GCC leaders say Israel violating international law in Gaza, demand end to occupation

The 44th GCC Supreme Council meeting family photo. (SPA)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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GCC leaders say Israel violating international law in Gaza, demand end to occupation

  • The 44th session of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Qatar was also attended by Turkish President Erdogan
  • Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Al-Thani says his country is ‘constantly working to renew’ Israel-Hamas truce

RIYADH: Members of the GCC have condemned Israel for committing “clear violations” of international law and reitterated their demand for an end to the Israeli occupatiuon of the Palestinian territories.

In a statement issued at the end of the 44th session of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Tuesday, the leaders of the six nations condemned Israel’s ongoing military actions in Gaza, “which have led to the forced displacement of the civilian population, and the destruction of civilian facilities and infrastructure, including residential buildings, schools, health facilities, and places of worship.”

The statement of decleration went on to say such actions were “in clear violation of international law and international humanitarian law,” and they expressed their dissatisfaction with the “blatant Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people”.

The summit, which was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the lead member of the Saudi delegation, was in Qatar.

The representatives of the six Gulf nations were joined by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said there had been $23bn worth of trade between Turkiye and the GCC countries.

He went on to condemn Israel’s continued bombardment of  the Gaza Strip, adding: “

Netanyahu is committing war crimes against humanity in Gaza.”

And he said that Netanyahu “is pushing the entire region into danger for the sake of his political future.”

The meeting of GCC leaders took place in Qatar as Israeli forces launched their long-awaited storm of the main city in the southern Gaza Strip, where hospitals were overrun with scores of Palestinian dead and wounded.

In what appeared to be the biggest ground assault since the truce collapsed last week, residents said Israeli tanks had entered the eastern parts of Khan Younis for the first time, crossing from the Israeli border fence and advancing west.

Some took up positions inside the town of Bani Suhaila on Khan Younis’ eastern outskirts, while others continued further and were stationed on the edge of a Qatari-funded housing development called Hamad City, residents said.

After days of ordering residents to flee the area, Israeli forces dropped new leaflets on Tuesday with instructions to stay inside shelters during the assault.

“In the coming hours, the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) will begin launching an intensive attack on your area of residence to destroy the terrorist organization Hamas," said the leaflets.

“Don’t move out yet. For your safety, stay in the shelters and the hospitals where you are. Don’t get out. Going out is dangerous. You have been warned.”

But Israel’s bombardment has driven 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents from their homes, most fleeing south – an area more densely populated than London.

And according to Gaza health officials deemed reliable by the United Nations, more than 15,800 people are confirmed dead, with thousands more missing and feared buried under rubble.

The declaration went onto to call for the immediate resumption of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip in order to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and the assurance of that all humanitarian aid would reach its intended destinations.

The declaration went onto to call for the immediate resumption of a humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip in order to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and the assurance of that all humanitarian aid would reach its intended destinations.

The summit pledged its ongoing support for the Palestinian people and its continued support to alleviate the suffering of the residents of the Gaza Strip.

The GCC statement also agreed to help rebuild “what the Israeli war machine destroyed in its attacks on the Strip during the past years.”

The GCC leaders warned that if the war continued there was a danger of the conflict expanding to other regions in the Middle East, something it warned would lead to “dire consequences for the peoples of the region and for international peace and security.”

And they called on the international community to intervene to establish a ceasefire and protect civilians.

The council reiterated its demand for an end to the occupation of Palestine, and its support for the sovereignty of the Palestinian people over all the occupied territories.

It praised Saudi Arabia’s continued efforts and its initiative in partnership with the Arab League, the European Union, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to revive the peace process, in accordance with international law, United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.

Earlier in his opening remarks, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani called on the UN Security Council to force Israel to return to the negotiating table over the war in Gaza.

“It is shameful for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue for nearly two months, during which the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent civilians continues, including women and children,” he said at the summit. 

The Qatari ruler said his country was “constantly working to renew” the truce, which he added was “not an alternative to a permanent ceasefire”.

He called for “an international investigation into the massacres committed by Israel” and condemned the targeting of civilians of all nationalities and religions.

The GCC council released a declaration at the end of the summit, with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani saying that their primary goal now is to stop the war in Gaza, adding that mediation talks on Gaza are still ongoing.  

The minister reiterated how it is unacceptable to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the besieged strip.

(With Reuters)


Jeddah Al-Balad’s new heritage hotels offer glimpse into bygone era

Updated 01 March 2024
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Jeddah Al-Balad’s new heritage hotels offer glimpse into bygone era

  • Launched by the Historic District Program, the restored houses fuse region’s rich history with contemporary comforts

JEDDAH: Nestled in the heart of Jeddah’s historic district are heritage hotels launched by the Jeddah Historic District Program under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and in partnership with Al-Balad Development Co.

These hotels, including Beit Jokhdar, Beit Al-Rayess and Beit Kedwan, have been meticulously restored while preserving their architectural features to provide guests with an authentic glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The restoration and rehabilitation of these heritage hotels was carried out in alignment with the highest international standards and the guidelines set out by UNESCO, which designated Jeddah Historic District as a World Heritage Site in 2014.

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage. (Instagram/jeddahalbalad.sa)

Tariq Omar Al-Saggaf, the project manager, told Arab News about the extensive work involved in reviving about 600 heritage buildings in the area. “These buildings are not only being restored but also repurposed for various functions ranging from hotels to residential, administrative, commercial and cultural purposes,” he said.

Through a harmonious blend of historical restoration and modern hospitality, these hotels offer guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich history and architecture of one of Saudi Arabia’s most iconic districts.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The recent agreement between the Jeddah Historic District Program and Al-Balad Development Co. signals a new chapter in the operation of the heritage hotels. • Beit Jokhdar has one of the largest wooden facades in Al-Balad and distinctive elements such as stained glass. • Beit Kedwan, facing Beit Nassif, stands out for its wooden rawasheen and mashrabiyyas.

During an exclusive tour at Beit Jokhdar, Milica Markovic, the general manager of Al-Balad Historic Hotels, told Arab News that the restoration process aimed to maintain the original charm of the buildings: “80 percent of the building has been restored to how it originally was. This building has the biggest roshan window in Jeddah. It has nine rooms and suites and it’s the biggest out of the three that we have.”

She added: “So, that’s why the architecture is actually very unique. It is very important for us to reflect for the guests, although these are hotels (they have) a very homey, elegant vibe.”

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage. (Instagram/jeddahalbalad.sa)

The attention to detail in preserving elements such as the roshan window, wooden ornaments and oil lamp hooks gives guests an insight into the heritage of the region. Local craftsmanship and artistry are also integral to the interior design and ambiance of the hotels, reflecting the cultural richness of Saudi Arabia.

“The ceilings are also original with wood ornament carving that is handmade. We even preserved the old hooks, where they used to put the oil lamps to lighten up the room. Most of the art and furniture you see … most of it has been done locally, so we really try to showcase fully not just the interior design and architecture of Saudi Arabia but also ... the work of the artists,” Markovic said.

Each of the three heritage hotels showcases a different architectural design that highlights the historical and aesthetic value of the buildings.

Beit Jokhdar, for instance, has one of the largest wooden facades in Al-Balad and features distinctive elements such as plaster decorations, arches, stained glass and ornate wooden interiors.

Beit Kedwan, facing Beit Nassif, stands out for its wooden rawasheen and mashrabiyyas, while Beit Al-Rayess is celebrated for its location and architectural features both internally and externally.

Markovic said: “The whole renovation process, I believe, took a little bit more than two years. But to set it up at the hotel and the hotel operation … it’s been only actually three months so we’ve been hardcore working to set everything up for the year.

“The most beautiful thing about these hotels is we don’t have to come up with a fancy marketing strategy or anything, we can just embrace them and share this beautiful history story,” Markovic said.

“Prices go usually from SR5,000 ($1,333) and more per night, but depending on the seasonality event in Jeddah, it can go a certain percentage lower or higher depending on the occupancy.”

Hospitality and dining in all hotels is inspired by an authentic Saudi flavor, “We have hired fantastic young chefs that are basically developing dishes that are inspired by Saudi cuisine, but with a bit of a more modern fine dining and elegant twist,” Markovic said.

The recent agreement between the Jeddah Historic District Program and Al-Balad Development Co. signals a new chapter in the operation of the heritage hotels.

With 34 heritage houses set to be managed under this partnership, Al-Balad Hospitality aims to offer authentic hospitality experiences that celebrate the culture of the region.

The commitment to preserving the history and providing enriching experiences positions Jeddah Historic District as a sought-after destination for visitors worldwide.

The opening of the first three heritage hotels in Jeddah Historic District marks a significant milestone in efforts to preserve and promote cultural heritage.

 


King Saud University pioneers in metaverse technology

The first Metaverse space at the level of Saudi universities for the Department of Media at King Saud University. (Supplied)
Updated 01 March 2024
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King Saud University pioneers in metaverse technology

  • Unveiled on the inaugural day of the “Fomex” exhibition at the third Saudi Media Forum which was conducted earlier this month, the virtual space meticulously mirrors the intricate details and units in the media department

JEDDAH: In a transformative leap towards technological integration, the Department of Mass Communication at the King Saud University has harnessed the power of metaverse technology and artificial intelligence tools to create a groundbreaking virtual space that encapsulates the essence of the university’s communication landscape.

The genesis of this project traces back to a collaborative effort by Majedah Alsewaiah and Khadeja Moraished, both from the Department of Mass Communication.

The first Metaverse space at the level of Saudi universities for the Department of Media at King Saud University. (Supplied)

Inspired by their training in AI journalism and the metaverse, the duo conceptualized a virtual environment that would serve as a dynamic showcase of the department’s achievements and milestones.

Unveiled on the inaugural day of the “Fomex” exhibition at the third Saudi Media Forum which was conducted earlier this month, the virtual space meticulously mirrors the intricate details and units in the media department.

HIGHLIGHT

The metaverse’s virtual space enhances immersive learning by enabling students to actively engage in their education, such as participating in historical simulations or real-time language practice with avatars.

From the head of the department’s office to the various cutting-edge studios and centers, such as the digital and visual media lab, electronic journalism lab, and the university’s newspaper headquarters, every facet is intricately woven into this digital tapestry.

Moraished, who is a Ph.D candidate in digital media at the Mass Communication Department at KSU, told Arab News: “After earning our diploma in AI journalism and the metaverse, Dr. Majedah Alsewaiah, an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication, and I developed a project for our final submission, showcasing the accomplishments of the media department. This led to the conception of utilizing metaverse technology to craft a virtual environment.

“We proposed the idea using metaverse technology for a virtual space to Dr. Faisal Al-Oqail, head of the media department, and the project was refined to mirror the department’s various units and key university landmarks, including the iconic book roundabout, emblematic of the KSU,” she said.

Moraished said that the metaverse’s virtual space enhances immersive learning by enabling students to actively engage in their education, such as participating in historical simulations or real-time language practice with avatars.

“Virtual reality allows for hands-on interaction with complex concepts. It facilitates global collaboration by removing geographical barriers, connecting students and educators worldwide for joint projects and exchanging teaching methods. This fosters cross-cultural learning and prepares students for a future where global cooperation is crucial.”

Alsewaiah credits the media department of the KSU with pioneering innovation in the metaverse sphere.

Embracing Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse as “the future of the internet,” she said that “the university’s virtual space supports its commitment to digital advancement and knowledge dissemination.”

Central to the project’s success is the seamless integration of AI tools in editing, designing, and production.

Looking ahead, Alsewaiah envisions further expansion and enhancement of the metaverse project, propelling educational excellence and fostering creativity in communication and media realms.

“The transition to the metaverse will spark competition and primarily enhance education by facilitating knowledge transfer and interaction between professors and students. Utilizing the metaverse and AI for creative outputs will also advance communication, and media, and elevate Saudi media’s effectiveness and distinction,” said Alsewaiah.

 


‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 01 March 2024
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‘Asayel’ equestrian theater show wins hearts in Diriyah

  • “Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city

RIYADH: The story of Fahad and his beloved horse Asayel are at the heart of a new theatrical equestrian show in Diriyah that is captivating visitors.

The show follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with Asayel. The horse is later passed to Fahad’s son, Faris, who experiences hardship before navigating the modern city of Diriyah with his animal companion, eventually leading the community to unity and determination.

“Asayel,” which runs from Feb. 28 to March 8 at Mayadeen Theater, is presented by Z7 Show Horses, a company of 40 performers and 40 horses bringing sophistication and passion to Diriyah.

‘Asayel’ follows Fahad, a man from Diriyah, and his strong bond with his horse. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

The team’s director, Laura Arkle, said: “Z7 Show Horses and the team are extremely excited to be performing in Saudi Arabia. Being able to tell the Diriyah story whilst incorporating the rich culture through the art of equestrian entertainment is a dream come true for all of us.”

“Asayel” has been met with high praise from audience members, including Saudi model and content creator Reyouf Madkhali, who said: “This is my first time attending a show with this high-quality performance.”

FASTFACT

‘Asayel’ runs until March 8 at Mayadeen Theater in Diriyah.

She added: “It was very professional, clean cut … honestly, it was very well organized.”

Events like “Asayel” in Diriyah, which celebrate the ancient city’s heritage, have reached a new level of professionalism and showmanship, Madkhali said.

Nada Abdul Hakim, a young Saudi singer and actress who plays the role of Nourah in the show, told Arab News: “It is a beautiful experience … my role is Nourah in the story, Faris’ friend. Nourah taught Faris how to ride a horse because he loved horses.”

“Asayel” is part of the collective events of Diriyah Season, which aims to promote the cultural and historical heritage of the city.

 


New Murabba partners with Tourism Development Fund to bring Riyadh’s downtown to life

The MoU was signed by New Murabba Development Company CEO Michael Dyke and TDF chief executive Qusai bin Abdullah Al-Fakhri.
Updated 01 March 2024
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New Murabba partners with Tourism Development Fund to bring Riyadh’s downtown to life

  • The agreement aims to unlock New Murabba’s potential, placing Riyadh at the forefront of global destinations

RIYADH: New Murabba Development Company has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tourism Development Fund to spearhead the transformation of Riyadh.

The agreement will see the two entities work together to create New Murabba, for what they envisage will be the world’s largest modern downtown, serving as a model for future urban development and contributing toward Riyadh city’s evolution, in line with Vision 2030.

NMDC’s strategic partnership with TFD is pivotal in realizing New Murabba’s ambition to create the most advanced, transformative, downtown experience in the world. It aims to fulfil Saudi Arabia’s potential as a leading investment destination — for what the entities involved foresee as a place where people live, work and play; a tourism and hospitality hotspot distinguished by a thriving technology ecosystem; an enabling business environment; and a diverse and welcoming society.

The MoU was signed by New Murabba Development Company CEO Michael Dyke and TDF chief executive Qusai bin Abdullah Al-Fakhri. As part of the agreement, TDF will provide direct financing opportunities in collaboration with its network of partners and contracted investors, solidifying NMDC’s access to TDF’s expertise, networks and investment capabilities.

The agreement aims to unlock New Murabba’s potential, placing Riyadh at the forefront of global destinations and showcasing the Kingdom’s commitment to innovative, sustainable urban development, cultural richness and international visitor experiences.

 


Riyadh hosts GCC, talks with foreign ministers on Sunday

Updated 01 March 2024
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Riyadh hosts GCC, talks with foreign ministers on Sunday

  • “The GCC Ministerial Council and the joint ministerial meetings with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will be held on March 3,” the GCC posted on X
  • A joint ministerial meeting will be held on the sidelines

RIYADH: The Gulf Cooperation Council will host its 159th ministerial session in Riyadh on Sunday, while separate meetings will be held involving the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.
“The GCC Ministerial Council and the joint ministerial meetings with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco will be held on March 3,” the GCC posted on X.
The council shared a statement from GCC Secretary-General Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi, which said: “The meeting of the 159th Ministerial Council of the GCC will be held (on) Sunday in Riyadh, headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Qatar (and) president of the current session of the Ministerial Council, in the presence of the foreign ministers of the GCC countries.”
A joint ministerial meeting will be held on the sidelines between the GCC and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.
The secretary-general said that the Ministerial Council will discuss a number of reports on the subject of following up on the implementation of the decisions of the GCC’s Supreme Council that were issued by the summit in Doha in December 2023.
It will also focus on memorandums and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees and the general secretariat, in addition to topics related to dialogues and strategic relations between the GCC countries and global countries and blocs, as well as the latest regional and international developments.
Al-Budaiwi said that the Gulf-Egyptian meeting will look at several topics, the most important of which are the joint action plan and ways to enhance cooperation.
The meetings between the GCC and Jordan and Morocco will form part of the distinctive relationships and partnerships between the parties.