OIC chief calls for UNRWA funding surge in speech condemning Israeli aggression

The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA)
The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA)
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Updated 05 March 2024
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OIC chief calls for UNRWA funding surge in speech condemning Israeli aggression

The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA
  • The Israeli campaign must be placed in the context of genocide and an attempt to uproot the Palestinian people from their land, OIC chief said

JEDDAH: Countries around the world must increase funding to UNRWA in an effort to improve services for Palestinians and safeguard regional security, the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has said.

Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha made the comments in an opening statement for the extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, held at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday.

He said that the organization is following donor countries’ suspension of UNRWA contributions with great concern. An increase of funding to UNRWA will confirm the international community’s commitment to protecting the rights of Palestinian refugees, he added.

In his statement, the OIC chief said that the meeting was being held in light of Israel’s aggression on Gaza.

He described the Israeli campaign as “violating all international standards, laws, and norms,” adding that the war had led to “horrific massacres, war crimes, and crimes against humanity,” including the recent killing of Palestinian civilians waiting to receive food aid.

“These crimes have so far claimed the lives of more than 30,000 Palestinian civilians, wounded nearly 70,000, most of them women and children, and displaced nearly 2 million Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Israel’s occupation involves a systematic policy based on “siege, starvation, torture, arrest, killing, displacement, and indiscriminate destruction of infrastructure, housing, mosques, churches, hospitals, schools, universities, UN institutions, historical buildings and economic facilities,” the OIC chief said.

The Israeli campaign must be placed in the context of genocide and an attempt to uproot the Palestinian people from their land, he added.

Taha thanked participants, and praised the OIC member states that called for the meeting following the extraordinary Arab Islamic Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in November 2023.

The Arab and Islamic ministerial contact group that was created at the 2023 summit has been successful in its efforts, Taha said. The council has influenced prominent countries, especially UN Security Council member states and international organizations.

A resolution passed at the November summit also urged the creation of a media monitoring unit, which Taha said had been activated. The OIC has also begun coordination with member states to activate a legal observatory that was established by resolution at the Saudi summit.

The OIC, along with 25 member states, submitted written information to the International Court of Justice and took part in the oral arguments that took place in February this year regarding the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land since 1967 and violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, Taha said.

The Council of Foreign Ministers session also saw speeches from Mohamed Marzouk, minister of foreign affairs of Mauritania; Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi minister of foreign affairs, and Riyad Al-Maliki, minister of foreign affairs of Palestine.

In his speech, Prince Faisal said: “Our meeting today underscores the necessity of calling upon the international community and the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, ensuring the protection of civilians, lifting the siege on Gaza, and facilitating the permanent access of humanitarian and food aid.

“The Kingdom warns of the extremely dangerous repercussions of invading and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

“An expansion of military operations toward Rafah will only bring more suffering to the unarmed civilians targeted in Gaza. Our countries categorically reject the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from their territories and emphasize the importance of allowing the immediate and safe return of the displaced.”

Through urgent diplomatic efforts, and as part of its role in the ministerial committees launched from the November summit, Saudi Arabia has called on the international community to take responsibility in stopping the Gaza war, Prince Faisal added.

“We have noticed a positive development in the positions of some countries and an understanding of the magnitude of the catastrophe,” he said.

“We have seen an increase in the number of countries calling for an immediate ceasefire, and we have heard from a number of countries about their readiness in principle to recognize the State of Palestine.

“In this regard, we send our message to those countries that the time has come to make their decision to recognize the State of Palestine and continue to pressure Israel to stop the war in Gaza and accept the two-state solution.”

He added: “Despite the worsening humanitarian tragedy, with over 30,000 deaths, more than 2 million people starving, a lack of security, and the destruction of basic services and infrastructure, the bitter truth is that the international community is still incapable of stopping the humanitarian massacre.

“In light of religious, international and moral values, we note that the brutal Israeli escalation continues against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

“The actions taken by some countries against settlers and extremists are positive, yet these measures remain insufficient if those responsible in the Israeli government who enable them are not held accountable, threatening a complete collapse of the credibility of international institutions and international humanitarian law.”

The Saudi foreign minister raised the issue of UNRWA funding, saying that Saudi Arabia has “confidence” in the ability of the UN secretary-general to conduct an investigation into the matter and disprove the allegations that led to the funding crisis.

He warned against attempts to undermine confidence and cancel the important role played by UNRWA.

“We reaffirm, clearly and emphatically, the necessity to end the suffering and provide hope to the Palestinian people, enabling them to live in safety and self-determination through a reliable and irreversible path to establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and related international resolutions,” Prince Faisal said.

Marzouk, the Mauritanian foreign minister, said: “The Gaza war represents a new chapter of genocidal wars and systematic starvation waged by the Israeli army, flagrantly violating ethical principles, international law and humanitarian international law.

“What’s worse is the suspicious international silence and the clear inability of international bodies to fulfill their responsibilities for which they were established.”

Al-Maliki, Palestine’s foreign minister, said: “Our people in the Gaza Strip are subjected to the most horrific forms of genocide — one of the most atrocious chapters being what is referred to as the Flour Massacre.

“This heinous massacre committed by the occupation forces on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 29, against Palestinian civilians waiting for the arrival of aid trucks in Gaza and its north, left dozens of martyrs, 124 martyrs, and more than 800 wounded.

“It was an integral part of the genocidal war committed by the fascist Israeli government, reaffirming its policy of forcibly displacing our people and proving once again to the international community and the countries supporting Israel that there is no alternative to an immediate ceasefire as the only way to protect civilians and provide them relief.”

He added: “I extend my thanks and appreciation to all member states who convened for this extraordinary meeting, specifically mentioning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in addition to the State of Palestine and all participating member states, for their understanding of the real risks threatening the Palestinian cause and the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe and genocide faced by Palestinians in Gaza.”


Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj
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Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj

Pilgrims reminded of benefits provided by Tawakkalna app during Hajj
  • The services it provides include alerts for pilgrims, a distress call function, weather updates, help to determine the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer, and prayer timings
  • The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi

MAKKAH: Authorities have reminded pilgrims that the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority’s Tawakkalna app provides access to several digital services that can help them during Hajj.
The app provides support for seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Urdu and Hindi. The services it provides include the latest information and alerts for pilgrims as they perform Hajj rituals; weather updates for Makkah and Madinah provided by the National Center of Meteorology; readings from the Qur’an; help to determine the qibla, the direction to face the Kaaba for prayer; and prayer timings.
Pilgrims can also use Tawakkalna to display their digital Hajj card (Nusuk), while Hajj workers can access entry permits for holy sites. A “rituals” section gives pilgrims with Hajj permit the option to obtain a permit for Umrah, and provides other services such as a “Help Me” section, a distress call function, and a way to check volunteers’ credentials.
Authorities said the app has 32 million users, provides 315 electronic services, and can be used in more than 77 countries. The annual Hajj pilgrimage will begin on Friday, June 14 and continue until Wednesday, June 19.


Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president
Updated 9 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president

Saudi leaders send condolences to leader of Malawi over death of vice president
  • King Salman: We express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy
  • Deaths of Saulos Klaus Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a message of condolence and sympathy to Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera following the deaths of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and nine others in a plane crash.

The king wrote: “We received news of the death of the vice president of the Republic of Malawi, Mr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and his companions, and we express to your excellency and your friendly people our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent a similar message to the president, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deaths of Chilima and the others were confirmed on Tuesday when the wreckage of the small military plane in which they were traveling was discovered in a mountainous region in the north of the country. Contact with the aircraft had been lost the previous day. The victims also included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi, and three military crew members.

  • With AP

Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 40 min 36 sec ago
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Egypt’s president prays in the Prophet’s Mosque ahead of Hajj

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Thursday. (SPA)
  • The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in the Saudi city of Madinah on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

El-Sisi was received by Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the governor of the Madinah region, and a number of local officials on his arrival at Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport.

The annual pilgrimage starts on Friday and El-Sisi will be taking part this year. 


King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies
Updated 56 min 10 sec ago
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King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

King Salman Arabic Language Academy signs deal with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies

RIYADH: King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language on Thursday signed an agreement with Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation in promoting the Arabic language, teaching it, preserving its integrity and supporting its use in alignment with the objectives of the human capability development program, one of the initiatives of Saudi Vision 2030.

The academy aims to fulfill its mission of caring for the Arabic language, fostering pride in it, and enabling its civilizational, scientific and cultural contributions.

The academy implemented Arabic language month in Uzbekistan as part of a series of scientific programs undertaken in various countries.
 


Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
Updated 5 min 18 sec ago
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Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims

Saudi inventor develops digital solution for lost pilgrims
  • Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea launches Murshid app to enhance pilgrim safety during Hajj

JEDDAH: With more than two million Muslims expected in Saudi Arabia for Hajj this year, the annual pilgrimage is becoming increasingly hi-tech, with apps to help the faithful navigate Islam’s holiest sites.

In a landmark step to address the issue of Hajj pilgrims who go missing, especially the elderly and those with special needs, Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea recently launched a mobile application that offers hope to the thousands of pilgrims who get lost during the Hajj period.

The app, named “Murshid,” which means guidance, connects pilgrims and Umrah performers with guides, Hajj and Umrah companies, volunteers and scouts. Moreover, it promptly deals with requests from people with disabilities and the elderly.

The app has two features — the ability to report lost pilgrims, as well as being able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.

Al-Dhalea, who invented the app, told Arab News that overcrowding often leads to lost pilgrims at Hajj sites, meaning pilgrims get separated from their groups and are unable to rejoin them.

“This project was designed as a result of the difficulty of dealing with the different communities within the holy sites, such as Makkah, Mina, Arafa and Madinah,” he said.

“Our main aim is to know where the missing pilgrim is,” Al-Dhalea said.

He affirmed that with the Murshid app, no one will get lost during Hajj.

“This is to ensure providing the pilgrims who come to Saudi Arabia with distinguished services so that they perform the duty of the fifth pillar of Islam and all its rituals correctly in the best conditions,” he said.

“Though we have many volunteers and scouts helping missing pilgrims find their way, most fail to effectively explain where they are, making it difficult for officials to find them. This new app will help us overcome logistical problems encountered during this busy season,” Al-Dhalea said.

He said the app will be operational this year and that they have already teamed up with five of the largest Hajj and Umrah companies.

“To date we are working with these companies and, additionally, men, women, taxi drivers and other locals can also work with us as guides.”

Al-Dhalea, who is from Qassim, said the invention of the app is not a commercial project, and that he is not concerned with how much money it will make.

“Saudi Arabia’s great efforts toward serving the pilgrims of the House of Allah led me to think of something to stand by my country and also think of a project which could solve some of the problems pilgrims face,” he said.

After helping an Iranian pilgrim and his wife this week, Al-Dhalea told Arab News that his contribution to serving this pilgrim has added a lot to him both personally and practically.

"It was my first case this Hajj; his name is Hossein Almasi from Iran. He got lost in Makkah before the Hajj season started, and it was reported to us through our app. We immediately started searching and found him.

"As soon as we found him, we guided him along with his wife to the Iranian campaign headquarters, and the man was very happy. When he got there, he asked us how much money to pay for this service. We told him it is a free service. He hugged me and said thank you," said Al-Dhalea.

Unsurprisingly, Al-Dhalea’s app for finding missing people during Hajj saw off the challenges of 450 local and international projects for sustainable solutions for pilgrims organized by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah during the Hajj Expo.

Decoder

What is Murshid?

It is a mobile phone app developed recently by Saudi inventor Suliman Saleh Al-Dhalea to assist Muslims performing Hajj or Umrah in Makkah. The app has the ability to report lost pilgrims and it is also able to detect the location and movement of pilgrims to ease the search process if they get lost or separated from their group.