‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears
Egyptians look for traditional lanterns, locally known as ‘Fanous Ramadan’, in central Cairo on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

‘Mercy tables’ in Egypt suffer from economic crisis as Ramadan nears

CAIRO: Rising food prices and shortages may lead to fewer donations and less food for “tables of mercy” in Egypt during Ramadan.

Such tables are usually seen on Egypt’s streets to provide lower-income people with free iftar.

“There are many philanthropists in Egypt, but the high prices of food items constrain them,” said Kamal Khairy, a cook who worked at the tables in previous years.

A kilogram of meat is now priced at 450 Egyptian pounds ($14.56) in some areas, while a kilogram of rice costs 40 pounds. The price of vegetables has risen to unreasonable levels, Khairy told Arab News.

The meal cost has increased significantly, causing some philanthropists to withdraw from setting up tables this year.

“Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I used to cook at different tables upon request by philanthropists,” he said.

“In one year, I cooked for three tables — one in the morning, another in the afternoon, and the third before sunset. However, no one has asked me this year.”

A 50-year-old Egyptian, who declined to be named, told Arab News: “In previous years, I used to set up a free iftar table near my factory in Al-Azhar. However, I cannot afford the extra expense due to financial constraints this year.”

He said the factory was struggling financially, so he had been cutting expenses.

A car park attendant on Hoda Shaarawi Street in Cairo who gave his name as Uncle Ahmed told Arab News: “Due to the nature of my job, I cannot go home during Ramadan. Therefore, I rely on the ‘mercy table’ set up on the street, where I am a regular guest.”

The man, nearing 60, added: “I used to sit at a table alongside people from diverse social backgrounds, such as delivery workers, nurses, conscripts, and passersby.

“The table used to accommodate more than 500 people but now fits only 50.”

He said that in the past, a meal would typically consist of a meat dish (such as chicken or kofta), a vegetable dish, a salad and rice or pasta.

“There is only one dish that contains rice and vegetables this year, and the size of the chicken and meat has been reduced. Additionally, the salad portion has been reduced."

Ahmed added: “The crisis affects everyone, and we don’t expect more from the philanthropists. I excuse them.

“I pray that our crises in Egypt will be resolved.”

Farid Jamal, a worker at a charity hosting a table, said: “In previous years, people would arrive an hour before the Maghrib prayer, but now they come three hours earlier.

“The social composition has also changed. I see young men and men from good social levels wearing relatively elegant clothes and women who appear to be in a good situation, all reserving their places at the table to get an iftar meal.”


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 10 sec ago
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Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”


US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
Updated 32 min 41 sec ago
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US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
  • “These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing

WASHINGTON: The US military called on Iraq’s government on Tuesday to take steps to safeguard American troops in both Iraq and Syria after failed attacks on Monday by Iran-aligned militia.
“These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk. We call on the government of Iraq to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of US forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.
“If these attacks continue, we will not hesitate to defend our forces, as we have done in the past.”


White House wants ‘real progress’ before restoring UNRWA funding

White House wants ‘real progress’ before restoring UNRWA funding
Updated 23 April 2024
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White House wants ‘real progress’ before restoring UNRWA funding

White House wants ‘real progress’ before restoring UNRWA funding
  • “In terms of our funding of UNRWA, that is still suspended,” Kirby said
  • “We welcome the results of this report and strongly support the recommendations in the report“

WAHSINGTON: The White House said Tuesday it would “have to see real progress” before restoring its funding to the UN agency for Palestinians, the main aid agency operating in war-torn Gaza.
The comments from National Security Council spokesman John Kirby came after the US froze aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency following accusations by Israel that its staff may have participated in the October 7, 2023, Hamas attacks.
A UN probe is looking into those accusations.
A separate independent review into UNRWA found some “neutrality-related issues” in its much-anticipated report released Monday. It noted Israel had yet to provide evidence for incendiary allegations that staff were members of terrorist organizations.
“In terms of our funding of UNRWA, that is still suspended. We’re gonna have to see real progress here before that gets changed,” Kirby said.
Many donor countries have resumed funding since Israel’s accusations, including Sweden, Canada, Japan, the EU and France — while others, including the United States and Britain — have continued to hold out.
“We welcome the results of this report and strongly support the recommendations in the report,” Kirby said, noting that the United States also faced legal constraints in restarting its funding.
Congress passed a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last month that blocks US funding until March 2025.
UNRWA, which employs some 30,000 people, began operations in 1950 and provides services to nearly six million people across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The neutrality issues highlighted in Monday’s report included staff sharing biased political posts on social media and the use of a small number of textbooks with “problematic content” in some UNRWA schools.


US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military

US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military
Updated 23 April 2024
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US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military

US sanctions four over ‘malicious cyber activity’ for Iran’s military
  • The individuals and companies were working “on behalf of” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Cyber Electronic Command (IRGC-CEC), the Treasury said
  • Tuesday’s sanctions are the latest to be levied against Tehran by the United States

WASHINGTON: The US ramped up its sanctions against Iran on Tuesday, designating four people and two companies it says were “involved in malicious cyber activity” on behalf of the country’s military.
“These actors targeted more than a dozen US companies and government entities through cyber operations, including spear phishing and malware attacks,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement.
The individuals and companies were working “on behalf of” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Cyber Electronic Command (IRGC-CEC), the Treasury said.
“Iranian malicious cyber actors continue to target US companies and government entities in a coordinated, multi-pronged campaign intended to destabilize our critical infrastructure and cause harm to our citizens,” the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.
“The United States will continue to leverage our whole-of-government approach to expose and disrupt these networks’ operations,” he added.
Tuesday’s sanctions are the latest to be levied against Tehran by the United States and its allies for supporting anti-Israel proxies in the Middle East and for providing military support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Last week, the US and Britain announced widespread sanctions against Iran’s military drone program in response to Tehran’s large-scale attack against Israel earlier this month.
That attack came in response to an April 1 air strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus — widely blamed on Israel — that killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals.
A day after those sanctions were unveiled, the US fined a Thailand-based firm $20 million for more than 450 possible Iran sanctions violations.
They included processing close to $300 million in wire transfers for a company jointly owned by the National Petroleum Company of Iran.
Alongside the Tuesday’s sanctions, the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have also indicted the four individuals in question, “for their roles in cyber activity targeting US entities,” the Treasury Department said.


Egypt condemns Israeli human rights violations in Gaza Strip

Egypt condemns Israeli human rights violations in Gaza Strip
Updated 23 April 2024
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Egypt condemns Israeli human rights violations in Gaza Strip

Egypt condemns Israeli human rights violations in Gaza Strip
  • Egypt said it condemned violations of international law including the targeting of civilians
  • Abu Zeid reiterated the need for immediate intervention by the international community to stop such violations

CAIRO: Egypt has condemned the repeated Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “It is regrettable and shameful that violations of international law and humanitarian values continue in such a flagrant manner in the 21st century, in full view and hearing of all countries, international organizations, and the Security Council.”
This came during statements made by ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid regarding the discovery of mass graves in the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.
Egypt said it condemned violations of international law including the targeting of civilians, displaced persons, and medical teams by Israeli forces.
Abu Zeid reiterated the need for immediate intervention by the international community to stop such violations and to conduct the necessary investigations to hold perpetrators accountable.
He added that the killing, destruction, and violence witnessed in the West Bank over the past few weeks is no less dangerous, further aggravates the crisis, and threatens to escalate tensions across all occupied Palestinian territories.
He called for an immediate halt to the violence and attacks by settlers, protected by Israeli forces, against Palestinian civilians, their property, and homes in the West Bank.
The bodies of over 200 Palestinians, including patients, have been uncovered so far in mass graves at the Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza’s Khan Younis since Saturday, according to media reports.