More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits

Women prepare bread at a field in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 18 October 2021

More Palestinians apply for Israeli work permits

  • Since Hamas seized control of Gaza by force in 2007, Israel has imposed a siege that has caused Palestinians’ economic conditions to suffer

GAZA CITY: Mahmoud al-Dakhni was one of the thousands of Palestinians gathered in front of the Chambers of Commerce headquarters in Gaza to apply for work permits inside Israel.

They were of different age groups and backgrounds, including degree holders, and crowded outside the building in the hope of obtaining Israeli approval to apply for a permit that would allow them to pass through the Erez crossing and escape Gaza’s deteriorating economic reality.

Since Hamas seized control of Gaza by force in 2007, Israel has imposed a siege that has caused Palestinians’ economic conditions to suffer.

The situation worsened due to Israeli restrictions since the last war in May 2020.

Al-Dakhni said he had worked for a few days not exceeding the number of “fingers of the hand” since that war.

“Working in Israel is more profitable than in Gaza where the worker gets ILS300 ($93.12) or more, while the wages of a worker in Gaza do not exceed ILS50 per day, and with longer and more miserable working hours,” said the 33-year-old construction worker, who has six children.

To obtain a work permit Al-Dakhni, like others, resorted to opening a commercial registration with the Chamber of Commerce to prove he was a merchant, which is a condition for obtaining Israeli approval.

Al-Dakhni borrowed the amount he had paid for the commercial register. “Everyone does this,” he explained. “Israel does not announce that these are work permits, but rather permits for merchants, but the truth is that those who obtain them use them to work in Israel.”

Mahmoud Haniyeh and four of his friends resorted to the same approach, obtaining a commercial registration after sharing its costs. “We each paid ILS1,700 and we hope to compensate for it by working in Israel.”

Haniyeh, 45, used to work as a tailor in the Erez industrial zone, before losing his job completely with the Hamas takeover of Gaza.

Haniyeh, who supports a family of eight, said he had to buy a car in instalments to work as a taxi driver to provide for his family’s needs. But it became a burden on him due to the poor economic conditions of the majority of the population.

“I work on the car every day from six in the morning until the evening hours, and on many days what I get does not meet the basic needs of the family … We only want our children to live a decent life.”

Video clips of work permit seekers circulated on social media. They directed their anger at Fatah and Hamas and held them responsible for the crises afflicting Gaza.

One clip showed a man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, saying he graduated from university in 2009 while his wife had graduated this year and that they had no hope of getting a job.

“University degrees have become useless in light of the division, especially if you are not affiliated with a political faction,” he said in the clip.

Egypt is currently working to consolidate the truce that it sponsored between Hamas and Israel that halted the 11-day war last May. But the Egyptian mediation has not yet resulted in bringing the two sides closer together.

Israeli public radio said the total number of permits granted to Palestinian workers from Gaza to work inside Israel was 7,000, after their number was about 5,000 workers and traders last August.

In 2019, Israel allowed Gaza residents to submit job applications for the first time, with the number of workers in Israel from Gaza standing about 120,000 before the second Intifada in 2000.

At the time, the labor of these workers contributed to about 20 percent of the Palestinian economy in Gaza, according to local data.

The Chamber of Commerce said it received about 10,447 applications — in one day — to obtain work permits in Israel and the West Bank.

The Ministry of Labor in Gaza held the “responsibility for the accumulation of unemployment in Gaza, which has reached unprecedented numbers, due to the continuation of the siege imposed for the 15th year in a row, and the policy of closing the crossings.”

Permit applicants must meet several criteria. They must be aged between 26-60, married, unemployed, and vaccinated against COVID-19.

More than 2 million people in Gaza suffer from poor economic conditions resulting from an Israeli blockade since 2006, which has caused a rise in poverty and unemployment rates.

According to a report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics last August, the number of unemployed people in the Gaza Strip had reached 212,000, with an unemployment rate of 45 percent.

The head of the Gaza Labor Union, Sami Al-Amsi, said Israel had not yet allowed Gaza workers to work inside Israel and that all the permits issued were for merchants.

Al-Amsi believed that Israel’s issue of permits to merchants, and not as part of worker permits, did not obligate employers in Israel to show rights toward these workers.

IAEA resolves nuclear issues with Iran – Iranian media

Updated 30 May 2023

IAEA resolves nuclear issues with Iran – Iranian media

DUBAI: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has resolved nuclear issues with Iran relating to one of three sites being investigated over the presence of uranium particles, Iranian media reported on Tuesday.
The agency’s alleged case regarding the findings of uranium particles with 83.7 purity has also been closed, a source told the semi-official Mehr news agency.
The IAEA is due to issue quarterly reports on Iran this week, ahead of a regular meeting of its 35-nation Board of Governors next week.

Rescue groups say Malta coordinated the return of 500 migrants to Libya instead of saving them

Updated 30 May 2023

Rescue groups say Malta coordinated the return of 500 migrants to Libya instead of saving them

  • The migrants, who included 55 children and several pregnant women, had been trying to reach Europe on May 23 aboard a fishing vessel
  • Three days later they were reportedly disembarked in eastern Libya and sent to a detention center in Benghazi

BARCELONA: A group of non-governmental organizations dedicated to rescuing migrants in the central Mediterranean is accusing the European island nation of Malta of coordinating the return of around 500 people to Libya where they were subsequently imprisoned, in violation of international maritime law.
The group of migrants, which included 55 children and pregnant women, had been trying to reach Europe on May 23 aboard a rusty iron fishing vessel when they reported to Alarm Phone — a hotline for migrants in distress — that they were adrift and taking in water, the NGOs said in a statement.
People smugglers have increasingly packed migrants and refugees into old and dangerous fishing vessels that set out from Libya to Italy or Malta.
Migrants aboard the vessel shared their GPS location with Alarm Phone showing they were in international waters in an area of the Mediterranean where Malta is responsible for search and rescue.
Despite repeated requests for help sent to Maltese authorities, the migrants were reportedly taken back to Benghazi in eastern Libya three days later, Alarm Phone said, citing relatives of the migrants.
“Instead of bringing people who had tried to escape from the extreme violence people on the move experience in Libya to a place of safety, … (the Rescue Coordination Center of) Malta — decided to organize a mass pushback by proxy at sea, forcing 500 people across 330km into a Libyan prison,” read the joint statement issued by Alarm Phone, Sea-Watch, Mediterranea Saving Humans and EMERGENCY on Monday.
The Maltese Armed Forces responsible for search and rescue operations did not immediately respond to the AP’s questions sent by email or answer the phone.
The International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency told the Associated Press that 485 people were reportedly brought back to Benghazi by a vessel belonging to the self-styled Libyan National Army, a force in the east of the country led by military commander Khalifa Haftar. The UN agencies could not immediately confirm it was the same group of migrants reported by Alarm Phone.
The vessel that intercepted the 485 migrants, the Tareq Bin Zeyad, is named after a militia led by Haftar’s son. In a report last year, Amnesty International accused the Tareq Bin Zeyad militia of subjecting “thousands of Libyans and migrants to brutal and relentless abuses since 2016.”
In their statement Monday, the NGOs said the Tareq Bin Zeyad had been spotted navigating in “peculiar patterns” close to the last known location of the boat in distress on May 24, suggesting the militia was looking for it.
Separately, eastern Libyan forces said over the weekend they had intercepted a large vessel carrying over 800 migrants, including entire families and children. The migrants were brought back to Libyan shores in Benghazi on May 26, three days after their vessel broke down in the Mediterranean.
In a video posted by the same east-based forces on May 27 showing the disembarkation of migrants intercepted at sea, one migrant interviewed says that the vessel broke down off Maltese shores, and that the Libyan navy rushed to rescue them. The AP could not independently confirm if this was the same vessel that had reached out to the NGOs near Malta.
Both the IOM and the UNHCR have repeatedly condemned the return of migrants and refugees to Libya, saying the lawless nation should not be considered a safe place for disembarkation as required by international maritime law.
Migrants returned to Libya are subject to arbitrary detention, extortion, torture and enforced disappearances by militias and human traffickers, in what a UN panel of experts said may amount to crimes against humanity.
Human rights organizations have long accused Malta of a policy of “non-assistance” and of colluding with Libyan forces, who are trained and funded by the European Union, to take back the migrants.
Alarm Phone said it was contacted by relatives of some of the intercepted migrants on May 26 to denounce their detention in Benghazi.
“The people fled wars and prisons in Syria, and now, unfortunately, they have been returned to Libya,” the statement read, quoting one relative.

Turkiye’s Erdogan retains power, now faces challenges over the economy and earthquake recovery

Updated 30 May 2023

Turkiye’s Erdogan retains power, now faces challenges over the economy and earthquake recovery

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a mandate to rule until 2028
  • Erdogan secured more than 52 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential runoff

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a mandate to rule until 2028, securing five more years as leader of a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia that plays a key role in NATO. He must now confront skyrocketing inflation that has fueled a cost-of-living crisis and rebuild in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
Erdogan secured more than 52 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential runoff, two weeks after he fell short of scoring an outright victory in the first round. His opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, had sought to reverse Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian leanings, promising to return to democratic norms, adopt more conventional economic policies and improve ties with the West. But in the end, voters chose the man they see as a strong, proven leader.
Erdogan thanked the nation for entrusting him with the presidency again in two speeches he delivered in Istanbul and Ankara.
“The only winner today is Turkiye,” Erdogan said outside the presidential palace in Ankara, promising to work hard for Turkiye’s second century, which he called the “Turkish century.” The country marks its centennial this year.
Kilicdaroglu said the election was “the most unjust ever,” with all state resources mobilized for Erdogan.
“We will continue to be at the forefront of this struggle until real democracy comes to our country,” he said in Ankara.
Supporters of Erdogan, a divisive populist and masterful orator, took to the streets to celebrate, waving Turkish or ruling party flags, honking car horns and chanting his name. Celebratory gunfire was heard in several Istanbul neighborhoods.
Leaders across the world sent their congratulations, highlighting Turkiye’s, and Erdogan’s, enlarged role in global politics. His next term is certain to include more delicate maneuvering with fellow NATO members over the future of the alliance and the war in Ukraine.
Western politicians said they are ready to continue working with Erdogan despite years of sometimes tense relations. Most imminently, Turkiye holds the cards for Sweden’s hopes to join NATO. The bid aims to strengthen the military alliance against Russia. Turkiye is also central to the continuity of a deal to allow Ukrainian grain shipments and avert a global food crisis.
In his victory remarks, Erdogan said rebuilding the quake-struck cities would be his priority. He also said a million Syrian refugees would go back to Turkish-controlled “safe zones” in Syria as part of a resettlement project being run with Qatar.
Erdogan has retained the backing of conservative voters who remain devoted to him for lifting Islam’s profile in Turkiye, which was founded on secular principles, and raising the country’s influence in international politics.
Erdogan’s rival was a soft-mannered former civil servant who has led the pro-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, since 2010. The opposition took months to unite behind Kilicdaroglu. He and his party have not won any elections in which Erdogan ran.
In a frantic outreach effort to nationalist voters in the runoff, Kilicdaroglu had vowed to send back refugees and ruled out peace negotiations with Kurdish militants if he was elected.
Erdogan and pro-government media portrayed Kilicdaroglu, who received the backing of the country’s pro-Kurdish party, as colluding with “terrorists” and supporting what they described as “deviant” LGBTQ rights.
In his victory speech, Erdogan repeated those themes, saying LGBTQ people cannot “infiltrate” his ruling party or its nationalist allies.
Erdogan transformed the presidency from a largely ceremonial role to a powerful office through a narrowly won 2017 referendum that scrapped Turkiye’s parliamentary system of governance. He was the first directly elected president in 2014 and won the 2018 election that ushered in the executive presidency.
Erdogan is now serving his second term as president under the executive presidency. He could run again for another term if parliament — where his ruling party and allies hold a majority — calls early elections. The number of terms was a point of contention ahead of the elections when critics argued Erdogan would be ineligible to run again since he had also held the office before the system change but he pointed to the constitutional amendments that brought in the executive presidency as justification.
The first half of Erdogan’s tenure included reforms allowing the country to begin talks to join the European Union, as well as economic growth that lifted many out of poverty.
But he later moved to suppress freedoms and the media and concentrated more power in his own hands, especially after a failed coup attempt that Turkiye says was orchestrated by the US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. The cleric denies involvement.

Egypt’s El-Sisi, Turkiye’s Erdogan agree on reinstating ambassadors

Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 May 2023

Egypt’s El-Sisi, Turkiye’s Erdogan agree on reinstating ambassadors

CAIRO: Egypt President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed on “the immediate start of upgrading diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors,” Egypt’s presidency said in a statement on Monday.
El-Sisi spoke with Erdogan in a phone call to congratulate him on his presidential win.
Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry visited Turkiye in April and met his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, the two parties agreed then on specific time frame to raise the level of diplomatic relations and to prepare for a summit between the two presidents.
The presidents may meet in person again after Turkiye’s May 14 election, Cavusoglu said in April.


Iranian female journalist goes on closed-door trial on charges linked to Amini protests

Updated 29 May 2023

Iranian female journalist goes on closed-door trial on charges linked to Amini protests

  • Death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of morality police last year unleashed months of mass protests across Iran
  • Elaheh Mohammadi, who covered Amini's funeral, accused of "colluding with hostile powers," charge carries death penalty

DUBAI: An Iranian journalist went of trial behind closed doors on Monday on charges linked to her coverage of the funeral of a Kurdish-Iranian woman whose death in custody last year triggered months of unrest, her lawyer told ILNA news agency.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code unleashed a wave of mass protests across Iran for months, marking the biggest challenge to Iran's clerical leaders in decades.

Elaheh Mohammadi covered Amini's funeral in her Kurdish hometown Saqez, where the protests began. The Islamic Republic accused its foreign foes of igniting the protests to destabilise the country.

"The trial of Elaheh Mohammadi went well. The date of the next session will be announced by the court," her lawyer, Shahabeddin Mirlohi, told ILNA. He was not immediately available for comment.

Mohammadi, a reporter for the pro-reform Hammihan newspaper who is on trial in Tehran, and another journalist, Niloofar Hamedi, of the Sharq newspaper, have been accused of "colluding with hostile powers" for their coverage of Amini's death.

The charge potentially carries the death penalty under Islamic law.

A joint statement released by Iran’s intelligence ministry in October accused Mohammadi and Hamedi of being CIA foreign agents.

Hamedi took a photo of Amini's parents hugging each other in a Tehran hospital where their daughter was lying in a coma.

The image, which Hamedi posted on Twitter, was the first signal to the world that all was not well with Amini, who had been detained three days earlier by Iran's morality police.

The two journalists, who have been held in Iran's notorious Evin prison since last September, will be tried separately. Hamedi's trial will begin on Tuesday, according to the judiciary.

The Islamic Republic has ignored repeated calls by rights groups for a public trial for the two journalists.