Sugar shortage darkens Tunisian Eid festivities

An employee serves pastry to a customer at a bakery in Tunis during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 29, 2024, amid a shortage of sugar supplies in the country. (AFP)
An employee serves pastry to a customer at a bakery in Tunis during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 29, 2024, amid a shortage of sugar supplies in the country. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 April 2024
Follow

Sugar shortage darkens Tunisian Eid festivities

Sugar shortage darkens Tunisian Eid festivities
  • For the Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, families throughout North Africa make copious amounts of sweets and pastries that often last for days

TUNIS: In downtown Tunis, dozens of customers stand in a long queue snaking out of a supermarket to buy sugar, essential for the end of Ramadan celebrations eight days away.
The key ingredient for traditional sweets served to mark the end of the Muslim holy month is now being rationed to one to two kilogrammes per customer per week.
“I never thought that one day we would form a queue in Tunisia to buy sugar,” said Lamia Bouraoui, 58.
Like other basic foodstuffs in Tunisia, sugar is subsidised by the state.
But the dearth of funds in the North African country’s public coffers has made it and other culinary essentials like flour and semolina scarce since late 2022.
For the Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, families throughout North Africa make copious amounts of sweets and pastries that often last for days.
Without enough sugar, “we are deprived this year of this pleasure,” added Bouraoui.
Some, like Sami, 40, queue for sugar accompanied by family members to increase the rations his family can enjoy.
“One day we queue for flour, another for semolina and another for sugar,” he said.
The shortage has also dealt a blow to bakeries.
“We rely on sugar in everything we do,” Chokri Bouajila, a bakery worker in Tunis, told AFP.
“If we have sugar, we can work, otherwise we can’t do anything.”
Bouajila, who specializes in Tunisian traditional sweets, said customers have been buying less and less of his pastries.

Over the past few years, Tunisians have seen their purchasing power greatly diminish thanks to inflation, a recession and rising unemployment.
The country of 12 million is grappling with debt worth about 80 percent of its entire economic output, and inflation averaging between eight to 10 percent a year.
A third of its population is estimated to be living under the poverty line.
At the shopping center, the queue only gets longer.
“I’ve been here for the past 35 minutes,” said 40-year-old Hassna, another customer waiting in line for sugar.
“Why are we going through all this? How did we get here?“
“Let us thank God,” a man standing nearby told her, “we are in a better situation than our brothers in Gaza who are dying of hunger.”
Nonetheless, others hope to make the best of the country’s latest challenge.
Nayla, a shopper making her way around the mall, said she would rather change her habits than get in line for sugar, pointing out that it was hardly the healthiest ingredient.
“Bitter coffee doesn’t bother me anymore,” she said.
 

 


Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren whose bus was overtaken

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren whose bus was overtaken
Updated 5 sec ago
Follow

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren whose bus was overtaken

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren whose bus was overtaken
DUBAI: Heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in Oman on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, killing at least 17 people as rescuers searched for survivors, authorities said Monday. In one incident, a group of school children and a driver died when their vehicle was overtaken, authorities said.
Heavy rains also were expected over Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates and other regions of the Arabian Peninsula.
Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit. The Royal Oman Police and the Omani military deployed to the province to transport citizens out of flooded areas, Oman News Agency reported.
Heavy rainfall often causes flash flooding in the sultanate, drawing the curious from their homes to nearby dry riverbeds, known in Arabic as “wadi.” In flooding, they can quickly fill and wash away people and vehicles.
In Dubai, authorities expected heavy rains to begin Monday night and last into Tuesday morning. The Emirates’ National Center of Meteorology warned of thunder, lightning, rain and possibly hail, with winds reaching up to 70 kph (43 mph). Government schools announced they would hold classes remotely Tuesday and Wednesday.

Israeli military official says four Israeli soldiers wounded in blast inside Lebanon

Israeli military official says four Israeli soldiers wounded in blast inside Lebanon
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Israeli military official says four Israeli soldiers wounded in blast inside Lebanon

Israeli military official says four Israeli soldiers wounded in blast inside Lebanon
  • Injuries as a result of an explosion of an unknown source during activity along the northern border

JERUSALEM: Four Israeli soldiers were wounded in an explosion hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory, an Israeli military official said on Monday.
Earlier, the military said four soldiers were injured overnight, one severely, as a result of an explosion of an unknown source during activity along the northern border and that the incident was under review.


US CENTCOM forces intercept four Houthi UAVs, statement says

US CENTCOM forces intercept four Houthi UAVs, statement says
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

US CENTCOM forces intercept four Houthi UAVs, statement says

US CENTCOM forces intercept four Houthi UAVs, statement says
  • Houthi militants launched an anti-ship ballistic missile with no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships

DUBAI: The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Monday its forces destroyed four uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on April 14, acting in self-defense.
CENTCOM added in a Red Sea update that Houthi militants launched an anti-ship ballistic missile toward the Gulf of Aden from a Houthi controlled area in Yemen on Saturday and that there were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships.


Iran says MSC Aries vessel seized for ‘violating maritime laws’

Iran says MSC Aries vessel seized for ‘violating maritime laws’
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Iran says MSC Aries vessel seized for ‘violating maritime laws’

Iran says MSC Aries vessel seized for ‘violating maritime laws’
  • MSC leases ship from Gortal Shipping, affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer

DUBAI: A Portuguese-flagged container ship, the MSC Aries, was seized by Iran on April 13 for “violating maritime laws,” Iran’s foreign ministry said on Monday, adding that there was no doubt the vessel was linked to Israel.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the cargo vessel in the Strait of Hormuz days after Tehran vowed to retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Damascus on April 1. Iran had said it could close the crucial shipping route.
“The vessel was diverted into Iran’s territorial waters as a result of violating maritime laws and not answering calls made by Iranian authorities,” spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said.
Iran launched a barrage of missiles and explosive drones on Saturday in its first direct attack on Israeli territory, a strike that Tehran said was self-defense after the bombing of the consulate.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that a Guards helicopter had boarded the MSC Aries and taken it into Iranian waters.
MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the wellbeing of its 25 crew.
MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all the vessel’s activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.
Tensions have soared across the Middle East since the start of Israel’s campaign in Gaza in October, with Israel or its ally the United States clashing repeatedly with Iranian-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
In response to reports of the seizure, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Iran of piracy.
Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation, the leading seafarers’ union, said that “innocent seafarers must be protected from escalating conflicts they have no role in instigating, nor power to resolve.”
The International Chamber of Shipping called the seizure a “flagrant breach of international law and an assault on freedom of navigation.”
Recent attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have also affected the global maritime transport chain, as well as trade and port activities in and around the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
Patrick Verhoeven, managing director of the International Association of Ports and Harbors, said the seizure of the MSC Aries “has the potential to further disrupt cargo transits in and out of the region, which will impact all of our member ports, one way or another.”


Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza

Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza
Updated 15 April 2024
Follow

Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza

Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza
  • Palestinian detainees were delivered to Kerem Shalom border crossing into Rafah in southern Gaza Strip

GAZA: Israeli authorities released on Monday morning 150 Palestinian detainees who had been arrested in different parts of the Gaza Strip.

The detainees were delivered to Kerem Shalom, a crossing on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, into Rafah in southern Gaza, according to an Arab News reporter in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Among the released detainees is Sufian Abu Salah, who told local reporters he was arrested “perfectly healthy” and “walking on both legs” but has had his left leg amputated in detention due to torture and neglect.

A video circulated on social media showed Abu Salah skipping on one leg with the support of a wooden stick he used as a crutch.

He told local journalists that while in detention, his foot became infected but Israeli soldiers refused to send him to a hospital. Within seven days, the infection had spread, and he had his leg amputated.

Abu Salah lost his leg due to torture followed by medical neglect in detention. (Supplied)

An internal UN report compiled last month by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees described widespread abuses of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

Methods of abuse include “physical beatings, forced stress positions for extended periods of time, threats of harm to detainees and their families, attacks by dogs, insults to personal dignity and humiliation such as being made to act like animals or getting urinated on, use of loud music and noises, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets, denial of the right to practice their religion (to pray) and prolonged use of tightly locked handcuffs causing open wounds and friction injuries,” according to the UNRWA report.  

“The beatings included blunt force trauma to the head, shoulders, kidneys, neck, back and legs with metal bars and the butts of guns and boots, in some cases resulting in broken ribs, separated shoulders and lasting injuries.”

The prisoners released on Monday also include a child and a doctor. 

According to UN figures, Israeli authorities have arrested at least 4,000 Palestinians, including women and children, since the onset of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza on October 7, which was triggered by a surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel.