Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

Jordanian emergency services and forensic experts inspect the site of a toxic gas explosion in the Red Sea port of Aqaba. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 July 2022

Jordan government blames lack of safety measures for deadly gas leak in Aqaba port

  • The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported

AMMAN: The Jordanian government on Sunday blamed a lack of safety measures for the deadly gas leak in Aqaba last week.


A total of 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported.

Announcing the results of the investigation into the gas leak tragedy, Jordanian Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya said that the reason behind the accident was the incompatibility of the metal wire that carried the gas tank with its weight.

During a press conference on Sunday, Al-Faraya said that the weight of the tank was “three times more than the cable load capacity.”

Al-Faraya also said that the required safety procedures in dealing with such hazardous material were not in place while loading the gas tank on the truck.

The minister said that the safety attendant was not present on the ship to check the loading and unloading protocols and procedures.

Al-Faraya said that the report into the Aqaba gas leak would be referred to the prosecutor-general for further investigation.

Faisal Shboul, minister of state for media affairs, said that the state institutions’ response to the incident was “professional and immediate,” which resulted in the gas leak being contained and the situation being brought under control.

He also commended the “high efficiency” of the health care system in Aqaba, saying that only eight injured in the accident were currently receiving treatment.

Prime Minister Bishr Al-Khasawneh said that, as per the recommendations of the investigation team, the Cabinet had approved the termination of the services of the directors of the Jordan Maritime Commission and the Aqaba Company for Port Operation and Management and other officials.

Chairing a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Khasawneh also blamed the absence of the required safety measures for the gas leak.

In a statement to Arab News, the premier said that the “government’s professional and rapid response to the incident has greatly helped mitigate the disaster and its consequences on the port city and its residents.”

He said that the government had implemented the king’s directives to embark on a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has called for those responsible for the deadly gas leak to be held accountable.

Chairing a meeting last Tuesday at the National Center for Security and Crisis Management, the king “stressed the need to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law.”

Following the gas leak tragedy, employees at the port of Aqaba have been staging a sit-in, demanding better safety measures at their work sites and better living conditions.

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Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

Updated 11 sec ago

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

DUBAI: Iran has released Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah on furlough for five days, her lawyer told the Emtedad website on Tuesday, a day after Tehran and Washington wound up indirect talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.
“We hope it (the furlough) will be extended,” Emtedad quoted Hojjat Kermani as saying.
Adelkhah, who is a resident of France and was arrested in 2019 while on a visit to Iran, was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. She was moved to house arrest later, but in January was returned to jail.
Adelkab has denied the charges. France has called them “politically motivated” and repeatedly called for the release of Adelkhah, a researcher affiliated with Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po University.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality, saying the case is an Iranian domestic legal matter.
In March 2020, Iran released Adelkhah’s partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was detained along with her, after France freed Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad, detained over alleged violations of US sanctions against Tehran.

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 36 min 20 sec ago

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

  • Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory

BEIRUT: A Turkish drone strike Tuesday killed at least four people in a northeast Syrian city held by Kurdish forces, the latest in a flurry of attacks, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack struck near a hospital in Qamishli, the defacto capital of a semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that runs large parts of the country’s northeast.
The four victims, all affiliated with the administration, were killed while they dug trenches near Turkey’s border in anticipation of a new offensive that Ankara has threatened to launch since May, the monitor said.
Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. Most have targeted Kurdish militants that Ankara links to a group waging a decades-long insurgency against it.
Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory.
A Turkish drone strike on Qamishli at the weekend killed four people, including two siblings, said the Observatory.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have counted at least 13 of their members killed in several Turkish attacks since July 19.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.


Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon

Updated 09 August 2022

Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon

  • Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: ‘Any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered’
  • Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz hinted at the possible targeting of Islamic Jihad officials abroad

The head of Lebanon’s powerful armed movement Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned on Tuesday against any Israeli attempts to expand their targeting of Palestinian militants to Lebanon.
“Any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered,” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking Ashura, a melancholic commemoration for Shiite Muslims of the killing the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.
The comments came after a flare-up in violence between Israel and the Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza strip, prompted by Israel’s arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader earlier this month.
On Saturday, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz hinted at the possible targeting of Islamic Jihad officials abroad, who he said could be seen in “restaurants and hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon.”
“They too will have to pay the price,” Gantz said.
On Monday, a day after a truce brokered by Egypt ended the Gaza violence, he said Israel could carry out “pre-emptive strikes” abroad.
“In the future too, if necessary, we will deliver a pre-emptive strike in order to defend Israel’s citizens, sovereignty and infrastructure and this is true for all fronts, from Teheran to Khan Younis,” he said.
Iran-backed Hezbollah is vehemently opposed to Israel and tensions between the two have been escalating in recent months over a disputed maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.


Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

Updated 09 August 2022

Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

  • The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside

BAGHDAD: Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon chanted, paraded and beat their chests on Tuesday as they marked Ashoura, one of the most important dates on the religious calendar, commemorating the 7th century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.
The symbols of Shiite piety and penitence blanketed major cities in Iraq, where Hussein was believed killed at the battle of Karbala, south of Baghdad, in 680 A.D.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people converge on Karbala, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, to observe the solemn holy day.
Shiites see Hussein and his descendants as the rightful heirs to the prophet. His killing at the hands of a rival Muslim faction embodies the rift between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam and continues to shape the identity of the minority branch of Islam today.
The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside.
Security forces were on high alert for any violence, as extremist groups that consider the Shiites heretics have seized on the occasion to mount attacks in years past.
In Iraq, the powerful cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has used the emotional religious occasion to stir up support for his movement, deepening the country’s inter-Shiite divisions. Unable to form a government, Iraq descended further into political chaos last week when thousands of Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed and occupied the parliament building. Their sit-in continues outside the assembly, making it impossible for lawmakers to convene and raising the specter of civil strife.
In the Shiite-dominated Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, Al-Sadr’s portrait hangs from nearly every door. Processions of men and boys expressed extreme fervor in the Ashoura rituals of self-flagellation on Tuesday. They beat their heads and chests in unison and whipped themselves with chains to the point of bleeding.
“We inherited this from our fathers and grandfathers,” said participant Hamza Abdul-Jalil. “God willing, we will continue on this path.”
In Lebanon, processions shut down Shiite areas across the country and Beirut’s biggest suburb.

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Palestinians say Israel troops kill 3 in West Bank raid

Updated 09 August 2022

Palestinians say Israel troops kill 3 in West Bank raid

  • Last week, Israel arrested Bassam Al-Saadi, a senior militant in the West Bank city of Jenin

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops killed three Palestinians and injured dozens more in a shootout Tuesday during an arrest operation in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The shootout came a day after a cease-fire ended three days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli police said forces encircled the home of Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, who they say was wanted for a string of shootings in the West Bank earlier this year. It confirmed that Al-Nabulsi and another Palestinian militant were killed in a shootout at the scene, and that troops found arms and explosives in his home.
The Israeli military said that troops came under attack from Palestinians throwing rocks and explosives, and that soldiers responded with live fire. It confirmed Palestinians were shot, but did not elaborate on their condition.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that three people were killed — Al-Nabulsi, Islam Sabouh and Hussein Jamal Taha — and at least 40 others were wounded.
Israel has conducted near nightly arrest raids in the West Bank in recent months as part of a crackdown on Palestinian militant groups in the aftermath of a string of deadly attacks targeting Israelis earlier this year that left 19 people dead. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops during these arrest raids.
Last week, Israel arrested Bassam Al-Saadi, a senior militant in the West Bank city of Jenin, during one of the nightly operations. The group said it was going “on alert,” and on Friday Israel said it had launched a series of strikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip in response to an “imminent threat” by the militant group.
During the three days of Gaza fighting, at least 46 Palestinians were killed, including 16 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Twelve of those killed were militants, one was from a smaller armed group, and two were Hamas-affiliated policemen who were not taking part in the fighting, according to the armed factions.
Israel estimated that a total of 47 Palestinians were killed, including 14 killed by misfired rockets. It said 20 militants and seven civilians died in Israeli airstrikes and that it was still investigating six deaths.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and the Palestinians seek it as the heartland of their future state. Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people, and has constructed dozens of settlements, now home to over 400,000 Israelis.
The Palestinians and much of the international community consider Israel’s West Bank settlements a violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict.