Gaza war paralyzes Israeli tourism for third year

Gaza war paralyzes Israeli tourism for third year
In Nazareth, the basilica is empty. (AFP/File)
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Updated 09 February 2024
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Gaza war paralyzes Israeli tourism for third year

Gaza war paralyzes Israeli tourism for third year

NAZARETH, Israel: In Israel’s biblical city of Nazareth, the basilica is empty, restaurants and shops that usually thrive on Christian pilgrims are closed, and many hotels have been shut for months.
The Gaza war that began after the Hamas attack of October 7 has plunged the country’s tourism industry into a fresh crisis, just as it had started to recover from the Covid pandemic.
“We felt that the influx of tourists was starting to be good at the end of September, the beginning of October,” said Marwa Taha Abu Rani, manager of the Fauzi Azar hostel in the Old City.
With the outbreak of war, future bookings were canceled, she told AFP about her guesthouse, part of the Abraham Hostel group and located in a grand 19th-century home.
“We aren’t working at all,” she said. “There’s no one.”
The hostel’s tall arched windows overlook the marketplace and the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Catholics believe the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.
The economy of Nazareth, set in the hills of northern Israel, is heavily dependent on Christian pilgrims, making it a bellwether for Israel’s tourism industry on the whole.
Even during what is the low season on the annual tourism calendar, the city has been unusually empty.
Tourism accounts for about three percent of Israel’s economy and employs around 200,000 Israelis directly, according to the tourism ministry.
The country had been projected to draw 5.5 million visitors in 2023, a million more than 2019’s record high, it added.
October 7 changed all that.
Hamas’s attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
At least 27,840 Palestinians, most of them women, children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in retaliatory Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since October 7, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Foreign tourism to Israel evaporated immediately after the attack — accelerated by many airlines canceling flights to Israel — which has put tour guides, hotel staff, bus drivers and others out of work.
Only around three million people had visited Israel by the end of 2023, the ministry said.
Many hotels now receive government funding to house Israelis displaced by the war — from areas near Gaza and from along the northern border with Lebanon, which has been rocked by cross-border fire with militant group Hezbollah.
But smaller business like Fauzi Azar have been left in the lurch.
The sector’s new crisis sparked by the war could not have come at a worse time, said Peleg Lewi, a senior adviser to Israel’s tourism minister.
“2023 was the year that we recovered from the Covid and it was supposed to be the most successful year in Israel’s history,” he said.
Israel’s previous major wars — in 2006 against Hezbollah and in 2014 against Hamas — each lasted less than two months and their economic impact was limited, said Michel Strawczynski, an economist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Now Israel has been engaged in fighting for over four months with both militant groups, and has called up hundreds of thousands of reservists.
No end appears in sight anytime soon. Israeli leaders say attaining the war’s objectives could take a year.
Strawczynski said this war’s economic impact will “clearly” be higher, largely because of the loss of foreign tourism.
In the fourth quarter of last year, Israel’s GDP fell by about three percent, he said.
“Concerning 2024, things are completely dependent on how long this war will be, and also whether there will be a deeper confrontation in the north,” he said.
The current estimation at Israel’s tourism ministry is that — even if fighting in Gaza subsides and there is no war with Hezbollah — 2024 as a whole already appears “a bit lost,” said Lewi.
“If everything goes okay, we see the end of 2024 coming back to normality,” he said.
In the basilica in Nazareth, one of the caretakers, Friar Wojciech Boloz, said he hopes the usual crowds will soon come back.
“We feel a little bit empty without the pilgrims,” he said.
Tourists and pilgrims not only fuel the local economy, Boloz said. “They give the life to this church.”


Kuwait economic fund signs coordination MoU with ILO

Kuwait economic fund signs coordination MoU with ILO
Updated 19 April 2024
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Kuwait economic fund signs coordination MoU with ILO

Kuwait economic fund signs coordination MoU with ILO
  • MoU aims to coordinate joint actions in economic and social development in developing countries

WASHINGTON: The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has agreed a memorandum of understanding with the International Labor Organization to enhance development cooperation, Kuwait News Agency reported.
The MoU was signed by KFAED Acting Director General Waleed AI-Bahar and ILO Assistant Director General for External and Corporate Relations Laura Thompson on the sidelines of the 2024 spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington DC.
The MoU establishes a framework for technical cooperation and aims to coordinate joint actions in economic and social development in developing countries. This includes exchanging expertise and information in economic, financial and commercial sectors.
The five-year renewable agreement focuses on collaborative activities aligned with the goals of both organizations in the countries in which they operate. The partnership will also involve sharing resources in areas of mutual interest such as statistics, policy enhancement, youth economic empowerment, gender equality at work, crisis response and South-South cooperation.
Regular consultations are planned to ensure effective coordination of operations in the targeted nations.
 


International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran

International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran
Updated 19 April 2024
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International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran

International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran
  • Widespread calls for utmost restraint between Iran and Israel to avoid serious repercussions

PARIS: Here are some international reactions Friday after Israel’s reported attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, where it has military bases and nuclear facilities:

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated that it was “high time to stop the dangerous cycle of retaliation in the Middle East,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

“The Secretary-General condemns any act of retaliation and appeals to the international community to work together to prevent any further development that could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region and beyond,” Stephane Dujarric said.
RUSSIA
Russia has made clear to Israel that Iran “does not want escalation,” Moscow’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday, after reports Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes against its arch-rival.
“There have been telephone contacts between the leadership of Russia and Iran, our representatives and the Israelis. We made it very clear in these conversations, we told the Israelis that Iran does not want escalation,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio stations.

UAE
The United Arab Emirates’ foreign ministry on Friday expressed concern about regional tensions in a statement, calling for ‘utmost restraint’ to avoid serious repercussions.
JORDAN
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Friday Israeli-Iranian retaliations must end, warning against danger of regional escalation.
GERMANY
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for de-escalation following a strike on the Iranian city of Isfahan and said Berlin would work with its partners in this direction.
“De-escalation remains the order of the day in the near future. And we will also talk about this with all our friends and allies, and work together with them in this direction,” Scholz told reporters on Friday.
G7

G7 foreign ministers Friday urged “all parties” to “work to prevent further escalation” in the Middle East, following reports that Israel had carried out revenge strikes on Iran.

“In light of reports of strikes on April 19th, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end,” the Group of Seven industrialized nations said in a statement.

The ministers from Italy, the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada said they “demand that Iran and its affiliated groups cease their attacks”.

SPAIN

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called Friday for all sides to avoid “an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East” after reports that Israel carried out retaliatory strikes on Iran.

“We must avoid any action that would lead to an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. The seriousness of the moment demands responsibility and restraint from all parties,” he wrote on X.

JAPAN’S CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY YOSHIMASA HAYASHI

“Japan is deeply concerned about the situation in the Middle East and strongly condemn any actions that lead to the escalation of the situation.

“Japan will continue to make all necessary diplomatic efforts to prevent the situation from worsening further.”
CHINA
“China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian.
IAEA
“IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites. Director General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said on X.
OMAN
“The Sultanate of Oman is following the continuing tension in the region and condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan,” the foreign ministry said, adding that it also “condemns and denounces Israel’s repeated military attacks in the region.
“Oman once again appeals to the international community to address the causes and roots of tension and conflict through dialogue, diplomacy and political solutions, and to focus on ceasefire efforts in Gaza and resort to international law and United Nations resolutions to reach a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.”
EC PRESIDENT URSULA VON DER LEYEN
“We have to do everything possible (so) that all sides restrain from the escalation in that region ... It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
UK
“We have condemned Iran’s reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has a right to self-defense. But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him (this week) and more generally, significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest, what we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
ITALY
“We invite everyone to be cautious to avoid an escalation,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told RAI news on Capri where Italy is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations.
“This is something we from the government’s side take very seriously and are following very closely,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.
“There has to be an end to the exchange of blows and escalation.”


Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels

Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels
Updated 19 April 2024
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Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels

Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels
  • Soaring temperatures in the embattled Palestinian enclave have prompted Gazan children to resort to the sea

RAFAH: Soaring temperatures in Gaza during the past week have driven thousands in the enclave’s southern city of Rafah to seek respite on beaches.

The proximity to Israeli military vessels did not stop hundreds of war-weary Gazans from bringing their children to enjoy a day of paddling and swimming, according to Arab News’ reporter in the embattled Palestinian enclave.

Many of the 1.4 million displaced Palestinians in Rafah live in makeshift shelters, including tents, on the beach, near the Egyptian border.

Since the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip broke out on Oct. 7 last year, Gazans have been forced to resort to salty seawater for washing, bathing and even drinking due to the collapse of the water system.


Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
Updated 19 April 2024
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Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
  • Dubai International Airport temporarily limiting the number of arriving flights for 48 hours from 12 p.m. on Friday

DUBAI: Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates is suspending check-in for all customers with onward connections through the city until 2359 GMT on Friday, three days after a record storm swept the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, said customers traveling to Dubai as their final destination may check-in and travel as usual.

The suspension shows the airline and its hub, Dubai International Airport, are still struggling to clear a backlog of flights after the UAE saw its heaviest rains in the 75 years records have been kept, bringing much of the country to a standstill for two days and causing significant damage.

Dubai International airport, one of the world’s busiest, later said it was temporarily limiting the number of arriving flights for 48 hours from 12 p.m. on Friday to speed up recovery operations from rain and flooding.

Thousands of passengers have been affected by flight cancelations this week, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told local radio station Dubai Eye on Friday, after the storm flooded taxiways.

The storm, which hit neighboring Oman on Sunday, pounded the UAE on Tuesday, with 20 reported dead in Oman and one in the UAE.

Dubai’s budget carrier flydubai meanwhile canceled flights to Iran on Friday after receiving an official alert, a statement said.

“In line with the issued NOTAM (notice to air missions), our flights to Iran today have been canceled,” said the statement.

One flight which had already departed for Tehran returned to Dubai after the Iranian capital’s airport was closed, it added.

Flights were suspended across swathes of Iran as Iranian state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan.

Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east.

The main road that connects the UAE’s most populous emirate Dubai with Abu Dhabi remains partially closed, while an alternative route into Dubai requires vehicles to use a road that is entirely covered in floodwater where cars and buses have been abandoned.

In the UAE’s north, including in the emirate of Sharjah, people were reportedly still trapped in their homes, while others there said there had been extensive damage to businesses.

Rains are rare in the UAE and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, which is typically known for its dry desert climate where summer air temperatures can soar above 50 degrees Celsius.

The UAE’s National Center of Meteorology said on social platform X that Monday may see light rainfall by late night and forecast “a chance of light to moderate rainfall, might be heavy at times over some areas” for Tuesday, with a fall in temperatures over some coastal areas.


Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
Updated 19 April 2024
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Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
  • Drones shot down over Isfahan, says Iranian state media
  • Israel military refuses to comment on incident

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.

Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.