Ramadan prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa under the shadow of Gaza war

Palestinian Muslim devotees perform noon prayers on the second Friday of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 22, 2024. (AFP)
Palestinian Muslim devotees perform noon prayers on the second Friday of the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem on March 22, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 23 March 2024
Follow

Ramadan prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa under the shadow of Gaza war

Ramadan prayer at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa under the shadow of Gaza war
  • “Do not forget and remember your brothers in Gaza who sleep without food in a tent or in a destroyed house,” he said

JERUSALEM: Muslims worshippers flocked to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound for the second Friday prayer of Ramadan under the heavy presence of Israeli police, a sign of lurking tensions in the holy city.
“We feel lucky to be at Al-Aqsa while hundreds of thousands are deprived of access to it,” said Mustafa Al-Sheikh, a 62-year-old Palestinian who traveled with his wife from Anata, a town near Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.
The couple were among about 180,000 people who prayed on Friday at the mosque compound, according to the religious body that administers the historically sensitive site in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
“The prayer went smoothly and peacefully,” Azzam Al-Khatib, head of the Waqf Islamic affairs council, told AFP.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is Islam’s third holiest site and Judaism’s most sacred, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. It is also a frequent source of tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which have soared this year as war rages in the Gaza Strip.
In past years, violence flared around Al-Aqsa during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, with Palestinians accusing Israel of increasingly restricting access to the site.
Thousands of police officers were deployed to the area surrounding the compound on Friday, some of them heavily armed, in part to enforce age restrictions imposed on West Bank Palestinians.
Israel has said only men aged 55 and over and women older than 50 would be allowed to enter from the territory.
But for many, simply reaching Jerusalem from other parts of the West Bank, dotted with Israeli checkpoints, could be a challenging feat.
Zainab Ramadan Freij, a 70-year-old resident of the northern West Bank’s Tulkarem refugee camp, said she had to take a bus at 6:30 am from to make it to Jerusalem — just over 60 kilometers (40 miles) away — in time for the noon prayer.
Once inside the compound, worshippers rejoiced and took photos on Al-Aqsa’s iconic rock stairs.
“My friend Lina has been in America for 20 years. I want to send her these pictures because she loves Al-Aqsa and misses it,” said Rabab Hadiya, a 49-year-old teacher from Jerusalem.
Just two weeks ago, mass prayers at the compound ended in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, but so far Ramadan has passed without any major incident.

Kobi Michael, a senior researcher at Israeli think-tank the Institute for National Security Studies, attributed the relative calm to several policy decisions.
Officers had been told to be particularly careful and police were monitoring social media for incitement, Michael told AFP.
He also said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reined in the firebrand Israeli minister overseeing the police force, who had suggested barring all West Bank residents from the revered mosque.
“Netanyahu himself intervened” to strip National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir of his “authority on the issue of Palestinians’ access to Al-Aqsa during Ramadan,” Michael said.
In his sermon, the preacher spoke of Palestinians suffering hunger in the war-battered Gaza Strip.
“Do not forget and remember your brothers in Gaza who sleep without food in a tent or in a destroyed house,” he said.
This message resonated with 69-year-old Mohammad Abu Arar, whose wife’s family in Gaza are currently sheltering in tents in the far-southern city of Rafah.
“We pray for our people there to be safe and for the war to end peacefully, from the most sacred place for us,” said Abu Arar.
Israel’s military campaign against Hamas has killed at least 32,070 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.
It was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
International mediators had aimed for a new truce before Ramadan, but more than two weeks into the holy month and nearly six months into the war, no agreement has been reached.

 


UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

Updated 2 sec ago
Follow

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee
This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area“

UNITED NATIONS: Sudanese paramilitary forces are using the Central African Republic as a “supply chain,” including for recruitment of fighters, according to a report published Friday by UN experts, who are concerned about a “spillover effect.”
Sudan descended into war in April 2023 when the generals in charge of the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took up arms against each other in a fight for control, rejecting a plan to integrate.
“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee, formed by the UN Security Council to monitor sanctions on Central Africa.
They highlighted in particular the humanitarian situation, as the country sees an influx of millions of Sudanese refugees, as well as incursions by the two warring Sudanese parties — plus air raids by the Sudanese army in and around the Umm Dafog border post, where the RSF is present.
This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area,” the experts said.
They insist the paramilitaries are also using the Am Dafok area in the Central African Republic on the border “as a key logistical hub.”
Because the RSF can “move between the two countries easily through a long-standing network” they have been able to recruit “from among armed groups in the Central African Republic.”
“Opposition armed groups from the Central African Republic have been reported to have actively recruited for, and sent members of their own groups to fight in, the Sudan under RSF,” the experts said.
They noted in particular fighters in Sudan since as early as August 2023 from the Central African rebel group Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC).
The experts said they are aware that this armed group and others “are still able to cross between the Sudan and the Central African Republic at will and use Sudanese territory to launch attacks.”
The experts thus called on Central African authorities to “counteract the surge in arms trafficking from neighboring countries, particularly given the current conflict situation in the Sudan.”
They also asked the leaders to combat “the infiltration of foreign fighters into the Central African Republic, which poses a significant long-term threat to the region.”

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit
Updated 15 June 2024
Follow

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit

UAE, UK leaders discuss bilateral ties at G7 summit
  • Sheikh Mohamed, Sunak discussed a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with UK Prime Minister Sunak on Friday on the sidelines of the G7 Summit session on artificial intelligence and energy in Apulia, Emirates News Agency reported.

During the meeting, the two leaders talked about how to strengthen and expand bilateral relations in a variety of areas, including economics and development.

The two leaders also discussed a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest, emphasizing the importance of laying the groundwork for peace, stability, and security in the Middle East.


Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death

Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death
Updated 15 June 2024
Follow

Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death

Hezbollah keeps up pressure on Israel days after commander’s death
  • Hezbollah said Saturday that it targeted the Meron base in northern Israel with “guided missiles,” and sent “attack drones” toward another Israeli base
  • The Israeli army said “two projectiles were fired from Lebanon toward the IDF (army) Aerial Control Unit in the area of Meron in northern Israel“

BEIRUT: Hezbollah on Saturday kept up retaliatory attacks on military positions in northern Israel, and one person was killed in Lebanon, days after an Israeli strike hit a senior commander from the Iran-backed group.
Senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Abdallah was killed in an Israeli strike in the village of Jouaiyya on Tuesday, alongside three comrades, a source close to the group had told AFP.
Hezbollah said Saturday that it targeted the Meron base in northern Israel with “guided missiles,” and sent “attack drones” toward another Israeli base “as part of the response to the attack and assassination carried out by the enemy in Jouaiyya.”
Israel and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army had confirmed it carried out the strike targeting Abdallah, describing him as “one of Hezbollah’s most senior commanders in southern Lebanon.”
On Saturday, the Israeli army said “two projectiles were fired from Lebanon toward the IDF (army) Aerial Control Unit in the area of Meron in northern Israel,” reporting “no injuries or damage to the unit’s capabilities.”
It also said “several aerial targets were identified crossing from Lebanon into Israeli territory” and falling in the Goren area, adding there were no reported injuries but that “a fire broke out.”
“Aircraft struck a Hezbollah terrorist” in south Lebanon’s Aitarun area, the military said, adding that “artillery fired to remove a threat,” also in the Aitarun area.
A source close to Hezbollah and rescuers affiliated with the group said a non-Lebanese man was killed in Aitarun, without providing further details.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency had reported unspecified casualties in an “Israeli drone” strike on a motorbike on the road between Aitarun and Bint Jbeil in southern Lebanon.
On Wednesday, top Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine vowed the group would “increase the intensity, strength, quantity and quality of our attacks,” while speaking at Abdallah’s funeral.
A Lebanese military source said Abdallah was the “most important” Hezbollah commander to have been killed since the start of the war.
The cross-border violence has killed at least 471 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 91 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 Israeli soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.


Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal

Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal
Updated 15 June 2024
Follow

Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal

Islamic Jihad says only way to free Israeli hostages is Gaza withdrawal, prisoner deal
  • The spokesman of Al-Quds Brigades made the remarks in a video posted on Telegram
  • Islamic Jihad is a smaller ally of Hamas

CAIRO: The armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad said on Saturday the only way to return Israeli hostages is through Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, ending its offensive and reaching a deal for exchanging Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.
The spokesman of Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian group, made the remarks in a video posted on Telegram.
Islamic Jihad is a smaller ally of the militant Islamist group Hamas, which led a rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. More than 100 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza, although at least 40 have been declared dead in absentia by Israeli authorities.
At least 37,296 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military campaign to eliminate Hamas, according to the Gaza health ministry.


Erdogan says Biden faces a test of sincerity in handling of the Gaza war

Erdogan says Biden faces a test of sincerity in handling of the Gaza war
Updated 15 June 2024
Follow

Erdogan says Biden faces a test of sincerity in handling of the Gaza war

Erdogan says Biden faces a test of sincerity in handling of the Gaza war
  • Biden expected to demonstrate that the Gaza ceasefire plan is not a calculated electoral tactic but a sincere effort to end the war

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that US President Joe Biden is undergoing “a test of sincerity” in his handling of the Gaza war.
In an interview with reporters on his way back from the G7 Summit in Italy, Erdogan said Biden is expected to demonstrate that the Gaza ceasefire plan is not a calculated electoral tactic but a sincere effort to end the war.
He also said that Germany has softened its stance on sales of Eurofighter jets to Turkiye. In November, Turkiye said the country was in talks with Britain and Spain to buy Eurofighter Typhoons, though Germany objected the idea.
“Eurofighters are important to us,” he added.
Erdogan also said that inflation will be put on a more favorable position in the final quarter with the steps to be taken on interest rates.
“Policies aimed at rebalancing the economy are bearing fruit,” Erdogan said.