRAN: Tehran on Monday summoned a Ukrainian diplomat to protest “biased” remarks by a presidential aide in Kyiv over a recent drone strike in Iran, the Islamic republic’s foreign ministry said.
Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, linked in a tweet on Sunday Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion of his country with the night-time strike on a military site.
“Explosive night in Iran — drone and missile production, oil refineries,” he said. “War logic... bills the authors and accomplices strictly.”
“Ukraine did warn you,” Podoliak added.
Iran’s foreign ministry said Ukraine’s charge d’affaires in Tehran had been summoned to provide “an official and immediate explanation from the Ukrainian government.”
It called Podoliak’s remarks “strange and biased,” adding in a statement it hoped “such positions will not be repeated.”
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday night that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in the central Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Dramatic video footage widely shared on social media and published by Iranian state media showed a fireball lighting up the night sky, with people outside seen running and emergency service vehicles speeding toward the site.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Iran of supplying military drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine, a claim that is denied by Tehran.