Israeli Mossad chief expected to meet Qatari PM to resume negotiations – Axios

Israel's Mossad Director David Barnea speaks during the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) World Summit in the central coastal city of Herzliya (AFP)
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Updated 16 December 2023
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Israeli Mossad chief expected to meet Qatari PM to resume negotiations – Axios

DUBAI: David Barnea, director of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, is expected to meet Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Europe this weekend, news platform Axios reported.
They will discuss resuming negotiations on securing the release of the Israeli hostages still held by Hamas, Axios said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped Barnea from traveling to Qatar for that purpose earlier this week, but Axios reported that Netanyahu had since changed his mind.
On Friday, Israel said its troops had mistakenly killed three hostages, expressing “deep remorse” over a “tragic incident” that sparked protests in Tel Aviv.
The Israeli military said Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa were shot during operations in a neighborhood of Gaza City. The trio were among those kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Netanyahu described the death of the three hostages as an “unbearable tragedy,” while the White House called the incident a “tragic mistake.”
Hundreds of protesters gathered at Israel’s Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, waving Israeli flags and holding placards with the faces of some of the hostages still held in Gaza. “Every day, a hostage dies,” read one of the placards.


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

Updated 6 sec ago
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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

 

 


Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Updated 6 min 29 sec ago
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Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

  • “That is incorrect,” one of the officials said
  • In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another

WASHINGTON: A claim by Yemen’s Houthi group on Saturday that its forces had attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea is false, two US officials told Reuters.
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iran-aligned Houthis first launched drone and missile strikes in the key waterway in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza, where Israel has waged a more than eight-month-old war.
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.
Earlier the Houthi group said its forces had attacked the Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the operation had achieved its objectives successfully without elaborating. The group also said it attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea. It did not say when the attacks took place.
A Houthi statement said the Transworld Navigator took a direct hit from a missile.


Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

  • Worshippers parade through villages on horseback as part of traditional festivities

CAIRO: As Egyptian pilgrims return from their spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia, waiting families have begun plans for celebrations in homes decorated with special murals.

Festive images depict Hajj symbols such as airplanes, the Kaaba, Mount Arafat, and camels, celebrating the fulfillment of the sacred pilgrimage. 

Emad Abdel Latif, a folklore professor at Assiut University, told Arab News that the “deep-rooted tradition begins as soon as the pilgrim departs for the holy lands.”

He said the homes “are initially painted, typically in blue, and then adorned with murals that symbolize aspects of the Hajj, including the Kaaba and the aircraft transporting the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Abdel Latif added: “This custom also includes inscribing phrases such as ‘Labaik Allahumma Labaik’ (Here I am, O God, here I am), ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), along with wishes for a blessed Hajj and forgiven sins.”

Traditionally, celebrations included a religious ceremony, during which returning pilgrims might parade through their village on horseback, while sweets are distributed among onlookers. 

Said Al-Badri, a mural artist from Giza, described the intricate planning that goes into creating the artworks.

“Depending on the complexity, a single mural can take one to two hours, while a complete home mural might require a full day of work,” he said.

“These murals visually narrate the pilgrim’s journey — boarding the plane, circling the Kaaba, the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa, standing at Mount Arafat, and visiting the Prophet’s tomb. They are enriched with Qur’anic verses and popular phrases of congratulation.”

Al-Badri learnt the art from his father, and has dedicated himself to preserving this cultural tradition.

“Each year, as pilgrims return, I continue this legacy, enhancing our local heritage through these festive decorations,” he said.

Amira Mahmoud’s mother was one of more than 1.8 million people who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The murals “add to our celebration,” she said.

“Our community deeply values these traditions, which embellish our homes, and reinforce familial and communal bonds.”

Mahmoud highlights the significance of these murals in preserving cultural heritage.

“These artworks are more than decorations. They are a vibrant testament to our rich traditions, inviting every returning pilgrim to the heart of community life.”


Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

  • The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims
  • Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah.
The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.
A report discussed at the meeting highlighted that the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies that “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Makkah” via official channels.
It emerged that attempts to bypass the official process included trekking through desert paths and the absence of suitable accommodation at other sacred sites, leading to exhaustion among unregistered pilgrims due to severe heat.
Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services.
The prime minister ordered the immediate revocation of these companies’ licenses, referred the responsible people to public prosecution, and imposed fines to benefit the bereaved families of the deceased pilgrims.
During the meeting, measures were discussed to prevent such incidents in the future, including enforcing immediate actions against companies or entities that facilitated these irregular pilgrimages.
Madbouly said that although the official Egyptian Hajj delegation comprises more than 50,000 pilgrims, it was difficult to ascertain the number of unregistered travelers due to the absence of recorded data.
An official source, preferring anonymity, told Arab News that high fatality numbers reported might include many who traveled under visit visas — not Hajj visas.
He suggested that those responsible for “these transgressions face severe repercussions, possibly extending beyond license revocation to criminal prosecution.”
The French news agency AFP reported that the death toll among Egyptian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj had risen to 600, indicating the majority were not part of the official delegation.
Regarding legal responsibilities, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Abul Saud said that travel agencies bear criminal responsibility if they knowingly facilitate these illegal activities.
Conversely, he said that if they were unaware and merely issued visas based on client requests, it would be easier to hold them accountable if it was proven they had explicit knowledge of the pilgrims’ intentions.
Saturday’s discussions also revealed that some companies possibly knew what the unofficial pilgrims planned, while others may have been unaware, issuing visas without knowing the intended misuse.
This situation underscores the complexity of ensuring that all travel facilitators adhere strictly to legal and ethical standards, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and accountability measures to prevent future occurrences.
Officials said that ensuring all travel facilitators adhere to legal and ethical standards required robust oversight and accountability measures.


EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

Updated 22 June 2024
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EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

  • The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza

BRUSSELS: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called for a probe into deadly shelling that damaged an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza.


“The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza and led to dozens of casualties. An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on X.