Jordan appeals for more aid to help with growing number of refugees

Jordan appeals for more aid to help with growing number of refugees
The Zaatari camp is home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees, about half of whom are children, according to the United Nations. The UN has 675,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, but Amman estimates the real figure to be about twice that and says the cost of hosting them has exceeded $12 billion. (AFP)
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Updated 10 July 2024
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Jordan appeals for more aid to help with growing number of refugees

Jordan appeals for more aid to help with growing number of refugees
  • Urgent intervention needed for rising refugee poverty and child labor, says Interior Minister Mazen Farrayeh

DUBAI: Jordan has urged the international community to provide more aid to help with the country’s growing number of refugees, the Petra news agency reported on Tuesday.

Jordan has over 1.35 million refugees, with 233,000 Syrian children born since 2011, making it the world’s largest refugee-hosting country relative to its population, said Interior Minister Mazen Farrayeh.

Speaking during a one-day forum in Amman titled “Embracing Modernization: Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation in Border Management and Control,” the minister said the government prioritizes the needs of its citizens.

He said Jordan was not the home of the refugees and that the amount of aid provided to support them “did not meet the required level.”

Farrayeh said the influx of refugees had placed considerable financial strain on the government.

He said there was less funding from the international community, which included only 5.8 percent of the support needed to assist refugees from Syria.

Farrayeh added that a recent study by the UNHCR and the World Bank revealed rising levels of poverty, unemployment and child labor in refugee camps inside the country and elsewhere.

This situation could only be remedied with further financial aid to Jordan, the minister said.

Farrayeh added that Jordan’s stability and strategic location at the crossroads of three continents made it an attractive destination for foreign workers.

However, this was creating further pressure on the government, he said.


China FM says Palestinian factions agree to set up ‘reconciliation government’

China FM says Palestinian factions agree to set up ‘reconciliation government’
Updated 10 sec ago
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China FM says Palestinian factions agree to set up ‘reconciliation government’

China FM says Palestinian factions agree to set up ‘reconciliation government’
  • Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah met in Beijing this week in a renewed bid for reconciliation
  • Hamas and Fatah have been bitter rivals since Hamas fighters ejected Fatah from the Gaza Strip
BEIJING: China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday hailed an agreement by 14 Palestinian factions to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern Gaza after the war.
Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah met in Beijing this week in a renewed bid for reconciliation.
As the meeting wrapped up on Tuesday, China’s top diplomat said the groups had committed to “reconciliation.”
“The most prominent highlight is the agreement to form an interim national reconciliation government around the governance of post-war Gaza,” Wang said following the signing of the “Beijing declaration” by the factions in the Chinese capital.
“Reconciliation is an internal matter for the Palestinian factions, but at the same time, it cannot be achieved without the support of the international community,” Wang said.
China, he added, was keen to “play a constructive role in safeguarding peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Hamas and Fatah have been bitter rivals since Hamas fighters ejected Fatah from the Gaza Strip after deadly clashes that followed Hamas’s resounding victory in a 2006 election.
The Islamist Hamas movement has ruled Gaza since seizing control of it in 2007.
The secularist Fatah movement controls the Palestinian Authority, which has partial administrative control in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli government quietly sends millions to unauthorized West Bank settler outposts

Israeli government quietly sends millions to unauthorized West Bank settler outposts
Updated 17 min 25 sec ago
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Israeli government quietly sends millions to unauthorized West Bank settler outposts

Israeli government quietly sends millions to unauthorized West Bank settler outposts
  • Some of those outposts have been linked to settler violence against Palestinians and are sanctioned by the US
  • Palestinians say all settlements are illegal or illegitimate and undermine hopes for a two-state solution

JERUSALEM: The Israeli government has budgeted millions of dollars to protect small, unauthorized Jewish farms in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, underwriting tiny outposts meant to grow into full-fledged settlements, according to an anti-settlement monitoring group.
Documents uncovered by Peace Now illustrate how Israel’s pro-settler government has quietly poured money into the unauthorized outposts, which are separate from its more than 100 officially recognized settlements. Some of those outposts have been linked to settler violence against Palestinians and are sanctioned by the US.
Palestinians and the international community say all settlements are illegal or illegitimate and undermine hopes for a two-state solution.
The Ministry of Settlements and National Mission, which is headed by a far-right settler leader, confirmed it budgeted 75 million shekels ($20.5 million) last year for security equipment for “young settlements” — the term it uses for unauthorized Jewish farms and outposts in the West Bank. The money was quietly authorized in December while the country’s attention was focused on the war against Hamas in Gaza.
Peace Now said the funds have been used for vehicles, drones, cameras, generators, electric gates, fences and new roads that reach some of the more remote farms.
The group estimates approximately 500 people live on the small, unauthorized farms and 25,000 more live in larger outposts. Those outposts, while not officially authorized by the government, often receive tacit support before they are retroactively legalized.
Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now’s “settlement watch” program, said the funding was the first time the Israeli government has channeled money to the outposts so openly.
Rights groups say the expanding network of remote farms atop West Bank hilltops are the primary drivers of violence and displacement of Palestinians.
In the last month alone, Israel’s government has legalized five formerly unauthorized settlements and made the largest land grab in the West Bank in three decades, declaring a wide swath of the territory state land in preparation for new construction.
Palestinians say violence by people associated with these farms has soared since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, which sparked Israel’s war against the militant group in the Gaza Strip.
On Friday, the top United Nations court said Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territories is unlawful and called for an immediate halt to settlement construction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly denounced the nonbinding opinion, saying the territories are part of the Jewish people’s historic homeland.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza — areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future state — in the 1967 Mideast war. It has settled over 500,000 Jews in the West Bank, most of whom live on authorized settlements, in addition to over 200,000 others in contested east Jerusalem, which it claims as part of its capital.
Netanyahu’s far-right government is dominated by West Bank settlers and pro-settler politicians. Netanyahu has placed his finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, in a new position inside the Defense Ministry overseeing settlement construction and development.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union have imposed international sanctions on 13 hard-line Israeli settlers, some of whom are associated with the outpost farms — as well as two affiliated outposts and four groups — over accusations of attacks and harassment against Palestinians. The measures are meant as a deterrent, and they expose people to asset freezes and travel and visa bans, though the freezes have been less effective.
The office of Orit Strock, the Minister of Settlements and National Mission, said the funds were coordinated with the Defense Ministry and “carried out in accordance with all laws.” It added that Strock, herself a longtime settler leader, “sees great importance in strengthening settlements” despite international condemnation.
The budget was approved in December and predates the sanctions. The government did not publish a list of the farms and outposts that received funding, so it’s unclear if the sanctioned farms and outposts are among them. But it’s likely that at least some of them are since the budget supported 68 of the nearly 70 farms identified by Peace Now, Ofran said. The number of farms has since grown to more than 90.
Peace Now said it learned of the funding decision from recordings and presentations shared at a conference of the pro-settler Religious Zionism Party last month at the “Shaharit Farm” outpost in the northern West Bank. Strock and Smotrich were in attendance.
US officials including President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have repeatedly raised concerns about the surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel’s former top general in the West Bank raised similar concerns in a recent retirement speech.
Israel has said it is taking action against such attacks and argues that the sanctions are unnecessary.


Houthi harbor still ablaze days after Israel strikes on Yemen

Houthi harbor still ablaze days after Israel strikes on Yemen
Updated 41 min 1 sec ago
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Houthi harbor still ablaze days after Israel strikes on Yemen

Houthi harbor still ablaze days after Israel strikes on Yemen
  • Hodeidah port is a vital entry point for fuel imports, international aid for Houthi-held areas
  • The strike on Saturday was the first by Israel on the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country

HODEIDAH: Firefighting teams on Monday were struggling to contain a massive blaze at Yemen’s Hodeida port, days after a deadly Israeli strike hit oil tanks and a power plant in the harbor.
Heavy flames and black smoke were seen spiralling into the sky for a third consecutive day following the strike on Saturday, said an AFP correspondent in Hodeidah.
Firefighting teams appear to have made little progress, with the blaze seemingly expanding in some parts of the port, the correspondent said, amid fears it could reach food storage facilities.
High-resolution satellite images taken by Maxar Technologies showed flames consuming a heavily damaged fuel storage area at the Hodeidah harbor.
The fuel depot is run by the Yemen Petroleum Company which said late Sunday that the six people killed in the Israel strike were its employees.
The Houthis say more than 80 others were wounded in the attack, many of them with severe burns.
With black smoke billowing overhead, a funeral ceremony was held Monday for the victims of the strikes.
Their coffins were carried through the streets of Hodeidah, flanked by crowds and led by a Houthi marching band.
The strike on Saturday was the first by Israel on the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country and came in response to a Houthi drone strike that breached Israel’s air defenses, killing one person in Tel Aviv the day before.
The Houthis, who are fighting Israel, have pledged a “huge” response to the strikes and threatened to once again attack Tel Aviv.
Yemeni port authorities said Hodeidah “is operating at its full capacity,” according to the rebels’ Saba news agency.
“We are working around the clock to receive all ships and there is no concern about the supply chain and supplies of food, medicine, and oil derivatives,” port official Nasr Al-Nusairi was quoted by Saba as saying on Sunday.
But the US-based Navanti Group said the strikes on Hodeidah destroyed five cranes and reduced the port’s fuel storage capacity from 150,000 to 50,000 tons.
Hodeidah port is a vital entry point for fuel imports and international aid for Houthi-held areas of Yemen, a country where the United Nations says more than half the population relies on humanitarian assistance.
“Hodeidah port is a vital lifeline for delivering humanitarian aid to Yemen,” the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in an emailed statement to AFP.
“Any impact on this infrastructure jeopardizes the entry of essential goods and hampers aid efforts.”

 


Tunisia’s sandy beaches eaten away by coastal erosion

Tunisia’s sandy beaches eaten away by coastal erosion
Updated 23 July 2024
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Tunisia’s sandy beaches eaten away by coastal erosion

Tunisia’s sandy beaches eaten away by coastal erosion

HAMMAMET, Tunisia: In Tunisia’s seaside town of Hammamet, bulldozers diligently shovel sand from a nearby desert onto a popular beach in an attempt to stop it from disappearing due to erosion.

“This beach is the postcard image of Hammamet,” said environmentalist Chiheb Ben Fredj peering nostalgically at the town’s iconic Yasmine beach.

“It has been seared in our minds since our childhood,” he added, as laborers worked to restore the central Tunisian waterfront to its former sandy glory.

Like many other coastal areas in North Africa, severe erosion has led to many of Hammamet’s sandy beaches vanishing in recent years, taking a toll on the holiday hotspot about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of the capital Tunis.

Coastlines across the world are in a constant natural flux, with the seas claiming and depositing sediment.

But human activity, including coastal property development and offshore sand mining, significantly accelerates beach erosion.

Among other impacts, construction and coastal defenses in one area can stop sediment from traveling along a coastline, leaving existing beaches deprived of new material.

Studies have also shown the impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures and sea levels, exacerbate the phenomenon.

In the Mediterranean, where the British National Oceanography Center says sea levels have risen at a higher rate over the past 20 years than the entirety of the 20th century, shorelines are changing rapidly.

The sea is also warming 20 percent faster than the rest of the world, according to the United Nations.

Tunisia’s coastline has been a major asset for the Mediterranean country with a struggling economy, as it aims to host some 10 million tourists this year.

Tourism accounts for up to 14 percent of the country’s GDP, providing tens of thousands of jobs in a country where unemployment tops 16 percent and 40 percent among young people.

Tunisia has already lost more than 90 kilometers of beaches to erosion, according to official figures from last year.

Of the country’s 570 kilometers of sandy beaches suitable for swimming, 190 kilometers are at imminent risk of disappearing, according to Tunisian reports.

A majority of the beaches most affected by erosion are located near cities.

Tunisia’s environmental groups, as well as the government’s Coastal Protection and Development Agency (APAL), blame the rapid erosion mostly on human activity and construction on the coast, which they say is further aggravated by climate change.

“Construction projects have not been designed to respect coastal dynamics,” an APAL official told AFP.

To save the Hammamet beach, one of Tunisia’s worst-affected according to the World Bank, authorities last month began trucking in around 750 lorry loads filled with sand from the inland desert province of Kairouan, about 110 kilometers away.

APAL, which operates under the environment ministry, was in a race against time to refill the beach before the peak of tourist season.

But while the rebuilding of beaches, known as beach nourishment, may be a quick fix, “it’s not a sustainable solution,” said Ben Fredj.

“This sand may not last long,” added the secretary general of the Environmental Education Association.

“It can be swallowed in a few days in the event of a storm,” he said, as was the case in the summer of 2023.

The process can also prove expensive.

Coastal authorities estimated the cost of restoring sand to three beaches in Hammamet, Monastir and Sfax at 3.9 million Tunisian dinars ($1.25 million).

But for locals, restoring their priceless seafront is worth the money.

The Yasmine beach “is a showcase for Hammamet,” said Narjess Bouasker, who runs the town’s Menara hotel and leads the regional hotel federation.

“We must take back our beach that the sea has swallowed,” she said, calling for a balance between safeguarding the landscape, cherished by locals and foreign visitors alike, and fighting coastal erosion.

“For us, the priority is not to touch the beauty of the city,” she said.

Bouasker said she has seen increasing awareness among authorities, but refilling beaches with sand is still a gamble.

“We don’t know how the sea will react,” she added.


UN envoy warns that threat of terrorism is ‘resurging’ with attacks by Daesh extremists

UN envoy warns that threat of terrorism is ‘resurging’ with attacks by Daesh extremists
Updated 23 July 2024
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UN envoy warns that threat of terrorism is ‘resurging’ with attacks by Daesh extremists

UN envoy warns that threat of terrorism is ‘resurging’ with attacks by Daesh extremists
  • Israel has attacked targets in Syria linked to Iran for years, but the strikes have escalated over the past five months as the war in Gaza and conflict between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the Lebanon-Israel border continue

UNITED NATIONS: The top UN envoy for Syria told the Security Council on Monday that the threat of terrorism is “resurging” with attacks by Daesh extremists set to double this year, endangering civilians already facing a “protracted state of displacement and dire humanitarian conditions.”
UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen said Syria is “riddled with armed actors, listed terrorist groups, foreign armies and front-lines” 13 years after President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on peaceful protests against his government turned to civil war. Nearly a half million people have died in the conflict and half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced.
The Daesh group declared a self-styled caliphate in a large swath of territory in Syria and Iraq that it seized in 2014. It was declared defeated in Iraq in 2017 following a three-year battle that killed tens of thousands of people and left cities in ruins, but its sleeper cells remain in both countries.
Pedersen warned the Security Council of Syria’s delicate security situation.
“The threat of regional conflict cascading over Syria has not abated, particularly with an uptick in Israeli strikes on Syria,” Pedersen said.
Israel has attacked targets in Syria linked to Iran for years, but the strikes have escalated over the past five months as the war in Gaza and conflict between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israeli forces on the Lebanon-Israel border continue.
US deputy ambassador Robert A. Wood blamed Iran, Assad’s greatest regional supporter, for the violence in Syria.
“Iran and its proxies and partners have only brought death and destruction and do nothing to help the Syrian people,” Wood said, calling on Assad to curb Iran’s influence.
The Syrian, Iranian, and Russian ambassadors to the UN strongly condemned Israel’s strikes on Syria.
Iranian Ambassador Amir Saeed Iravani said the attacks “flagrantly violate international humanitarian law” and are a “serious threat to regional peace and security.” He said Israel’s strikes add to the chaos created by Syria’s civil war.
Over 16 million people in Syria currently need humanitarian assistance and 7.2 million remain displaced in the “worst humanitarian crisis since the start of the conflict,” Ramesh Rajasingham, coordination director in the U,N. humanitarian office, told the council.
He added that “severely reduced humanitarian funding” exacerbates Syrians’ suffering during months of extreme heat, when rainwater dries up and a lack of basic sanitation infrastructure increases the risk of water-borne diseases.
In rebel-held northwest Syria, over 900,000 people, more than half children, are not receiving “critical water and sanitation support,” Rajasingham said.
Rajasingham and Pedersen called for increased humanitarian access to Syria and international funding. The 2024 UN humanitarian appeal for $4 billion remains only 20 percent funded, “seriously constraining” humanintarian work, Rajasingham said.
On the political front, Pedersen urged the Security Council to pursue Syrian-led peace negotiations with the involvement of “all major international stakeholders,” in line with a unanimously adopted 2015 resolution by the council.
“The conflict is ultimately a political one that can only be resolved when the Syrian parties are able to realize their legitimate aspirations,” Pedersen said.
Last week, Syria announced that all 185 candidates from Assad’s Baath party won parliamentary seats in the country’s elections, a seven-seat increase to the party’s majority.
Pedersen said the elections are “not a substitute” for the political process outlined in the 2015 Security Council resolution, while Wood called the elections a “sham” and a “rubber stamp on Bashar Assad’s continued dictatorship.”
Wood said the US “will not normalize relations with the Syrian regime or lift sanctions absent an authentic and enduring political solution.”