S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace
Internally displaced civilians walk at the Protection of Civilian site (PoC) 3 site in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) compound outside Juba, South Sudan, January 23, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 January 2023

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace

S. Sudan’s displaced hope pope’s visit will bring peace
  • Pope Francis is due to go to Congo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 and then spend two days in South Sudan

JUBA: After spending nearly a decade in a camp for the displaced in South Sudan’s Juba, Mayen Galuak hopes that Pope Francis’ visit to the capital city next week will inspire political leaders to finally restore peace, allowing him to go home.

The 44-year-old entered the UN camp, just a few kilometers from his residence, in search of safety three days after conflict broke out in 2013.

In the ensuing years, he has watched as South Sudan’s leaders forged peace deals and broke them; as militias carried out and denied ethnic massacres; and as relentless conflict pushed parts of the country into famine.

Pope Francis is due to go to Congo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 and then spend two days in South Sudan. 

The pope has wanted to visit South Sudan for years but plans were postponed due to the instability there and a scheduled trip last June was canceled due to the pope’s knee ailment.

The Vatican’s envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo has said the trip will remind the world not to ignore decades-long conflicts.

“We are in a bad situation ... since 2013, we have not seen any good peace,” said Galuak, who says he can’t travel to his birth home in the country’s north because of the risk of attack. Sporadic clashes continue to kill civilians throughout the country.

South Sudan gained independence in 2011.


Israeli strikes in Syria’s Homs province wound five soldiers

Israeli strikes in Syria’s Homs province wound five soldiers
Updated 02 April 2023

Israeli strikes in Syria’s Homs province wound five soldiers

Israeli strikes in Syria’s Homs province wound five soldiers
  • On Friday, Israeli airstrikes hit the suburbs of Syria’s capital city, Damascus, killing an Iranian adviser, the state media of Syria and Iran reported

BEIRUT: Israeli airstrikes hit several sites in Syria’s Homs province early Sunday, wounding five soldiers, Syrian state media reported.
It marked the ninth time Israel has struck targets in Syria since the beginning of the year, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition-linked war monitor.
State news agency SANA, citing military sources, said the strikes had targeted sites in the city of Homs and surrounding countryside. Syrian air defenses intercepted the missiles and shot down some of them, it said.
The observatory reported that the missiles targeted Syrian military sites and those of Iran-linked militias, including a research center.
There was no immediate statement from Israel on the strikes.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets inside government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, including attacks on the Damascus and Aleppo airports, but it rarely acknowledges specific operations.
Israel says it targets bases of Iran-allied militant groups, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.
On Friday, Israeli airstrikes hit the suburbs of Syria’s capital city, Damascus, killing an Iranian adviser, the state media of Syria and Iran reported.
Iran’s state television reported Friday that Milad Heidari, an Iranian military adviser, was killed during what it called a “criminal strike” by Israel.
An Israeli airstrike last month targeting the airport in Aleppo put it out of commission for two days. The airport has been a main conduit for aid shipments since the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Syria and Turkiye on Feb. 6.
Israel has also struck seaports in government-held areas of Syria, in an apparent attempt to prevent Iranian arms shipments to militant groups backed by Tehran, including Hezbollah.

 


Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori marks another milestone on Arab space mission

Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori marks another milestone on Arab space mission
Updated 01 April 2023

Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori marks another milestone on Arab space mission

Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori marks another milestone on Arab space mission
  • Ground-breaking mission also includes Sultan Al-Neyadi, the first Arab astronaut to embark on a long-duration spaceflight
  • Salem Humaid Al-Marri, MBRSC director-general said: ‘Expedition 69 represents the longest Arab space mission to date and marks the first time an Arab astronaut has been appointed as increment lead’

DUBAI: Emirati astronaut Hazzaa Al-Mansoori has become the first Arab to be appointed to the key role of increment lead for an International Space Station expedition, reported Emirates News Agency on Saturday.
Since the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft undocked on March 28, the historic Expedition 69 has marked a milestone for the Arab region and the UAE.
In addition to Al-Mansoori, the ground-breaking mission includes Sultan Al-Neyadi, the first Arab astronaut to embark on a long-duration spaceflight.
As part of his duty as a lead, the Emirati astronaut will guide the ISS crew through every aspect of the mission, underscoring the UAE’s expanding contribution to the field of space exploration.
Expedition 69 crew members are set to conduct multiple experiments during their mission, including investigating the effects of microgravity on material combustion to enhance spacecraft safety, testing a novel tool for deep-space immune monitoring, and advancing research on 3D-cultured cardiac muscle tissue to evaluate human cardiac function in microgravity.
Al-Neyadi will also test samples for microorganisms from outside the space station.
Salem Humaid Al-Marri, director-general of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, said: “Expedition 69 represents the longest Arab space mission to date and marks the first time an Arab astronaut has been appointed as increment lead. Al-Mansoori’s appointment to this position is a testament to his exceptional skills and knowledge.”
It sets the stage for more Arab astronauts to participate in space exploration., according to Al-Marri, who added: “We are excited to witness Sultan and Hazzaa collaborate to conduct ground-breaking experiments that will broaden our knowledge of space and understanding of life in microgravity.”
Al-Mansoori shoulders a critical responsibility for the seamless integration and execution of ISS crew activities throughout Expedition 69.
This involves an array of duties, such as developing, managing, implementing, and communicating mission integration procedures.
Al-Mansoori will ensure the mission’s efficiency and effectiveness by serving as the primary point of contact between the ground team and the ISS crew during operations.
He said: “I am honored to facilitate seamless information exchange between the Astronauts Office and the ISS Expedition team. However, my role entails more than just transmitting data. It includes understanding and appreciating our crew’s challenges and triumphs in space. We aim to advance human space exploration through our collective efforts to support Expedition 69.”
Al-Neyadi has begun conducting experiments with the BioFabrication Facility, evaluating its capacity to produce knee cartilage tissue for treating injuries in space and remote locations on Earth.
He underwent neck, shoulder, and leg vein scans using the Ultrasound 2 medical device.
Expedition 69 crew aboard the ISS comprises astronauts Al-Neyadi, Stephen Bowen, Woody Hoburg, Frank Rubio, Dmitri Petelin, Sergey Prokopyev and Andrey Fedyaev.


Turkish, Syrian children collaborate on bilingual book

Turkish, Syrian children collaborate on bilingual book
Updated 01 April 2023

Turkish, Syrian children collaborate on bilingual book

Turkish, Syrian children collaborate on bilingual book
  • The book — which has been published in Turkish and Arabic — is currently being distributed to libraries, schools and museums in the city
  • “These children are the heroes of a common story,” Asli Gokgoz, a teacher and the project coordinator, told Arab News

ANKARA: As part of a project jointly funded by the Goethe Institute, the Dutch Embassy, the Swedish Consulate, the French Cultural Center, the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation, and the Anadolu Kultur Foundation, 40 Turkish and Syrian children living in Turkiye’s southeastern province of Gaziantep have collaborated to write and illustrate a book titled “Gokce” (sky in Turkish), alluding to the fact that people of all races, cultures and creeds live together under the same sky.
Gaziantep, whose population is nearly 2 million, is home to about half a million Syrian refugees. The city has the second-highest population of Syrians after Istanbul. Currently, there are 3.6 million Syrian refugees across Turkiye, including 1.6 million children.
The book — which has been published in Turkish and Arabic — is currently being distributed to libraries, schools and museums in the city, including mobile libraries for children that were set up following the earthquake in February that left more than 50,000 people dead in Turkiye and Syria. The book’s cover bears the fingerprints of all the children who helped to produce it.
“These children are the heroes of a common story,” Asli Gokgoz, a teacher and the project coordinator, told Arab News. “They grew up with different stories, but they showed that they could come together to produce a common narrative that symbolizes the cultural, ethnical and linguistic heterogeneity of Gaziantep province.”
The book opens with a well-known sentence: Once upon a time. Then, children began developing the story jointly by consensus. It is about the adventures of a girl named Gokce, who lives with her lambs and family on a green upland full of colorful flowers.
The children received creative-writing training and attended interactive reading and drawing workshops to enable them to better express their feelings through words and drawings.
“These workshops helped them listen to their own voices while at the same time paying attention to what their peers were saying. We tried to contribute to their own journey of self-discovery and help to reestablish their self-confidence,” Gokgoz said.
“They are aware of their differences but they also know that they enjoy the same child rights. Such a project helped them establish a common story by a collective effort to blend these disparities around a common dream,” Gokgoz continued.
Several Syrian children who took part in the project came to Gaziantep to escape the brutal war in their home country, and are still struggling to rebuild their lives, especially following February’s earthquake. One of them, 14-year-old Mariam Nasser, told Arab News: “In spite of differences in ages and cultural backgrounds, we can integrate our efforts to produce valuable results. Social cohesion is an important factor for healthy communities.”
Nasser, who was born in Syria and came to Gaziantep as a refugee several years ago, said the project’s workshops had helped her develop her imagination and writing abilities.
“I liked getting to know Turkish children and playing with them. I even felt my self-confidence growing. Our common project also helped our families, because Turkish and Syrian families also built bridges between themselves and left behind several prejudices,” she said. “This book is a clear sign that children can achieve anything when they come together under the same sky.”
Another Turkish participant shares the same feeling.
“After this project, I learned how to live together under the same sky,” 10-year-old Ege Mai, a resident of Gaziantep, told Arab News. “I understood that people can be different from each other, but that we are all basically the same.”
 


Syria foreign minister makes first Egypt visit for more than a decade

Syria foreign minister makes first Egypt visit for more than a decade
Updated 01 April 2023

Syria foreign minister makes first Egypt visit for more than a decade

Syria foreign minister makes first Egypt visit for more than a decade
  • An Egyptian security source said the visit was aimed at putting in place steps for Syria’s return to the Arab League

CAIRO: Egypt and Syria agreed to strengthen cooperation on Saturday during the first official visit by a Syrian foreign minister to Cairo in more than a decade, the latest sign of Arab states mending ties with President Bashar al Assad.
Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was embraced by Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry as he arrived at Egypt’s foreign ministry in the first official trip since before the uprising and conflict that began in Syria in 2011.
President Assad was shunned by many Western and Arab states due to the war in Syria, which splintered the country and left hundreds of thousands of people dead.
“The ministers agreed to intensify channels of communication between the two countries at different levels during the coming phase,” a statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry said.
Egypt also reiterated its backing for a “comprehensive political settlement to the Syrian crisis as soon as possible.”
An Egyptian security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the visit was aimed at putting in place steps for Syria’s return to the Arab League through Egyptian and Saudi Arabian mediation.
The Cairo-based Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011 and many Arab states pulled their envoys out of Damascus.
Some countries, including the United States and Qatar, have opposed the rehabilitation of ties with Assad, citing his government’s brutality during the conflict and the need to see progress toward a political solution in Syria.
But key regional powers including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have recently signalled increasing openness toward Damascus.
Egypt’s Shoukry visited Syria and Turkiye in February after the devastating earthquakes there, and on Saturday reiterated a pledge of support for its victims.
Egypt’s foreign ministry published pictures of Shoukry warmly greeting Mekdad at the foreign ministry on the banks of the Nile, as well as in one-on-one talks and leading a wider discussion.


Sudan delays signing of deal to usher in civilian government

Sudan delays signing of deal to usher in civilian government
Updated 01 April 2023

Sudan delays signing of deal to usher in civilian government

Sudan delays signing of deal to usher in civilian government

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military leaders and pro-democracy forces will delay the signing of an agreement to usher in a civilian government, both sides said in a joint statement issued early Saturday.
The postponement of the signing — which had been scheduled for later Saturday — comes as key security reform negotiations between the Sudanese army and the country’s powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces appear to have reached a deadlock.
A meeting will be held Saturday “to set a new date for signing the final political agreement, which could not be signed on time due to the lack of consensus on some outstanding issues,” the statement said.
Sudan has been mired in chaos after a military coup, led by the country’s top Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, removed a Western-backed power-sharing government in October 2021, upending the country’s short-lived transition to democracy.
But last December, the military, the RSF and numerous pro-democracy groups signed a preliminary deal vowing to restore the transition.
In recent months, internationally brokered workshops in Khartoum have sought to find common ground over the country’s thorniest political issues in the hope of signing a more inclusive final agreement.
Chief among the discussion points have been security sector reform and the integration of the RSF into the military — the topic of this week’s talks. But talks ended Wednesday without any clear outcome.
Shihab Ibrahim, a spokesperson for one of the largest pro-democracy groups that signed December’s deal, said the army and the RSF have struggled to reach an agreement over the timeline of the integration process.
The army wants a two-year timeline for integration while the RSF has called for a 10-year window, he said.
Spokespersons for the Sudanese army and the RSF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.