Saudi Arabia, Arab nations join world in mourning death of Britain’s Prince Philip

Philip, who was by the queen’s side for nearly eight decades, retired from public duties in 2017 at the age of 96. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 April 2021

Saudi Arabia, Arab nations join world in mourning death of Britain’s Prince Philip

  • King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman send cables to queen and Prince Charles
  • UAE, Bahrain and Oman also sent messages of condolence to Queen Elizabeth.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent their condolences to the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales, on Friday after the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.

“We have received with great sadness the news of the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and we express to Your Majesty, the royal family and the friendly people of the United Kingdom our deepest condolences and sincere sympathy,” the king said in a cable to Britain’s queen. 

Cables were sent separately to the queen and the Prince of Wales.

The UAE, Bahrain and Oman also sent messages of condolence to Queen Elizabeth.

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan sent a cable of condolences to the Queen, expressing his heartfelt condolences and solace to the monarch.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi also sent similar cables of condolences.

Sheikh Mohammed sent a personal message on Twitter, saying: “On behalf of people of UAE, I extend my sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth II & the people of United Kingdom over the demise of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. A close friend to the UAE & other nations, he will always be remembered for his devotion to his country and people.”

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa extended his deepest condolences and consolation to Queen Elizabeth, as well as to the British government and people, and lauded the efforts of Prince Philip to serve the UK and its friendly people.

“His Majesty the Sultan, Haitham bin Tarik sent a cable of condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the President of the Commonwealth, on the death of her husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,” a statement issued by Oman News Agency said.

Here are reactions from major public figures in Britain and around the world:

UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON
“We remember the Duke ... above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen, not just as her consort, by her side, every day of her reign, but as her husband, has strength and stay of more than 70 years. And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.”
“Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.”

JUSTIN WELBY, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
“I join with the rest of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in mourning the loss of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and give thanks to God for his extraordinary life of dedicated service.”
“On the occasions when I met him, I was always struck by his obvious joy at life, his enquiring mind and his ability to communicate to people from every background and walk of life. He was a master at putting people at their ease and making them feel special.”

UK OPPOSITION LABOUR PARTY LEADER KEIR STARMER
“The United Kingdom has lost an extraordinary public servant in Prince Philip.”
“Prince Philip dedicated his life to our country — from a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during the Second World War to his decades of service as the Duke of Edinburgh.”
“However, he will be remembered most of all for his extraordinary commitment and devotion to The Queen.”

SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER NICOLA STURGEON
“I am saddened by news that the Duke of Edinburgh has died. I send my personal and deepest condolences — and those of @scotgov and the people of Scotland — to Her Majesty The Queen and her family.”

INDIAN PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI
“He had a distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.”

PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER IMRAN KHAN

“My condolences on the demise of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Britain has lost a wise elder who was imbued with a unique spirit of public service. His role in promoting Pakistan-UK relations will always be remembered.”

IRISH PRIME MINISTER MICHEAL MARTIN
“Saddened to hear of the death of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Our thoughts and prayers are with Queen Elizabeth and the people of the United Kingdom at this time.”

SINN FEIN LEADER MARY LOU MCDONALD
“Sincere condolences to Queen Elizabeth and family on the death of her husband Prince Phillip. Sympathies to those of a British identity on our island, for whom his death will be felt as a great loss.”

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AND FIRST LADY JILL BIDEN

The American president and his wife said the impact of the prince’s decades of public service was evident in the causes he advocated. 

FORMER US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
“Throughout his long and remarkable life, he devoted himself to worthy causes and to others. He represented the United Kingdom with dignity and brought boundless strength and support to the sovereign. Laura and I are fortunate to have enjoyed the charm and wit of his company, and we know how much he will be missed.”

FORMER US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

“Through his extraordinary example, His Royal Highness Prince Philip proved that true partnership has room for both ambition and selflessness — all in service of something greater. Our thoughts are with Her Majesty the Queen, the Royal Family, and the British people.”

US HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI

“The US Congress extends condolences over the death of Britain’s Prince Philip.”

FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR
“He will naturally be most recognized as a remarkable and steadfast support to the Queen over so many years. However, he should also be remembered and celebrated in his own right as a man of foresight, determination and courage.”

NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN
“Prince Philip will be fondly remembered for the encouragement he gave to so many young New Zealanders through The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. In over fifty years of The Award in New Zealand, thousands of young people have completed life-changing challenges through the program.”

KING HARALD OF NORWAY
“Our thoughts are with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of her family. We also send our condolences to the British people.”

KING KARL XVI GUSTAF OF SWEDEN
“Prince Philip has been a great friend of our family for many years, a relation which we have deeply valued. His service to his country will remain an inspiration to us all.”

GERMAN CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL

“The death of Prince Philip fills me with great sorrow. His friendship to Germany, his straightforwardness and his sense of duty will not be forgotten.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

“I wish to express my sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Family and the British people upon the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip who lived an exemplary life defined by bravery, a sense of duty and commitment to the youth and the environment.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE

“Our thoughts and sympathy are with Britain’s Royal Family and the British people at this time of mourning.”

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

“Prince Philip was the consummate public servant and will be much missed in Israel and across the world.”

BELGIAN ROYAL PALACE

“We wish to express our deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen, the British Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom. Philippe and Mathilde.”

UN SECRETARY GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES

“He was known for his dedication to charitable causes as a patron of some 800 organizations, in particular those focused on the environment, industry, sport and education.”

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, said: “The Secretary-General is saddened at the passing of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He extends condolences to Her Royal Highness, the Queen, and to the people of the United Kingdom.

“As royal consort, the Duke of Edinburgh capably supported the Queen in her duties as sovereign for over 60 years. He was known for his dedication to charitable causes as a patron of some 800 organizations, in particular those focused on the environment, industry, sport and education.

“The Secretary-General pays tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh for his active work for the betterment of humankind.”

PHILIP'S FORMER PRESS SECRETARY JAMES ROSCOE

“From military to youth clubs to DoE award recipients, his interest in people & their stories was real, his motivation always encouraging service in other by example. No nonsense, genuine wit: peace maybe, but he won't rest.”


Myanmar teen describes junta’s brutal treatment of detained women

Updated 34 min 1 sec ago

Myanmar teen describes junta’s brutal treatment of detained women

BANGKOK, Thailand: Beaten, kicked in the groin and threatened with sexual violence — a young Myanmar teenager detained by the junta’s security forces has described the treatment suffered by some women and girls behind bars.
Shwe Yamin Htet, 17, and her mother were arrested on April 14 in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital, which has been blanketed with heavy security since the military seized power in a coup.
As they were walking to a friend’s house from a morning protest, she said, they were stopped by two security trucks.
“They forced us to crouch face-down on the ground,” Shwe Yamin Htet told AFP.
The high school student then faced six days of fear and anxiety, held with women who alleged torture and abuse by police behind closed doors.
Shwe Yamin Htet said she herself had to endure a police officer molesting her during an interrogation session.
The teenager was released on April 20, but her mother was not as fortunate — Sandar Win was instead taken to Yangon’s Insein prison.
“My mother is my only family,” she said. “I’m very worried for her safety and life.”
To secure her release, she said, she had to sign documents saying she suffered “no torture” behind bars.
“It’s the opposite of what they have done,” Shwe Yamin Htet said. “It is totally unacceptable and unfair.”

Political prisoners
Her mother is among more than 3,800 civilians arrested and still languishing behind bars since the February 1 coup, according to local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Little is known about the conditions of detainees across Myanmar, as those released rarely speak out about it.
Shwe Yamin Htet said she and her mother were taken first to a local police station where they were questioned separately.
“I was touched by a police officer, who told me he could kill me and make me disappear,” she said.
“If I didn’t push his hand away, I’m sure he would have continued.”
She added that her mother was slapped twice during her interrogation.
The following day, they were taken to a detention center on Yangon’s northern outskirts where they met other women, some of whom had bruises all over their bodies.
One of them — a woman who had been in a relationship with a foreigner — was beaten so badly she could barely talk or eat, Shwe Yamin Htet said.
“We had to feed her fried egg and rice,” she said. “She told us she couldn’t urinate because her women parts had been kicked during the interrogation.”
The National Unity Government — an underground group of ousted lawmakers opposing the junta — has announced it is investigating the “allegations of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in unlawful detention.”
“These cases are indicative of the wider pattern of sexual and gender-based violence committed by Myanmar’s military that has persisted for years with impunity, particularly against ethnic minority women and girls in armed conflict areas,” it said in a statement.

Rights and dignity violated
Another woman held in the same detention center as Shwe Yamin Htet recalled similar experiences.
Ngwe Thanzin — a pseudonym to protect her identity — told AFP she and four others were protesting in Yangon’s South Okkalapa township when they were arrested.
“I was kicked in my face for having a black mask in my bag,” she said, adding that security forces also yelled misogynistic abuse at them.
The women were then taken to the same detention center as Shwe Yamin Htet, where Ngwe Thanzin said she was handcuffed so tightly it left marks on her wrists.
“They also threatened us saying they could kill us and make us disappear without anyone knowing it,” she told AFP.
During her three-night detention, she said she saw a 19-year-old girl bruised so badly she could barely stand.
“They don’t beat or torture in front of other people. But when people were individually interrogated, they came out with bruises.”
AFP was unable to independently verify the allegations made by Shwe Yamin Htet and Ngwe Thanzin.
Repeated attempts to contact the junta spokesman for a response went unanswered.
And junta-appointed Minister of Social Welfare Thet Thet Khine — who chairs a National Committee on Prevention and Response to Sexual Violence in Conflict — could not be reached for comment.
Ngwe Thanzin said the least the junta could do was have female security personnel available to interrogate them, instead of men.
“All our rights and dignity were violated and abused,” she said.
“Since we have no rights, I felt we were like water in their hands.”

US tells citizens to ‘reconsider’ travel to Israel due to conflict

Updated 14 May 2021

US tells citizens to ‘reconsider’ travel to Israel due to conflict

  • The travel advisory level was stepped up to Level 3, out of a maximum of four

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Thursday urged citizens to “reconsider travel to Israel” due to the recent surge in violence between the Jewish state and Palestinians.
The travel advisory level, which had been lowered in recent weeks due to improvement in the country’s Covid-19 situation, was stepped up to Level 3, out of a maximum of four.
“Reconsider travel to Israel due to armed conflict and civil unrest,” the department said in a statement.
“Rockets continue to impact the Gaza periphery and areas across Southern and Central Israel, including Jerusalem,” it said.
“There has been a marked increase in protests and violence throughout Israel.”
Washington was also advising that Americans “do not travel” to Gaza due to “Covid-19, terrorism, civil unrest, and armed conflict,” as well as avoiding the West Bank due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
The travel advisory came as Israel pounded Gaza and deployed extra troops to the border Thursday as Palestinians fired barrages of rockets back, with the death toll in the enclave on the fourth day of conflict climbing to over 100.
 

 


Johnson ‘anxious’ over rise of Indian virus variant in UK

Updated 13 May 2021

Johnson ‘anxious’ over rise of Indian virus variant in UK

  • “It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it," Johnson said
  • Imperial College London said overall cases have fallen to their lowest level since August

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he was “anxious” about a rise in the UK of the coronavirus variant first identified in India.
His worries surfaced after a closely-monitored study of infections in England found the variant is becoming more prevalent just ahead of the next big easing of lockdown restrictions.
“It is a variant of concern, we are anxious about it,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure we take all the prudential, cautious steps now that we could take, so there are meetings going on today to consider exactly what we need to do. There is a range of things we could do, we are ruling nothing out.”
In its latest assessment published Thursday, Imperial College London said overall cases have fallen to their lowest level since August following a strict lockdown and a successful rollout of vaccines. However, it warned that the Indian variant should be closely monitored.
The so-called REACT study found that the Indian variant, designated “of concern” because it could be more transmissible, was identified in 7.7 percent of the 127,000 cases tested between Apr.15 and May 3.
Professor Steven Riley from Imperial College said it’s unclear whether the Indian variant is more transmissible but warned that “this is a risk.”
Though the British government and scientists have said new cases may start to go up in coming weeks, it’s unclear whether that will lead to a big increase in hospitalizations and deaths given that most of those people deemed vulnerable have been vaccinated.
Over the past few weeks as India has suffered a catastrophic resurgence of the virus, concerns have grown around the world about potential new variants bypassing the protections offered by vaccines.
Across the UK, lockdown restrictions are being lifted. The next easing in England is set to take place on Monday when two households will be able to mix indoors and pubs and restaurants will be able to serve customers inside, among other changes. The other nations of the UK — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have also laid out similar plans for the coming weeks.
The government hopes to lift most remaining restrictions on social contact in June.
“At the moment, I can see nothing that dissuades me from thinking we will be able to go ahead on Monday and indeed on June 21, everywhere, but there may be things we have to do locally and we will not hesitate to do them if that is the advice we get,” Johnson said.
The government’s scientific advisory committee, known as SAGE, will be making recommendations about the pandemic’s path. It is due to meet later.
Currently there are few signs the previous easing has led to an increase in new infections, which are averaging around 2,300 a day across the UK, compared with nearly 70,000 recorded in January at the peak of the second wave.
The fall in infections has led to a sharp decline in daily coronavirus-related deaths, with 11 reported on Thursday. Still, the UK has recorded Europe’s highest virus-related death toll, at more than 127,600.
The successful rollout of vaccines has also helped keep a lid on infections alongside the lockdown. Around 54 percent of the British population has had at least one dose of vaccine with about a quarter having received two doses. The rollout is being expanded further, with vaccines now being made available to people aged 38 and 39.


Jewish group condemns ‘pure antisemitism’ in German protests

Updated 13 May 2021

Jewish group condemns ‘pure antisemitism’ in German protests

  • German cities including Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover have seen anti-Israeli protests over the past few days
  • Two synagogues were attacked and several Israeli flags were torn down and burned since violence erupted in Israel and the Gaza Strip.

BERLIN: Germany’s leading Jewish group on Thursday sharply condemned protests in front of a synagogue in the western city of Gelsenkirchen as “pure antisemitism.”
Several other German cities including Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover have seen anti-Israeli protests over the past few days.
At least two synagogues were attacked, and several Israeli flags were torn down and burned since the latest eruption of violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany tweeted a video of dozens of protesters in Gelsenkirchen waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and yelling expletives about Jews.
“Jew hatred in the middle of Gelsenkirchen in front of the synagogue. The times in which Jews were cursed in the middle of the street should have long been over. This is pure antisemitism, nothing else!” the group tweeted.
The German government repeatedly condemned anti-Israeli and antisemitic attacks earlier this week and said that “the perpetrators must be found and held responsible and Jewish institutions must be protected thoroughly.”
On Thursday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Funke Media Group that “there must be zero tolerance for attacks on synagogues in our country.”
“All of us are called on to make it very clear that we do not accept if Jews in Germany are made responsible for the events in the Middle East — neither in the streets nor on social media,” Maas added.
The protests in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday were dispersed by police, German news agency DPA reported, but authorities reported further incidents in other parts of the country.
Some cities which had hoisted Israeli flags in front of their city halls on Wednesday in remembrance of the start of German-Israeli diplomatic relations on May 12, 1965, reported that the flags were torn down and sometimes burned.
An Israeli flag in front of a city hall in the western town of Solingen was torn and burnt and two Israeli flags in Berlin were also torn down late Wednesday night.
On Tuesday night, police stopped 13 suspects in the western city of Muenster near a synagogue after an Israeli flag was burned there. In the western city of Bonn, police said several people damaged the entrance of a synagogue with stones and investigators found a burned flag as well. In nearby Duesseldorf, somebody burned garbage on top of a memorial for a former synagogue.
Several cities and states in Germany have since upped their security and raised police presence in front of Jewish institutions, dpa reported.
In Berlin, some 100 people also assembled for a pro-Israel rally on Wednesday night in front of the city’s landmark Brandenburg Gate waving Israeli flags and holding a banner saying “We stand with Israel — Now and Forever.”


Asylum seekers released after Scotland deportation standoff

Updated 13 May 2021

Asylum seekers released after Scotland deportation standoff

  • Hundreds of locals protested a Home Office removal of asylum seekers, preventing immigration enforcers from carrying out the action
  • Politicians and charities slammed the Home Office’s attempt to deport asylum seekers believed to be Muslims on Eid

LONDON: Immigration authorities in Scotland have agreed to release two asylum seekers they had detained ahead of deportation after members of their local community protested and blocked their vehicle from leaving.

Early on Thursday people surrounded a Home Office vehicle in Glasgow, Scotland, believed to contain two immigrants who had been removed from a flat.

Hundreds of people gathered in the area, chanting slogans and preventing the van from moving safely. One man laid under the vehicle to prevent it from moving. Shouts of “Leave our neighbors, let them go” and “Cops go home” could be heard. 

Following an hours-long standoff, a senior Scottish police officer intervened to ensure the men were released and the standoff ended.

In a statement, Police Scotland Chief Superintendent Mark Sutherland announced the men had been released.

It said: “In order to protect the safety, public health and well-being of all people involved in the detention and subsequent protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Ch Supt Mark Sutherland has, following a suitable risk assessment, taken the operational decision to release the men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement back into their community meantime.”

The police had earlier stressed that it does not provide assistance with the removal of asylum seekers but aims to keep peace on the streets.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denounced the attempted deportation, branding it “dangerous” and “unacceptable.”

“I disagree fundamentally with Home Office immigration policy but even putting that aside, this action was unacceptable,” she wrote on Facebook. “To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak was a health and safety risk.

“Both as MSP (Member of Scottish Parliament) and as FM (First Minister), I will be demanding assurances from the UK government that they will never again create, through their actions, such a dangerous situation. No assurances were given — and frankly, no empathy shown — when I managed to speak to a junior minister earlier.”

She added: “I am proud to represent a constituency and lead a country that welcomes and shows support to asylum seekers and refugees.”

Mohammad Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation, was among the hundreds of neighbors protesting against the action.

“We are here against the hostile environment created by the Tories and the British state,” Asif said. “The same people who ran from British and American bombs are in the back of the van right now and are about to be deported.

“It is on Eid, you know. The guys are not even allowed to pray. How do you do that in a democratic society? It is a sad day.”