Palestinian nurse spots own father among dying casualties from Israel raid

Palestinian nurse Elias al-Ashqar stands by a billboard bearing an obituary for his father Abdel Aziz, on February 24, 2023, who died during an Israeli raid in Nablus in the occupied West Bank two days earlier. (AFP)
Palestinian nurse Elias al-Ashqar stands by a billboard bearing an obituary for his father Abdel Aziz, on February 24, 2023, who died during an Israeli raid in Nablus in the occupied West Bank two days earlier. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2023

Palestinian nurse spots own father among dying casualties from Israel raid

Palestinian nurse spots own father among dying casualties from Israel raid
  • Ashqar said his father Abdel Aziz, 65, had been returning from prayers in the Old City when he was caught up in the Israeli incursion

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories: When Israel conducted its deadliest raid in the occupied West Bank in almost two decades this week, a young Palestinian nurse rushed to help.
As critical case after critical case succumbed to their wounds, Elias Al-Ashqar, 25, let out a blood-curdling roar.
“My father! My father,” he screamed, as he realized his dad was among the 11 people killed in the raid on the flashpoint city of Nablus.
“I was on my regular shift in the hospital on Wednesday morning. I was busy with a group of medical students from An-Najah University,” Ashqar told AFP.
It was then that the emergency department alarm bell sounded, warning of multiple incoming casualties, an increasingly frequent occurrence amid the growing violence of recent months.
As he entered, he saw two people on opposite beds. “The doctors were trying to resuscitate them,” he told AFP, tears welling in his eyes.
“I helped the doctors with the first patient. He was young but soon died, so I tried to help save the life of the second man without looking at his face.
“The doctors were trying to resuscitate him, so I left them to help other cases... but I had a strange feeling the second wounded man belonged to me.
“I ran back and asked about him, and they told me that he had been martyred, so I subconsciously pulled back the curtain, and discovered that the martyr was my father.”
Ashqar said his father Abdel Aziz, 65, had been returning from prayers in the Old City when he was caught up in the Israeli incursion. He said his father was unarmed.
Recent clashes in Nablus are at least partly the result of the emergence of a new militant group in the city dubbed the Lions’ Den, that claims to rise above traditional factional loyalties and has been blamed for a number of attacks on Israeli targets.
Israel said Wednesday’s raid targeted two Lions’ Den members, as well as a member of the Islamic Jihad militant group.
As young men lined up to offer their condolences on Friday, Ashqar said his father had simply been going about his everyday life and lamented the prospects of ever winning justice for him.
“I don’t know whether the Palestinian person is different to the European or American person,” he said.
“We just wish we could have a life, we just want a life.”

 


UN seeks agreement on Libya vote sticking points

UN seeks agreement on Libya vote sticking points
Updated 58 min 53 sec ago

UN seeks agreement on Libya vote sticking points

UN seeks agreement on Libya vote sticking points
  • Envoys of Libya's factions said after more than two weeks of talks in Morocco they had agreed on the legal steps required for new elections
  • The United Nations Support Mission in Libya said in a statement it "takes note" of the outcome of the Morocco talks

TRIPOLI: The United Nations said Thursday it would work toward helping Libya’s rival factions agree on contested points preventing long-delayed presidential and legislative elections being held in the conflict-scarred nation.
Early Wednesday, envoys of Libya’s factions said after more than two weeks of talks in Morocco they had agreed on the legal steps required for new elections.
But they stopped short of signing an agreement, indicating that they had differences that still need to be resolved.
Elections in the North African country had been due in December 2021 but were never organized, as disputes persisted on key issues including who should stand in the polls.
Libya has been torn by more than a decade of stop-start conflict since a 2011 revolt toppled strongman Muammar Qaddafi, with myriad militias forming opposing alliances backed by foreign powers.
The country remains split between a nominally interim government in Tripoli in the west, and another in the east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
On Thursday, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement it “takes note” of the outcome of the Morocco talks.
It said UNSMIL will work “to facilitate a process among all actors to address the contested elements of the electoral framework” with the aim of securing “the necessary political agreement on the path to elections.”
The UN mission urged everyone involved “in a spirit of compromise, to address all outstanding issues and create a safer and more conducive environment for the holding of elections in 2023.”
Among the contested points are the candidacy of dual nationals and soldiers.
Haftar also hold US citizenship, and his detractors accuse him of seeking to restore military dictatorship in Libya.
The UN envoy to Libya Abdoulaye Bathily did not attend the talks in Morocco, but on Thursday the UNSMIL statement urged “all players to refrain from delay tactics aimed at prolonging the stalemate.”
The UN appeal was supported by representatives in Tripoli of both the United States and the European Union.


Lebanon presidential nominee temporarily steps away from IMF role

Lebanon presidential nominee temporarily steps away from IMF role
Updated 08 June 2023

Lebanon presidential nominee temporarily steps away from IMF role

Lebanon presidential nominee temporarily steps away from IMF role
  • Azour, who served as Lebanon's finance minister from 2005 to 2008, has yet to officially announce a presidential bid
  • Lebanon, mired in a crippling economic crisis since late 2019, has been without a president for more than seven months

BEIRUT: International Monetary Fund official Jihad Azour, who has been nominated for the long-vacant Lebanese presidency, has “temporarily relinquished” his responsibilities at the lender, an official at the body said Thursday.
“In order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, the director of the Middle East and Central Asia department has temporarily relinquished his responsibilities at the IMF,” said the organization’s director of strategic communications Julie Kozack, referring to Azour.
“He is on leave,” she added.
Azour, who served as Lebanon’s finance minister from 2005 to 2008, has yet to officially announce a presidential bid.
Lebanon, mired in a crippling economic crisis since late 2019, has been without a president for more than seven months, and has been run by a caretaker government since May last year.
The international community has urged Lebanese officials to avoid a prolonged presidential vacuum and enact key reforms required to unlock much-needed IMF loans.
Lawmakers have made 11 failed attempts to elect a new head of state, as bitter divisions prevent any single candidate from garnering enough support.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled a new vote on the presidency for next week.
On Sunday, a group of 32 Christian and independent legislators endorsed Azour after weeks of negotiations.
By convention, Lebanon’s presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim.
The Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement, which holds huge sway over political life in Lebanon, has instead endorsed the pro-Syria Sleiman Frangieh.
On Thursday, Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc renewed its support for Frangieh, saying in a statement that it considered him “a natural candidate who is reassuring for a large segment of Lebanon.”
The Shiite movement’s key Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, has said it would support Azour.
French President Emmanuel Macron this week named his former foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as his personal envoy for Lebanon, in a new bid to end the country’s political crisis.
Last month, the United States urged Lebanese politicians to elect a new president “to unite the country” and swiftly enact reforms.
“Lebanon’s leaders must not put their personal interests and ambitions above the interests of their country and people,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.


Denmark signs funding deal with UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees worth $75.2m over 5 years

Denmark signs funding deal with UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees worth $75.2m over 5 years
Updated 08 June 2023

Denmark signs funding deal with UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees worth $75.2m over 5 years

Denmark signs funding deal with UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees worth $75.2m over 5 years
  • ‘In 2020, we increased our funding to UNRWA by 50 per cent and we will continue to provide assistance at this level,’ said Danish Ambassador Ketil Karlsen
  • Money will finance essential services for refugees, including healthcare, education, social protection services, and infrastructure

LONDON: Authorities in Denmark have signed an agreement to provide the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East with funding of more than $15 million a year between 2023 and 2027.

Danish sources said the agreement, signed on Wednesday and worth a total of $75.2 million, builds on the existing partnership between the agency and Denmark, following a similar agreement covering 2017-2021, and reaffirms Denmark’s commitment to providing financial assistance for the agency and the country’s ongoing support for Palestinian refugees.

“We are happy to enter into this multiyear agreement and provide predictable and flexible funding to UNRWA,” said Ambassador Ketil Karlsen from the Representative Office of Denmark in Ramallah.

“In 2020, we increased our funding to UNRWA by 50 per cent and we will continue to provide assistance at this level as we go forward. Denmark sees UNRWA as an important stabilizing force in a region that is going through precarious times.

“In terms of substance, Denmark and UNRWA will, in particular, focus on youth and how we can help adolescents, as well as young girls and boys, to get skills enabling them to enter the labor market.”

The funds will be used to finance essential services for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and Gaza. Primary healthcare, quality and inclusive education, social protection services, infrastructure, and camp improvements and security are all provided in these areas by the agency.

“On behalf of UNRWA, I express my gratitude to the Government of Denmark for providing UNRWA with generous multiyear funding and, in particular, for disbursing their entire 2023 contribution upon the signing of this agreement, helping the agency meet its funding needs this month,” said the agency’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini.

“This is exceptionally important for the agency’s ability to continue to serve Palestine refugees, especially in the context of our chronic cycles of underfunding.

“The agreement sets also a new level of good donorship by giving the agency predictable funding for the next five years to run its services — including education and health — across the region.”

The agency and Denmark are also working together on a Danish-funded research study that will analyze in-demand employment sectors throughout the five areas of agency operations and the barriers to young Palestinian refugees entering the labor market.


Jordanian PM meets UNWTO secretary-general, Arab tourism ministers

Jordanian PM meets UNWTO secretary-general, Arab tourism ministers
Updated 08 June 2023

Jordanian PM meets UNWTO secretary-general, Arab tourism ministers

Jordanian PM meets UNWTO secretary-general, Arab tourism ministers
  • Country hosting 49th meeting of UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East
  • ‘Common denominators, destinies, issues and interests can benefit our economies,’ Al-Khasawneh says

AMMAN: Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh on Thursday welcomed UN World Tourism Organization Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and Arab tourism ministers in Amman, Jordan News Agency reported.
The Arab ministers and Pololikashvili are taking part in the 49th meeting of the UNWTO Regional Commission for the Middle East, which began on Wednesday near the Dead Sea.
During the meeting, which Jordanian Tourism Minister Makram Qeisi attended, Al-Khasawneh highlighted the significance of discussing strategies to strengthen collaboration and unity among Arab countries in tourism, and to chart a course for the industry in the Middle East.
“We have common denominators, destinies, issues and interests that we can utilize to benefit our economies,” the prime minister said.
He also highlighted the need to continue networking, crystallizing partnerships and drawing from successful Arab experiences in tourism.
Al-Khasawneh noted the significant tourism and cultural legacy of Arab countries, which could be used to boost regional economies.
The UNWTO meeting aims to outline regional and global tourism sector difficulties and capitalize on opportunities to develop the industry.
Pololikashvili said: “Jordan has great tourism capabilities that can be invested in and developed to serve the Jordanian economy.”
He stressed the importance of investing in the tourism sector, networking with the private sector and cooperating regionally in the field.
The secretary-general and Arab tourism ministers thanked Jordan for hosting the meeting, highlighting positive outcomes that could fulfill the tourism-related goals of regional UNWTO member states.


Children evacuated from orphanage where dozens died in Sudan’s capital

Children evacuated from orphanage where dozens died in Sudan’s capital
Updated 08 June 2023

Children evacuated from orphanage where dozens died in Sudan’s capital

Children evacuated from orphanage where dozens died in Sudan’s capital
  • ICRC said the children aged between 1 and 15 had been taken to a safer location in Wad Madani, about 200 kilometres southeast of Khartoum
  • An ICRC spokesperson said the number of evacuated children had risen to 300 by Thursday morning

CAIRO: About 300 children have been evacuated from an orphanage in Sudan’s capital Khartoum where dozens of orphans were found last month to have died since mid-April due to nearby fighting between rival military factions.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which facilitated the evacuation late on Wednesday, said the children aged between 1 and 15 had been taken to a safer location in Wad Madani, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Khartoum.
The ICRC said in its initial statement that 280 children and 70 caretakers had been evacuated, and an ICRC spokesperson said the number of evacuated children had risen to 300 by Thursday morning.
That number was confirmed by Siddig Frini, general manager at the Khartoum state ministry of social development, which oversees care centers.
The evacuation offered “a ray of light in the midst of the ongoing conflict in Sudan,” said Mandeep O’Brien, the representative in Sudan for UN children’s agency UNICEF.
On May 29, Reuters reported that at least 50 children had died – dozens of them babies – at the state-run orphanage, known as Mygoma, since the start of the conflict in Khartoum on April 15.
An orphanage official and doctor who works there said the deaths were mainly caused by malnourishment, dehydration and infections as most staff were kept away by the fighting.
Hadhreen, a volunteer group that has been helping at the orphanage, said on Wednesday it had confirmed the deaths of 71 children at the orphanage since the conflict started.
No official death toll has been issued. The orphanage was home to about 400 young children before the conflict began.
Frini declined to provide figures on the death toll. The director of the orphanage and the health ministry couldn’t immediately be reached.
“Many millions of children remain at risk across Sudan,” UNICEF’s O’Brien said in a statement. “Their lives and their futures are being endangered by this conflict every day.”