Israeli nationalists march in East Jerusalem under heavy police presence

Israelis walk while holding flags outside Jerusalem's Old City, June 15,2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 June 2021

Israeli nationalists march in East Jerusalem under heavy police presence

  • Mansour Abbas said the march was “an attempt to set the region on fire for political aims”
  • Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned it as a provocation

JERUSALEM: Israeli far-right nationalists began a flag-waving march through East Jerusalem on Tuesday that risks reigniting tensions with Palestinians and poses an early challenge for Israel's new government.
Last month, Israeli-Palestinian tensions and violence in contested Jerusalem helped trigger 11 days of cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group.
On Tuesday, Israeli police in riot gear and on horseback cordoned off areas leading to the walled Old City's flashpoint Damascus Gate, clearing the area of Palestinians ahead of a congregation of right-wing demonstrators in the neighbourhood.
Police were expected to prevent marchers from going through the Damascus Gate, the main entry to the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, which is also home to shrines sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity and is the most sensitive site in the more than 70-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Jerusalem is for all religions, but Jerusalem is in Israel. And in Israel, we must be able to go wherever we want, with our flag," said marcher Doron Avrahami, 50, channelling right-wing frustrations with police restrictions.
Assailing the march as a "provocation", Palestinians called for "Day of Rage" protests in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank with memories still fresh of confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power's intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said.
Thousands of Palestinians gathered in areas near the Damascus Gate and at least five were injured in clashes with Israeli police firing stun grenades, the Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said.
Several hours before the event was due to start, incendiary balloons launched from Gaza caused several fires in fields in Israeli communities near the border with the Palestinian enclave, witnesses and the Israeli fire brigade said.
Such incidents had stopped with the ceasefire that ended last month's Israel-Gaza fighting.
Hamas warned of renewed hostilities over the march, testing the mettle of the new Israeli government of Naftali Bennett, which approved the procession though along an amended route that appeared designed to avoid friction with Palestinians.
Bennett heads a far-right party, and diverting the procession could anger members of his religious base and expose him to accusations he was giving Hamas veto power over events in Jerusalem.
The event was originally scheduled for May 10 as part of "Jerusalem Day" festivities that celebrate Israel's capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war.
At the last minute, that march was diverted away from the Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter, but the move was not enough to dissuade Hamas from firing rockets towards Jerusalem.
Sitting on a bench outside the police cordon, Khalil Mitwani, a 50-year-old Palestinian, said of the marchers: "They are making a big problem in Jerusalem. All the people here want peace - why make problems here?"
Diplomats urged restraint by all sides.
"Tensions (are) rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile & sensitive security & political time, when UN & Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the ceasefire," UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said on Twitter.
He called on all sides to "act responsibly & avoid any provocations that could lead to another round of confrontation".
Israel, which occupied and later annexed East Jerusalem in a move that has not won international recognition, regards the entire city as its capital. Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state that would include the West Bank and Gaza.


Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region, the chief of the GCC said on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Iran’s meddling in affairs of other countries threatens regional security: GCC chief

  • The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council
  • Al-Hajraf: Current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen represents direct threat to the security of region

LONDON: Iran’s intervention in the internal affairs of other countries is a threat to the region and a matter of concern, the chief of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) said on Saturday.
Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missiles, and its support for militias, must also be included in ongoing talks in Vienna and they should not be limited to reviving the nuclear deal, GCC Secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf said at a virtual Gulf Research Meeting.
Representatives of Iran and the five world powers still party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been meeting in the Austrian capital since April, with US envoys participating indirectly. An agreement has yet to be reached.
Al-Hajraf added that the current situation in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen represents a clear and direct threat to the security and stability of the Middle East.
The GCC chief said that economic integration is on the list of priorities for the council, as is strengthening the leading position of GCC countries in the region and the world.
He said Saudi Arabia holding the G20 presidency in 2020, the UAE hosting Expo 2020 from October, and Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup are examples of this effort.
Al-Hajraf added that the national visions and development plans in GCC countries are creating the appropriate momentum to focus on the future and exploit opportunities.


Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

Updated 24 July 2021

Jordan to vaccinate children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19

  • Jordanian children can be given Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary

BEIRUT: Jordan will start vaccinating children aged 12 years and older against COVID-19 from Sunday, the state news agency said on Saturday.
Children can be given the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine with the approval of a guardian with no prior appointment necessary, the agency quoted the health ministry as saying.
The decision comes as Jordan lifted most restrictions at the start of July, reopening gyms, pools and night clubs at hotels after cases dropped from a peak in March when several thousands of new cases were recorded daily.
Total active cases reached 7,489 on Friday with 331 new cases and four deaths.
Since the start of the pandemic, Jordan has recorded a total of 763,437 cases and 9,933 deaths.
Several other countries in the region are vaccinating children, including Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.


El-Sisi: Decent Life Initiative ‘unprecedented achievement for Egypt’

Updated 24 July 2021

El-Sisi: Decent Life Initiative ‘unprecedented achievement for Egypt’

  • El-Sisi said that there will be a competition for the best center, governorate and village within the initiative
  • The Decent Life Initiative is working to develop about 4,600 Egyptian villages by building 175 administrative centers in 20 governorates

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Saturday that the newly announced Decent Life Initiative for rural development would be an “unprecedented achievement” for Egypt.
During an inspection of road developments within the Together We Build the Future initiative, El-Sisi said that “citizens must see the amount of work that will be done” to develop the Egyptian countryside under the new project.
He added: “I dream that what is being accomplished pleases our Lord and then pleases us. The lives of people in the villages must be changed, and there must be cooperation from the people in the villages so that they help in the final output.”
El-Sisi said that there will be a competition for the best center, governorate and village within the initiative, adding that the rewards will be “big and meaningful.”
The Decent Life Initiative is working to develop about 4,600 Egyptian villages by building 175 administrative centers in 20 governorates.
The most impoverished villages were targeted for funding according to data and surveys by the Central Agency for Mobilization and Statistics, in coordination with government ministries and other authorities.
So far, the initiative has succeeded in reducing poverty rates and providing critical services to targeted villages.


Egyptian leader turning to ‘pedal power’ to interact with public

Updated 24 July 2021

Egyptian leader turning to ‘pedal power’ to interact with public

  • El-Sisi's public cycling tours have become a tradition, beginning in 2014 during his bid for presidency
  • Three videos of the leader riding and talking to citizens have gone viral online in the past few days

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has caught the public’s attention after being filmed cycling around various locations during the Eid holiday.
Three videos of the leader riding and talking to citizens have gone viral online in the past few days.
His public cycling tours have become a tradition, beginning in 2014 during his bid for presidency.
During his latest tour, he met an Egyptian family to learn about their quality of life and listen to their demands.
While cycling on Friday in New Alamein, El-Sisi also talked to one of the military security officers accompanying him, a man named Ayman from Menoufia Governorate. El-Sisi asked him about his job, which he maintained while studying.
“Do you need anything, Ayman? I’m like your father, no need to be shy,” the president told him.
Ayman, who also runs a library from a rented property, replied that he wanted a job after completing his military service, and would like to rent a large store on a main street in order to increase his revenue.
El-Sisi then offered to personally buy him a commercial property of his choice.
During the 2016 Eid Al-Fitr holiday, the president toured the Maamoura area in Alexandria wearing a sports outfit, and in the same year, took part in a sports day that included a cycling marathon.
The leader also attended a cycling marathon in Cairo’s Fifth Settlement, in which he accompanied students of the local police academy.
And during the second edition of the World Youth Forum in 2018, El-Sisi was spotted cycling around Sharm El-Sheikh at dawn.


Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

Updated 24 July 2021

Tunisia reports a daily record of 317 COVID-19 deaths

TUNIS: Tunisia recorded 317 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said on Saturday.
The ministry also reported 5,624 new cases, increasing concerns about the country's ability to fight the pandemic, with intensive care units in hospitals completely full and a lack of oxygen supplies. The vaccination campaign is moving slowly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the daily COVID-19 death tally in Tunisia is now the highest in Africa and in the Arab world.
The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic has reached about 560,000, with more than 18,300 deaths, out of a total population of 11.6 million.
This month several European and Arab countries have sent medical aid and more than three million doses of vaccine to help Tunisia tackle the rapid spread of the coronavirus.