Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike

Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike
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Australian World Central Kitchen (WCK) aid worker Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, who was among the WCK employees, including foreigners, killed in an Israeli airstrike according to the Hamas-run Gaza government media office, in this screengrab from a video released Mar. 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike
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Members of “World Central Kitchen” prepare food for Palestinians, in the location given as Gaza in this picture released on Mar. 21, 2024 and obtained from social media. (Reuters/File)
Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike
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Polish World Central Kitchen and aid worker Damian Sobol, (left) who was killed by Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Apr. 1, 2024, speaks about water facilities in location given as Gaza, in this still image taken from a social media video released Mar. 2, 2024 and obtained by Reuters on Apr. 2, 2024. (Reuters).
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Updated 02 April 2024
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Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike

Family and friends recall ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ aid workers killed in Israeli airstrike
  • Killed were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian
  • Not all of the workers have been identified. Here’s a look at those who have been named

GAZA: An Israeli airstrike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza reverberated around the world Tuesday, as friends and relatives mourned the losses of those who were delivering food to besieged Palestinians with the charity World Central Kitchen.
Killed were three British nationals, an Australian, a Polish national, an American-Canadian dual citizen and a Palestinian. Some had traveled the world, participating in aid efforts in the aftermath of wars, earthquakes and wildfires.
Not all of the workers have been identified. Here’s a look at those who have been named.
LALZAWMI “ZOMI” FRANKCOM
Friends and family remembered Frankcom, 43, as a brave, selfless woman whose care for others drew her across the globe. For the last five years, she’d worked for Washington-based World Central Kitchen, taking her to the US, Thailand and her native Australia.
“We mourn this fine Australian who has a record of helping out her fellow citizens, whether it be internationally or whether it be through the support that she gave during the bushfires that occurred during that Black Summer,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Australian Broadcasting Corp. “She is someone who clearly was concerned about her fellow humanity.”
In a statement, relatives described Frankcom as an “outstanding human being” who was “killed doing the work she loves delivering food to the people of Gaza.”
She was born in Melbourne and earned a bachelor’s from the Swinburne University of Technology. For eight years, she worked for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation’s largest bank.
Frankcom’s social media highlighted visits to aid those in need in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Romania and Haiti.
World Central Kitchen colleague Dora Weekley, who met Frankcom responding to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019, described Frankcom as “larger than life.”
She recalled when Frankcom was invited to walk a Hollywood red carpet, for a documentary about World Central Kitchen that was nominated for an Emmy.
“I remember getting a picture of her in a dress, saying, ‘Hold onto this forever,’” Weekley told ABC. “Because usually I’m in sweats and runners, and I’m in Pakistan or Afghanistan or, you know, she could be anywhere, and never with her hair done or makeup done.”
“She worked all hours, she gave everything, and she believed in helping people who were less fortunate.”
DAMIAN SOBÓL
Soból, 36, was known as a cheerful, friendly and resourceful manager who quickly rose in World Central Kitchen’s ranks.
Hailing from the southeastern Polish city of Przemyśl and studying hospitality there, Soból had been on aid missions in Ukraine, Morocco, Turkiye and, for the past six months, Gaza.
”He was a really extraordinary guy,” said Marta Wilczynska, of the Free Place Foundation, which cooperates with World Central Kitchen. “We were very proud of him.”
Wilczynska met Soból on the Polish side of the border with Ukraine, a few days after Russia’s February 2022 invasion. He spoke English well and was a translator, and he was a skilled manager who could organize work in any condition, she said.
“Always smiling, always so helpful, he loved this job. I felt I had a brother in him,” Wilczynska said.
Free Place Foundation President Mikolaj Rykowski said Soból was “the man for every task — he could overcome every difficulty.”
Posting on Facebook, Przemyśl Mayor Wojciech Bakun said of Soból’s death that there are “no words to describe how people who knew this fantastic young man feel now.”
SAIF ISSAM ABU TAHA
Taha, 27, was identified by relatives and hospital workers as the Palestinian aid worker killed in the airstrike.
His brother, Ahmed Abu Taha, confirmed he worked for World Central Kitchen as a driver since the beginning of the year.
“He was a dedicated young man,” his brother said.


Egyptian sports critic to sue authorities in Israel after Shin Bet confuses him with Hamas member

Egyptian sports critic to sue authorities in Israel after Shin Bet confuses him with Hamas member
Updated 25 May 2024
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Egyptian sports critic to sue authorities in Israel after Shin Bet confuses him with Hamas member

Egyptian sports critic to sue authorities in Israel after Shin Bet confuses him with Hamas member
  • Media expert Hassan Makawi says simple Internet search would have uncovered ‘appalling mistake’
  • He says fiasco shows Israeli media reports ‘must be scrutinized closely’

CAIRO: Egyptian sports critic Mohamed Shabana plans to sue authorities in Israel for defamation after Israeli security agency Shin Bet published his photograph by mistake instead of an image of a Hamas leader in Rafah who it believed had been killed.
Shabana said he would demand substantial compensation for the damage inflicted on him, his family, and his audience in the Egyptian media.
He also said his political career was being damaged following the incident.
He said he would donate the compensation to the “Palestinian cause — a cause we all fight for.”
Shin Bet sparked controversy on social media after posting a picture of Shabana, claiming that he was a Hamas leader killed in Rafah.
Local Israeli media initially reported the assassination of Mohammed Shabana in Rafah, a leader of the Rafah brigade of the Al-Qassam Brigades, using an image of the Egyptian media personality.
However, the Israeli media immediately corrected the error, acknowledging the failure of the assassination attempt, as reported by Yedioth Ahronoth.
The blunder sparked an initial social media uproar, with the Egyptian sports audience recognizing Shabana, making a mockery of the incident.
The fiasco also raised doubts about the capabilities of Shin Bet, which not only posted the incorrect image of a Hamas leader but also failed in the assassination attempt.
Shabana told Arab News that he came across a photo of himself trending on social media, accompanied by sarcastic comments about the Israeli army.
He said: “I did not understand what was happening and began reading to grasp what had occurred.”
Shabana said some friends and family also contacted him over the phone to express their disbelief.
He added: “They joked that the Israeli security service had assassinated me, which made me laugh too. But it did not take long before I realized how ignorant and backward the Israeli security agencies were, fabricating events, which makes me doubt everything they say.
“I know that Shin Bet is one of the strongest security agencies in Israel, and it’s unnatural for them to make such a mistake.
“But I think the chaos in the Israeli state made them fabricate or even mishandle the accuracy of their publications.
“Perhaps they Googled the name Mohammed Shabana, the leader in Hamas, and my photo popped up, so they published it, which is quite ridiculous.”
Media expert Hassan Makawi said: “What happened is a major blunder for the Israeli security forces. But the bigger blunder, in my opinion, is that of the Israeli media, which followed its agency without verifying the facts.”
Makawi said a simple Internet search would have “uncovered their appalling mistake.”
Makawi told Arab News: “It’s clear that Israel is not as strong as they claim, nor is their media as reliable as it describes itself.
“Therefore, we must scrutinize their statements and publications as they may contain many lies.”


Heavy seas batter US Gaza maritime aid mission, CENTCOM says

Heavy seas batter US Gaza maritime aid mission, CENTCOM says
Updated 49 min 29 sec ago
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Heavy seas batter US Gaza maritime aid mission, CENTCOM says

Heavy seas batter US Gaza maritime aid mission, CENTCOM says
  • No injuries were reported and the aid pier remains fully functional

TAMPA: Heavy seas battered the US maritime humanitarian mission to Gaza on Saturday, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said, with four vessels serving a floating aid delivery pier breaking free from their moorings.

No injuries were reported and the aid pier remains fully functional, CENTCOM said in a statement, adding that no US personnel would enter Gaza.

Two of the affected vessels were now anchored on the beach near the pier and the other two were beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon, CENTCOM said, adding that efforts to recover the vessels were under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy.


Rising cost of medicine in Egypt poses risk to ‘thousands of pharmacies’

Rising cost of medicine in Egypt poses risk to ‘thousands of pharmacies’
Updated 25 May 2024
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Rising cost of medicine in Egypt poses risk to ‘thousands of pharmacies’

Rising cost of medicine in Egypt poses risk to ‘thousands of pharmacies’
  • That review followed pharmaceutical companies’ request for price increases for various medications
  • The EDA’s “decisions over (recent) years to raise the prices of certain types of medicine have resulted in the closure of about 1,500 pharmacies,” said Dr. Hatem El-Badawi

CAIRO: Pharmacy owners in Egypt have voiced concerns about the rising cost of pharmaceuticals in the country as they prepare for another price increase following the Egyptian Drug Authority’s recent review.
That review followed pharmaceutical companies’ request for price increases for various medications to “offset the rising costs of production, which have been exacerbated by the devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the dollar.”
The EDA’s “decisions over (recent) years to raise the prices of certain types of medicine have resulted in the closure of about 1,500 pharmacies,” said Dr. Hatem El-Badawi, secretary-general of the Pharmacy Division at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, adding that the “uncontrolled” rise in medicine prices has not been matched by a corresponding increase in profit margins for pharmacists.
“We anticipate more closures in 2024,” he added. “In February, the General Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce appealed to the Central Bank governor to reactivate the low-interest rate loan of 5 percent for small and medium-sized pharmacies, capped at EGP500,000 ($10,600) per pharmacy.
“The goal was to safeguard pharmacies from economic challenges such as low purchasing power, cash payment demands from pharmaceutical companies, limited liquidity, rising operating costs, and shrinking profit margins.”
That proposal was rejected, however, and loans are currently only available at a 15-percent interest rate, which is, El-Badawi said, “far higher than a pharmacist’s profit margins and thus constitutes a loss.”
Pharmacy owner Dr. Sami Saad told Arab News: “We face several problems due to price increases, including reduced profit margins for pharmacists, dual pricing for drugs, and pharmaceutical companies not recalling expired products. All these issues could force us to close at any time because we are not making any profit.”
Saad added the Egyptian Drug Authority had not considered pharmacists’ demands or the crises they are facing.
“Every day is a struggle. And although I heard that the head of the authority plans to intervene to resolve these issues, there has been no progress so far,” he said.
Dr. El-Badawi reiterated: “I fear for the closure of pharmacies — a difficult situation that will only get worse. I am concerned for the 85,000 pharmacies across the country.
“The health of Egyptians is at risk,” he added. “I urge all responsible authorities to intervene.”


More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank
Updated 25 May 2024
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More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank
  • 27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty
  • “Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, the World Bank said

BEIRUT: More than a quarter of Syrians live in extreme poverty, the World Bank said Saturday, 13 years into a devastating civil war that has battered the economy and impoverished millions.
The World Bank published two new reports on Syria, which found that “27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty.”
“Extreme poverty, while virtually non-existent before the conflict, affected more than one in four Syrians in 2022” and might have further deteriorated after a deadly earthquake last year, one of the reports said.
The quake killed about 6,000 people in the country.
According to the United Nations, about 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty, while it previously estimated that around 2 million lived in extreme poverty after more than a decade of war.
The report cited neighbor Lebanon’s economic meltdown in late 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as having eroded the welfare of Syrian households in recent years.
The civil war in Syria has also ravaged the economy, infrastructure and industry, while Western sanctions have added to the country’s woes.
“Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, already coping with “soaring prices, reduced access to essential services and rising unemployment,” the World Bank said.
The UN told AFP previously that its humanitarian response plan for Syria for 2024 requires more than $4 billion but that it is only six percent funded.
The international community is set to meet in Brussels Monday to try and muster funds for Syria at a yearly pledging conference.
A lack of opportunities and dwindling aid has pushed many Syrians to rely on money sent from relatives abroad to survive, with the World Bank estimating that “in 2022, the total value of remittances received by Syrian households reached about $1.05 billion.”
Syria’s estimated GDP stood at around $6.2 billion in 2023.
Syria’s “real GDP is projected to contract by 1.5 percent in 2024, extending the 1.2 percent decline in 2023,” the report said.
“Inflation is anticipated to remain high in 2024 due to the pass-through effects of currency depreciation, along with persistent shortages and potential further subsidy cuts (for) food and fuel,” it said.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.


Israel official says ‘intention’ to renew Gaza talks ‘this week’

Israel official says ‘intention’ to renew Gaza talks ‘this week’
Updated 25 May 2024
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Israel official says ‘intention’ to renew Gaza talks ‘this week’

Israel official says ‘intention’ to renew Gaza talks ‘this week’
  • “There is an intention to renew the talks this week and there is an agreement,” said the official
  • The official did not elaborate on the agreement

JERUSALEM: An Israeli official said Saturday the government had an “intention” to renew “this week” talks aimed at reaching a hostage release deal in Gaza, after a meeting in Paris between US and Israeli officials.
“There is an intention to renew the talks this week and there is an agreement,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli official did not elaborate on the agreement, but Israeli media reported that Mossad chief David Barnea had agreed during meetings in Paris with mediators CIA Director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on a new framework for the stalled negotiations.
Top US diplomat Antony Blinken also spoke with Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz about new efforts to achieve a ceasefire and reopen the Rafah border crossing, Washington said.
Talks aimed at reaching a hostage release and truce deal in the Gaza Strip ground to a halt this month after Israel launched a military operation in the territory’s far-southern city of Rafah.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,903 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to data from the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.