UK-based humanitarian refugee charity holds Ramadan fundraising iftar for Gaza evacuation center in Egypt

Humanitarian charity Goodwill Caravan held its annual iftar event to raise funds for aid projects to support Palestinian refugees coming out of Gaza. (AN Photo)
Humanitarian charity Goodwill Caravan held its annual iftar event to raise funds for aid projects to support Palestinian refugees coming out of Gaza. (AN Photo)
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Updated 09 April 2024
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UK-based humanitarian refugee charity holds Ramadan fundraising iftar for Gaza evacuation center in Egypt

UK-based humanitarian refugee charity holds Ramadan fundraising iftar for Gaza evacuation center in Egypt
  • Money raised will go toward emergency food and aid

LONDON: UK-based humanitarian charity Goodwill Caravan has hosted an iftar during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to raise funds for its emergency food and aid appeal for Gaza.

More than £75,000 ($94,687) was raised from various activities throughout the evening, including general fundraising, an auction of Palestinian art, raffle draws, and stalls selling handicrafts, traditional clothes, jewelry and confectionery.

The funds raised will also go toward supporting evacuees and those who have managed to escape the war into neighboring countries such as Egypt, where the charity has set up an emergency reception center.

Hanan Ashegh, founder and executive director of Goodwill Caravan, told Arab News: “We’re focusing more on the Palestinians that have been evacuated outside of Palestine into Egypt and the ones that made it out across the border.”

She added that the focus was to empower and help families arriving in Egypt who “don’t know where to go,” as this posed a huge problem for refugees.

Goodwill Caravan, which was set up in 2015, covers global refugee and anti-trafficking protection projects in Greece and the UK, and is currently working to aid 120 families from Gaza, who are new arrivals at its Sallam Center in Egypt.

The aim is to feed, shelter, reunify and support up to 5,000 families and destitute refugees this Ramadan, and provide them with all their immediate needs, Ashegh said.

She added that more cash pledges were expected as donations increase in the last few days of the holy month.

She explained that the initial plan was to have the Sallam Center operating for a year, but the charity hopes it will continue for longer.

She added that “there are a lot of people sending trucks into Gaza,” but according to the 120 families that the charity has dealt with, a lot of the aid is not getting through.

Dr. Hanan Abukmail, a Palestinian doctor who had just completed a postgraduate degree at Cambridge University before the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7 last year, has been stranded in the UK ever since and is unable to return to Gaza.

She took part in a panel discussion at the event to raise awareness of the health conditions in the besieged Palestinian territory, and the long-term effects that the war will have on current and future generations.

She said: “As a Palestinian doctor, one of my main concerns is always helping, including in the field of mental health.”

Abukmail said about 18,000 children in Palestine had lost one or both of their parents “and they have to continue their lives without any support or sense of love and care.”

Pre-war Palestine, including Gaza, was considered to have one of the highest concentrations of people suffering from mental health issues and psychological disorders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, she added.

Abukmail said that the psychological stress on thousands of pregnant women will continue to impact an entire generation of young mothers and their children, and added: “The psychiatrists conceptualized that in Gaza there is no post-traumatic disorder because the trauma is repetitive, ongoing, and continuous.”

Mona Aburmishan, a comedian and humanitarian, also participated in the panel discussion and spoke on Palestinian culture and heritage.

Born in Chicago, Aburmishan now resides in the West Bank and traveled to London to take part in the iftar for Gaza event, which was held under the slogan “Shoulder to Shoulder.”

She said morale was low among Palestinians, and although “it’s a very somber time, on the other side, lots of changes in societies, social structures and civilizations happen after a situation like this.”

She added: “(There is) a lot of innovation. It feels like it’s going to happen in the next five to 10 years in Palestine, so being able to do some projects where we can help folks think more entrepreneurially and locally (is good).”

She was also one of the exhibitors at the event and had a stall selling handmade Palestinian thobes, merchandise, olives, and seeds from Palestine to encourage people to plant them in their home or gardens in Britain as a “symbolic gesture.”

Dyna Fayz, founder of the Prestigious Ladies London Club, which also co-organized the event, said that every Ramadan the club held events to honor “the month of giving.”

She added: “This year we have decided to collaborate with Goodwill Caravan because we believe in what the charity is doing, which is helping those that are the most in need at the moment.”

The Prestigious Ladies London Club focuses on empowering, inspiring and supporting women entrepreneurs from different backgrounds, and it wants to help empower female refugees by advocating, helping and financially aiding them to carry on with their lives.


Vladimir Putin hails North Korea’s support for Ukraine war ahead of Pyongyang visit

Vladimir Putin hails North Korea’s support for Ukraine war ahead of Pyongyang visit
Updated 2 sec ago
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Vladimir Putin hails North Korea’s support for Ukraine war ahead of Pyongyang visit

Vladimir Putin hails North Korea’s support for Ukraine war ahead of Pyongyang visit
  • Russian leader scheduled to touch down on Tuesday night for his first trip to the isolated nation in 24 years
  • Moscow and Pyongyang have been allies since North Korea’s founding after World War II
SEOUL: Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed North Korea on Tuesday for “firmly supporting” Moscow’s war in Ukraine ahead of a visit to Pyongyang set to boost defense ties between the two nuclear-armed countries.
Putin is scheduled to touch down on Tuesday night for his first trip to the isolated nation in 24 years, with a confrontation between North and South Korean troops on their shared border highlighting regional security tensions.
Huge banners with a smiling photograph of the Russian leader reading “we ardently welcome President Putin!” were hung from lamp-posts across Pyongyang alongside Russian flags, images in Russian state media showed.
Moscow and Pyongyang have been allies since North Korea’s founding after World War II and have drawn even closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to the West isolating Putin internationally.
The United States and its allies have accused North Korea of supplying Russia with much-needed arms, including ballistic missiles to use in Ukraine.
The North has denied giving Russia military hardware but, ahead of his trip, Putin thanked Kim Jong Un’s government for helping the war effort.
“We highly appreciate that the DPRK (North Korea) is firmly supporting the special military operations of Russia being conducted in Ukraine,” Putin wrote in an article published by Pyongyang’s state media on Tuesday.
Russia and the North are “now actively developing the many-sided partnership,” Putin wrote.
Both countries are under rafts of UN sanctions — Pyongyang since 2006 over banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs and Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.
Putin praised North Korea for “defending their interests very effectively despite the US economic pressure, provocation, blackmail and military threats that have lasted for decades.”
He also hailed Moscow and Pyongyang for “maintaining the common line and stand at the UN.”
North Korea said the visit showed bilateral ties “are getting stronger day by day,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported, and would “give fresh vitality to the development of the good-neighborly cooperative relations between the two countries.”
North Korea has described allegations of supplying weapons to Russia as “absurd.”
However, it did thank Russia for using its UN veto in March to effectively end monitoring of sanctions violations just as UN experts were starting to probe alleged arms transfers.
The United States voiced “concern” on Monday about the trip because of the security implications for South Korea as well as Ukraine.
The two Koreas have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict and the border dividing them is one of the most heavily fortified in the world.
“We know North Korean ballistic missiles are still being used to hit Ukrainian targets (and) there could be some reciprocity here that could affect security on the Korean peninsula,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Highlighting those security concerns, South Korea said its troops fired at soldiers from the North who briefly crossed the border on Tuesday then retreated.
The South’s military said it believed the North Korean soldiers accidentally crossed as they were fortifying the border, but said some of them were wounded after detonating land mines.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Putin’s trip showed how he was “dependent” on authoritarian leaders.
“Their closest friends and the biggest supporters of the Russian war effort — war of aggression — (are) North Korea, Iran and China,” Stoltenberg said.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged the international community to counter “the lonely bromance” between Putin and Kim by increasing arms supplies to Kyiv.
“The best way to respond to it is to continue strengthening the diplomatic coalition for just and lasting peace in Ukraine and delivering more Patriots and ammunition to Ukraine,” Kuleba said.
North Korea is eager for high-end military technology to advance its nuclear, missile, satellite and nuclear-powered submarine programs, according to experts.
Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said the two leaders would possibly sign a “comprehensive strategic partnership treaty” to outline cooperation on “security issues,” state-run Russian news agencies reported.
North Korea could promise “to provide Russia with continuing supplies of artillery, guided rockets for multiple rocket launchers, and short-range missiles to support Russia’s operations in Ukraine,” Bruce Bennett, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, told Yonhap.
In return, it will want “Russia to provide a variety of advanced technologies,” he said, plus “a substantial flow of Russian oil and food products along with hard currency payments.”

US renews warning it’s obligated to defend the Philippines after its new clash with China at sea

US renews warning it’s obligated to defend the Philippines after its new clash with China at sea
Updated 33 min 10 sec ago
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US renews warning it’s obligated to defend the Philippines after its new clash with China at sea

US renews warning it’s obligated to defend the Philippines after its new clash with China at sea
  • China and the Philippines blame each other for instigating Monday’s hostilities in the Second Thomas Shoal
  • Several incidents have happened in recent months near the shoal which lies less than 370km from the nearest Philippines coast

MANILA: The United States renewed a warning Tuesday that it’s obligated to defend its close treaty ally a day after Filipino navy personnel were injured and their supply boats damaged in one of the most serious confrontations between the Philippines and China in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, officials said.
China and the Philippines blamed each other for instigating Monday’s hostilities in the Second Thomas Shoal, which has been occupied by a small Filipino navy contingent aboard a grounded warship that’s been closely watched by Chinese coast guard, navy and suspected militia ships in a yearslong territorial standoff. There is fear the disputes, long regarded as an Asian flashpoint, could escalate and pit the United States and China in a larger conflict.
US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell discussed China’s actions with Philippine counterpart, Maria Theresa Lazaro, in a telephone call. Both agreed that China’s “dangerous actions threatened regional peace and stability,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Campbell reaffirmed that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which obligates Washington and Manila to help defend the other in major conflicts, “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft – including those of its coast guard – anywhere in the South China Sea,” according to Miller.
A Philippine government task force overseeing the territorial disputes condemned what it said were “dangerous maneuvers, including ramming and towing,” which disrupted a routine effort to transport food, water and other supplies to the Filipinos manning the territorial outpost aboard the BRP Sierra Madre at the shoal.
“Despite the illegal, aggressive, and reckless actions by the Chinese maritime forces, our personnel showed restraint and professionalism, refrained from escalating the tension, and carried on with their mission,” the Philippine task force said without elaborating. “Their actions put at risk the lives of our personnel and damaged our boats in blatant violation of international law.”
The Chinese coast guard said the Philippines “is entirely responsible for this.” It said a Philippine vessel “ignored China’s repeated solemn warnings … and dangerously approached a Chinese vessel in normal navigation in an unprofessional manner, resulting in a collision.”
Two speedboats — attempting to deliver construction materials and other supplies to a military vessel stationed at the shoal — accompanied the supply ship, according to China’s Foreign Ministry, which described its coast guard’s maneuver as “professional, restrained, reasonable and lawful.”
Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Monday night that his country’s armed forces would resist “China’s dangerous and reckless behavior,” which “contravenes their statements of good faith and decency.”
“We will exert our utmost in order to fulfill our sworn mandate to protect our territorial integrity, sovereignty, and sovereign rights,” Teodoro said. “It should now be clear to the international community that China’s actions are the true obstacles to peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
Several incidents have happened in recent months near the shoal which lies less than 370 kilometers from the nearest Philippines coast and where it maintains the Sierra Madre, which had become encrusted with rust since it was deliberately grounded in 1999 but remains an actively commissioned military vessel, meaning an attack on it could be considered by the Philippines as an act of war.
China has increasingly become assertive in pressing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, which has led to a rising number of direct conflicts with other countries in the region, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam.
A new law by China, which took effect Saturday, authorizes its coast guard to seize foreign ships “that illegally enter China’s territorial waters” and to detain foreign crews for up to 60 days. The law renewed a reference to 2021 legislation that says China’s coast guard can fire upon foreign ships if necessary.
At least three coastal governments with claims to the waters — the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan — have said they would not recognize the law. Malaysia and Brunei are also involved in the long-seething territorial disputes, which are regarded as a delicate fault line in the longstanding US-China rivalry in the region.


India to investigate railway collision that killed nine, injured dozens

India to investigate railway collision that killed nine, injured dozens
Updated 35 min 13 sec ago
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India to investigate railway collision that killed nine, injured dozens

India to investigate railway collision that killed nine, injured dozens
  • Death toll revised down to nine from 15 after Monday’s accident in the state of West Bengal
  • Freight train driver disregarded a signal, leading to the crash with the Kanchanjunga Express, which had halted near a railway station

KOLKATA, India: India will launch an investigation on Tuesday into a train collision that killed nine people in the state of West Bengal and injured more than 50, a day after a top railway official blamed the incident on driver error.

The death toll was revised down to nine from 15 after Monday’s accident, in which a freight train rammed into a passenger train heading for the state capital of Kolkata from the northeastern state of Tripura.

The investigation by India’s top railway safety official will start on Tuesday, Chetan Kumar Shrivastava, general manager of the Northeast Frontier railway, where the accident happened, told Reuters.

“The inquiry will involve eye-witness accounts, scrutiny of official documents and statements from railway officials, regarding signaling and other mandatory safety issues,” he added.

On Monday, India’s top railway official said the driver of the freight train, who was among the dead, disregarded a signal, leading to the crash with the Kanchanjunga Express, which had halted near a railway station in the district of Darjeeling.

There were 1,400 people aboard, a railway spokesperson said.

But media said an automatic signaling system had not been working from Monday morning, prompting authorities to advise train drivers to proceed slower than usual, in a process known as “paper signals.”

India’s opposition leaders criticized the railway safety record of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, attributing it to negligence.

The incident came a little over a year after about 288 people were killed in one of India’s worst rail crashes in the neighboring state of Odisha, caused by a signaling error.

State-run Indian Railways, notorious for overcrowding, is the world’s fourth largest train network, carrying 13 million people a day, along with nearly 1.5 billion tons of freight in 2022.

In remarks to media on Monday, top railway official Jaya Varma Sinha, who chairs India’s railway board, called for human error to be reduced, adding that an anti-collision system was being set up nationwide.

Partial services resumed on the affected tracks on Tuesday, with some trains diverted and others running slower than usual, railway officials said.


South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
Updated 18 June 2024
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South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike

South Korea orders doctors to return to work amid prolonged strike
  • Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest
  • The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month

SEOUL: The South Korean government issued a return-to-work order for private practitioners on Tuesday as more doctors including medical professors join the months-long strike to protest increasing medical school admissions.
Around four percent of some 36,000 private clinics have notified the government of plans to be closed on Tuesday to take part in the protest, Health Minister Cho Kyoo-hong said.
“To minimize the medical gap, the return-to-work order will be issued at 9 a.m. today,” Cho told a briefing.
The government previously issued a return-to-work order to striking trainee doctors before withdrawing it earlier this month as an olive branch.
Under the law, doctors defying the return-to-work order can face suspension of their licenses or other legal repercussions.
President Yoon Suk Yeol said the doctors’ strike was “regretful and disappointing.”
“(The government) has no choice but to sternly deal with the illegal acts neglecting patients,” Yoon said during a cabinet meeting, while offering to work together if the doctors return to work.
The Korea Medical Association, a critic of the government’s reforms, was leading Tuesday’s strike. The group also staged a protest in Seoul on the same day, calling for reconsideration of increasing medical school admissions.
“The government should respect...all doctors in this land as life-saving experts, not slaves, and listen to their voices,” Association President Lim Hyun-taek said.
At least some 10,000 people showed up for the protest, according to a Reuters witness, with protesters wearing a makeshift hat saying: “Prevent medical collapse.”
According to a survey by local pollster nownsurvey conducted last week, nearly eight in 10 South Koreans oppose the doctors’ strike.
Some doctors and medical staff have openly criticized the collective action in response to the government’s push for an increase in medical school admissions to address the shortage of doctors in the country.
Others have argued that increasing the number of doctors alone will do little to shore up essential services and rural areas grappling with a deepening shortage of doctors.
More than half of medical professors at Seoul National University hospitals on Monday went on indefinite strike, the Yonhap news agency reported.


11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores

11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores
Updated 18 June 2024
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11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores

11 dead as boats carrying migrants from Pakistan, other countries sink off Italy’s shores
  •  Sixty reported missing in two migrant shipwrecks off Italy’s southern shores, officials say
  • UN refugee agency says boats carried migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria

ROME: Eleven people died and more than 60 were missing, including 26 children, following two migrant shipwrecks off Italy’s southern shores, aid groups, coast guard officials and UN agencies said on Monday.

German aid group RESQSHIP, which operates the Nadir rescue boat, said it picked up 51 people from a sinking wooden boat, including two who were unconscious, and found 10 bodies trapped in the lower deck of the vessel.
Survivors were handed over to the Italian coast guard and taken ashore on Monday morning, while the Nadir was making its way to the Italian island of Lampedusa, towing the wooden boat with the deceased, the charity said.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration and UN children’s agency UNICEF said in a joint statement the boat had set off from Libya, carrying migrants from Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The second shipwreck took place about 200 km (125 miles) east of the Italian region of Calabria, as a boat that had set off from Turkiye caught fire and overturned, the agencies said.
They said 64 people were missing at sea, while 11 were rescued and taken ashore by the Italian coast guard, along with the body of a woman.
Shakilla Mohammadi, a staffer of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity, said she heard from survivors that 66 people were unaccounted for, including at least 26 children, some only a few months old.
“Entire families from Afghanistan are presumed dead. They left from Turkiye eight days ago and had taken in water for three or four days. They told us they had no life vests and some vessels did not stop to help them,” she said in a statement.
The UN agencies said migrants from the second shipwreck came from Iran, Syria and Iraq.
The incidents confirmed the central Mediterranean’s reputation as one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes. According to UN data, more than 23,500 migrants have died or gone missing in its waters since 2014.
UN agencies called on EU governments to step up Mediterranean search and rescue efforts and expand legal and safe migration channels, so that migrants “are not forced to risk their lives at sea.”
Earlier this month 11 bodies were recovered from the sea off the coast of Libya, while last year another migrant boat that had set off from Turkiye smashed into rocks just off the town of Cutro in Calabria, killing at least 94 people.