Syria raises public-sector salaries as inflation soars

Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, Syria. (AP file photo)
Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to eastern Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, Syria. (AP file photo)
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Updated 06 February 2024
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Syria raises public-sector salaries as inflation soars

Syria raises public-sector salaries as inflation soars
  • The Syrian economy has been battered by the conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered Monday a 50-percent pay rise for civil servants, military personnel and public sector pensioners, with the economy in free fall and inflation soaring after nearly 13 years of war.
Assad announced a similar decision last year, doubling salaries and pension payments, while also lifting fuel subsidies.
The Syrian economy has been battered by the conflict that has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 2011.
More than 90 percent of Syrians have been pushed into poverty, according to UN figures, and the value of the Syrian pound has been slashed.
Prior to Monday’s decision, the monthly salary of civil servants had been between around $20 and $40, depending on the Syrian pound’s street value.
A separate presidential decree issued Monday set the minimum monthly wage in the private sector at 278,190 pounds, or about $19 on the parallel market.
The Syrian pound was trading at around 14,500 to the US dollar on Monday, according to unofficial monitoring websites, compared with the official rate of 12,500.
The currency has lost more than 99 percent of its value since the start of the war, when it was worth 47 against the greenback, leading to a surge in prices.
Syria faces a severe economic crisis and soaring inflation, along with regular power cuts and fuel shortages.
The United Nations says 16.7 million Syrians including 5.5 million people displaced within the country are in need of humanitarian aid this year, up from 15.3 million in 2023.
 

 


WHO ‘extremely worried’ at prospect of polio, other outbreaks in Gaza

WHO ‘extremely worried’ at prospect of polio, other outbreaks in Gaza
Updated 57 min 26 sec ago
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WHO ‘extremely worried’ at prospect of polio, other outbreaks in Gaza

WHO ‘extremely worried’ at prospect of polio, other outbreaks in Gaza
  • Number of people in the Gaza Strip now needing to be evacuated from the territory for medical care may have risen to 14,000

GENEVA: A top WHO official said Tuesday he was “extremely worried” over possible outbreaks in war-torn Gaza after poliovirus was detected in the sewage, that communicable diseases could cause more deaths than injuries.
Ayadil Saparbekov, the World Health Organization’s head of health emergencies in the occupied Palestinian territories, also said the number of people in the Gaza Strip now needing to be evacuated from the territory for medical care may have risen to 14,000.


Besieged Palestinian develops desalination system for clean water

Besieged Palestinian develops desalination system for clean water
Updated 23 July 2024
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Besieged Palestinian develops desalination system for clean water

Besieged Palestinian develops desalination system for clean water
  • Severe water crisis from Israel’s war, blockade on Gaza
  • Ahmed Atef Afana uses stones, sand, cotton, charcoal

A Palestinian in Jabaliya refugee camp has developed a homemade desalination system amidst Israel’s war and aid blockade on Gaza.

Ahmed Atef Afana, who has been displaced for more than 50 days, said: “Unfortunately, we have no water. The water crisis here is really bad. You could say only 1 percent can hope of getting water.”

Afana’s system uses stones, sand, cotton and charcoal. “I thought I could combine all these aspects together and experiment with the sea water to see what I could come up with,” he said.

Many people on social media have praised him for his resilience and creativity.

“I used to think what I would do if the world was ending and I needed to be creative to survive. Palestinians have shown me everything I need to know,” said one person.

“This is truly incredible and wise. Palestinian people always find a way, no matter the circumstances,” another person said.

According to Palestine’s health ministry, the Gaza death toll has surpassed 38,900, with more than 89,000 Palestinians injured since Oct. 7.

Approximately 1 million residents have been displaced or uprooted. In addition, 10.4 percent of 17,757 children screened by the UN between January and May face extreme malnutrition.


Israel’s Netanyahu says hostage deal could be near for hostages in Gaza

Israel’s Netanyahu says hostage deal could be near for hostages in Gaza
Updated 23 July 2024
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Israel’s Netanyahu says hostage deal could be near for hostages in Gaza

Israel’s Netanyahu says hostage deal could be near for hostages in Gaza
  • Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington: ‘The conditions (for a deal) are undoubtedly ripening. This is a good sign’
  • Efforts to reach a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas have gained momentum over the past month

JERUSALEM/CAIRO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told families of hostages held in Gaza that a deal that would secure their release could be near, his office said on Tuesday, as fighting raged in the battered Palestinian enclave.
Israeli forces pressed on with a new raid into Gaza’s southern area of Khan Younis after ordering civilians to evacuate some districts they said had been used for renewed attacks by Palestinian militants.
Thousands of people were fleeing for safer areas as Israeli airstrikes hit, UN officials said.
Netanyahu is currently in Washington and is expected to meet US President Joe Biden later this week after making an address to Congress.
Speaking in the US capital on Monday to families of hostages, he said: “The conditions (for a deal) are undoubtedly ripening. This is a good sign.”
Efforts to reach a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, outlined by Biden in May and mediated by Egypt and Qatar, have gained momentum over the past month.
“Unfortunately, it will not take place all at once; there will be stages. However, I believe that we can advance the deal and leave us in possession of the leverage to bring about the release of the others (hostages not freed in first stage),” Netanyahu said.
Ruby Chen, the father of dual US-Israeli citizen Itai Chen, a soldier whose body is being held in Gaza, was one of the family members who met with Netanyahu.
“He did say that conditions were ripening but I’m taking that with a pinch of salt,” Chen told Israeli Army Radio.
Chen said he hoped Biden, who on Sunday withdrew his bid for reelection and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic candidate in November’s US election, would apply more pressure on Netanyahu to secure the deal.
A Palestinian official close to the mediation effort accused Netanyahu of stalling.
“Hamas has shown the flexibility needed for an agreement to be reached and the ball is in his court,” the official said.
An Israeli negotiation team was due on Thursday to resume talks that would include hostages being released in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In a week-long truce in November, 105 hostages were freed in return for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
The hostages were seized in the Hamas raid into southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which about 1,200 people were killed and around and 250 taken captive, according to Israeli tallies.
Hamas and other militants are still holding 120 hostages, around a third of whom have been declared dead in absentia by Israeli authorities.
The death toll among Palestinians in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then has reached more than 39,000, according to Gaza health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and much of the enclave laid to waste by airstrikes and artillery bombardments.
FEAR AND DISPLACEMENT
In Gaza on Tuesday, Israeli air raids hit the southern city of Khan Younis as Israeli troops and Palestinian militants fought in its shattered streets, forcing civilians to flee.
“Thousands of people on the move again, fleeing strikes & military operations. The situation is impossible. The cycle of fear & displacement has gone on too long. Everyone is exhausted,” the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA said on X.
The Israeli military said dozens of militants had been killed in Khan Younis by its tanks and warplanes or in close-quarter combat. Weapon caches and tunnels used by the militants had been destroyed, it said.
Palestinian medics said one person was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the area on Tuesday, after dozens were reported killed by Israeli attacks there on Monday. Gaza’s health ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Health officials have said most those killed have been civilians.
Further north, in Gaza City, Israeli bombing killed 16 people, medics said.
In Rafah, next to the border with Egypt where Israel has said it was stamping out Hamas’ last units, an Israeli airstrike killed two Palestinians.
Hamas said its fighters were combating Israeli soldiers in Rafah. Residents said tanks have operated in most of the city, but have yet to gain full control of the northern and western areas.


Prominent Algerian opposition figures blast ‘authoritarian climate’ ahead of presidential election

Prominent Algerian opposition figures blast ‘authoritarian climate’ ahead of presidential election
Updated 23 July 2024
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Prominent Algerian opposition figures blast ‘authoritarian climate’ ahead of presidential election

Prominent Algerian opposition figures blast ‘authoritarian climate’ ahead of presidential election
  • Under the rule of military-backed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, freedom of expression has witnessed a rollback, experts say

ALGIERS: Eleven prominent Algerian opposition figures wrote an open letter this week, denouncing “the authoritarian climate” surrounding the country’s upcoming presidential election and calling for a broad democratic transition.
Under the rule of military-backed President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, freedom of expression has witnessed a rollback, experts say, with journalists and opposition members facing prison time and critical media outlets losing state advertising funding they have relied on to stay afloat.
In their open letter Sunday, the opposition figures — including well-known politicians, lawyers and academics — said the Sep. 7 election was a rubber stamp exercise in futility. They said the lack of civil liberties makes holding a legitimate election impossible
“No to electoral charades under dictatorship!” they wrote. “Yes to genuine democracy and popular sovereignty.” They also underscored how the government’s security policy in preparation for the election “continues to trample on the will of the people.”
“Today’s Algeria is in a more critical situation than before, with short- and medium-term prospects that are even more complex and perilous,” they added.
The letter came nearly two weeks after renowned Algerian Workers’ Party leader Louisa Hanoune announced she would withdraw from the race and her party would boycott the election. She was viewed as an opposition voice that many believed legitimized the election as contested and therefore democratic. A perennial candidate who has run several times before, Hanoune said this year’s election was being held under unfair conditions and “a regressive and anti-democratic legislative framework.”
Such disillusionment is hardly new in the gas-rich North African nation. Political participation has long been low and parties have for decades boycotted elections, unconvinced that they can usher in meaningful change in a country where the military plays an influential role in politics.
Little has changed since large weekly protests known as the “Hirak” movement pushed Algeria’s octogenarian president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, five years ago. A quick and widely boycotted election saw 78-year-old political veteran Tebboune, supported by the powerful military, replace him.
Besides Tebboune, 14 candidates will run in the election. Campaigning is scheduled to hit full swing in the coming couple of weeks.


Palestinian officials say Israel troops kill 5 in West Bank raid

Palestinian officials say Israel troops kill 5 in West Bank raid
Updated 23 July 2024
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Palestinian officials say Israel troops kill 5 in West Bank raid

Palestinian officials say Israel troops kill 5 in West Bank raid
  • The deaths came when Israeli forces raided the Tulkarem camp in the northern West Bank

Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed five Palestinians, including two women, in a pre-dawn raid on a refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
The deaths came when Israeli forces raided the Tulkarem camp in the northern West Bank, the head of its popular committee, Faisal Salamah, told AFP. An activist at the camp confirmed the toll. The Israeli military did not immediately comment.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had treated a 30-year-old man for bullet wounds to the abdomen, thigh and hand, and three women for shrapnel wounds, one of them to the eye.
Palestinian official news agency Wafa said more than 25 military vehicles, including bulldozers, stormed the camp, scooping up rubble to block off its narrow alleys.
The town of Tulkarem is known as a hub of Palestinian militant activity and is frequently raided by Israeli troops.
Violence in the West Bank has spiked since Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel triggered war in Gaza.
At least 579 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the territory since the conflict began, according to health ministry figures.