Jerusalem churches raise concern over UK embassy talks

British Prime Minister Liz Truss and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hold a bilateral meeting as they attend the 77th UN General Assembly, in New York, US, Sept. 21, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 10 October 2022

Jerusalem churches raise concern over UK embassy talks

  • British PM Liz Truss has told her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid ‘about her review of the current location of the British embassy in Israel’
  • UK PM’s comment raises the prospect of London following Washington’s lead and relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem church leaders on Monday expressed their “grave concern” about Britain potentially moving their embassy in Israel to the contested and sacred city.
British Prime Minister Liz Truss last month told her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid “about her review of the current location of the British embassy in Israel,” according to her office.
The announcement raised the prospect of London following in Washington’s steps under former president Donald Trump, who in 2018 relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The move broke with decades of international consensus, as governments have refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of either an Israeli or Palestinian state before a lasting peace accord is reached.
On Monday, Jerusalem church heads warned moving the British embassy “would severely undermine this key principle... and the political negotiations that it seeks to advance.”
The Council of the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem represents all denominations in the city, which is home to the holiest site in Christianity.
The Old City, in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, also hosts the most sacred site in Judaism and the third-holiest site in Islam.
“The religious Status Quo in Jerusalem is essential for preserving the harmony of our Holy City and good relations between religious communities around the globe,” said the church heads.
Britain’s review, they added, implied that there was no need for peace talks, and that “the continuing military occupation of those territories and the unilateral annexation of east Jerusalem are both acceptable.”
Israel has occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank — the site of numerous biblical tales including the birth of Jesus — since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Noting that Christians have lived in the territory “under many different empires and governments” for some 2,000 years, they pressed the British government to “redouble their diplomatic efforts” toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
Their intervention from Jerusalem follows similar statements by church leaders in Britain.
A spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the senior bishop of the Anglican Church, last week told the UK website Jewish News he was “concerned about the potential impact of moving the British embassy” to Jerusalem.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the country’s most senior Catholic cleric, said on Thursday that relocating the embassy would “be seriously damaging to any possibility of lasting peace in the region.”


Lebanon rocked by deadly quake in Turkiye, Syria

Updated 8 sec ago

Lebanon rocked by deadly quake in Turkiye, Syria

  • Residents took to the streets and sheltered in cars as several aftershocks from the quake were felt during the day

BEIRUT: Parts of Lebanon on Monday were rocked by the deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit southern Turkiye and northern Syria, killing and injuring thousands of people.

Residents took to the streets and sheltered in cars as several aftershocks from the quake were felt during the day.

The National Council for Scientific Research’s National Center for Geophysics recorded a 4.8 magnitude tremor at 3:18 a.m. local time, which lasted for 40 seconds, followed by others.

Many buildings in Beirut, coastal cities, and all the way to the Bekaa Valley shook, but the Lebanese Red Cross reported no casualties apart from a few citizens who had suffered heart attacks.

The Lebanese Ministry of Education announced that all educational institutions should remain closed until Wednesday for the safety of students and staff, while traffic police urged citizens not to park vehicles near trees, billboards, or objects at risk of falling, and to keep away from beaches.

A team from the Civil Defense, Red Cross, and Beirut Fire Brigade was traveling to Turkiye to assist rescue workers.

Marilyne Brax, director of the National Center for Geophysics, said there was little chance of a tsunami.

“We were unable to scientifically monitor the movement of waves in Lebanon due to the loss of monitoring instruments in the sea, but in Cyprus and Turkiye, wave height movements recorded 20 centimeters.”

One resident of Ashrafieh, in Beirut, said: “I woke up to the bed shaking and objects falling on the floor. It was completely dark, so I used the flashlight on my phone to find my way out of my apartment.

“I could hear my neighbors crying as they came down the stairs. Everyone looked terrified. It was a horrific night. An earthquake is the last thing the Lebanese need right now.”

In Tripoli, northern Lebanon, young men fired shots into the air to urge people to leave buildings and private generators were turned on to provide light for frightened people.

Fatima, a resident of the southern suburbs of Beirut, said: “I already suffer from a phobia of earthquakes, and when I realized what was happening and heard walls cracking, I hurried out of the house into the street in the dark.

“My neighbors and their children and sick elderly were already in the streets praying.”

A nurse at Makassed Islamic Hospital in Beirut said the building had been designed to resist earthquakes.

“As soon as everyone calmed down, there was a strong aftershock, but we were able to continue our work about half-an-hour later.”

In the coastal city of Tyre, the earthquake caused cracks in a road, and a house in the Rashaya Al-Wadi area of southeastern Lebanon was reported to have collapsed.

But while encouraging citizens to evacuate any older buildings showing signs of collapse, Lebanon’s caretaker interior minister, Bassam Mawlawi, said there had been limited damage in the country.

Many buildings in Lebanon do not meet required safety specifications as they were constructed during the civil war.

Seismic activity is common in Lebanon. One of the worst quakes to hit the country was on March 16, 1956, in the Chouf, Jezzine, Sidon, and Bekaa areas. It claimed the lives of around 140 people and injured more than 600, in addition to destroying buildings, roads, and infrastructure.

Quake damages ancient citadel in Syria’s Aleppo

Updated 3 min 4 sec ago

Quake damages ancient citadel in Syria’s Aleppo

  • “Parts of the Ottoman mill inside the citadel” of Aleppo have collapsed, Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums said

DAMASCUS: Several of Syria’s archaeological sites including a famed citadel in the northern city of Aleppo were damaged in a deadly pre-dawn earthquake Monday, the country’s antiquities authority said.
“Parts of the Ottoman mill inside the citadel” of Aleppo have collapsed, while “sections of the northeastern defensive walls have cracked and fallen,” Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums said in a statement.
Parts of the dome of the minaret of the Ayyubid mosque inside the citadel fell off, while the entrance to the fort has been damaged, “including the entrance to the Mamluk tower,” it added, publishing photos of the site on its Facebook page.
More than 1,000 people were killed across Syria as buildings collapsed after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck neighboring Turkiye, state media and rescuers said.
At least 156 people died in Aleppo province alone and 507 were injured when 46 buildings collapsed, the official news agency SANA had said, quoting an official.
The city of Aleppo is renowned for its ancient citadel, its UNESCO-listed historic center and its centuries-old covered markets.
Aleppo was Syria’s pre-war commercial hub and considered one of the world’s longest continuously inhabited cities, boasting markets, mosques, caravanserais, and public baths, but a brutal siege imposed on rebels left it disfigured.
Even before the earthquake, buildings in Aleppo often collapsed due to poor infrastructure after more than a decade of war and little oversight to ensure the safety of new construction projects.
In Hama province, archaeological surveys found that “some buildings inside the ancient Al-Marqab Castle” in the city of Baniyas had been damaged, while parts of the fortifications and a tower had fallen, the antiquities body said.
In Tartus province, part of a rocky cliff fell in the vicinity of the Qadmus castle, and residential buildings on the site collapsed, it added.
Expert teams were reportedly assessing the damage, and whether the earthquake had affected the ancient city of Palmyra.
The pre-dawn quake hit near Gaziantep in southeastern Turkiye at a depth of about 18 kilometers (11 miles), the US Geological Survey said.
Tremors were also felt in Lebanon and Cyprus, AFP correspondents said.

Israel says approved aid to quake-hit Syria, Damascus denies request

Syrian rescue teams search for victims and survivors in the city of Hama on February 6, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Israel says approved aid to quake-hit Syria, Damascus denies request

  • Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source for humanitarian aid to Syria, and I approved it”: Netanyahu
  • Syrian official told reporters Damascus “ridiculed and denied the allegations” it had requested aid from Israel

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had given the go-ahead to send aid to earthquake-hit Syria, but a Damascus official swiftly denied they had requested help in the first place.
Israel “received a request from a diplomatic source for humanitarian aid to Syria, and I approved it,” Netanyahu told lawmakers from his hawkish Likud party, adding the aid would be sent soon.
But a Syrian official told reporters Damascus “ridiculed and denied the allegations” that it had requested aid from Israel.
“How can Syria ask for help from an entity that has killed... Syrians for decades?” said the official.
Syria’s government does not recognize Israel and the two countries have fought several wars since Israel’s creation in 1948.
Netanyahu’s office declined to provide further details on the source of the request to help Syria, where hundreds of people were killed by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake Monday in neighboring Turkiye.
The Israeli leader has also confirmed his government would send humanitarian assistance to Turkiye following the disaster.
Israel’s foreign ministry said a team of search and rescue specialists would leave for Turkiye on Monday, and that another delegation equipped with humanitarian supplies would follow on Tuesday.

‘Buildings folded like paper towels’: Turkish survivors recount harrowing quake experiences 

Updated 06 February 2023

‘Buildings folded like paper towels’: Turkish survivors recount harrowing quake experiences 

  • “It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced,” Iskenderun resident tells Arab News
  • Death toll exceeds 1,500 as Turkiye activates level 4 alert state

ANKARA:Turkish survivors of one of the Middle East’s most devastating earthquakes in decades have relayed their harrowing experiences of surviving the disaster, which left buildings “folding like paper towels.”
Berjin and her cousin Rojhat, who were holidaying in Turkiye’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, were about to return to their hometown, Van, in the country’s east, before the quake struck.
But early on Monday, the shockwave destroyed the building where Rojhat, a local football player, was sleeping. After emergency services arrived to rescue people from the rubble, Berjin waited for hours in front of the collapsed building in a distraught state.
After Rojhat was rescued, the two returned to Van, where an aftershock struck later in the day. “Please stop, it is such a strong quake, please stop,” Berjin cried in a video capturing lights and furniture shaking in her home.
Berjin, interviewed by Arab News, was was left waiting outside her destroyed home in minus 15 degrees Celsius temperatures after the second quake. The building was one of many in the city that had yet to be renovated following a 2011 earthquake, which killed hundreds of people.

Rescue workers search for survivors under the rubble following an earthquake in Diyarbakir, Turkey February 6, 2023. (Reuters)

Turkiye began the new week with a devastating and deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake — one of the most powerful to hit the region in decades — killing more than 1,500 people in the country and in neighhboring Syria. About 3,000 buildings were destroyed.
The quake struck just after 4 a.m. Monday morning local time, 23 km east of Nurdagi, Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 km, according to data from the US Geological Survey.
The earthquake also devastated parts of Syria, claiming hundreds of lives in the country. Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were also affected.
There was another 7.5-magnitude earthquake at noon on Monday, with the epicenter recorded near Turkiye’s southeastern Kahramanmaras province.
A hospital in southeastern Sanliurfa province was completely destroyed by the earthquake, with many patients left trapped under rubble.
Turkiye stopped oil flow to the southern Ceyhan export terminal as a precaution.

People search through rubble following an earthquake in Adana, Turkey February 6, 2023. (Reuters)

Ozcan Karakoc, a teacher at a state-run school in Diyarbakir, immediately ran to his school building once he felt the quake.
He was involved in assisting survivors next to the school, providing blankets and food to those rescued from nearby buildings.
The school is in Baglar district, one of the most-affected areas in Diyarbakir and also one of the poorest.
“I live in Seyrantepe district of Diyarbakir where buildings were relatively new and we didn’t have so much damage inside the houses. But the building next to our school was about an eight-story old building where more than 200 people were living. It folded like a paper tower in seconds,” Karakoc told Arab News.
He now anxiously awaits news from his students, with many living in run-down housing in Baglar.
After the quakes, the streets of Diyarbakir filled with people, including children, dressed in pajamas in the freezing weather.

Rescuers work at the site of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Adana, Turkey February 6, 2023. (Reuters)

Berrak Demirel, another resident in Diyarbakir, was sleeping when the earthquake struck the city.
She ran out of her home with her husband and children when the second quake ended.
“We stayed long hours outside, but had to come back home due to the freezing weather conditions in the city,” she told Arab News.
Turkish armed forces set up an air aid corridor in the earthquake zone.
Misel Uyar, a resident of Iskenderun, a town in southern Hatay provice, said that a hospital in the area was destroyed in the quake, with health workers and patients inside.
Several new buildings collapsed despite having supposedly been built to modern standards, he added.
Iskenderun port was also damaged during the quake.
“It was the strongest earthquake I’ve ever experienced,” Uyar told Arab News, adding that many of the town’s older buildings were destroyed in the quake.
“Another old building, just some meters away from my house, also collapsed, with several people dying inside.
“All our churches in the region were completely destroyed. The policeman guarding the Orthodox Church died as well because of a stone hitting his body. People took shelter in cars due to the fear of the aftershocks,” said Uyar.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party deputy Ali Oztunc, from Kahramanmaras province, was present in the quake zone during an interview with Arab News.
“All our local municipalities and AFAD, the disaster agency, are currently collaborating to rescue people and provide them with urgent needs,” he said.
“The 500-year-old unbreakable East Anatolian Fault passes beneath this city. We had urged the authorities several times in the past to take necessary precautions regarding the buildings.”
The need to build quake-resilient cities has been a top agenda in Turkiye for years, with prominent scientists warning authorities to take urgent measures.
About 18,000 people in Turkiye were killed in 1999 in a 7.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Marmara region.
Another earthquake that hit the country in 1939 killed about 33,000 people.
Renate Cavdar, a music teacher in southeastern Gaziantep province, was surprised at the severity of the quake.
“It was felt so strongly. Several roads are blocked because they were damaged by the earthquake, and bulldozers have to clear the debris to open the passage,” she told Arab News.
“In Islahiye district, a building where an old relative was living collapsed. We are now trying to reach the area to get information from her,” Cavdar said.
According to the latest reports, several local politicians were killed in the region, which is also home to millions of Syrian refugees.
In the southeastern province of Adiyaman, a municipality building collapsed.
The campuses of some local universities were opened to host survivors.
Niyazi Buluter, a civil society activist for the Roma community in Gaziantep, lost six relatives in the quake, including children.
“I have been informed that some family died as the old building they were residing collapsed in seconds during the quake. Low-income people were residing in this district,” said Buluter.
“Several buildings also collapsed in our area. There were some cracks in our one-story house. But we couldn’t stand during the quake. It was so strong. I have a disabled child; I took him in my arms and ran out of the house quickly. May God protect poor people.”
Volkan Demirel, technical director of Hatayspor football team, appealed for humanitarian assistance in an emotional video posted on social media.
Several countries expressed solidarity with Turkiye after Monday’s earthquake.
“I have been in touch with Turkish officials to relay that we stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Twitter.
“We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with Turkiye,” he added.
Having declared a level four alert state, Turkiye also requested international help through the Emergency Response Coordination Center, the EU’s civil protection program. In response, 45 countries offered to help in search and rescue efforts.
“We express our solidarity and sympathy to our brothers in Syria and Turkiye following the earthquake,” said Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry.

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

Updated 06 February 2023

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

  • Britain was sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists to Turkiye, a minister said
  • The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance

PARIS: Countries around the world mobilized rapidly to send aid and rescue workers on Monday after a massive earthquake killed more than 2,300 people in Turkiye and Syria.
The pledges of assistance came from countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, as well as North America.
Here are some of the chief pledges of support.

The European Union has mobilized 10 search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.
The EU’s Copernicus satellite system has been activated to provide emergency mapping services, it said adding the bloc was ready to support those affected in Syria too.

The UN General Assembly observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims.
“Our teams are on the ground assessing the needs and providing assistance. We count on the international community to help the thousands of families hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid in areas where access is a challenge,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Two of India’s National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area, the foreign ministry said. Doctors and paramedics with medicines were also being readied.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the deaths in Turkiye — with whom India has frosty relations — and Syria.

Germany — home to about three million people of Turkish origin — will “mobilize all the assistance we can activate,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said.
Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief “can set up camps to provide shelter as well as water treatment units,” she said. Generators, tents and blankets are also being readied.

President Vladimir Putin promised to send Russian teams to both countries in telephone calls with Syria’s Bashar Assad and Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“In the nearest hours, rescuers from the Russian emergency ministry will take off for Syria,” the Kremlin said. The defense ministry said 300 military personnel deployed in Syria were helping with the clear-up effort.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his war-torn country was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Turkiye’s historic rival Greece, whose relations with Ankara have suffered from a spate of border and cultural disputes, pledged to make “every force available” to aid its neighbor.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had approved the sending of aid to Syria — whose government does not recognize Israel — after receiving a request through diplomatic channels.
The government will also send humanitarian assistance to Turkiye, he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkiye, saying he was in touch with Turkiye’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilizing support now.”

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, whose bid to join NATO is meeting Turkish resistance, sent his “deepest condolences” to Erdogan. “We stand ready to offer our support,” Kristersson tweeted.

Polish firefighters flew from Warsaw to the Turkish city of Gaziantep. “Our team will be working non-stop, 24 hours a day, in two locations,” said Andrzej Bartkowiak, chief commandant of the state fire service.

Qatar said it would send 120 rescue workers to Turkiye, alongside “a field hospital, relief aid, tents and winter supplies.”
Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan offered “assistance” in telephone calls with his Syrian and Turkish counterparts, Emirates News Agency reported.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones. Canada stands ready to provide assistance.”

President Emmanuel Macron said France stood ready to provide emergency aid to Turkiye and Syria. “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he tweeted.

Foreign minister James Cleverly said the UK was sending a team of 76 search and rescue specialists, equipment and rescue dogs. Britain was also sending an emergency medical team to assess the situation on the ground.

The government in Japan — which frequently suffers earthquakes — is dispatching the Japan Disaster Relief Rescue Team to Turkiye.

Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid to these two friendly nations,” President Ebrahim Raisi said, offering condolences on the “heartbreaking incident.”