Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

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Palestinians hold Friday prayers in the Marwani Prayer Room, also called Solomon’s Stables, located under the southeastern corner of the raised platform, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. A fire broke out at the sacred site. (AFP)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Tensions run high in Jerusalem as mosques and Muslims targeted

  • Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side

AMMAN: Tensions are running high in Jerusalem following an arson attack on a mosque, anti-Palestinian graffiti and a leading cleric given an extended ban from Al-Aqsa, senior figures have told Arab News.
Arson was suspected in the torching of a mosque in Beit Safafa and graffiti had been sprayed on a nearby wall outside the building.
The events follow the high-security commemoration of Holocaust memorial events that were attended by dignitaries and heads of state from around the world in Jerusalem.
Muslim leaders called on worshippers to attending sunrise morning prayers on Friday and at least 50,000 people turned up, causing Israeli authorities to panic.
Worshippers carried Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had already been told to stay away from Al-Aqsa, on their shoulders and the picture of the defiant congregation bearing him aloft was published around the world.
Wasfi Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund, said the escalation of the situation has caused people to worry.
“Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down,” he told Arab News.
Sabri told Arab News he had not received any written ban to stop him entering the mosque when he entered it on Friday.
The following day Israeli soldiers appeared at his house at 2 a.m. and handed him a four-month ban from entering Al-Aqsa. The sheikh said the decision was “revenge for a picture that went around the world.”
He said he would meet his lawyers and fellow Muslim leaders to decide what would happen next.
Fadi Hidmi, the Palestinian minister of Jerusalem affairs, told Arab News that Israelis had shown they did not respect holy places or faith leaders. The people of East Jerusalem were united and resilient, he added.

Muslims are worried about their mosque and their action reflects their loss of trust in all the attempts to quieten them down.

Wasfi Kailani, Hashemite Fund official

Israeli officials were upset with the visit to Al-Aqsa by French President Emmanuel Macron, which was not officially coordinated with any political side. The visit was preceded by a confrontation between Macron and Israeli police who tried to stop him from visiting the Church of St. Anne and his meeting there with Palestinian Christian leaders.
Macron visited Al-Aqsa, giving just 45-minutes notice to the head of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem Sheikh Azzam Khatib. But there was no official coordination with Israel, Palestine or Jordan.
Macron was well received at the holy site, and later met local merchants in the old city. He also visited the Western Wall.
Ziad Abu Zayyad, former minister of Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, told Arab News that the attack on Jerusalem’s mosques and leaders had become the norm and that Israel’s anti-Palestinian attitude had become evident to the world.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the PASSIA think tank in Jerusalem and a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that after 52 years of occupation, the people of Jerusalem had proved that their unity and sense of community was the strongest asset for Palestinians in the holy city.

Nuclear talks with Iran ‘cannot go on indefinitely,’ says Blinken

Updated 8 min 48 sec ago

Nuclear talks with Iran ‘cannot go on indefinitely,’ says Blinken

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “The ball remains in Iran’s court.”

KUWAIT CITY: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that nuclear talks with Iran “cannot go on indefinitely” but that Washington was “fully prepared” to continue negotiations.
The US is indirectly involved in Iran’s talks with world powers to revive a nuclear deal that gave Iran some relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 by then US President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and imposed punishing sanctions.
“We’re committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely ... we look to see what Iran is ready to do or not ready to do and remain fully prepared to return to Vienna to continue negotiations,” Blinken said during a visit to Kuwait on Thursday. “The ball remains in Iran’s court.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government has been holding talks with major powers in Vienna since April on bringing Washington back into the agreement.
But a deal now seems unlikely until after he hands over to President-elect Ebrahim Raisi early next month. Raisi is an ultraconservative but has expressed support for the nuclear talks, arguing Iran needs an end to US sanctions.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Iran’s ultraconservative camp, which deeply distrusts the US, has repeatedly criticized Rouhani over the 2015 deal.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that experience has shown “trusting the West does not work,” referring to the US withdrawal from the deal and its fallout.
Raisi has said his government will support talks that “guarantee national interests,” but will not allow negotiations for the sake of negotiations.
One of the major criticisms of the 2015 deal raised by Trump was its failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its alleged interference in regional affairs.
But Tehran has always rejected bringing non-nuclear issues into the agreement, which is known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Khamenei also criticized the US for refusing to “guarantee that (it) will not violate the agreement in the future” by pulling out unilaterally, as Trump did in 2018.
Iran’s chief negotiator Abbas Araghchi said this month that the talks must “await our new administration” as Tehran is “in a transition period.”
Rouhani, in office since 2013 and preparing to leave after the maximum two consecutive terms, had repeatedly promised to secure relief from sanctions before the end of his term.
But earlier this month, he expressed hope that his successor can clinch a deal to lift sanctions, insisting that from his administration’s side, “the work was ready” to be done.

Egyptian electricity minister heads to Russia to launch equipment manufacturing project for Dabaa nuclear plant

Updated 59 min 25 sec ago

Egyptian electricity minister heads to Russia to launch equipment manufacturing project for Dabaa nuclear plant

CAIRO: Egyptian Electricity and Renewable Energy Minister Mohammed Shaker headed to Russia to attend a joint celebration ceremony to begin manufacturing the first long-term equipment for the Dabaa nuclear power plant.

A high-level technical delegation is accompanying the minister.

According to a statement, Shaker and Rosatom Director-General Alexey Likhachev are set to discuss the progress of the Dabaa nuclear power plant and its future work.

Russia’s Rosatom is leading the Dabaa construction work.

The minister will also visit a group of Russian companies responsible for manufacturing long-term equipment for the nuclear plant.

The tour will cover Atomenergomash, which is responsible for manufacturing the compressor vessel, and Tagmash, which is responsible for manufacturing the reactor’s core catcher.

The past period witnessed intense technical meetings at the Nuclear Power Plants Authority.

The talks resulted in agreements regarding the quality assurance program for the manufacturer and quality plans for the equipment, as part of preparations to start manufacturing the plant’s long-term components.

The reactor’s core catcher is distinctive for its advanced third-generation reactors, to which the reactors of the Dabaa nuclear plant belong.

All the technical stages of its manufacture are carried out within the Russian Federation.

Logistical executive measures will then be taken to transfer it to the Dabaa site.

The manufacture of the reactor core catcher is a major milestone in the implementation of the Dabaa nuclear plant and comes as part of a series of continuous achievements that the project has been witnessing recently as a result of the concerted efforts of the Egyptian and Russian technical teams.

Egypt completes initial design phase of MisrSat-2 satellite

Updated 29 July 2021

Egypt completes initial design phase of MisrSat-2 satellite

CAIRO: Egypt’s new satellite, MisrSat-2, is scheduled to launch in December 2022, just three months behind schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEO of the Egyptian Space Agency (EgSA) said on Thursday.

Mohammed ElKoosy said the “first phase of the initial designs” had been completed and that the “engineering model” was currently being manufactured “with Chinese support.”

The satellite was initially set to launch in September next year, but the timeline has been slightly altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he explained.

The EgSA CEO also revealed that the satellite assembly center — located in Egyptian Space City near the New Administrative Capital — is close to completion. Egyptian Space City is due to open in March or April, he said.

Once the center is complete, assembly of MisrSat-2 will begin almost immediately, he said.

ElKoosy said Egypt’s ambitious plans for its space industry are in line with the country’s strategy for sustainable development. He cited the African Development Satellite — currently being manufactured by five African countries, with Egypt taking the lead — as an example. That satellite is designed to “measure the climate considerations of African countries, reducing their danger and controlling emissions rates.”

Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive

Updated 29 July 2021

Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive

  • Yemeni government complying with peace efforts while resisting militia’s attempts to seize control of new areas

ALEXANDRIA: The Iran-backed Houthis have rebuffed the latest US call to stop their deadly military offensive on the central Yemeni city of Marib, accusing the Americans of supporting their opponents.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam lashed out at the US on Wednesday for calling for the offensive to cease, and for renewing support for the internationally recognized government, accusing Washington of fueling the war in Yemen and imposing a “blockade.”

The latest Houthi statement was part of a series of criticisms of other countries and rights groups for rebuking them for refusing to stop military operations in the area, which have claimed the lives of thousands of combatants and civilians.

On Wednesday, the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, slammed the Houthis for attacking the city, warning that their offensive in the province would aggravate the already miserable humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

In a tweet sent by the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairds branch, Lenderking and Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik “condemned the Houthi offensive on Marib for exacerbating humanitarian suffering and sacrificing Yemen’s young men, and agreed on the need to restore political stability in southern Yemen.”

The US envoy also echoed his concerns about the impact of the Houthi attacks on Marib during a meeting with the Acting UN Special Envoy for Yemen Muin Shreim.

The Yemeni government said on Thursday that it would keep resisting Houthi attempts to seize control of new areas whilst complying with peace efforts to end the war.

Speaking to a gathering of government officials in Yemen’s Seiyun city on Thursday, Yemen’s Parliament Speaker Sultan Al-Barkani stated that tens of thousands of Yemenis who fled Houthi repression and sought refuge in Marib would not allow the militia to capture the city.

“We will continue to seek peace, but at the same time, we will not abandon fighting,” Al-Barkani said.

“The Houthis will not reach Marib. This is impossible for the Yemenis since Marib hosts hundreds of thousands (of people) who escaped from Houthi oppression and tyranny,” said Al-Barkani.

The government’s renewed pledges to defend Marib against Houthi incursions came as fighting raged on Thursday between government troops and the Houthis in several locations outside the city, near a military base in the west of the province and in mountainous areas and valleys in Rahabah to the south.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that 11 Houthis were killed in the southern city of Taiz after an attack on government-controlled areas in the northwest were foiled.

In the western province of Hodeidah, a landmine planted by the Houthis killed three civilians and wounded 11 on Thursday in Al-Durihimi district, the Yemeni Landmine Monitor said.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Thursday returned to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh from Cleveland, Ohio after a medical checkup, official news agency SABA said.

For almost a decade, Hadi has traveled frequently to the US to receive medical treatment for heart problems.


Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect

Updated 29 July 2021

Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect

  • Greek police sources told AFP the 28-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki
  • Morocco's MAP news agency said he was detained on Tuesday for alleged involvement in terror actions

RABAT: Greek security services have arrested a Moroccan suspected of belonging to Daesh in Syria who had appeared in one of their propaganda videos, police and security sources said Thursday.
Greek police sources told AFP the 28-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki on the basis of an international warrant issued in 2017 by Rabat, and that a decision would be taken on his possible extradition to Morocco.
Morocco’s MAP news agency, quoting a security source, said he was detained on Tuesday for alleged involvement in the planning of “terrorist” actions in Morocco.
The suspect, known as Abu Mohamed Al-Fateh, had joined the extremist group in Syria in 2014 and held “positions of responsibility,” it said.
He had appeared in a video showing the body of a Syrian fighter being mutilated.
About 1,600 Moroccans joined extremist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, of whom 137 were killed, according to official figures in Morocco.