Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria

1 / 5
A person is rescued from the rubble in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Adiyaman's Yeni Mahalle neighborhood in Turkiye on Feb. 8, 2023. (IHH/Handout via REUTERS)
2 / 5
Buildings destroyed by the February 6 Turkiye-Syria earthquake are seen in Antakya, southern Turkiye, on Feb. 8. (AP Photo)
3 / 5
A man reacts after rescue teams found his father dead under a collapsed building, in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, on Feb. 8, 2023. (AP Photo)
4 / 5
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with people in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in Kahramanmaras, Turkiye, on February 8, 2023. (AFP)
5 / 5
Earthquake victims receive treatment in the state hospital of Adiyaman, Turkiye, on Feb. 8, 2023. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 09 February 2023

Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raises millions with earthquake appeal for Turkiye and Syria

  • A magnitude 7.8 quake struck in the early hours of Monday, sparking an international humanitarian response 
  • King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed KSrelief to establish aid delivery flights 

RIYADH/QAMISHLI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, also known as KSrelief, has launched a fundraising campaign through the “Sahem” platform to help those affected by the massive earthquake in Syria and Turkiye, the center announced on Wednesday.

Even before KSrelief announced its official fundraiser, Saudi donations to the aid effort had already exceeded SR13 million ($3.5 million), Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s supervisor general, told Arab News.

KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah (R) and Sheikh Saad Al-Shathri, a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, leading the launch of the Kingdom's aid campaign for victims of the Turkiye-Syria earthquake. (Twitter: @KSrelief)

As of Wednesday night, hundreds of thousands of donors had contributed approximately SR65.9 million.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck parts of southeastern Turkiye, northwestern Syria and neighboring areas in the early hours of Monday, followed by a magnitude 7.5 quake hours later. More than 11,000 people are known to have died and tens of thousands have been injured.

In the two days since the catastrophe, aid workers have struggled to reach remote parts of both countries. In many areas, rescuers have been digging through rubble with their bare hands in the fading hope of finding more survivors.

“Until now, not one gram of aid has arrived here,” Roj Mousa, a journalist from northern Syrian city of Afrin, told Arab News.

According to the International Rescue Committee, Turkiye’s Bab Al-Hawa, the only border crossing through which UN humanitarian aid is allowed into northern Syria, has been closed as a result of damage sustained in the earthquake. As the bulk of the aid entering Syria must pass through Damascus, which strictly controls its distribution to governorates, the closure of Bab Al-Hawa has made it even harder to deliver adequate and timely aid to the hardest-hit areas.

Earthquake victims are rushed to the emergency ward of the Bab al-Hawa hospital in Syria's Idlib province on the border with Turkey early on Feb. 6, 2023. (AFP)

“We are trying to buy some food, water, blankets, tents and other aid and send it to (the people in Afrin),” said Mousa. “They are all sleeping outside, not inside buildings. The main problem now is that after a week, when the rubble is cleared, they must rebuild. In Jinderis, the second-largest city in the Afrin region, 90 percent of people are sleeping in the bush.”

Mousa estimates that between 800 and 900 people lost their lives in Jinderis alone. To the south, in rebel-held Idlib, the situation is not much better.

“There are many people still trapped under buildings. We are in need of all types of aid,” Mohammed Yazji, a journalist from Idlib, told Arab News.

According to Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, more than 1,500 people were killed and at least 4,200 injured in Idlib, and the toll is expected to rise.

Syrian rescuers (White Helmets) search for casualties in the rubble of a building destroyed by an earthquake in Syria's Idlib province on the border with Turkey early on February 6, 2023. (AFP)

“We have been displaced to Iwaa Camp,” said Yazji. “Only local NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) have provided aid so far. No international aid organizations have helped us.

“We wish international rescue teams would come because the situation here is very difficult and we are working properly but the load is more than we can handle.”

The World Health Organization said rescuers face a race against time not only to save lives but to ensure the injured survive in dire circumstances.

Robert Holden, the WHO’s earthquake-response incident manager, said the immediate focus was on saving lives but it is also “imperative to make sure that those who survived the initial disaster … continue to survive.”

Speaking during a press conference in Geneva, he said: “We’ve got a lot of people who have survived now out in the open, in worsening and horrific conditions,” adding that access to clean water, fuel, electricity and communications has been disrupted.

People warm up with fire in front of destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey, on Feb. 8, 2023. (AP)

“We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don’t move with the same pace and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue,” he warned. “This is no easy task … The scale of the operation is massive.”

Several countries have pledged aid to Turkiye and Syria. Croatia, Poland, Switzerland, India, the UK and Greece have sent rescue teams, search dogs, and firefighters to Turkiye to aid the rescue efforts.

The US is sending assistance to Turkiye and working with humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to Syria. Even Lebanon, which is grappling with its own protracted economic crisis, has sent soldiers and first responders to Turkiye. Jordan is sending aid to both Turkiye and Syria, while New Zealand and China’s Red Cross are providing the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with humanitarian and financial assistance.

A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroyed buildings in Nurdagi town on the outskirts of Osmaniye city southern Turkey, on Feb. 7, 2023. (AP)

Saudi Arabia has also stepped up to fill aid gaps and deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance to both countries.

Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s general supervisor, told Arab News: “We launched the national donation campaign and we appeal to donors, male and female, businessmen and individuals, to contribute effectively to alleviating the suffering of those affected by the earthquake in Syria and Turkiye.

“I say to every donor, every riyal that is donated will have an impact on alleviating (the suffering of) an injured person, either a wounded or a broken person, or a person (in need of) rescue.



“We are counting on this aid and this support and donations to implement very important programs that will save the lives of hundreds or thousands of people and, God willing, it will return with goodness, blessing and reward for everyone who contributes and donates.”

Donations can be made through the Sahem platform or through the various channels offered on the KSrelief website. Donations through Sahem are exclusively accepted as monetary funds, and KSrelief deducts no administrative fees, so 100 percent of donations go to beneficiaries.

KSrelief has already started to secure food parcels to send to those in need. On Tuesday, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the organization to establish an aid corridor to deliver health, shelter, food and logistical supplies to Syria and Turkiye.

KSrelief has also teams of medics with vast experience serving refugees from Syria and Yemen over the past few years. (SPA file photo)

King Salman also ordered the deployment of rapid intervention teams and emergency medical aid, as well as a Saudi volunteer delegation.

“We cannot help but thank the teams that contributed to this noble work, especially the field teams, whether from the General Directorate of Civil Defense in the Ministry of Interior, or from the Saudi Red Crescent Authority, or the experienced cadres of KSrelief, or the volunteers who took the initiative to register with the center to provide urgent medical and health services,” Al-Rabeeah told Arab News.

Saad bin Nasser Al-Shathri, an advisor to the Royal Court and a member of the Council of Senior Scholars and the permanent committee of Ifta, praised the Sahem campaign for its efforts to help meet the massive humanitarian needs in Syria and Turkiye, and reiterated that previous Saudi fundraisers helped many peoples and countries in crisis.



Since it was founded in 2015, KSrelief has aided struggling communities and nations around the globe, including Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latest fundraising campaign is an extension of its earlier work in support of the Syrian people.

In December last year, KSrelief provided $6 million to Syrian refugees living in camps in Jordan, through the UN’s World Food Program, which helped meet the food needs of more than 50,000 Syrians.

“The Saudi humanitarian efforts are not associated with any political affairs or any political, religious or military agendas, as was made clear by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in the center’s opening speech,” said Al-Rabeeah.

“The center has continued to support the people of Syria in alleviating the suffering of Syrian communities, without ties to any specific agendas. Our concern is with the injured, regardless of any political ties.”

Saudi humanitarian aid has long transcended political barriers. In October last year, the Kingdom announced a $400 million humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, while calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict there, which has been raging since the Russian invasion a year ago.

A Saudia cargo plane unloads food and shelter aid at Sudan's Khartoum airport as part of a humanitarian air bridge from Saudi Arabia for flooding victims in the north African country in August 2022. (SPA file photo)

KSrelief has played a leading role in international aid initiatives during past disasters, most significantly for the people of Lebanon in the wake of the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion that killed more than 215 people, injured more than 6,500 and displaced about 300,000. The Kingdom sent two aircraft carrying 120 tons of medical and emergency supplies.

KSrelief also recently sent two flights to Sudan carrying food and shelter aid for those affected by last year’s floods. It also aided India’s COVID-19 response by sending an additional 60 tons of oxygen, adding to an initial 80-ton delivery to the South Asian nation.

In a telephone call on Wednesday with Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, Hussein Ibrahim Taha, the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, offered his condolences on behalf of the organization and its member states, and expressed his sympathy for the victims.

Donations for the Turkiye and Syria earthquake relief effort can be made through the Sahem platform using the following link:, or by direct transfer to the campaign’s bank account.


Israeli police arrest five for hostile gestures toward Christians

Updated 30 sec ago

Israeli police arrest five for hostile gestures toward Christians

  • Members of the area’s small Christian community have said they have faced growing harassment and intimidation from Jewish ultranationalists
JERUSALEM: Israeli police on Wednesday arrested five people suspected of spitting toward Christians or churches in the Old City of Jerusalem and formed a special investigative team to deal with growing complaints of hostile gestures against Christians.
“Unfortunately, we witness the continued disgraceful acts of hatred toward Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem, primarily through spitting by extremists,” said Jerusalem District Commander Doron Turgeman.
No details were provided on the identities of the people who were arrested.
Members of the area’s small Christian community have said they have faced growing harassment and intimidation from Jewish ultranationalists, particularly since Netanyahu’s hard-right government took office late last year.
Wednesday’s arrests came as the city prepared for its annual Jerusalem March, an event that usually draws huge crowds, including thousands of Christian pilgrims.
Israeli media published video footage in the Old City this week showing Orthodox Jews, including small children, apparently spitting on the ground as they passed a group of foreign Christian pilgrims.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the incident, promising to take “immediate and decisive action.”
“Israel is totally committed to safeguard the sacred right of worship and pilgrimage to the holy sites of all faiths,” he said in a message on the social messaging platform X.
The Old City’s patchwork of narrow alleys surround some of the holiest sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the local communities have long developed ways of living together despite regular spikes in tension, especially around religious and national holidays.
Turgeman said police would use security cameras, patrols and Internet monitoring to fight the phenomenon both in real time and in hindsight, as well as to possibly start imposing special “administrative fines.”

Rising poverty forces Syrian parents to choose between children’s schooling and survival

Updated 04 October 2023

Rising poverty forces Syrian parents to choose between children’s schooling and survival

  • Economic collapse has made textbooks, uniforms and stationery unaffordable for many impoverished households
  • “Lost generation” feared as conflict, earthquakes and spending cuts leave schools damaged and underfunded

LONDON: Syria’s dire economic situation has forced students from impoverished backgrounds to miss school this year, as families cut back on expenses and try to shore up household incomes by sending their children to work instead.

Schools in government-held areas of Syria reopened in September after the summer break, welcoming back an estimated 3.7 million children, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. However, many others did not show up.

Among those marked as absent were children who had no other choice but to become laborers to earn money and help their families make ends meet as Syrians grapple with a devastating and unprecedented economic crisis.

In an attempt to prevent children from being deprived of their right to education, and ensure they are not forced into exploitative child labor, civil society groups have established projects designed to help vulnerable students continue their studies.

For example, Mart Team, a charity in Damascus, has launched a campaign called “Aqlamouna Amalouna” — which translates as “Hope in our pens” — to support struggling primary school students.

In an attempt to prevent children from being deprived of their right to education, civil society groups have established projects designed to help vulnerable students continue their studies. (AFP)

“After conducting a study to investigate why many students in grades one to six were not attending school, we found that a major factor was the soaring costs of stationery and educational supplies,” Marwan Alrez, the general manager of Mart Team, told Arab News.

“Parents have told us schools demand hefty fees and charges, prompting many of them to remove their children from school and force them into the labor market in order to contribute to the household earnings.”

Donya Abo Alzahab, who has been teaching a second-grade class at a primary school in Damascus for a year, notices how desperate the situation has become for many of her young students, to say nothing of their teachers.

“I was thrilled to start my first job as a schoolteacher,” she told Arab News. “Little did I know it would prove to be a costly, significant challenge, given the lack of much-needed support and teaching aids.”

With some students lagging behind their peers by as much as three years in terms of learning, teachers such as Alzahab often find themselves compelled to spend a substantial portion of their own modest incomes on essential teaching aids, including textbooks, which are not cheap at a time when the value of the nation’s currency has fallen to record lows.

Syria’s dire economic situation has forced students from impoverished backgrounds to miss school this year. (AFP)

Alrez said the average cost of educational supplies for a single primary school student is at least 200,000 Syrian pounds (approximately $16); a backpack alone can cost 100,000 pounds. If schools fail to provide students with textbooks, these can cost parents an additional 50,000 pounds.

Such costs are increasingly out of the reach of many public-sector employees, whose minimum monthly salaries were only recently increased to 185,940 Syrian pounds. At the same time, the government slashed fuel subsidies, sparking rare protests in southern Syria.

Alzahab, who holds a degree in special educational needs, said transport costs alone can exceed 80,000 pounds per month, equivalent to almost half her salary. She also spends 30,000 pounds on teaching aids and 15,000 for a teacher’s planner that has to be replaced every month.

“The only reason why I won’t quit my job is the students, she said. “If I resign, they will be left for a long period without a replacement.”


• 3.7m Syrian students returned to school in government-held areas in September.

• Economic crisis has made schooling too expensive for many households.

• Some children have become laborers to help provide for their families.

Such a gap in their education would be devastating for her pupils’ learning outcomes, which in many cases are already behind schedule. Of the 30 students in her class, 20 are unable read or write.

A recent report by UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, titled “Every Day Counts,” revealed that in 2022, about 2.4 million children in Syria were not in school and an additional 1.6 million were at risk of dropping out.

According to a subsequent UNICEF report covering the period from January to March this year, the figures have not improved. Furthermore, the share of the national budget allocated by the Syrian government to education fell from 7.1 percent in 2021 to 3.6 percent in 2022.

UNICEF estimates that the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has damaged or destroyed 7,000 schools across the country. This situation was compounded by the devastating twin earthquakes that hit parts of northern Syria and southern Turkiye on Feb. 6 this year.

UNICEF estimates that the Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has damaged or destroyed 7,000 schools across the country. (AFP)

The UN agency warned of the danger of a generation of young children who have never gone to school and “will face difficulties in enrolling and adjusting in formal schooling as they grow older.”

Until the economic crisis in the country is brought under control, however, many households will continue to prioritize survival over schooling.

“Syria’s children are quite often faced with a dilemma: whether to support their families to survive or continue their education,” Hamzah Barhameyeh, the advocacy and communication manager at World Vision, an international child-focused charity, told Arab News.

“The Syrian conflict has decimated the education infrastructure and the earthquake has compounded the crisis, leaving schools in need of rehabilitation and school supplies, which in turn has made the choice between education and child labor a much easier decision.”

Alrez highlighted the importance of supporting schoolchildren because “this generation is Syria’s future.”

A UNICEF report says that in 2022, about 2.4 million children in Syria were not in school. (AFP)

His charity’s initiative has so far succeeded in meeting the needs of about 300 primary school pupils in parts of Rif Dimashq, including Maaraba and Sbeneh, neighborhoods of Ghouta such as Zamalka, and the outskirts of Damascus.

The Syrian government has said it recognizes the struggles many students and their families face and is trying to help. The Ministry of Education has urged schools to be lenient when enforcing policies on the wearing of uniforms, for example, according to a report by SANA.

The ministry also called on schools to cut their demands for certain supplies, wherever feasible, to alleviate the burden on poverty-stricken families, at least in part.

Such modest measures are unlikely to make a significant dent, however, given that 90 percent of the Syrian population now lives below the poverty line. Even teachers in government-held areas, such as Alzahab, are struggling to do their jobs despite being innovative and resourceful wherever possible.

The situation is hardly any better for children in parts of Syria outside the government’s control. The earthquakes in February largely affected opposition-held regions in the northwest, where facilities for children had already deteriorated on account of the conflict.

At least 450 schools in the northwest were “damaged to varying degrees” by the earthquakes, according to a report published in April by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Thousands more have been damaged or destroyed during more than 12 years of civil war, which has been particularly destructive in the northwest of the country.

World Vision currently has six educational projects operating in northwestern Syria, Barhameyeh said, focusing on “school rehabilitation, educational centers, school winterization and teacher training.”

He added: “Those projects also include a livelihood intervention (program) that provides food packages, hygiene kits, school supplies and, in some instances, cash vouchers to reduce families’ need to send their children to work.”

Still, the task of filling up classrooms remains an uphill battle, especially given that more than 1.7 million children in northwestern Syria rely on humanitarian assistance.

“The food crisis and recent cuts to World Food Program programs are actively pushing young boys to head to the labor market and drop out of schools,” said Barhameyeh. “This will have a devastating impact on the future of the Syrian children.”

Israel leader vows no tolerance for attacks on believers

Updated 04 October 2023

Israel leader vows no tolerance for attacks on believers

  • His remarks came a day after a video on social media showed ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground as pilgrims carried crosses.

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed “zero tolerance” for attacks on believers, after a video showed Jewish worshippers spitting toward Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem’s Old City.
“I strongly condemn any attempt to inflict harm on worshippers, and we will take urgent steps against such actions,” said Netanyahu, whose coalition government including ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties is one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
“Offensive behavior toward worshippers is a desecration and is unacceptable. We will show zero tolerance toward any harm to worshippers,” he said without referring to any specific attack.
His remarks came a day after a video on social media showed ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground as pilgrims carried crosses along Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa — the route Christians believe Jesus walked before being crucified.
AFP was unable to immediately verify the video, which followed the publication of similar footage of Jews insulting or acting aggressively toward Christians in the Old City.
After capturing it in 1967, Israel annexed east Jerusalem, including the Old City, in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Old City remains at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as tensions between the world’s three major monotheistic faiths.
Last month the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said that while attacks on Christians in the Old City were “not a new phenomenon,” they had been more frequent “in the recent period.”
Pizzaballa, who Pope Francis anointed as a cardinal on Saturday, said there were many reasons for the increase, including education.
“There are some movements, some rabbis also, who are inciting on this, or at least approving of this,” he said.
“We have not to forget the past relations between Jews and Christians were not simple, to be diplomatic, and all this creates this context,” he added.
The archbishop also said the frequency of “this phenomenon... is connected, temporarily at least, with this (Israeli) government.”
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the rabbi of the Western Wall, Shmuel Rabinowitz, condemned in “the strongest terms the violence against believers in the Old City and all forms of violence.”
“We must do everything in our power to preserve the delicate fabric of the Old City,” he said, addressing “the leaders of all religions.”

Tunisia detains Abir Moussi, prominent opponent of president

Updated 04 October 2023

Tunisia detains Abir Moussi, prominent opponent of president

TUNIS: Tunisia’s public prosecutor detained Abir Moussi, a prominent opponent of President Kais Saied, after she was arrested at the entrance to the presidential palace on Tuesday, lawyers said, the latest arrest targeting Saied’s political rivals.

“Moussi was detained for 48 hours in charges of processing personal data, obstructing the right to work, and assault intended to cause chaos,” lawyer Aroussi Zgir said.

Authorities were not immediately available to comment.

Police this year have detained more than 20 leading political figures, accusing some of plotting against state security. Saied has described those detained as “terrorists, traitors and criminals.”

An assistant of Moussi said in a video on Facebook that Moussi was “kidnapped” in front of the Carthage Palace.

Moussi leads the Free Constitutional Party and is a supporter of late president Zine El Abidine ben Ali who was toppled by mass protests in 2011.

In recent months, the party has organized protests against Saied. Moussi accuses Saied of ruling outside the law, and said that she is ready to make personal sacrifices to save Tunisia.

In front of the La Goulette police station, dozens of angry Moussi supporters protested, shouting slogans against Saied amid a heavy police contingent who cordoned off the building.

Earlier on Tuesday, Moussi said in a video that she went to the presidential reception office to file an appeal in local elections expected at the end of the year. She said that this step was necessary so that she could later file an appeal in the Administrative Court.

Saied, a retired law professor who was elected president in 2019, shut down the elected parliament in 2021 and moved to rule by decree, actions his opponents described as a coup. Saied has said he needed to save Tunisia from years of chaos, denying his actions were a coup.

On Friday, jailed opposition leader Rached Ghannouchi, another critic of Saied, began a three-day hunger strike. Later five other prominent opposition figures also went on hunger strike in prison.

Paramilitary shells kill 10 civilians in Khartoum: activists

Updated 04 October 2023

Paramilitary shells kill 10 civilians in Khartoum: activists

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: Paramilitary artillery that struck a mosque and other civilian buildings in the Sudanese capital killed 10 people on Tuesday, local activists said.
It is the latest incident in which multiple civilians have been killed in Khartoum during nearly six months of war between Sudan’s army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and his former deputy, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo.
A local resistance committee said “10 civilians were killed and 11 wounded in artillery shelling by the Rapid Support Forces in Al-Samrab neighborhood,” across the Blue Nile river to the north of central Khartoum.
The committee is one of many groups that used to organize pro-democracy protests and now provide assistance during the war.
“Some shells fell on a mosque, a health center, and citizens’ homes,” the committee said by telephone to AFP in the eastern city of Port Sudan.
On September 12 a medical source told AFP that “17 civilians were killed” by paramilitaries in northern Khartoum, where witnesses reported RSF shelling.
Those deaths came two days after at least 51 people were killed and dozens wounded in air strikes on a southern Khartoum market, according to United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk.
The worst of the violence has been concentrated in Khartoum and the western region of Darfur, but North Kordofan — a crossroads between the capital and Darfur — has also seen fighting.
Nearly 7,500 people have been killed in Sudan since the conflict broke out on April 15, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data project.
Battles have displaced almost 4.3 million people within Sudan, in addition to around 1.2 million more who have fled across borders, UN figures show.