Morocco reports 14% increase in tourist arrivals in Jan-June

Morocco reports 14% increase in tourist arrivals in Jan-June
The number of tourists visiting Morocco in the first six months this year grew to 7.4 million, up 14% compared with the same period last year, Morocco's tourism ministry said on Wednesday. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Morocco reports 14% increase in tourist arrivals in Jan-June

Morocco reports 14% increase in tourist arrivals in Jan-June
  • Last year, the country welcomed a record 14.5 million tourists

RABAT: The number of tourists visiting Morocco in the first six months this year grew to 7.4 million, up 14 percent compared with the same period last year, Morocco’s tourism ministry said on Wednesday.
Last year, the country welcomed a record 14.5 million tourists. It expects to attract 17.5 million tourists in 2026 and 26 million by 2030, when Morocco will co-host the World Cup together with Spain and Portugal, according to official figures.
Tourism accounts for 7 percent of Morocco’s gross domestic product and is a key source of foreign currency.


Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
Updated 5 sec ago
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Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan

Egypt reiterates unwavering support for stability and security in war-torn Sudan
  • Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty also pledges Egypt’s continuing commitment to humanitarian aid efforts and development projects in Sudan
  • He stresses important need for donor countries and organizations to more quickly honor pledges of aid for Sudan and countries hosting Sudanese refugees

Egypt’s foreign minister, Badr Abdelatty, pledged his country’s continued support for the stability and security of Sudan, during a meeting on Tuesday with his counterpart from the country, Hussein Awad.

Abdelatty said Egypt would spare no effort to help its “Sudanese brothers overcome the political, security and humanitarian challenges resulting from the ongoing war” in the nation.

He highlighted the outcomes of a conference in Cairo on July 6 and 7 attended by Sudanese political factions and civil groups, the most important of which were, he said, recognition of the need to preserve state institutions, to provide relief and humanitarian support to Sudan and neighboring countries, and to ensure ownership of the political process remains with the Sudanese people.

He also reviewed the progress of development projects undertaken by Egypt in Sudan, and pledged his country’s continuing commitment to such initiatives along with its determination to respond to the nation’s humanitarian needs.

Abdelatty stressed the important need for donor countries and organizations to accelerate the fulfillment of pledges made during conferences in Geneva and Paris, in June 2023 and April 2024 respectively, of support for Sudan and neighboring countries hosting Sudanese refugees, support for the UN’s humanitarian response plan in the country, and to help bridge existing financing gaps.

He also discussed with Awad regional initiatives that have been proposed to help address the crisis in Sudan, and the important and pivotal role neighboring countries are playing, especially Egypt, which Abdelatty said was making strenuous efforts to help Sudan at this important time.

Other topics for discussion included wider bilateral ties and ways in which coordination between the countries might be enhanced, along with regional issues of mutual interest, including the situation in the Horn of Africa, the war in Gaza, security in the Red Sea, the situations in Libya, the Sahel and the Sahara region, and the Renaissance Dam built by Ethiopia on the Blue Nile upstream of Sudan and Egypt.

Awad thanked the Egyptian government for the facilities and services it has provided to the Sudanese people since the start of the crisis in his country.


Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
Updated 5 min 8 sec ago
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Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
  • In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy

KENITRA, Morocco: Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country’s entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.
The North African nation projects this year’s harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.
“In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought,” said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Belhoussni’s plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and, in regions like North Africa, shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.
The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

Farmers work on a wheat farm on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.
“The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops,” said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco’s rivers.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).
Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.
“When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more,” he said. “We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue.”
Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.
The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco’s primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world’s sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Turkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.
“Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change,” Benali said.

 


Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
Updated 55 min 30 sec ago
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Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
  • Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members

CAIRO: The rescue operation for the Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon oil tanker that capsized off Oman on July 15 has been deactivated, Oman’s Maritime Security Center said on Tuesday.
Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members.


UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
Updated 23 July 2024
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UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
  • “I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
  • Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed“

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Tuesday an accord brokered by China seeking reconciliation between Hamas and other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government in Gaza.
“I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that Guterres “very much welcomes the signing of the Beijing Declaration by the Palestinian factions.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas announced it had signed the agreement in Beijing with other Palestinian organizations — including rivals Fatah — to work together for “national unity.”
Hamas and Fatah are long-term rivals and fought a brief but bloody war in 2007 in which the former seized control of Gaza.
Fatah continues to dominate the Palestinian Authority, which has limited administrative control over urban areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed” and accusing Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a leader of Fatah, of embracing the group whose October 7 attacks triggered the war in Gaza.
The text of the deal outlines plans for “a temporary national unity government by agreement of the Palestinian factions” which would “exercise its authority and powers over all Palestinian territories” — the Gaza Strip as well the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the factions had agreed to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern post-war Gaza.
Speaking at the UN, spokesperson Dujarric said unity among the Palestinian factions was crucial.
“Palestinian unity... is crucial for peace and security and for advancing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for self determination and for fully independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian state,” he said.


Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
Updated 23 July 2024
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Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
  • Member of group killed on the outskirts of Shaqra by Israeli strike
  • Hezbollah retaliated with a drone attack on an Israeli army base on Mount Neria

BEIRUT: A Lebanese man was killed and another injured on Tuesday while in a pickup truck used for selling candy and snacks in the southern villages of Lebanon.

The fatality occurred when an Israeli military drone targeted the vehicle on the outskirts of Shaqra. The victim was identified as Sadek Atawi, a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Israeli strikes also targeted the outskirts of Naqoura, Markab, Hula, Talusah, and Aita Al-Shaab with shells and incendiary bombs.

Against the backdrop of the attack, alarm sirens sounded in several towns in Upper Galilee, with reports of rockets falling in that area and the region of Western Galilee.

Israeli media outlets reported that “most of the alarm sirens sounded in settlements where residents were not evacuated.”

Sirens were heard in the areas of Jabal Al-Jarmaq, Meron, Netua, Basuta, Shomera, Even Menachem, Kiryat Shmona, and Beit Hillel, along with neighboring towns.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that “several drones originating from Lebanon detonated in the vicinity of Mount Meron, while rockets were detected in the areas of Kiryat Shmona and Margaliot.”

Hezbollah said in a statement that it had conducted “an aerial attack using a squadron of drones on the Mount Neria base, in retaliation for the assassination carried out by the enemy in the town of Shaqra.”

Israeli fighter jets once again flew at low altitude over Beirut and its surrounding areas, including Khaldeh, Hadath, Aramoun, Damour, Jiyeh, and Iqlim Al-Kharroub, and traveled all the way to Keserwan and the Jezzine District, causing loud sonic booms as they broke the sound barrier.

Hezbollah targeted on Monday night, for the first time, the Tsurial settlement in Western Galilee with dozens of Katyusha rockets. The group said that the strike was in retaliation for “the attack that targeted civilians in the town of Hanin,” resulting in injuries.

Two Israelis were injured by missiles during the attack on the Tsurial settlement, according to reports in Israel.

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee, in a post on X, said: “The locations targeted by the Israeli army included a Hezbollah weapons depot and infrastructure in Aita Al-Shaab.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of Education Yoav Kisch said on Tuesday that “the next school year will not start in the north due to security complications in this region.”

According to Israeli media, Kisch has urged the prime minister and heads of the security apparatus to “act now and with force against the state of Lebanon. Deciding to carry out war with utmost force against Lebanon is inevitable to restore calm and stability for the residents of the north, and (for) the future of the state of Israel.”

On the subject of the future of the conflict, Israel’s Alma Research and Education Center, which specializes in military affairs, has published a report warning of “the ability of Hezbollah’s Radwan force to invade the Galilee.”

It added: “Despite months of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, this force can execute plans to take over lands in Israel, just like Hamas did.

“The Radwan force can operate independently, without constant instructions or external logistical assistance.

“Division commanders are significantly independent when making quick tactical decisions on the ground, while the force is equipped with all the infantry and commando weapons currently available on the arms market.”