Frustration mounts with Morocco earthquake aid yet to reach some survivors; toll rises to 2,901

Fatima Boujdig, an earthquake survivor, shows her wounds in Tafeghaghte, a remote village of the High Atlas mountains. (Reuters)
Fatima Boujdig, an earthquake survivor, shows her wounds in Tafeghaghte, a remote village of the High Atlas mountains. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 September 2023
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Frustration mounts with Morocco earthquake aid yet to reach some survivors; toll rises to 2,901

Fatima Boujdig, an earthquake survivor, shows her wounds in Tafeghaghte, a remote village of the High Atlas mountains. (Reuters)
  • It was the North African country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful in more than a century
  • Rescuers from Spain, Britain and Qatar were helping Morocco’s search teams

TALAT N’YAAQOUB, Morocco: Many survivors of Morocco’s earthquake struggled in makeshift shelters on Tuesday after a fourth night in the open, while villagers in devastated mountain areas voiced frustration at having received no help from the authorities.
The death toll from the 6.8 magnitude quake that struck in the High Atlas Mountains late on Friday evening rose to 2,901, while the number of people injured more than doubled to 5,530, state television reported.
It was the North African country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful in more than a century.
Rescuers from Spain, Britain and Qatar were helping Morocco’s search teams, while Italy, Belgium, France and Germany said their offers of assistance had yet to be approved.
The situation was most desperate for people in remote areas cut off by landslides triggered by the earthquake that blocked access roads, while in accessible locations relief efforts were stepping up with tent camps and distribution of food and water.
Mehdi Ait Bouyali, 24, was camping along the Tizi n’Test road, which connects remote valleys to the historic city of Marrakech, with a few other survivors who had also fled their destroyed villages. He said the group had received food and blankets from people driving by but nothing from the state.
“The villages of the valley have been forgotten. We need any kind of help. We need tents,” he said, criticizing the government’s relief efforts.
Hamid Ait Bouyali, 40, was also camping on the roadside.
“The authorities are focusing on the bigger communities and not the remote villages that are worst affected,” he said. “There are some villages that still have the dead buried under the rubble.”
Hopes of finding survivors were fading, not least because many traditional mud brick houses that are common in the High Atlas crumbled to earthen rubble without leaving air pockets.
Many villagers have had no power or telephone network since the earthquake struck and have had to rescue loved ones and pull out dead bodies buried from under their crushed homes without any assistance.
Ordinary citizens were also helping, like Brahim Daldali, 36, from Marrakech, who was using a motorbike to distribute food, water, clothes and blankets donated by friends and strangers.
“They have nothing and the people are starving,” he said.
Residents of one village, Kettou, demolished by the quake luckily all survived thanks to a wedding celebration for which they had left their stone and mud-brick homes to enjoy traditional music in an outdoor courtyard.

Some aid offered but no taken
In Amizmiz, a large village at the foot of the mountains that has turned into an aid hub, some people made homeless by the quake had been provided with yellow tents by the authorities, but others were still sheltering under blankets.
“I am so scared. What will we do if it rains?” said Noureddine Bo Ikerouane, a carpenter, who was camping with his wife, mother-in-law and two sons, one of whom is autistic, in an improvised tent fashioned from blankets.
The epicenter of the quake was about 72 km (45 miles) southwest of Marrakech, where some historical buildings in the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were damaged.
More modern parts of Marrakech largely escaped unscathed, including a site near the airport earmarked for IMF and World Bank meetings due to be held next month.
More than 10,000 people were expected at the meetings, which the government wants to go ahead, sources said.
The state news agency said King Mohammed visited a hospital in Marrakech to check on the injured and donated blood.
Morocco has accepted offers of aid from Spain, Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, but has not taken up offers of help from Italy, Belgium, France and Germany.
Germany said on Monday it did not think the decision was political, but Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Taji told radio station Rtl on Tuesday that Morocco had chosen to receive aid only from countries with which it had close relations.
Caroline Holt, global director of operations at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which launched an emergency appeal on Tuesday for quake victims, defended Morocco’s decisions.
“We know that this is extremely complex, accessing these hard-to-reach areas. The needs are still evolving,” she said. “I think that the Moroccan government is taking careful steps with regards to opening up, accepting bilateral offers of support.”
Others voiced frustration at not being allowed in to help.
Arnaud Fraisse of Secouristes Sans Frontieres (Rescuers Without Borders), a French NGO, said it had offered the Moroccan embassy in Paris a team of nine who were ready to go but no response had come from Rabat.
“Now, four days later, it is too late to leave because we are here to work urgently, to save people under the rubble, not to discover corpses,” he said. “This breaks our hearts.”


Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
Updated 23 April 2024
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Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
  • The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine

WASHINGTON: The war between Israel and Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis has had “a significant negative impact” on the human rights situation in the country, the US State Department said in its annual report on Monday.
Significant human rights issues include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and unjustified arrests of journalists among others, said the State Department’s 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report added that the Israeli government has taken some credible steps to identify and punish the officials who may have been involved in those abuses.
Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, many of them civilians and children. The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.
Israel launched its assault in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.
Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian Health Ministry records show Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 460 Palestinians since Oct. 7. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not found Israel in breach of international law.
Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally. Leftist Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support for Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.
But this month, President Joe Biden for the first time threatened to condition support for Israel, and insisted that it take concrete steps to protect humanitarian aid workers and civilians.


Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’

Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’
Updated 23 April 2024
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Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’

Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’
  • Narges Mohammadi issues plea from Evin prison amid new crackdown by Tehran’s morality police

JEDDAH: Jailed Iranian Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi urged Iranians on Monday to protest against the clerical regime’s “war against women” amid a new crackdown forcing women to cover their heads.
Mohammadi, who is being held in Evin prison in Tehran, called on Iranian women to share their stories of arrest and sexual assault at the hands of the authorities.
Iran launched a nationwide operation this month to enforce the wearing of the headscarf. Women have been arrested and taken to police stations by the morality police, and the Farsi hashtag meaning “war against women” has been trending on social media.
“People of Iran, I ask you, artists, intellectuals, workers, teachers, and students ... inside and outside the country to protest against this war against women,” Mohammadi said in a message from inside the prison. “Do not underestimate the power of sharing your experiences. Doing so will expose the misogynistic government and bring it to its knees.” She accused the authorities of bringing “a full-scale war against all women to every street in Iran.”
Mohammadi said she had been joined in jail by Dina Ghalibaf, a journalist and student who was arrested after accusing security forces on social media of putting her in handcuffs and sexually assaulting her during a previous arrest at a metro station. “For years, we have witnessed many women who have endured assault, abuse, and beatings by government agents,” Mohammadi said.
Mohammadi, 52, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year in recognition of her campaign for human rights in Iran, which has led to her spending much of the past two decades in and out of jail. She has been imprisoned since November 2021 and has not seen her husband and twin children, who live in Paris, for several years.


Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state

Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state
Updated 23 April 2024
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Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state

Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state
  • Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad reiterates his nation’s ‘firm stance’ in support of the Palestinian cause; Antony Blinken thanks Bahrain for its contributions to maritime security

LONDON: Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad of Bahrain and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Monday discussed the latest developments in Gaza, along with other regional and global issues of common interest.

During their telephone conversation, the Prince “reviewed the strength of the Bahrain-US partnership, highlighting the importance of bolstering joint coordination to achieve common goals and interests,” the Bahrain News Agency reported.

During their talks about the current situation in the Middle East, and in particular the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the crown prince reiterated Bahrain’s “firm stance toward the Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to reaching a peaceful, lasting and fair solution in support of Palestinians’ legitimate right to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He also highlighted the important need to protect civilians and deescalate the violence in Gaza, which he said threatens regional security and stability.

The US State Department said both officials “reinforced their shared commitment to preventing the spread of regional conflict,” and Blinken thanked Bahrain for its contributions to maritime security.

They also discussed ways in which “cooperation under the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement continues to strengthen the strategic partnership” between their countries, spokesperson Matthew Miller added.


Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house

Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house
Updated 23 April 2024
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Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house

Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house
  • Israel has killed 34,151 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry
  • Outside Netanyahu’s house, demonstrators, some of whom were relatives of hostages, set fire to a symbolic seder table after laying out empty places on another table to mark the hostage’s continued captivity

CAESAREA, Israel: Israeli protesters burnt a symbolic Passover table outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house at the start of the Jewish holiday on Monday, accusing him of failing hostages in Gaza.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the gates leading to the house in the coastal town of Caesarea, calling for the release of hostages abducted by Palestinian militants on October 7 and criticizing Netanyahu’s leadership.
Israeli officials say 129 captives remain in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas attack, including 34 whom the military says are dead.
Their plight has cast a pall over this year’s Passover, also known in Hebrew as the “holiday of freedom.”
Guy Ben Dror said he was protesting against “the worst prime minister in the history of Israel.”
“He doesn’t want the hostages back because he doesn’t want the war to end or he’ll go to prison,” said the 54-year-old investment firm worker.
Passover commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. A ritual meal, known as a seder, takes place on the first evening, with participants sitting around a tray laden with symbolic food.
Outside Netanyahu’s house, demonstrators, some of whom were relatives of hostages, set fire to a symbolic seder table after laying out empty places on another table to mark the hostage’s continued captivity.
“We are here to share our feelings, our grief, our sorrow with the families of the kidnapped,” said demonstrator Yael Ben Porat.
“I didn’t want to celebrate this holiday when we have so many of our people, our brothers and sisters kidnapped over there in Gaza,” the 62-year-old lawyer said.
“All of us believe he is responsible for the horrible disaster of October 7,” she said, accusing Netanyahu of failures in negotiating their release.
“This night is only bitter, no freedom,” she said.
In a post on X marking the start of Passover on Monday, Netanyahu insisted “our resolve remains unyielding to see all hostages back with their families.”
“Tonight, we think of those who cannot join their families at the seder table. Their absence strengthens our resolve and reminds us of the urgency of our mission. We will not rest until each one is freed,” he said.
“The days ahead will see increased military and diplomatic efforts to secure the freedom of our hostages,” he said.
 

 


Hezbollah says ‘dozens’ of rockets fired at Israeli HQ

People mourn in grief during the funeral for Israeli reserve Major Dor Zimel in Even Yehuda, Israel, on Monday, April 22, 2024.
People mourn in grief during the funeral for Israeli reserve Major Dor Zimel in Even Yehuda, Israel, on Monday, April 22, 2024.
Updated 23 April 2024
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Hezbollah says ‘dozens’ of rockets fired at Israeli HQ

People mourn in grief during the funeral for Israeli reserve Major Dor Zimel in Even Yehuda, Israel, on Monday, April 22, 2024.
  • Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported Israeli strikes on the three villages on Monday
  • Israel has killed 34,151 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry

BEIRUT: Hamas ally Hezbollah said on Monday it had fired “dozens” of Katyusha rockets at an army headquarters in northern Israel in response to raids targeting villages in southern Lebanon.
Since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in Gaza, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the village of Majdel Zoun near Lebanonís southern border on April 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)

With Israel-Iran tensions at an all-time high, the Lebanese Shiite militant group has intensified its attacks on Israel military targets across the border.
A Hezbollah statement said it had bombarded “the headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Brigade of the 91st Division at Ein Zeitim Base with dozens of Katyusha rockets.”
This was in response to Israeli attacks on “southern villages and civilian homes,” most recently in Srifa, Odaisseh and Rab Tlatin.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported Israeli strikes on the three villages on Monday.
The Israeli military said “approximately 35 launches were identified crossing from Lebanon into the area of Ein Zeitim in northern Israel” and that no injuries were reported.
It said “troops struck the sources of the launches.”
Since October 7 at least 376 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also 70 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed on its side of the border.