India, Egypt forge strategic partnership with El-Sisi’s visit to Delhi

Special India, Egypt forge strategic partnership with El-Sisi’s visit to Delhi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2023

India, Egypt forge strategic partnership with El-Sisi’s visit to Delhi

India, Egypt forge strategic partnership with El-Sisi’s visit to Delhi
  • African leader is chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations
  • Modi announces plan to increase bilateral trade to $12bn

NEW DELHI: India and Egypt raised their bilateral ties to a strategic partnership on Wednesday as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi began his visit to the largest country in south Asia.

El-Sisi arrived in India on a three-day trip on Tuesday evening for meetings with political and business leaders. He will also participate as the chief guest in celebrations of India’s Republic Day — a public holiday marking when the Indian constitution came into effect on Jan. 26, 1950.

In a joint presser on Wednesday, he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the formation of their new partnership and plans for long-term cooperation.

“In today’s meetings, President Sisi and I decided to elevate our bilateral relationship into a strategic partnership,” Modi told reporters.

“We have decided that under the India and Egypt strategic partnership, we will develop a long-term infrastructure for cooperation in the field of politics, security, economics and science.”

El-Sisi invited Modi to visit Cairo to finalize the initiatives and while more details are expected to be announced then, the very announcement is already seen as significant.

“Elevation of the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership signifies the importance the two sides attach (to it) especially in defense and security areas,” Anil Trigunayat, former diplomat and a distinguished fellow at the Vivekananda International Foundation think tank in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“As the world undergoes unprecedented disorder and transformation, Egypt is India’s bridge to Africa ... To cater to a closer all-round engagement the two sides have created a robust institutional matrix.”

Navdeep Suri, former Indian ambassador to Egypt, told Arab News that El-Sisi’s visit was an important initiative for New Delhi.

El-Sisi is the first Egyptian president to be invited as guest of honor for the annual Republic Day parade, and according to Suri, the invitation is “imparting fresh momentum” to India’s ties with the largest country in the Arab world.

“With a population of almost 110 million, a location that straddles Africa and Asia, a standing army that is the largest in the region, a capital that hosts the League of Arab States, and a diplomatic presence that punches above its weight in global affairs, Egypt is a pivotal player,” Suri said.

“It is also a country with which India enjoyed an exceptionally close relationship in the first couple of decades after our independence.”

The Egyptian president is accompanied by five members of his government, including Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Communications and Information Technology Minister Amr Talaat.

His delegation signed five memorandums with Indian counterparts on culture, youth affairs, cybersecurity, information technology and public broadcasting.

El-Sisi’s second state visit to India since 2016 comes as Cairo tries to manage a dollar shortage and has been trying to draw more foreign investment and forge trade ties beyond its traditional alliances with the US and European powers.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Modi announced plans to nearly double bilateral trade to $12 billion in the next five years.

For India, economic engagement with Egypt has strategic importance and preparations should come from both sides, Suri said.

“While Egypt clearly needs to do more to market itself as an investment destination in India, it is also important for industry bodies in India to take a more proactive approach,” he added.

“For now, there are clear indications that India under Prime Minister Modi and Egypt under President El-Sisi may finally be moving toward achieving some of the potential in bilateral ties that has remained unfulfilled for the last four decades.”


Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again
Updated 9 sec ago

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again

Israeli court delays demolition of West Bank village again
  • Right-wing Israeli group Regavim had taken the government to court in order to force officials to raze the village
  • Opponents to the demolition believe levelling Khan Al-Ahmar would pave the way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area
JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday approved a new delay to the controversial demolition of a Bedouin village in the occupied West Bank.
The Khan Al-Ahmar community, which lies on a strategic highway east of Jerusalem, was slated for demolition in 2018 after a ruling that it was built without Israeli permits.
Right-wing Israeli group Regavim had taken the government to court in order to force officials to raze the village, whose 200 residents have drawn international support.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration, which took office in December, had requested more time to decide on Khan Al-Ahmar’s fate, telling the court it needed an extension before presenting a plan to demolish the village.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Court granted a delay until May 1 but expressed regret that the government was “satisfied with the current situation... postponing its response every few months.”
Prior administrations have delayed their decision on Khan Al-Ahmar eight times.
Opponents to the demolition believe levelling Khan Al-Ahmar would pave the way for the expansion of Israeli settlements in the area, effectively forming a barrier between annexed east Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
Israel has been under international pressure to block the demolition, with European diplomats most recently visiting the community on January 30.
Khan Al-Ahmar is located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control and where it is almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain construction permits.
The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town
Updated 26 min 26 sec ago

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town

Newborn, toddler saved from rubble in quake-hit Syrian town
  • The newborn girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead
  • Baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse Monday in the town of Jinderis

JINDERIS, Syria: Residents digging through a collapsed building in a northwest Syrian town discovered a crying infant whose mother appears to have given birth to her while buried underneath the rubble from this week’s devastating earthquake, relatives and a doctor said Tuesday.
The newborn girl’s umbilical cord was still connected to her mother, Afraa Abu Hadiya, who was dead, they said. The baby was the only member of her family to survive from the building collapse Monday in the small town of Jinderis, next to the Turkish border, Ramadan Sleiman, a relative, told The Associated Press.
Monday’s pre-dawn 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by multiple aftershocks, caused widespread destruction across southern Turkiye and northern Syria. Thousands have been killed, with the toll mounting as more bodies are discovered. But dramatic rescues have also occurred. Elsewhere in Jinderis, a young girl was found alive, buried in concrete under the wreckage of her home.
The newborn baby was rescued Monday afternoon, more than 10 hours after the quake struck. After rescuers dug her out, a female neighbor cut the cord, and she and others rushed with the baby to a children’s hospital in the nearby town of Afrin, where she has been kept on an incubator, said the doctor treating the baby, Dr. Hani Maarouf.
Video of the rescue circulating on social media shows the moments after the baby was removed from the rubble, as a man lifts her up, her umbilical cord still dangling, and rushes away as another man throws him a blanket to wrap her in.
The baby’s body temperature had fallen to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and she had bruises, including a large one on her back, but she is in stable condition, he said.
Abu Hadiya must have been conscious during the birth and must have died soon after, Maarouf said. He estimated the baby was born several hours before being found, given the amount her temperature had dropped. If the girl had been born just before the quake, she wouldn’t have survived so many hours in the cold, he said.
“Had the girl been left for an hour more, she would have died,” he said.
When the earthquake hit before dawn on Monday, Abu Hadiya, her husband and four children apparently tried to rush out of their apartment building, but the structure collapsed on them. Their bodies were found near the building’s entrance, said Sleiman, who arrived at the scene just after the newborn was discovered.
“She was found in front of her mother’s legs,” he said. “After the dust and rocks were removed the girl was found alive.”
Maarouf said the baby weighed 3.175 kilograms (7 pounds), an average weight for a newborn, and so was carried nearly to term. “Our only concern is the bruise on her back, and we have to see whether there is any problem with her spinal cord,” he said, saying she has been moving her legs and arms normally.
Jinderis, located in the rebel-held enclave of northwest Syria, was hard hit in the quake, with dozens of buildings that collapsed.
Abu Hadiya and her family were among the millions of Syrians who fled to the rebel-held territory from other parts of the country. They were originally from the village of Khsham in eastern Deir Ezzor province, but left in 2014 after the Daesh group captured their village, said a relative who identified himself as Saleh Al-Badran.
In 2018, the family moved to Jinderis after the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army, an umbrella for several insurgent groups, captured the town from US-backed Kurdish led fighters, Sleiman said.
On Tuesday, Abu Hadiya and the girl’s father Abdullah Turki Mleihan, along with their four other children were laid to rest in a cemetery on the outskirts of Jinderis.
Back inside the town, rescue operations were still ongoing in their building hoping to find survivors.
The town saw another dramatic rescue Monday evening, when a toddler was pulled alive from the wreckage of a collapsed building. Video from the White Helmets, the emergency service in the region, shows a rescuer digging through crushed concrete amid twisted metal until the little girl, named Nour, appeared. The girl, still half buried, looks up dazedly as they tell her, “Dad is here, don’t be scared. … Talk to your dad, talk.”
A rescuer cradled her head in his hands and tenderly wiped dust from around her eyes before she was pulled out.
The quake has wreaked new devastation in the opposition-held zone, centered on the Syrian province of Idlib, which was already been battered by years of war and strained by the influx of displaced people from the country’s civil war, which began in 2011.
Monday’s earthquake killed hundreds across the area, and the toll was continually mounting with hundreds believed still lost under the rubble. The quake completely or partially toppled more than 730 buildings and damaged thousands more in the territory, according to the White Helmets, as the area’s civil defense is known.
The White Helmets have years of experience in digging victims out from buildings crushed by bombardment from Russian warplanes or Syrian government forces. An earthquake is a new disaster for them.
“They are both catastrophes — a catastrophe that has been ongoing for 12 years and the criminal has not been held accountable, and this one is a natural catastrophe,” said the deputy head of the White Helmets, Munir Mustafa.
Asked if there was a difference between rescue work in the quake and during the war, he said, “We cannot compare death with death … What we are witnessing today is death on top of death.”


Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN
Updated 47 min 23 sec ago

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN

Quake imperils cross-border aid to Syria: UN
  • "The cross-border operation has itself been impacted," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters
  • A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said the Bab al-Hawa crossing itself is "actually intact"

GENEVA: The sole border crossing used to shuttle life-saving aid from Turkiye into conflict-ravaged Syria has seen its operations disrupted by the deadly earthquake that struck the two countries, the UN said Tuesday.
The 7.8-magnitude quake and its aftershocks struck Turkiye and Syria on Monday and killed more than 5,400 people.
“The cross-border operation has itself been impacted,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters in Geneva.
A spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said the Bab Al-Hawa crossing itself is “actually intact.”
“However, the road that is leading to the crossing has been damaged, and that’s temporarily disrupted our ability to fully use it,” Dujarric said.
Disaster agencies said several thousand buildings were flattened across an area plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent cholera outbreak.
Concerns have been running particularly high for how aid might reach all those in need in Syria, devastated by more than a decade of civil war.
Humanitarian aid in rebel-held areas usually arrives through Turkiye via a cross-border mechanism created in 2014 by a UN Security Council resolution.
But it is contested by Damascus and its ally Moscow, who see it as a violation of Syrian sovereignty.
Under pressure from Russia and China, the number of crossing points has been reduced over time from four to one.
And now areas surrounding that one border crossing have suffered significant infrastructure damage, while the aid workers on the ground have been hit by the catastrophe.
“Every effort is being done to overcome these logistical hurdles, which are created by the earthquake,” Laerke said.
“There is a window of about seven days” when survivors are generally found, Laerke said, adding that it was critical to get teams to those in immediate need as soon as possible.
“It is imperative that everybody sees it as a humanitarian crisis where lives are at stake,” he said.
“Please don’t politicize this. Let’s get the aid out to the people who so desperately need it.”
He said the UN was intent on using “any and all means to get to people, and that includes the cross-border operation and the cross-line operation from inside Syria.”
But Laerke said access by road was a challenge and pointed out that the quake had impacted the UN’s “own staff, our own contracting partners, our truck drivers that we work with, our national staff.”
“They’re looking for their families in the rubble... That has had an impact on that operation in the immediate,” he acknowledged.
At the same time, he said, partners that deliver aid in northwestern Syria said they were “operational and they are asking for supplies, and they are also asking for funding.”
For now though, the specific Syria cross-border humanitarian fund is empty, he warned.


Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets
Updated 07 February 2023

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets

Iran unveils underground base for fighter jets
  • Base can accommodate ‘all types of fighter jets and bombers, in addition to drones’

TEHRAN: Iran’s army on Tuesday unveiled its first underground base for fighter jets designed to withstand possible strikes by US bunker-busting bombs, state media reported.

The base — named Oghab 44 (“Eagle” in Persian) — can accommodate “all types of fighter jets and bombers, in addition to drones,” the official news agency IRNA said, releasing images and videos from inside the base.

The exact location of the base was not revealed, but state media said it was “at the depth of hundreds of meters under the mountains,” and capable of withstanding “bombs by strategic US bombers.”

In May last year, Iran’s army revealed an air force base for drones under the Zagros mountain range in the west of the country.

The latest unveiling comes the day before Iran marks Air Force Day, part of the buildup to the 44th anniversary on Saturday of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

State media on Tuesday showed Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri and the army’s commander-in-chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi at the new base.

Oghab 44 is “one of numerous tactical underground air bases for the army’s air force built in different areas of the country in recent years,” IRNA reported.

It can prepare fighter jets to “counter possible offensives” such as those practiced by the US and Israel in their recent military drill, according to state media.

Iran has mostly Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets that date back to the Soviet era, as well as some Chinese aircraft, including the F-7.

Some American F-4 and F-5 fighter jets dating back to before the revolution are also part of its fleet.


First Kuwaiti flight carrying aid for earthquake victims takes off for Turkiye

First Kuwaiti flight carrying aid for earthquake victims takes off for Turkiye
Updated 07 February 2023

First Kuwaiti flight carrying aid for earthquake victims takes off for Turkiye

First Kuwaiti flight carrying aid for earthquake victims takes off for Turkiye
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the aid effort, with the Kuwaiti army responsible for transporting aid workers, machinery and equipment

KUWAIT: The first flight from Kuwait carrying aid took off on Tuesday for Turkiye as part of the relief effort to help the victims of the massive earthquake that struck the country in the early hours of Monday, the Kuwait News Agency reported.
Thousands died in disaster and many more were injured or left homeless, with southern Turkiye and northern Syria the worst-affected areas. Rescue teams were racing against time on Tuesday to find and rescue victims trapped in the rubble of damaged buildings.
Kuwait’s relief effort is operating under the directives of Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is coordinating the aid, with the Kuwaiti army responsible for transporting aid workers, machinery and equipment. The Red Crescent and the Ministry of Health are also participating.
Lt. Gen. Khaled Al-Mekrad, the director general of the Kuwait Fire Force, and Tuba Nur Sonmez, the Turkish ambassador to Kuwait, watched the flight take off.