6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza

6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
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On Nov. 24, 2023, as Almadhoun family slept, Israeli forces dropped a massive bomb on their home in Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip. (Supplied)
6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
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9-year-old Omar Almadhoun dreamed of being a soccer star. (Supplied)
6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
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14-year-old Siwar Almadhoun wanted to become a basketball player. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza

6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
  • Hani Almadhoun says his brother, sister-in-law and 4 of their children died when a massive bomb reduced their home to rubble
  • 12 members of his sister-in-law’s family, including 5 children, were killed by an airstrike during the early stages of the conflict in Gaza

CHICAGO: All 14-year-old Siwar Almadhoun wanted to do was play basketball. Her 9-year-old brother, Omar, dreamed of being a soccer star.
Their dreams died with them in the early hours of Friday, Nov. 24 when, as they slept, Israeli forces dropped a massive bomb on their home in Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip.
Their parents, Majed, 41, and Safa, 38, were also killed in the indiscriminate Israeli slaughter, along with siblings Reman, 18, who had just started college, and 7-year-old Ali, said Hani Almadhoun, Majed’s brother. He is an American citizen who works for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East office in Washington D.C., where he supervises charitable fundraising efforts to help needy families.
Only two of his brother’s children, daughters Roa and Salam, survived the carnage. They are married and live with their families in Rafah.
“Siwar, the basketball player, a 14-year-old girl, she loved basketball,” Almadhoun, 42, told Arab News as he struggled to speak through the grief. “The salt of this earth. A very sweet girl. She was killed. She did nothing. She was asleep, just like her family.
“And half of her mom, only one half, was recovered. Reman was recovered. Ali was recovered … their cat was buried and killed next to them. They adopted a cat named Lucky. A very unfortunate name. They liked to call her Cici. She was killed between the two kids because they loved to play with her so much.
“The only body that was found immediately was Omar. He flew through the window into the street 20 meters away. They went to bury him. They went to find Majed, and my mom knew her son was there. She was grieving and then, on top of that, (there were) no ambulances, no bulldozers were able to come to remove this rubble.”
The bodies of some of the occupants of the five-story apartment building the Almadhoun family owned were thrown from the building when it was destroyed but they could not be immediately recovered because of Israeli sniper fire and the missile strikes that continued to pound the civilian neighborhood.
Almadhoun said his father and mother spent three days searching for the remains of Majed, Safa and their grandchildren.
“They kept digging through the rubble of their destroyed homes but they could find nothing,” he said. “As they searched the area they recovered two and a half bodies that had been thrown by the explosion and were found in a destroyed home next door.
“(My mother) was desperate. She is heart-broken. Nobody is coming to the rescue. I have had meetings as high as the White House, the State Department and all these guys, and I can’t get safety to my family. It broke me.
“We all love our moms and dads. But she is just a lady whose son is buried and she can’t even have a minute with him. She can’t even take a picture with him because his face is swollen.”
Almadhoun said the search continues for Siwar’s body but his family’s efforts are hampered by the communications blackout imposed during the conflict by Israel, which has had total control of the Gaza Strip since 1967.
“There is heartbreak. There is sorrow,” he said. In response to suggestions that his relatives might have somehow had a connection with Hamas or were being used as human shields, he added: “This is personal … I know my family. There is no way that you could build a case against Majed, my brother.
“Majed loved his mom, honored his parents. He was very generous to help neighbors in need. We don’t know why they were killed.”
Almadhoun’s father owned a small grocery store a three-minute walk from the family home. Majed leased space for a kitchenware store in Sheikh Radwan, a 10 minute ride from Beit Lahia. Both shops have also been destroyed.
“All their savings were lost. My family is homeless,” Almadhoun said. “Remember the refugees from 1948.”
The massacre of his family, and the thousands of other civilians killed since the Israeli bombings and invasion began, are difficult to comprehend given their scale, he added.
According to official estimates, more than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli assaults and invasion, nearly 10,000 of whom were civilians with no connection to Hamas.
The attacks are not only partly funded by US taxpayers through US support for Israel, but the Israelis are using American-made weapons including massive 2,000-pound bombs capable of flattening an apartment building in a single strike.
Almadhoun said his brother and sister-in-law had been grieving the loss of 12 members of the latter’s family who were wiped out several weeks ago during the early stages of the Israeli onslaught.
They were killed by an attack in the Atwan area, a few miles south of Beit Lahia, Almadhoun said. The dead included Safa’s father and mother, five of her siblings and five of their young children.
“They lived in the Atwan area of northern Gaza,” he said. “The good volunteers in the family went and dug out the bodies. It was so horrific a scene, and a genocide
at their home, that they would not let Safa see her family because of the brutality: the body parts, the known pieces, the plastic bags.
“My brother Majed, her husband, went and collected the bodies and buried them. There was no proper burial because we know that Gaza is running out of spaces for graves and cemeteries are overflowing with dead bodies.”
The Almadhouns originally came from Ashkelon, which was in the Gaza District of Palestine before it was captured by Israel in 1948. The family fled Gaza to find work in the UAE, which is where Hani was born. But they returned to Beit Lahia to open their businesses there.
Almadhoun said the last time he saw his brother and his family was during a visit to Gaza in August this year. His parents and other surviving relatives are still in northern Gaza but cannot easily be reached.
“My dad is trying to be strong, trying to be normal,” he said. “I know he is not doing well but he is trying to be strong for everybody else. My mom cries and when she cries, I cry. I can’t take it. It is a lot.”


Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, army sources say

Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, army sources say
Updated 15 sec ago
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Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, army sources say

Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, army sources say

BAGHDAD: A huge blast rocked a military base used by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to the south of Baghdad late on Friday, army sources told Reuters.

 


Leaders of Jordan and Pakistan call UAE president to express concern about effects of severe storm

Leaders of Jordan and Pakistan call UAE president to express concern about effects of severe storm
Updated 19 April 2024
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Leaders of Jordan and Pakistan call UAE president to express concern about effects of severe storm

Leaders of Jordan and Pakistan call UAE president to express concern about effects of severe storm
  • Leaders passed on their best wishes to the country as it recovers from the storms

DUBAI: The president of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, received telephone calls from King Abdullah of Jordan and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday, during which they expressed concern about the effects of the severe weather, including unusually heavy rainfall, that battered parts of the country this week.

They also passed on their best wishes to the country as it recovers from the storms and “conveyed their heartfelt hopes for the safety and prosperity of the UAE and its people, praying for their protection from any harm,” the Emirates News Agency reported.

Sheikh Mohammed thanked both leaders for their warm sentiments, and emphasized the strong bonds between the UAE and their nations.

The UAE and neighboring Oman were hit by unprecedented rainfall and flooding on Tuesday, with more than 250 millimeters of rain falling in parts of the Emirates, considerably more than is normally seen in a year. Dubai International Airport was forced to close temporarily when runways were flooded.
 


Peshmerga fighter dies in Turkish strike in north Iraq

Peshmerga fighter dies in Turkish strike in north Iraq
Updated 19 April 2024
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Peshmerga fighter dies in Turkish strike in north Iraq

Peshmerga fighter dies in Turkish strike in north Iraq

JEDDAH: A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga security forces was killed on Friday in a Turkish drone strike in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Ankara regularly carries out ground and air operations in the region against positions of the outlawed PKK, the Kurdish separatist group that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
The victim of Friday’s attack died in a drone strike on his vehicle, said Ihsan Chalabi, mayor of the mountainous Sidakan district near Iraq’s borders with Turkiye and Iran.
For decades, Turkiye has operated several dozen military bases in northern Iraq in its war against the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies consider a terrorist group.
Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkiye’s military activities to preserve their close economic ties.
At the beginning of April, a man described as “high-ranking military official” from the PKK was killed in a Turkish drone strike on a car in the mountainous Sinjar region, according to the Kurdistan counterterrorism services.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit Baghdad on Monday on his first official visit to Iraq since 2011.
Iraq’s Defense Minister Thabet Al-Abassi in March ruled out joint military operations against the PKK, but said that Turkiye and Iraq would “work to set up a joint intelligence coordination center.”


Middle East in ‘shadow of uncertainty due to regional conflicts’

Middle East in ‘shadow of uncertainty due to regional conflicts’
Updated 19 April 2024
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Middle East in ‘shadow of uncertainty due to regional conflicts’

Middle East in ‘shadow of uncertainty due to regional conflicts’

WASHINGTON: Economies in the Middle East and North Africa face a “shadow of uncertainty” from ongoing tensions in the region, a senior IMF official said.
“We are in a context where the overall outlook is cast into shadows,” Jihad Azour, the International Monetary Fund’s director for the Middle East and Central Asia department, said in an interview in Washington.
“The shadow of uncertainty on the geopolitical side is an important one,” added Azour, a recent candidate for the next Lebanese president.
In the face of the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Sudan and a recent cut to oil supplies by Gulf countries, the IMF has pared back its growth outlook for the Middle East and North Africa region once again.

FASTFACT

Economic activity in Gaza has ‘come to a standstill’ and the IMF estimates that economic output in the West Bank and Gaza contracted by six percent last year.

The IMF expects growth in MENA of 2.7 percent this year — 0.2 percentage points below its January forecast — before picking up again next year, the IMF said in its regional economic outlook report.
The risks to growth in the MENA region remain heightened, the IMF said, pointing to the danger of greater regional spillovers from the ongoing Israel-Gaza war.
“We have concerns about the immediate and lasting impact of conflict,” Azour said.
The IMF report said that economic activity in Gaza has “come to a standstill” and estimates that economic output in the West Bank and Gaza contracted by 6 percent last year.
The IMF said the report excludes economic projections for the West Bank and Gaza for the next five years “on account of the unusually high degree of uncertainty.”
The IMF cannot lend to the West Bank and Gaza because they are not IMF member countries.
However, Azour said it has provided the Palestinian Authority and the central bank with technical assistance during the current conflict.
“When we move into the reconstruction phase, we will be part of the international community support to the region,” he added.
Azour also discussed the situation in Sudan, where thousands have been killed in a civil war that has also devastated the economy, causing it to contract by almost 20 percent last year, according to the IMF.
“The country is barely functioning, institutions have been dismantled,” he said.
“And for an economy, for a country like Sudan, with all this potential, it’s important to stop the bleeding very quickly and move to a phase of reconstruction,” he added.
The recent Houthi attacks have particularly badly hit the Egyptian economy on Red Sea shipping, which caused trade through the Egypt-run Suez Canal to more than halve — depriving the country of a key source of foreign exchange.
Egypt reached an agreement last month to increase an existing IMF loan package from $3 billion to $8 billion after its central bank hiked interest rates and allowed the pound to plunge by nearly 40 percent.
A key pillar of the current IMF program is the privatization of Egypt’s state-owned enterprises, many of which are owned by or linked to the military.
“This is a priority for Egypt,” Azour said. Egypt needs to have a growing private sector and give space for the private sector to create more jobs.”
“We have an opportunity to re-engineer the state’s role, to give the state more responsibility as an enabler and less as a competitor,” he said.

 


Oxfam director urges global support for refugees in Jordan

Oxfam director urges global support for refugees in Jordan
Updated 19 April 2024
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Oxfam director urges global support for refugees in Jordan

Oxfam director urges global support for refugees in Jordan
  • Dmitry Medlev speaks of impact of over 3m people from neighboring areas

LONDON: Oxfam’s country director in Jordan said on Friday the global community had a responsibility to support refugees, especially in light of unrest in the Middle East.

In an interview with the Jordan News Agency, Dmitry Medlev described how an influx of over 3 million refugees from neighboring areas had stretched Jordan’s economic resources, disrupted local communities, and burdened public services.

He described the refugee’s experience as harrowing, often involving the painful process of abandoning the individual’s homeland and everything they held dear.

He said: “We are sending a message to the world not to overlook the refugee problem and to keep its focus on the new global disasters created by humans or caused by natural disasters, and the conflicts that have emerged in several countries recently, because the refugee problem is draining host countries and imposing additional burdens on them that they may not be able to bear in the future.”

Medlev called for enhanced international cooperation and adherence to international humanitarian law in supporting refugees, underscoring the need for long-term solutions to the ongoing crisis.

He also spoke of Oxfam’s initiatives in Jordan, such as the Waste to Positive Energy project in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, and the EU, and executed with the German Corporation for International Cooperation. The project focuses on waste management and recycling in Zaatari Camp and Mafraq Governorate, processing about 30 tonnes of waste per day.

Medlev also pointed out Oxfam’s efforts in promoting economic and climate justice through grants aimed at empowering local projects led by women and youngsters. These grants help enhance project efficiency, ensure sustainability, and connect beneficiaries with supportive institutions.

He outlined Oxfam’s five-year strategy in Jordan, which focuses on gender justice, climate justice, and economic justice, and aims to bolster the country’s preparedness for disasters, enhance employment opportunities, and provide humanitarian support for refugees.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the UN General Assembly in September that the world must not abandon Palestinian refugees to the forces of despair.