World must not abandon Palestinian, Syrian refugees: Jordan’s king

King of Jordan Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein addresses world leaders during the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on September 19, 2023 in New York City. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 19 September 2023

World must not abandon Palestinian, Syrian refugees: Jordan’s king

  • ‘We must protect young Palestinians from extremists who prey on their frustrations and hopelessness’
  • Refugees make up more than a third of Jordan’s population of 11m

LONDON: The world must not abandon Palestinian refugees to the forces of despair, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

Sustainable funding is urgently needed by UNRWA, the UN agency that provides vital relief, education and health services to millions of Palestinian refugees, he added.

The funding is essential to protect Palestinian families, keep communities stable, and prepare young people for productive lives, he said.

“We must protect young Palestinians from extremists who prey on their frustrations and hopelessness by making sure they continue to learn at the schools under the blue flag of the United Nations, as the alternative will be the black flags of terror, hate and extremism,” the king warned.

As the custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, Jordan remains committed to safeguarding the city’s identity by preserving it as the city of faith and peace for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, he said.

The king drew attention to the plight of 5 million Palestinians living under occupation with no civil rights, no freedom of mobility, and no say in their lives despite “every UN resolution since the beginning of this conflict recognizing the equal rights of the Palestinian people to a future of peace, dignity and hope.”

He said the only path to a comprehensive and lasting peace to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a two-state solution.

“We can see the Israeli people actively defending and engaging in the expression of their national identity, yet the Palestinian people are deprived of that same right to express and fulfil their own national identity.”

He said the basic requirement for that Palestinian right is the “establishment of their own independent and viable state on the June 4, 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital, living alongside Israel in peace, security and prosperity.”

The king added that delaying justice and peace has bought endless cycles of violence, and 2023 has been the deadliest for the Palestinian people in the past 15 years.

“How can people trust in global justice while settlement building, land confiscations and home demolitions continued? Where is the global solidarity to make UN resolutions believable by people in need of our help?” he asked.

King Abdullah also highlighted the effects that a severe shortfall in international funds has had on multiple UN agencies providing vital services to refugees in need.

“In Jordan, where refugees make up over a third of our 11 million population, cuts have already thrown the lives of hundreds of thousands of refugees into uncertainty. The impact of such humanitarian shortfalls is never limited to a country or region,” he said.

The king added that fear and want often bring on sharp increases in the number of refugees in the Middle East fleeing to Europe and beyond, on journeys that often end in tragedy.

“Jordanians are serious about our duty to those in need. We’ve done everything we can to secure a dignified life for refugees,” he said.

“Nearly half of the almost 1.4 million Syrians we host are under 18 years of age. For many of them, Jordan is the only place they’ve ever known. Over 230,000 Syrian children have been born in Jordan since 2011.”

He said Jordan is sharing precious resources to help Syrian refugees meet basic needs such as food, energy and water, despite being among the most water-poor countries in the world and facing climate change that is causing destructive heat waves, drought and flooding.

“To meet the refugee burden, we’ve been carefully managing to combine our limited resources with essential support from the international community because the responsibility to act falls on everybody’s shoulders, because the world can’t afford to walk away and leave a lost generation behind,” the king said.

He added that Jordan will not have the ability or the resources to host and care for more Syrian refugees, whose “future is in their country, not in host countries. But until they’re able to return, we must all do right by them.

“And the fact is, refugees are far from returning. On the country, more Syrians are likely to leave their country as the crisis persists.”

Israel reopens Gaza crossing to Palestinian workers

Updated 55 min 40 sec ago

Israel reopens Gaza crossing to Palestinian workers

  • The Israeli authorities had initially closed the Erez crossing, the only gateway for Palestinian pedestrians from the Gaza Strip, for the Jewish new year holiday on September 15

Erez: Israel said it reopened Thursday a key crossing with Gaza to Palestinian workers after shutting it during violent protests that saw the army launch strikes targeting Hamas military posts.
The Israeli authorities had initially closed the Erez crossing, the only gateway for Palestinian pedestrians from the Gaza Strip, for the Jewish new year holiday on September 15.
But they extended the closure citing security reasons following daily demonstrations along the border that left several protesters dead and injured in clashes with Israeli soldiers.
While patients seeking medical treatment and foreigners had been allowed to use the crossing, thousands of Palestinian workers from the coastal enclave had been banned from entering Israel.
On Wednesday evening COGAT, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said the crossing would reopen for workers from Thursday morning.
The Palestinian civilian affairs ministry confirmed the crossing had reopened.
An AFP correspondent saw thousands of Palestinians waiting at the terminal to enter Israel.
Israel has issued work permits to some 18,500 Gazans, COGAT said last week.
The Gaza Strip, home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, had been rocked by violent protests in the past two weeks.
Protesters had often resorted to burning tires, throwing stones and petrol bombs at Israeli troops, who have responded with tear gas and live bullets.
The Israeli army had also resorted to drone strikes targeting military sites of the Islamist group Hamas, which controls the enclave.
Since September 13, seven Palestinians have been killed and more than 100 wounded in the violence in Gaza, according to figures from the Hamas-controlled health ministry.
Israel has imposed an air, land and sea blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized the Palestinian territory in 2007.
Armed conflict sporadically erupts between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.
In May, an exchange of Israeli air strikes and Gaza rocket fire resulted in the deaths of 34 Palestinians and one Israeli.

‘Yesterday there was a wedding and happiness … now we bury them’

Updated 28 September 2023

‘Yesterday there was a wedding and happiness … now we bury them’

  • Grief in Iraqi town after 113 die in wedding inferno
  • 9 arrested, warrants issued for hall owners

JEDDAH: Nine people were arrested on Wednesday and warrants were issued for a further four after more than 100 people died when a fire ripped through a packed wedding hall in northern Iraq.

Fire fighters searched the charred remains of the building in Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniya, onWednesday morning and bereaved relatives gathered outside a morgue in the nearby city of Mosul, wailing in distress.
“This was not a wedding. This was hell,” said Mariam Khedr as she waited for officials to return the bodies of her daughter Rana Yakoub, 27, and three young grandchildren, the youngest aged just eight months.
Survivors said the fire began about an hour into the wedding celebration when flares ignited a ceiling decoration as the bride and groom danced. Nineveh province Deputy Governor Hassan Al-Allaf said 113 people had been confirmed dead.

“We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn’t got stuck,” said survivor Imad Yohana, 34.
Outside the morgue, one woman said: “I lost my daughter, her husband and their three-year-old. They were all burned. My heart is burning.”

A man called Youssef stood near by with burns covering his hands and face. He said he had not been able to see anything when the fire began and the power cut out. He had grabbed his three-year-old grandson and managed to escape. But his wife, Bashra Mansour, did not make it. People in black streamed towards the cemetery in Qaraqosh on Wednesday as a line of pickup trucks drove past carrying the dead. Hundreds gathered, many sobbing, as coffins were carried at shoulder height, some shrouded in white, one with a floral cloth, before being lowered into their graves.
Most residents of Qaraqosh, which is mostly Christian but also home to some of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, fled the town when Daesh seized it in 2014. But they returned after the group was ousted in 2017.
“Yesterday there was a wedding and happiness. Now we are preparing their burial,” said deacon Hani al-Kasmousa at Mar Youhanna church, where the wedding service took place on Tuesday before the evening celebration.
People who survived the blaze said the hall appeared poorly equipped for it, with no visible fire extinguishers and few exits. Iraq’s Interior Ministry said nine wedding hall staff had been arrested and it had issued arrest warrants for the four owners.

Arab family of five shot dead as crime rates in Israel soar

Updated 28 September 2023

Arab family of five shot dead as crime rates in Israel soar

  • Arab mayors have accused the government and police of deliberately neglecting their communities and of enabling criminals to act with impunity

JERUSALEM: Five members of an Arab family were shot dead in their home in Israel, police said on Wednesday, in the latest in a wave of crime-related killings in Israel’s Arab communities that has reached a new peak this year.
The shooting of the five, including a woman and two teenagers, in the northern town of Basmat Tab’un followed a separate incident in which a 50-year-old man was killed earlier on Wednesday.
More than 180 Arab citizens in Israel have been killed in crime-related violence since January — a seven-year high — in a spate of killings that have continued unchecked, drawing accusations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government was ignoring the bloodshed.
“Israel has the abilities, the Israeli government understands what needs to be done, everybody understands what needs to be done, there simply is no will and no leadership,” said Mansour Abbas, leader of one of the parties that represent Israel’s Arab minority.
Arab mayors have accused the government and police of deliberately neglecting their communities and of enabling criminals to act with impunity. They have refused to work with the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has past convictions of support for terrorism and anti-Arab incitement, and have demanded that Netanyahu intervene instead.
With Israel facing its worst political crisis in decades, over Netanyahu’s drive to push through divisive changes to the judiciary, Arab citizens say the collapse of personal safety in their communities must receive more government attention.
Ben-Gvir, who did not immediately comment on Wednesday’s incident, has rejected accusations of inaction. He has said fighting crime is high on his agenda and that police have stepped up crime-busting activity, including the seizure of weapons and funds from criminal groups.
“As police, we will do everything to get to the killers,” police spokesman Eli Levi told reporters at the scene of Wednesday’s crime.
Arab citizens, most of whom are descendants of Palestinians who remained in Israel during the mass exodus of refugees in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation, make up about a fifth of the country’s population.
They have for decades faced high poverty rates, poorly funded schools and overcrowded towns lacking services and say they are treated as second-class citizens compared with Jewish Israelis.

Lebanese military court sentences Daesh official to 160 years in prison

Updated 27 September 2023

Lebanese military court sentences Daesh official to 160 years in prison

  • Imad Yassin, a Palestinian in his 50s, confessed to all 11 charges against him

BEIRUT: Lebanese military court has sentenced an official with the extremist Daesh group to 160 years in prison for carrying out deadly attacks against security forces and planning others targeting government buildings and crowded civilian areas, judicial officials said Wednesday.

The officials said Imad Yassin, a Palestinian in his 50s, confessed to all 11 charges against him, including joining a “terrorist organization,” committing crimes in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp of Ein El-Hilweh, shooting at Lebanese soldiers, and transporting weapons and munitions for militant groups.

Yassin, also known as Imad Akl, said he was planning several other attacks, including blowing up two main power stations, the headquarters of a major local television station in Beirut, killing a leading politician, as well as planning attacks on hotels north of Beirut, the officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Before joining Daesh, Yassin was a member of other militant groups, including Al-Qaeda-linked Jund Al-Sham, which is still active in Ein El-Hilweh. In later years, he became Daesh’s top official in the camp.

Yassin was detained in Ein El-Hilweh, near the port city of Sidon, six years ago and has been held since. The total 11 sentences that he received count to up to 160 years in prison, the officials said.

The session during which he was sentenced started on Monday night and lasted until the early hours of Tuesday. 

At the height of its rise in Iraq and Syria in 2014, Daesh claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in different parts of Lebanon that left scores of people dead.

Morocco aims to become key player in green hydrogen

Updated 27 September 2023

Morocco aims to become key player in green hydrogen

RABAT: Morocco has voiced ambitious plans to become North Africa’s top player in the emerging “green hydrogen” sector, with plans to export the clean-burning fuel to Europe.

Hydrogen is seen as a clean energy source that can help the world phase out fossil fuels and reduce atmospheric carbon emissions in the battle to slow global warming.

Morocco, which already runs large solar power plants, also hopes to harness green hydrogen — the kind made without burning fossil fuels — for its sizeable fertilizer sector.

Around 1.5 million acres of public land — nearly the size of Kuwait — have been set aside for green hydrogen and ammonia plants, the economy ministry says.

King Mohammed VI has hailed a national green hydrogen plan dubbed l’Offre Maroc (the Moroccan Offer) and called for its “rapid and qualitative implementation.”

Speaking in July, before the country’s earthquake disaster, he said Morocco must take advantage of “the projects supported by international investors in this promising sector.”

Local media have reported about investment plans by Australian, British, French, German and Indian companies.

Hydrogen can be extracted from water by passing a strong electrical current through it.

This separates the hydrogen from the oxygen, a process called electrolysis.

If the power used is clean — such as solar or wind — the fuel is called “green hydrogen,” which is itself emission-free when burnt.

But there are problems: Hydrogen is highly explosive and hard to store and transport. This has set back hydrogen fuel cell cars in the race against electric vehicles using lithium-ion batteries.

However, experts say green hydrogen also has a big role to play in decarbonizing energy-intensive industries that cannot easily be electrified such as steel, cement and chemicals.

Powering blast furnaces with hydrogen, for example, offers the promise of making “green steel.”

Hydrogen can also be converted into ammonia, to store the energy or as a major input in synthetic fertilizers. Morocco is already a major player in the global fertilizer market, thanks mainly to its immense phosphate reserves.

It profited after fertilizer shortages sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent prices up to 1,000 euros ($1,060) per ton.

Morocco’s state Phosphate Office has announced plans to quickly produce a million tons of “green ammonia” from green hydrogen and triple the amount by 2032.

Analysts caution that Morocco still has some way to go with its ambitious green fertilizer plans.

The sector is “embryonic and the large global projects will not see the light of day until three to five years from now,” said Samir Rachidi, director of the Moroccan research institute IRESEN.

Morocco’s advantage is that it has already bet heavily on clean energy over the past 15 years.

Solar, wind and other clean energy make up 38 percent of production, and the goal is to reach 52 percent by 2030.

For now green hydrogen is more expensive than the highly polluting “brown hydrogen” made using coal or “grey hydrogen” produced from natural gas.

The goal is to keep green hydrogen production below $1-$2 per kilogram, Ahmed Reda Chami, president of the Economic, Social and Environmental Counsel, told the weekly La Vie Eco.