Attack on hospital: Israel’s Ramadan gift to Palestinians

Attack on hospital: Israel’s Ramadan gift to Palestinians
As the Muslim world was celebrating the advent of Ramadan on Wednesday, the Israeli army launched a massive campaign of incursions into the occupied West Bank and arrested 28 Palestinians. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 22 March 2023

Attack on hospital: Israel’s Ramadan gift to Palestinians

Attack on hospital: Israel’s Ramadan gift to Palestinians
  • Palestinian Health Minister called on human rights institutions and the International Committee of the Red Cross to act urgently against Israel’s increasing attacks
  • Israeli forces intensively lobbed tear gas shells toward a hospital in Ramallah, affecting dozens of patients, including newborns in incubators

RAMALLAH: As the Muslim world was celebrating the advent of Ramadan on Wednesday, the Israeli army launched a massive campaign of incursions into the occupied West Bank and arrested 28 Palestinians.
Earlier in the day, Israeli forces intensively lobbed tear gas shells toward a hospital in Ramallah, affecting dozens of patients, including newborns in incubators, and medical personnel. Several patients complained of acute chest pain.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila called on human rights institutions and the International Committee of the Red Cross to act urgently against Israel’s increasing attacks on health centers, patients and ambulance personnel.
The ministry said in a statement: “Since the beginning of this year, dozens of cases of direct deliberate assault on treatment centers in various governorates have been documented.”
Ambulances were targeted and crews were prevented from reaching and treating the wounded, which led to the injury of dozens of patients inside treatment centers and during their transfers between cities and medical centers, it added.
The mother of a sick child said: “We did not sleep all night because of the heavy toxic gas fired by the occupation forces toward the hospital. My son is still suffering from its effects. Its smell is still lingering in the patients’ wards, obstructing the work of the nurses.”
One of the patients said: “The smell of gas woke me up and I felt shortness of breath and pain in my chest.”
Eyewitnesses reported that the most affected areas were the cardiac surgery, resuscitation and children’s departments.
Meanwhile, 2,000 prisoners will go on a hunger strike on Thursday, the first day of the fasting month, in protest against the repressive measures announced by Israel at the recommendation of its Minister for National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Prison authorities have threatened to take punitive measures against prisoners who intend to start a general strike coinciding with Ramadan.
“The orders of the prison administration will discipline the prisoners on hunger strike. The prison administration will not tolerate disturbances and disciplinary violations and will work professionally and resolutely against any threat,” a statement said.
Since Feb. 14, prisoners have been protesting after the prison administration announced the implementation of harsh measures — including rationing water, reducing shower times, keeping bathrooms locked and providing stale bread for prisoners to eat — at the behest of Ben-Gvir.
In some prisons, the administration doubled crackdowns using stun grenades and sniffer dogs.
Prisoners have carried out over 26 coordinated strikes since 1970, through which they succeeded in changing their conditions in detention.
As of the end of January, the number of prisoners in the occupation’s prisons reached 4,780, including 29 female prisoners and 160 children.
The Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Secretary-General Hussein Al-Sheikh called on the Israeli government to stop its harassment of and escalatory measures against prisoners amid brutal living conditions that defy international conventions.
In a tweet, Al-Sheikh called on international bodies to intervene immediately.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the systematic Israeli escalation “against our heroic prisoners, led by the fascist extremist Ben-Gvir, will have serious repercussions.”
Rudeineh added that the international community, including the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council, “must immediately intervene and stop these crimes against our prisoners before it’s too late.”
He said President Mahmoud Abbas was in constant contact with all relevant international parties to stop the Israeli attacks against Palestinian prisoners and people.
The spokesman added that the “extremist Israeli government is trying, through this deliberate escalation, to thwart all international efforts to reduce tension.”
A meeting was held late on Wednesday between representatives of the prisoners and the prison administration in a final attempt to reach an agreement in order to avoid an open-ended hunger strike from the first day of Ramadan. At the time of publication, it is still unclear whether an accord was reached.


Iran frees one Danish, two Austrian-Iranian citizens

Iran frees one Danish, two Austrian-Iranian citizens
Updated 58 min 45 sec ago

Iran frees one Danish, two Austrian-Iranian citizens

Iran frees one Danish, two Austrian-Iranian citizens
  • Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo informed the governments of Denmark and Austria of the release

BRUSSELS: Iran on Friday released one Danish and two Austrian-Iranian citizens it had been holding after mediation by Oman, and they are being flown to Belgium, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.
He added that he had informed the governments of Denmark and Austria of the release, which came a week after Tehran freed a Belgian aid worker in exchange for an Iranian diplomat who was convicted on terrorism charges.


NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration
Updated 02 June 2023

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration

NATO chief to visit Turkiye for Erdogan inauguration
  • Trip comes as pressure builds on Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drop his opposition to Sweden joining NATO
  • Turkiye and Hungary are the only two member countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid

BRUSSELS: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will visit Turkiye at the weekend to attend the inauguration of re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and hold talks with him, the alliance said Friday.
The trip comes as pressure builds on Erdogan to drop his opposition to Sweden joining NATO.
Stoltenberg on Thursday said during a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Norway that he would soon visit Ankara to work toward Sweden joining “as early as possible,” after speaking with Erdogan by phone earlier this week.
The NATO statement said Stoltenberg would attend Erdogan’s inauguration on Saturday. The Turkish president was last week re-elected to serve another five-year term.
The statement said the visit would extend into Sunday and Stoltenberg would “have bilateral meetings with President Erdogan and with senior Turkish officials.”
NATO member Turkiye has dragged its feet over admitting Sweden to the military alliance. It and Hungary are the only two member countries yet to ratify Sweden’s membership bid.
Finland formally joined the alliance in April.
Erdogan has accused Sweden of being a haven for “terrorists,” especially members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom on Thursday said his country has fulfilled all its commitments to join, and “it is time for Turkiye and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.”
Many of the ministers who attended the Oslo meeting said they wanted to see Sweden join before a NATO summit in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius on July 11-12.
Stoltenberg has said that goal is “absolutely possible.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose country is the dominant member of NATO, also said on Thursday that “we fully anticipate” Sweden joining by the Vilnius summit.


From Jordan, Jill Biden arrives in Cairo as part of Mideast tour aiming to empower women, youth

From Jordan, Jill Biden arrives in Cairo as part of Mideast tour aiming to empower women, youth
Updated 02 June 2023

From Jordan, Jill Biden arrives in Cairo as part of Mideast tour aiming to empower women, youth

From Jordan, Jill Biden arrives in Cairo as part of Mideast tour aiming to empower women, youth
  • The tour marks Biden’s first visit to the Middle East as first lady
  • Her six-day trip across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe seeks to empower women and promote education for young people

CAIRO: Jill Biden arrived in Cairo on Friday, on the second leg of her six-day trip across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe that seeks to empower women and promote education for young people.
The first lady arrived in the Egyptian capital from Amman, Jordan, where she attended the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein and Saudi architect Rajwa Alsei f on Thursday. She is traveling to Morocco on Saturday before heading to Portugal, the final stop of her tour, on Monday.
The nuptials in Jordan drew a star-studded list — headlined by Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate — but also held deep significance for the region, emphasizing continuity in an Arab state prized for its long standing stability.
Egypt is one of the largest recipients in the Mideast of American economic and military aid and a longstanding US ally. However, in recent years, US lawmakers have sought to condition that aid on human rights improvements and reforms.
Biden was greeted on the tarmac by Entissar Amer, Egypt’s first lady, and was later to meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi before visiting a technical school in the capital.
Biden’s spokesperson, Vanessa Valdivia, told The Associated Press last week that the first lady’s visit to Egypt will also focus on US investments that support education programs.
Since coming to power in 2013, El-Sisi’s government has overseen a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands. The government have targeted not only Islamist political opponents but also pro-democracy activists, journalists and online critics.
The tour marks Biden’s first visit to the Middle East as first lady. She traveled to Namibia and Kenya in February.


Lebanon’s Hezbollah says not linked to accused in UNIFIL peacekeeper killing

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says not linked to accused in UNIFIL peacekeeper killing
Updated 02 June 2023

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says not linked to accused in UNIFIL peacekeeper killing

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says not linked to accused in UNIFIL peacekeeper killing

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah on Friday denied that five men accused by a military tribunal of killing an Irish UN peacekeeper in 2022 were linked to the armed Shiite group.
A court document filed on Thursday had identified some of the five as members of Hezbollah and allied movement Amal, according to a senior Lebanese judicial source.
Hezbollah media official Mohammad Afif said the five accused were not members of the group, which controls the part of southern Lebanon where last year’s attack took place, and also denied that the indictment had described them as Hezbollah members.
Private Sean Rooney, 23, was killed on Dec. 15 in the first fatal attack on UN peacekeepers in Lebanon since 2015.
Afif said Hezbollah had played a big role after the killing in reducing tensions and in local people’s cooperation with the army and judicial investigation.
His comments are the first by a Hezbollah official since Thursday’s reported indictment. The Amal Movement, which is headed by Lebanon’s parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, has so far declined to comment.
The judicial source had said evidence was drawn from camera recordings in which the accused refer to themselves as members of Hezbollah. A second judicial source confirmed that camera evidence was mentioned in the 30-page court document.
Hezbollah has previously denied involvement in the killing, calling it an “unintentional incident” that took place solely between the town’s residents and the UNIFIL peacekeeping force.


UAE’s mandatory midday work break starts June 15

UAE’s mandatory midday work break starts June 15
Updated 02 June 2023

UAE’s mandatory midday work break starts June 15

UAE’s mandatory midday work break starts June 15
  • Working in open spaces and under direct sunlight is not allowed from 12:30 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.
  • Companies are also required to provide shaded areas where workers can rest during the midday break

DUBAI: The UAE’s mandatory midday break for all outdoor workers will start on June 15, the 19th consecutive year the ban has been enforced to protect employees from the intense summer heat.

Working in open spaces and under direct sunlight is not allowed from 12:30 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. until Sept 15 this year, with daily working hours in both morning and evening shifts restricted to eight hours.

Any employee made to work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period will be considered to have worked overtime and must be compensated for it.

Companies are also required to provide shaded areas where workers can rest during the midday break.

Employers found flouting the regulations will be fined approximately $1,360 for each worker they require to work during required midday break, with a maximum of $13,614 penalty in case multiple workers are involved.

The implementation of the midday break is in line with Ministerial Resolution No. (44) of 2022 on Occupational Health and Safety and Labor Accommodation, which aims to provide adequate working environments that protect workers from occupational hazards and prevents work-related injuries or illnesses, a report from state news agency WAM said.

“We are confident that employers across the country will comply with the provisions of the ban. Over the past years, we have seen impressive compliance rates, which confirms the level of awareness in the market about the importance of this decision and its effective role in protecting workers from the hazards of direct exposure to sunlight or working in open spaces around naloon,” according to Mohsen Al-Nassi, assistant undersecretary for inspection affairs at the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

There are however exemptions to the midday break, particularly jobs that “require work to continue uninterrupted and they are exempted from implementing the midday work ban for technical reasons,” WAM reported.

These include laying asphalt or pouring concrete – when it is impractical to postpone these tasks – as well as works needed to contain hazards or repair damage that affects the community, such as interruptions to water supply or electricity, cutting off traffic, and other major issues.

“The exemptions also include works that require a permit from a relevant government authority to be implemented, given their impact on the flow of traffic and services. These tasks require non-stop work, including cutting or diverting main traffic routes, power lines, and communications,” WAM said.

Employers are also required to provide sufficient cold drinking water for workers exempted from the midday ban, as well as provide hydrating food, such as salts and/or other food items approved for use by the local authorities.