LONDON: Khalil Hajj Tawfiq, chairman of the Amman Chamber of Commerce, announced on Saturday that a Jordanian Economic Forum with several member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will take place in March 2024, Jordan News Agency reported.
The forum aims to improve trade relations and boost investment opportunities between the two sides. It will be hosted in cooperation with ASEAN member states that have embassies in Jordan, including Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei.
According to the ACC, trade between Jordan and ASEAN increased by 42 percent in 2022 over 2021.
Jordan’s trade with ASEAN member states totaled 1.3 billion Jordanian dinars ($1.7 billion) in the last financial year.
Exports to ASEAN states included chemical industry products, metal products and textile materials, while imports included pearls, precious stones, textile materials, appliances, electrical and electronic sets, transportation equipment, and food industry products.
The forum follows a meeting between the ACC board of directors and Malaysian Ambassador to Jordan Mohammad Nasri Bin Abdulrahman.
Tawfiq said that Jordan’s commercial and service sectors are eager to deepen ties with Malaysia and benefit from significant economic and investment opportunities.
Saudi FM, Gulf ministers take part in GCC Summit preparatory meeting in Doha
Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session
Updated 5 sec ago
RIYADH: Saudi minister of foreign affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan was among ministers who met at a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday for the upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeting was chaired by Qatar’s Prime Minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, who is also chairman of the current session of the ministerial council.
Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session.
During the meeting, they discussed a number of reports on the follow-up to the implementation of decisions made at the previous GCC Supreme Council summit in Riyadh.
They also discussed relations between member states, memoranda and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees as well as the Secretariat General.
Frankly Speaking: How Saudi aid is making a difference to Gaza
KSrelief supervisor general describes record Saudi donations via Sahem platform as proof of Arab world’s commitment to helping Palestinians
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah decries "exhausting" processes placed by Israel for aid delivery, lauds "instrumental" cooperation of Egyptian authorities
Updated 03 December 2023
DUBAI: The outpouring of support to Gaza from both the Saudi government and people has demonstrated the Arab world’s commitment to helping Palestinians, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of Saudi aid agency KSrelief, has said.
He suggested one need look no further than the figure of more than SR536.25 million ($143 million) already collected in donations for the beleaguered Gaza Strip through Saudi Arabia’s Sahem platform, which allows Saudis to donate directly to KSrelief’s projects.
“Nobody can deny the evidence and the numbers, and I think the Sahem platform is seen by the world,” Al-Rabeeah, who is also a skilled pediatric surgeon and adviser to the Saudi Royal Court, told the latest episode of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News’ weekly current affairs show.
The chronically poverty-stricken and food-insecure Gaza Strip was in serious need of humanitarian and development aid even before the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in early October.
Bombardment of the region by Israeli forces began on Oct. 7 after a series of Hamas attacks on and kidnappings in Israel. According to health officials in Gaza, more than 15,000 people, most of them civilians, have lost their lives in the enclave since that day.
With Israeli airstrikes showing no signs of abating and the humanitarian situation deteriorating, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced on Nov. 2 the start of a fundraising campaign for Gaza via Sahem.
In just five days, the donations had exceeded SR375 million. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman themselves donated SR30 million and SR20 million, respectively.
The sheer amount of donations — “one of the largest and quickest fundraising campaigns” in the long history of Saudi Arabia’s humanitarian efforts — flies in the face of many media reports that suggest that the Arab world does not care about Gaza.
“We haven’t stopped yet,” Al-Rabeeah told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” on the subject of giving. “We have exceeded 1 million donors, which reflects the response of the people and their passion about the civilian situation and humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
The donations will continue to increase over the coming period, he said, adding that the record-breaking amount does not include in-kind donations.
He said: “Our businessmen have donated ambulances, medical equipment, food supplies, nutritious food and formula for children. These are not reflected on the platform, so we’re talking about a lot of donations.”
The first batch of Saudi aid arrived in Port Said on Nov. 25, with more than 1,000 tons of food, medical supplies, and shelter materials making its way towards Gaza.
The third relief ship departed from the Jeddah Islamic Port on Saturday, carrying 300 large containers, or 1,246 tons, of food, medical help, and supplies for shelter.
The first Saudi relief plane left Riyadh for Egypt’s El-Arish Airport on Nov. 9, carrying 35 tons of aid. By Dec. 1, KSrelief had operated its 24th aid relief flight for Gaza, which carried 31 tons of food and shelter materials.
While there is certainly no shortage of material support for the people of Gaza, Al-Rabeeah has denounced the processes that Israeli authorities have imposed before aid deliveries reach the Gaza Strip.
“The situation is challenging,” he said, drawing on his observations during recent visits to El-Arish Airport, where Saudi aid destined for Gaza arrives, and the Rafah crossing, the only border crossing between Egypt and Gaza.
He noted that aid trucks “have to go more than 50 kilometers to be examined and cleared by the Israeli forces, and then come back 50 kilometers.”
He added: “The assessment takes days to clear each truck. And then they must go through the Rafah corridor. This by itself is a significant challenge. It’s delaying the aid for those who are in extreme need.”
Al-Rabeeah said that despite the UN saying that Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks of aid per day, Israeli authorities were only allowing a maximum of about 140 each day.
These obstacles can be a matter of life and death, he said, pointing out that particularly vulnerable people, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly and the injured, cannot afford delays.
He said: “We’re talking about life by the minute. So, any delay means, as far as I’m concerned as a doctor, a risk of death.
“We have to gain every minute, we have to gain every hour, and we have to allow as many trucks (as we can) that are carrying nutrition for children, food for adults, and also medications that will maintain life.”
A more severe and obvious danger is present on the ground, one which Al-Rabeeah said is preventing Saudis from doing more to aid Palestinians.
Multiple reports from academics, humanitarian aid agencies and media groups have accused Israeli forces of killing healthcare and aid workers in Gaza, by targeting shelters, refugee camps, hospitals and ambulances.
Not even the UN has been spared Israeli targeting, with the organization reporting the deaths of more than 100 workers from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees since the Israeli military operation began in October.
Al-Rabeeah said: “For me, it is (painful) to see anybody attack and deliberately actually kill aid workers or health workers, or attack hospitals or even mosques, churches — you name it.
“Those acts are against all rules that we know of, against international humanitarian law, against also the principles of human beings. We hope that those attacks will stop immediately and no civilian, or health worker, or humanitarian worker is attacked or targeted.”
If their safety is guaranteed, he said, KSrelief was ready to send volunteer healthcare workers to help save lives in Gaza.
He added: “If the security situation allows, my team will be more than happy to go to Gaza and ensure that those people who are in dire need will receive the aid. We also want to see that the distribution (of aid) is appropriate.”
Despite the hurdles to be overcome, local and regional authorities are doing their best to facilitate humanitarian deliveries, according to Al-Rabeeah.
KSrelief has signed agreements with multiple international agencies, including UNRWA, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
He added: “We have teams also in El-Arish who are located there to coordinate with the UN agencies, international agencies and regional agencies such as the Egyptian Red Crescent and the Palestinian Red Crescent.
“The flights are continuing from Riyadh to El-Arish daily, as are the shipments by sea. We have plans to keep those ships going on, and the flights going on, to ensure that we have enough supplies close to the corridors so that we can access them as quickly as we can.”
KSrelief and the Egyptian Red Crescent on Nov. 23 signed a memorandum of understanding for the cooperation of aid delivery to Gaza, facilitating the sending of aid by land and air routes.
Al-Rabeeah said: “The Egyptian authorities have been very cooperative. They have been instrumental to our work, and they have helped us a lot, either at El-Arish Airport or at the sea port of Port Said.”
He added that KSrelief had held multiple virtual meetings with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and UNRWA “to ensure that their … logistic needs are met.”
In addition to coordinating the massive undertaking of supporting Gaza with aid, Al-Rabeeah has a personal connection to the region.
He has performed dozens of operations in the last 30 years to separate conjoined twins as part of the Saudi Program for the Separation of Conjoined Twins, and in the process has helped make the Kingdom the world’s leader in such surgeries.
UK to start Gaza surveillance flights to help find hostages
The UK has said at least 12 British nationals were killed in the October 7 attacks
Updated 03 December 2023
LONDON: The UK’s military will conduct surveillance flights over Gaza to help locate hostages held by Hamas since its October 7 attack on Israel, Britain’s defense ministry confirmed at the weekend.
Hamas fighters seized around 240 Israelis and foreign hostages, according to Israeli authorities. Around 110 have since been freed, mainly during a recent week-long truce.
Israel’s military said on Friday it had resumed fighting in the besieged Palestinian territory, blaming Hamas. The resumption of combat has frustrated hopes for the swift release of the more than 130 captives the Israeli army has said are still being held in Gaza.
The UK has said at least 12 British nationals were killed in the October 7 attacks — in which Israeli officials say about 1,200 people died, mostly civilians — and that a further five are still missing.
But it has not confirmed how many are being held by Hamas.
Israel responded to the October 7 attack by vowing to eliminate the militant group and its subsequent relentless air and ground campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas authorities who run Gaza.
London did not reveal when its military surveillance flights over the territory would start but stressed they would be unarmed and focused only on hostage recovery efforts.
“In support of the ongoing hostage rescue activity, the UK Ministry of Defense will conduct surveillance flights over the Eastern Mediterranean, including operating in air space over Israel and Gaza,” it said in a statement.
“Surveillance aircraft will be unarmed, do not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages,” the ministry added.
“Only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.”
UK government minister Victoria Atkins told the BBC on Sunday that the aircraft to be utilized were “unarmed and unmanned drones.”
Alongside the United States, the UK in October deployed various military assets to the eastern Mediterranean to deter “any malign interference in the conflict.”
That included maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft as well as a Royal Navy task group moving to the region, the defense ministry said at the time.
Gazan evacuees take flight with their shattered dreams: Arab News journalist Sherouk Zakaria reflects on the mission she joined
Arab News boarded the fourth UAE mission that left Abu Dhabi on Friday afternoon to evacuate 120 injured Palestinian children and cancer patients
Renewed airstrikes near Rafah border allowed only a few lucky Palestinian patients to leave
Updated 03 December 2023
ABU DHABI: What was once a flight that carried passengers to new destinations or home to see their families has become a “flying hospital” for war-stricken Palestinians.
The comfortable padded seats of Etihad Airways’ Boeing 777 serve as beds for vulnerable elderly cancer patients who have been evacuated from an “apocalyptic” Gaza for treatment in the UAE.
I was part of the Arab News team aboard the fourth UAE mission that left Abu Dhabi on Friday afternoon to evacuate 120 injured Palestinian children and cancer patients, along with their companions, from Egypt’s Al-Arish International Airport in a challenging journey that took 14 hours.
My seat in economy class was next to a stretcher installed above a group of folded seats that medics were setting up to provide urgent medical care for the seriously wounded.
Gaza was under intense bombing that day shortly after the truce ended, with airstrikes hitting near the Rafah border where only a few evacuees were lucky to leave.
Our take-off from Abu Dhabi was delayed by almost two hours as UAE officials and medics adjusted their plans based on information they received from Egyptian authorities on the ground.
Landing in Al-Arish at dusk, we left the plane two hours later to welcome patients after officials had back-and-forth negotiations with the Egyptian authorities on the right movement in the highly secured location.
The stillness and eerie silence in the vast, dark desert of Al-Arish stood in sharp contrast with the intense bombardment behind Rafah crossing, which was only 55 km away, about a 45-minute trip.
The impact of the brutal war on Gaza unfolded before our eyes as patients began to arrive in Egyptian ambulances.
The passengers shared common features: Eyes framed with intense black circles, thin and exhausted figures, a small plastic bag carrying a few possessions, and a gaze that simultaneously captured a mix of emotions — relief, guilt and hope.
On the tarmac, UAE medics and doctors received the first patient; a seriously injured man, tightly strapped on a stretcher and appearing to be in immense pain, who was transported onto the aircraft via a hydraulic lift after his condition was assessed.
It was a sight that countless hours following the war daily could not have prepared me for.
Soon after, dozens of dazed and weak elderly cancer patients followed on wheelchairs for their turn to board the aircraft.
Receiving them with reassuring smiles and gentle pats on the shoulder, doctors and staff from the Abu Dhabi Department of Health later told us that these patients had had no access to painkillers, proper food or water since the war started on Oct. 7.
“The first thing we do with some cases is give them hydration and painkillers to immediately comfort the pain. We receive many patients who have lived in pain for long weeks,” Jordanian nursing manager, Sabreen Tawalbeh, told me.
This flight received only a few war-related trauma wounds as majority of the adult and young cancer patients boarded the flight unassisted, occasionally smiling in relief and thanking us as they passed through the aisles.
“As much as I am relieved to leave the horror I can’t describe in Gaza, I can’t imagine eating, drinking or sleeping without thinking of my family back home,” said Abdelrahman Hussam Zyada, 31, who was accompanying his mother, a cancer patient.
The war, which he calls “hell from a horror film,” has already killed 50 members of his family and levelled the area where they lived to the ground. He has no clue if he will ever see his nine siblings, their children, and his remaining relatives.
“This is my first time on a plane. I have only traveled in my dreams. In Gaza, we can’t dream. We build our homes before they are destroyed all over again. Our dreams are always shattered.”
After miraculously leaving Gaza, Zyada said he cannot believe he made it out alive.
A passanger, Amna Hashem Saeed, broke down as she recounted the final moments with her only daughter who could not accompany her after she was denied entry through the Rafah border.
“I am left here to die, mom,” Saeed repeated her daughter’s sentence as the city behind them was collapsing. Saeed’s husband suffered a stroke a few months ago and lies without treatment.
“I do not know if I will ever see them again.”
Traumatized and in shock, teenagers who either accompanioned sick elderly family members or were seeking treatment themselves walked down the aisles of the aircraft as if they carried the weight of the world on their shoulders.
A couple of children, too young to comprehend the situation, either played in joy or squirmed in pain.
Sitting in the front row of the plane, three-year-old Karma Al-Khateeb was unable to ignore her pain despite the attempts by her mother Douaa Abu Rahma and a cabin crew member to distract her with a coloring book and crayons. The young leukemia patient had a fever that affected a nerve on her face after her case could not be attended to due to the collapse of hospitals in Gaza.
It took about six hours to carefully get all patients on board and ensure their needs were met before a final headcount was made and the plane left for Abu Dhabi.
“If the evacuation had taken longer and we crossed the maximum number of hours allowed for the cabin crew per shift, we would have had to go to Cairo and change the crew before flying back to Abu Dhabi,” Joe Coughlan, flight medical commander, told me.
Silence quickly took over during the flight to Abu Dhabi after passengers had their first proper meal and rest in nearly two months.
With dreamy eyes and an innocent smile, two-year-old Mohammed, who had no family except his ailing grandmother on the flight, climbed on my lap and played on the plane’s small screen for hours before falling asleep in peace.
It was difficult to comprehend that thousands of children like him will go to bed with the possibility that they will not see the next day.
Along with my media colleagues, I left the aircraft, which landed in Abu Dhabi at 5 a.m. the next morning, knowing that the televised images of the war will now strike much deeper.
US warship, UK-owned ship hit by rocket fire in Red Sea: Pentagon
The unnamed Bahamas-flagged vessel was “struck by a rocket,” according to maritime firm Ambrey
Updated 38 min 22 sec ago
LONDON: An American warship and a UK-owned ship passing through the Red Sea were among several vessels which came under attack Sunday, the Pentagon said.
“We’re aware of reports regarding attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea and will provide information as it becomes available,” the Pentagon said.
The Carney is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
The attacks would mark a major escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the region linked to the Israel-Hamas war.
The UK-owned ship was reportedly hit by rocket fire, according to a UK-based maritime security group said Sunday.
The unnamed Bahamas-flagged vessel was “struck by a rocket” while sailing south around 35 nautical miles off Yemen’s western coast, maritime security firm Ambrey said, citing reports.
“The affected vessel was issuing distress calls relating to piracy/missile attack,” the UK-based company added.
It noted reports that “an international naval asset in the vicinity of the incident” was likely proceeding to the ship’s location.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency, run by Britain’s Royal Navy, said it had received “a report of Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) activity including a potential explosion... originating from the direction of Yemen.”
It advised vessels in the area to “exercise caution.”
The reported incident comes amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea and surrounding waters after Iran-backed Houthis seized an Israeli-linked cargo vessel, the Galaxy Leader, last month.
Within days two ballistic missiles were also launched from an area controlled by Houthis in Yemen, landing around 10 nautical miles from a US destroyer, the USS Mason, according to the Pentagon. T
he Houthis have fired a series of drone and missile strikes targeting Israel since Hamas militants poured over the border into Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240.
The spike in maritime incidents prompted G7 foreign ministers at a meeting earlier this week to urge the Houthi militia to cease threats to international shipping and to release the Galaxy Leader.
In the latest apparent attack, Ambrey said the targeted vessel — en route from the United States to Singapore — had transited the Suez Canal five days ago “The bulker was reportedly struck by a rocket and the crew retreated to the citadel,” it added.
“Numerous vessels passed the incident location today but no unusual maneuvers were observed.” Ambrey said the attacked vessel’s ownership and management was linked to Dan David Ungar, a British citizen listed as an Israeli resident in Britain’s main companies directory.