Egypt mosques prepare for Ramadan

Egypt mosques prepare for Ramadan
Muslim worshippers pray on Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Destiny) during the holy month of Ramadan, at the Al-Azhar Mosque in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on April 27, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2023

Egypt mosques prepare for Ramadan

Egypt mosques prepare for Ramadan

CAIRO: More than 11,000 mosques will be open for tahajjud prayer, and more than 6,000 for itikaf during the holy month of Ramadan in Egypt. 

Minister of Endowments Muhammad Mukhtar Jumaa said the mosques would be open for all rituals throughout the holy month, including taraweeh and tahajjud prayers.

Tahajjud, also known as the “night prayer,” is a voluntary prayer and not one of the five obligatory prayers required of Muslims.

Itikaf is an Islamic practice of a period of staying in a mosque for a certain number of days during Ramadan, devoting oneself to worship and staying away from worldly affairs. Coronavirus restrictions prevented itikaf last year.

The ministry is working with the Islamic Research Academy to launch Ramadan lessons in a thousand mosques with joint work between imams and preachers. Lessons will be held twice a week throughout the month.

A cleaning campaign has also been launched by the ministry to prepare mosques for Ramadan.

Hisham Abdel Aziz Ali, a ministry official, led the campaign with the cleaning of Cairo’s Sayyidah Nafisa Mosque.

Abdel Aziz said: “Mosques must be the epitome of cleanliness and beauty, and maintaining their cleanliness and purification is the path of Prophet Muhammad’s companions and followers.

“The endowments minister held an early meeting to formulate a plan for Ramadan. It was decided that there would be taraweeh prayers in all those mosques where Friday prayers are held.”

There will be educational lessons after taraweeh, he said, in addition to the evening lesson after the prayer. These are organized by the imam of the mosque. 

Italy arrests 12 people over speed boat migrant trips from Tunisia

Updated 21 sec ago

Italy arrests 12 people over speed boat migrant trips from Tunisia

Italy arrests 12 people over speed boat migrant trips from Tunisia
ROME: Italian police said on Wednesday they had arrested 12 suspected human traffickers for allegedly organizing high-speed transfers for at least 73 illegal migrants from Tunisia to Europe.
Expert pilots operated the speed boats crossing from Tunisia to Marsala in Sicily between June and September last year, police said in a statement, describing them as “VIP trips.”
The traffickers transferred relatively small groups of up to 20 people on each of four trips, charging fees of up to 6,000 euros ($6,500) per person, the statement said.
The trip, on a crowded and less seaworthy vessel, would normally cost under 1,000 euros per migrant, an official with knowledge of the matter said.
Italy and other European governments have taken an increasingly
hard line
on immigration in recent years amid a surge of arrivals of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants. EU data shows fewer than 100,000 irregular migrants made to it Europe in 2020, but that rose to 250,000 last year.
Six Tunisians and six Italians were detained as part of an investigation coordinated by European police body Europol and the Italian anti-mafia police unit.
The investigators identified a Tunisian former police officer as the head of the trafficking organization.
They also held 19 illegal migrants and arrested eight Tunisian boat operators last year during the initial part of the investigation. Four of the boat crew were also charged over firing naval flares at a military vessel during an attempt to evade being apprehended by authorities.
Since the beginning of the year, 4,247 illegal migrants have landed on Italy’s shores, data from the home affairs ministry shows. That is down from more than 12,500 at the same stage in 2023, when Italy recorded unprecedented pressure from the number of people trying to reach Europe.
Tunisia has replaced Libya as North Africa’s main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict elsewhere in Africa and across the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe.
This month, 17 migrants coming from Tunisia went missing during their sea voyage and at least nine died in two separate accidents.

Hunger grips war-torn Gaza as truce talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips war-torn Gaza as truce talks resume in Cairo
Updated 32 min 46 sec ago

Hunger grips war-torn Gaza as truce talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips war-torn Gaza as truce talks resume in Cairo
  • Top White House official Brett McGurk in Cairo for renewed talks involving mediators and Hamas
  • UN WFP halted aid deliveries in north Gaza because of “complete chaos and violence”

GAZA: Heavy fighting rocked besieged Gaza on Wednesday as aid agencies warned of looming famine, a day after a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire was blocked by a US veto.
Washington, which argued the resolution would have imperilled ongoing efforts to free hostages, sent top White House official Brett McGurk to Cairo for renewed talks involving mediators and Hamas.
Global concern has spiralled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel.
Combat and chaos again stalled the sporadic aid deliveries for desperate civilians in Gaza, where the UN has warned the population of 2.4 million is on the brink of famine and could face an “explosion” of child deaths.
The UN World Food Programme said it was forced to halt aid deliveries in north Gaza because of “complete chaos and violence” after a truck convoy encountered gunfire and was ransacked by looters.
More Israeli strikes pounded Gaza, leaving 103 people dead during the night, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory, which put the overall death toll at 29,313.
“We can’t take it anymore,” said Ahmad, a resident of Gaza City, where entire blocks are in ruins and cratered streets are strewn with rubble.
“We do not have flour, we don’t even know where to go in this cold weather,” he said. “We demand a ceasefire. We want to live.”
Particular concern has centered on Gaza’s far-southern Rafah area, where 1.4 million people now live in crowded shelters and makeshift tents, fearing attack by nearby Israeli ground troops.
Aid groups warn a ground offensive could turn Rafah into a “graveyard” and the United States has said the vast numbers of displaced civilians must first be moved out of harm’s way.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that “without properly accounting for the safety and security of those refugees, we continue to believe that an operation in Rafah would be a disaster.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining 130 hostages, around 30 of whom are feared dead.
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz has warned that, unless Hamas releases the captives by the start of Ramadan around March 10, the army will keep fighting during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.
Humanitarian crisis
The war started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages, many of whom were released during a week-long truce in late November.
Israel has heavily bombed Gaza and launched a ground invasion that has seen troops and tanks push through from the north toward the south, leaving vast swathes entirely destroyed.
The World Health Organization called the devastation “indescribable” around Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis, where it said it managed to evacuate some 32 patients.
“The area was surrounded by burnt and destroyed buildings, heavy layers of debris, with no stretch of intact road,” WHO said.
The clinic has no power or running water, it added, and “medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease.”
Major powers have tried to navigate a way out of the crisis, so far without success.
On Tuesday the UN Security Council voted on an Algeria-drafted resolution which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages.
The United States vetoed the resolution, which it labelled “wishful and irresponsible,” drawing strong criticism from China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close ally France.
Hamas said the US veto amounted to “a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres.”
Ongoing negotiations
Washington sent McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, to Egypt as part of efforts to advance a hostage deal, before he heads to Israel Thursday.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh was already in Cairo for talks, the militant group said — days after mediators warned that prospects for a truce had dimmed despite repeated talks.
Qatar and Egypt have proposed a plan to free hostages in return for a pause in fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners, but Israel and Hamas have so far failed to agree on a deal.
McGurk will hold talks “to see if we can’t get this hostage deal in place,” Kirby told reporters.
As the bloodiest ever Gaza war has continued into a fifth month, Israel has faced a growing international chorus of criticism.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro accused Israel of “genocide” after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had compared the Gaza campaign to the Holocaust.
The war has set off clashes elsewhere in the Middle East, drawing in Iran-backed armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Israel has traded almost daily cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and US and British forces have hit Yemen’s Houthi rebels to deter their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.
In Syria, state television said an Israeli missile strike killed at least two people in Damascus, a claim Israel declined to comment on.
Violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank where the Israeli army said its troops killed three Palestinian militants during an overnight raid in the northern city of Jenin.

Israeli airstrike kills woman and child in south Lebanon

Israeli airstrike kills woman and child in south Lebanon
Updated 49 min 44 sec ago

Israeli airstrike kills woman and child in south Lebanon

Israeli airstrike kills woman and child in south Lebanon
  • Woman and girl were killed in the strike in Majdal Zoun

BEIRUT: An Israeli strike killed a woman and a child in south Lebanon on Wednesday, sources in Lebanon said, days after Hezbollah vowed to inflict a price on Israel for killing civilians in the conflict across the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The woman and girl were killed in the strike in Majdal Zoun, a village some 6 km (4 miles) from the border, according to two security sources and a medical source.
The Iran-backed movement Hezbollah has been trading fire with Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by its Palestinian ally Hamas on southern Israel, in a campaign Hezbollah says aims to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
A statement from Israeli army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Avichay Adraee on X said the Israeli army had carried out an attack on “a military building” in the village of Yaroun in southern Lebanon, and that Israeli warplanes had launched raids on three Hezbollah operational headquarters in the south.
It did not mention Majdal Zoun, which is about an hour’s drive from Yaroun.
Hezbollah signalled on Friday it would escalate attacks on Israel in response to the deaths of 10 Lebanese civilians killed in Israeli attacks last week.
Hezbollah announced more than half a dozen attacks on Israeli positions on Wednesday.
Israeli strikes since Oct. 8 have killed some 50 civilians in Lebanon, in addition to nearly 200 Hezbollah fighters.
Attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli troops and five civilians.
The violence has uprooted tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border.

Israel’s parliament backs Netanyahu’s opposition to ‘unilateral’ creation of Palestinian state

Israel’s parliament backs Netanyahu’s opposition to ‘unilateral’ creation of Palestinian state
Updated 58 min 11 sec ago

Israel’s parliament backs Netanyahu’s opposition to ‘unilateral’ creation of Palestinian state

Israel’s parliament backs Netanyahu’s opposition to ‘unilateral’ creation of Palestinian state
  • Israel say permanent accord with the Palestinians would have to be reached through direct negotiations, and not by international dictates

JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament voted on Wednesday to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration opposing the ‘unilateral’ creation of Palestinian state, following growing international calls for the revival of efforts to reach a two state solution to the decades-long conflict.
Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a statement that 99 of 120 lawmakers voted to support the declaration passed earlier this week by the cabinet.
The Israeli position also says that any permanent accord with the Palestinians would have to be reached through direct negotiations between the sides, and not by international dictates.

Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike

Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike
Updated 46 min 26 sec ago

Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike

Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike
  • Ministry statement: A total of 118 people died in the past 24 hours

RAFAH, Gaza Strip/CAIRO: Israel stepped up its bombardment of the southern city of Rafah, residents said on Wednesday, as the death toll in the war across the devastated Palestinian strip rose to 29,313, according to the Gaza health ministry.

In its daily summary of events in Gaza, the Israeli army said it had intensified its operations in Khan Younis, a city just north of Rafah. It did not mention any attacks on Rafah itself, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the boundary with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Israel has said it was preparing for a ground assault on Rafah, despite mounting opposition from foreign countries, including its staunch ally the United States, over concern for civilian lives.

Residents said Israeli tanks had advanced west from Khan Younis into Al-Mawasi, previously an area of relative safety where the army had told Palestinians to seek shelter.

The tanks reached the coastal road, effectively cutting off Khan Younis and Rafah from the rest of the strip, though they retreated after a few hours, according to local residents.

Rafah residents reached by text message reported several air strikes and large explosions in the city, as well as naval boats opening fire on beachfront areas.

Reuters video journalists filmed the aftermath of a strike on the home of the Al-Noor family in Rafah, which was reduced to rubble, showing more than a dozen bodies wrapped in white or black shrouds and bereaved relatives at a Rafah hospital.

Abdulrahman Juma said his wife Noor, who was from the Al-Noor family, as well as his one-year-old daughter Kinza, had both been killed in the strike, along with Noor’s parents, brother and other relatives.

Juma was holding Kinza’s body, wrapped in a bloodstained white shroud.

“This one, who is on my lap, took my soul away ... She is one-and-a-half years old,” he said.


At the site of the bombed house, neighbors and relatives vented their anger at the United States, which on Tuesday vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

“Since October 7 and until this moment, the US has been supporting Israel with rockets, aircrafts and tanks. All of these massacres are because of America,” said Youssef Sheikh Al-Eid, whose brother had been living in the bombed house.

Residents of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza and Khan Younis also reported overnight strikes and deaths, and multiple funerals were taking place on Wednesday morning.

The Israel Defense Forces’ daily summary mentioned a targeted raid in the Zaytun area in northern Gaza, and operations in Khan Younis.

“Troops of the Givati Brigade conducted activities in eastern Khan Younis and killed approximately 20 terrorists in encounters over the past day,” it said.

“IDF Paratroopers expanded activities in western Khan Younis, targeting and killing terrorists with precise sniper fire and striking terror infrastructure. Additionally, two armed terrorists on bicycles approached IDF troops, who responded and killed them.”

Gaza’s health ministry said a total of 69,333 people had been injured in Gaza since the start of the war on Oct. 7, in addition to the 29,313 deaths, with 118 killed in the past 24 hours.

The war was triggered by Hamas militants who attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israel.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on Gaza that has displaced most of the population of 2.3 million, caused widespread hunger and laid waste to much of the territory.