Palestinian restaurant feeding London’s ‘frontline soldiers’ battling virus

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Hiba Express staff holding signs of support for the UK’s National Health Service as they prepare food for its workers. (Supplied)
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Hiba Express staff holding signs of support for the UK’s National Health Service as they prepare food for its workers. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 April 2020

Palestinian restaurant feeding London’s ‘frontline soldiers’ battling virus

  • Hiba Express converted from a business into a relief committee, offering help and aid to all those in need
  • One of the dishes offered is maqlouba, a Levantine dish consisting of meat, rice and vegetables that is served upside down

LONDON: Palestinian restaurant Hiba Express is offering half-price meals to all National Health Service, Transport for London and Metropolitan Police staff in the UK’s capital amid the battle against coronavirus.

“We decided that those who might actually benefit from our services are those soldiers on the front line, the critical workers,” Osama Qashoo, founder of the family-run business, told Arab News.

He said the restaurant group has been converted from a business into a relief committee, offering help and aid to all those in need.

“We go to hospitals, we take our precautions and we distribute (meals). We go outside hospitals and cook for those tired people,” he added. COVID-19 has left more than 100,000 dead worldwide, just under 9,000 of them in the UK.

“We’re from Palestine, where the situation of lockdown and curfew is very familiar. We’ve been under lockdown and siege for many years,” Qashoo said. “My heroes are my team — they’re very noble. We’re all from the Arab world — from Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia, Palestine and Jordan,” he added.

“All of us are giving our time for free, most of them are volunteering, we’re taking this very seriously and we’re not taking anything in return.”

One of the dishes that Hiba offers in its deals is maqlouba, which translates to upside-down in Arabic. It is a Levantine dish consisting of meat, rice and vegetables that is served upside down.

“We tell people ‘everything is upside down,’ so just have it for lunch. It’s working and it’s making people laugh. It’s very rewarding and very humbling to be part of this effort to try and help,” Qashoo said.

While other businesses are focusing on minimizing financial losses, Hiba is focusing on its contributions to the community during these extraordinary times, he added.

“It’s very rewarding, and makes you feel alive and part of this community,” he said. “I’m very proud that we’re using our Palestinian experience of hardship to help in London, which I never thought would be in this crazy situation.”

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Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

Updated 23 October 2020

Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

  • The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint statement by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that condemns Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and numerous “provocations” that they maintain are threatening regional peace.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “fully rejected the declaration containing baseless accusations and allegations.”
During a trilateral regional summit on Wednesday in Nicosia, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to end its “aggressive” actions.
The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations. Greece and Cyprus have signed maritime border agreements with Egypt while dismissing a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the declaration attacked Ankara rather than supporting peace and stability in the region. It repeated Turkey’s position that cooperation could only take place with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in governing and sharing the resources of the ethnically divided island nation.
“We will continue with determination to protect our rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” the ministry statement said.
The trilateral summit took place amid high tensions between nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey over maritime borders and energy rights.
In late summer, Turkey dispatched a research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic research in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its own warships.
Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission. A maritime announcement by Turkey says the Oruc Reis and two other ships would continue working in the area until Oct. 27.
Turkey also has had ships prospecting for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.