France to sell Egypt 30 fighter jets — Egyptian defense ministry, report

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Updated 04 May 2021

France to sell Egypt 30 fighter jets — Egyptian defense ministry, report

PARIS: Egypt has signed a contract with France to buy 30 Rafale fighter jets, its defense ministry said in a statement early on Tuesday, in a deal that investigative website Disclose said on Monday was worth 3.75 billion euro ($4.5 billion).
Egypt’s defense ministry said the deal would be financed through a loan to be re-paid over at least 10 years, but did not disclose the value of the deal or further details.
Citing confidential documents, Disclose said an agreement had been concluded at the end of April and a deal could be sealed on Tuesday when an Egyptian delegation arrives in Paris.
This deal would be a further boost for the Dassault-made warplane after a 2.5 billion euro agreement was finalized in January for the sale of 18 Rafales to Greece.
The Egyptian accord also reportedly covers contracts for missile provider MBDA and equipment provider Safran Electronics & Defense which are worth another 200 million euros.
France’s finance, foreign and armed forces ministries were not immediately available for comment.
France was the main weapons supplier to Egypt between 2013-2017, including the sale of 24 warplanes with an option for 12 more. Those contracts dried up, including deals for more Rafale jets and warships that had been at an advanced stage.
Disclose said financing for the deal would be up to 85 percent guaranteed by the French state with BNP Paribas SA, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and CIC, which funded the original deal, signing up again. The banks were not immediately available for comment.
Concerned by the political vacuum in Libya, instability across the region and the threat from jihadist groups in Egypt, both countries have cultivated closer economic and military ties since President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s rise to power.


Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

Updated 06 May 2021

Israel accuses Spanish woman of aiding banned militant group

  • A military court indicted Juana Ruiz Sánchez on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges
  • Israel, US, Canada and European Union regard the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine a terrorist organization

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities on Thursday charged a Spanish woman under the country’s anti-terrorism laws, accusing her of funneling large sums of donations from European governments to a banned Palestinian militant group.
Juana Ruiz Sánchez was charged in a West Bank military court. Her indictment was the culmination of a more than year-long investigation into financing for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The group is regarded by Israel, the United States, Canada, and European Union as a terrorist organization.
Ruiz, a Spanish citizen and West Bank resident, has worked for Health Work Committees, a Palestinian non-governmental organization that provides medical services in the territory.
She was indicted on Israeli terrorism-financing offenses and other charges. The Palestinian NGO’s senior accountant, former accountant and former purchasing department manager were expected to be charged with similar offenses in the coming days, according to the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency.
Ruiz, 62, had been held by Israeli authorities without charge since her arrest at her home near Bethlehem on April 13. Spanish authorities have provided her with consular assistance and Spain’s deputy consul general has accompanied her during court hearings, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
“We will continue following this case closely, insisting and working together with the Israeli authorities,” it said.
The PFLP is a Palestinian Leninist-Marxist militant group that opposes the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. It staged a number of airline hijackings in the 1970s and numerous attacks on Israeli civilians, including the 2001 assassination of then-tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi. It is part of the PLO, the main Palestinian national movement.
The Shin Bet began investigating the PFLP’s finances following an August 2019 attack by the militant group in the West Bank that killed a 17-year-old girl and wounded her brother and father, an Israeli official said.
The investigation found at least seven Palestinian charities had funneled tens of millions of euros donated by European governments and organizations for humanitarian purposes to PFLP coffers.
The Israeli official said the probe found that the NGO, along with other aid organizations, including the Union of Agricultural Work Committees and Addameer, “act under PFLP leadership and in accordance with the organization’s directives, as a cover for promoting the PFLP’s activities and funding.”
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The Health Works Committees did not respond to requests for comment.
Although the PFLP is one of the smaller Palestinian militant groups operating in the occupied West Bank, its cash pipeline from Europe has “developed considerably in the past decade,” the official said. “European governmental money helped build up this organization.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has called on European governments to step up oversight of donations to Palestinian organizations to ensure they don’t wind up funding groups outlawed by the EU.
The European Union’s diplomatic mission in Israel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A petition calling on Israel to free Ruiz and the other detainees’ was signed by nearly 6,000 individuals and organizations in Spain, saying the aid group was attacked by Israel “in a policy of repression, weakening and dismantling of civil society organizations of Palestine.”


Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Updated 06 May 2021

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

  • Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City

JERUSALEM: Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flare over a controversial land rights case.
Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where land disputes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers have fueled hostility for years.
Palestinian protests, which began late Wednesday, continued into the early hours.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews.
Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases decades ago.
The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.
The Palestinian families implicated in the case have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Amman has intervened in the case, providing documents to support the Palestinian claims.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
The district court ruling infuriated Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who viewed it as a further step in what they see as a Jewish settler effort to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem.
Weeks of clashes that have seen police use skunk water cannons and deploy anti-riot police on horseback have resulted in several arrests.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the sides to seek a compromise.
Sami Irshid, a lawyer for the Palestinians, said the Nahalat Shimon settler movement proposed that one member of each concerned Palestinian family be recognized as a “protected tenant.”
That would temporarily delay eviction until the protected tenant died, at which point the home would return to Nahalat Shimon, Irshid said.
“We reject this completely,” Mona Al-Kurd, one of the Palestinian residents said.
“The settlers want us to recognize their property rights, it is impossible.”
Yehonatan Yosef, an activist with Nahalat Shimon, accused the Palestinian families of rejecting “any compromise.”
“It’s their problem,” he said, noting that if the Supreme Court ruled in the settlers’ favor, the Jewish families would do what they wished with each plot.
The Supreme Court has indicated that if the sides cannot reach a compromise, it will rule on whether the Palestinians can appeal the district court decision.
An appeal process could take years.
Mohammed Deif, the reclusive leader of the military wing of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, issued a rare public warning on Tuesday, saying Israel would pay a “high price” over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their future capital, while Israel regards the entire city as its “undivided capital.”
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki sent a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to “to take a clear and public stand against crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”


Yemen PM visits Marib in show of strength as Houthi assault falters

Updated 06 May 2021

Yemen PM visits Marib in show of strength as Houthi assault falters

  • Iran-backed militia refuse to meet UN, US envoys for peace talks in Oman

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister visited the battleground city of Marib on Wednesday in a show of strength amid growing signs that an Iran-backed Houthi militia offensive to capture the province is faltering.
Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed chaired a meeting of senior government and military officials in the city, and said President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had ordered increased military support to government troops fighting the Houthis.
“History is being written now in Marib. All of Yemen is following Marib and we came to Marib to be part of this important moment … the state and its capabilities are with you,” the prime minister said.
Saeed said the government wanted a sustainable peace agreement that established a strong division between Yemen and Iran. “We are not begging for peace that establishes a fragile and racist state on Iran’s model and its militias in the region,” he said.
Marib Governor Marib Sultan Al-Arada said the Houthi offensive had triggered “huge” displacement as thousands of people fled the fighting. “Yemenis can never enjoy peace as long as the state’s weapons are in the militia’s hands,” the governor said.
Marib is the Yemeni government’s last bastion in northern Yemen, and has extensive oil and gas reserves. The Houthis are desperate to capture it as leverage in UN-brokered peace talks, but the government is equally determined to defend it.
Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy for Yemen, admitted on Wednesday that the warring sides were no closer to striking a deal to end the conflict despite extensive diplomatic efforts. “We have been discussing these issues for over a year now and the international community has been supporting us in full force,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are not where we would like to be in reaching a deal. Meanwhile, the war continues unabated and causes immense suffering to the civilian population.”
Ending a weeklong round of meetings in Riyadh and Muscat, Griffiths said his latest discussions focused on stopping the Houthi assault on Marib, easing restrictions on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah and reopening Sanaa airport.
“I will keep engaging all involved, concerned actors and stakeholders to offer them opportunities to find common ground to help advance the peace efforts,” Griffiths said.
Officials with knowledge of the discussions told Arab News that the Houthis had refused to meet Griffiths and Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, for talks in Oman. Instead, the militia insisted on reopening Sanaa airport to unlimited destinations, including Iran, lifting restrictions on Hodeidah, and the complete cessation of Arab coalition air strikes before they would consider halting their offensive on Marib.
“We do not trust them — they have never adhered to any deal,” a senior Yemeni official said. The official also said the Yemeni government would agree to open flights from Sanaa airport to India, Egypt, Jordan, and Sudan, and would lift restrictions on ships in Hodeidah, but it believed direct flights from Sanaa to Iran, Syria and Lebanon would enable the Houthis to transport weapons and fighters.

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Appeal against detention of ship in Suez Canal rejected

Updated 05 May 2021

Appeal against detention of ship in Suez Canal rejected

  • It has been held in a lake between two stretches of the canal since being dislodged on March 29

CAIRO: The Ismailia Economic Court in Egypt has ruled that the container ship that blocked the Suez Canal in March could continue to be held in the waterway, rejecting an appeal by its Japanese owner against its detention.

The Ever Given, one of the world’s largest container ships, became jammed across the canal on March 23 and remained stuck for six days, stopping traffic in both directions.

It has been held in a lake between two stretches of the canal since being dislodged on March 29, amid a dispute over a $916 million claim by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) against Japanese owner Shoei Kisen for compensation over the incident.

The SCA has been conducting investigations into the cause of the ship’s grounding but has yet to announce the results, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The court, which had approved the detention of the ship following the submission of a report by the SCA, upheld that decision on Tuesday, rejecting an appeal made late last month.

The reasoning for the ruling was not immediately clear, but the SCA argued that the plaintiff had not notified all the required parties of its challenge to the ship’s detention within the required time limit.

The court heard the defense of Hazem Barakat, representative of the Japanese owner of the Panamanian ship, who demanded that a copy of the seizure order be provided. He said the captain of the ship has not been notified of the seizure decision.

Barakat demanded a 24-hour period to review and respond to all documents submitted by the SCA and argued that the ship’s seizure is invalid.

The SCA attorney said that an appeal should have been made during the specified dates, but the plaintiff failed to comply with that.

He added that the company’s lawyer should have informed all parties about its demands instead of procrastinating and requesting additional time, even though the company’s shipping agent is present on the ship daily.

The SCA is discussing ways to reach an amicable solution, especially because the ship is intact, loaded with containers and ready to sail, said Osama Rabie, chief of the SCA.

He said that the initial compensation for the accident was estimated at $1 billion and that the amount could change depending on the result of the probe.

He also added that the ship’s black box is being checked to reveal the circumstances of the accident.

The ship’s protection and indemnity insurer, UK Club, said the owners were reviewing their options in light of the decision and had until May 20 to appeal, according to the AP.

UK Club and the Ever Given’s technical manager, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, have expressed disappointment at the ship's detention.

UK Club said last month the appeal was made “on several grounds, including the validity of the arrest obtained in respect of the cargo and the lack of supporting evidence for the SCA’s very significant claim.”


Egypt, Turkey hold ‘exploratory talks’ to mend ties

Updated 05 May 2021

Egypt, Turkey hold ‘exploratory talks’ to mend ties

  • Both sides are also expected to discuss security coordination regarding the Muslim Brotherhood

CAIRO: Egyptian-Turkish consultations were held on Wednesday in Egypt’s foreign ministry headquarters for the first time since 2013.

The two sides were set to discuss issues in a “new era of normalization” between Egypt and Turkey.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement before the talks that the two-day “exploratory” consultations will be led by Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamdi Loza and Turkish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sedat Onal, adding that the talks will begin on Wednesday and conclude the following day.

The statement added that discussions will focus on the necessary steps that will lead to the normalization of relations between the two regional rivals.

Experts said that discussions between both countries will focus on regional and international issues, most notably the Eastern Mediterranean gas issue, maritime delimitation and the future of Libya.

Both sides are also expected to discuss security coordination regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, after Egypt demanded the extradition of several members who reside in Turkey.

The issue of hostilities and attacks on Egypt by extremist groups from Turkish territory are also likely to be raised by Cairo in the talks, experts have said.

Last February, Turkey announced the resumption of diplomatic contact with Egypt And ordered Egyptian opposition media outlets operating in its territory to “de-escalate attacks” against Egyptian authorities.

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