In Focus – Daily News Egypt Egypt’s Only Daily Independent Newspaper In English Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:22:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Terrorism in the US; gun uncontrol Sun, 11 Nov 2018 11:00:38 +0000 Over 12,000 people killed by firearms, 307 mass shootings in 2018 in US

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Telemachus Orfanos, 27, was all over the media as news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, north-west of Los Angeles, broke out late Wednesday night. Orfanos was killed alongside 11 others. Last year, he survived a similar attack in Las Vegas which killed over 50 people.

“I don’t want prayers, I don’t want thoughts. I want gun control,” said his outraged mother in a video interview.

A gunman identified as a 28-year-old former US marine Ian David Long, opened fire at the bar. Officials said he was allegedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD for short. He served in Afghanistan from November 2010 to June 2011, officials said, and was found dead at the scene, the BBC reported.

The recent tragedy comes less than two weeks after nearly a dozen people were killed in a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting on 27 October. The assailant was reported to have insulted Jews before opening fire, an attack described as one of the deadliest against the Jewish community in the US.

Robert Bowers, 46, was arrested at the scene and accused of the heinous killings in a 44-count indictment which included charges of hate crimes. According to USA Today, he pleaded ‘not guilty’ during a brief arraignment in federal court, where prosecutors emphasised, he faces the possibility of the death penalty.

Some survivors said they have been using the bar as a safe place to meet since the Vegas massacre. “Borderline was our safe space,” Brendan Kelly, who survived both attacks, told ABC News. “It was our home for the probably 30 or 45 of us who are all from the greater Ventura County area who were in Vegas.”

Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, had opened fire on a crowd on some 20,000 people attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, from a hotel room inside the Mandalay Bay resort. He killed himself before SWAT officers could enter his room.

Meanwhile, Long was killed at the bar. “It’s a horrific incident,” Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean told the media after the Thousand Oaks shooting. “It’s part of the horrors that are happening in our country and everywhere.” Authorities have not determined the motive behind the attack, but accounted for the shooter’s unstable mental condition.

Washington-based non-profit corporation Gun Violence Archive counted at least 307 mass shooting incidents in the US in 2018. More than 12,500 people including some 3,000 children and teens were killed this year in gun-related crimes.

None of the perpetrators have faced terrorism charges, nor were the attacks they carried out were labelled as acts of terrorism. The US-based Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) has a data-driven map counting terrorist attacks worldwide in 2018, established at 1,234 attacks, with 6,252 fatalities. Numbers and casualties resulting from gun violence in the US remain higher. The ESRI has only included the Pittsburgh synagogue attack among terrorist incidents.

American youth fight for gun control

On 24 March 2018, hundreds of thousands of students rallied in Washington and across the US against gun violence. The movement was planned by student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Parkland shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day which left 17 dead.

“Though Washington hosted the main event, more than 800 sister marches were held across the country, from Boston to Los Angeles, and around the world. Students, teachers, parents, survivors of school shootings, and celebrities took their defiant message against gun violence and the gun lobby to the seats of power,” CNN reported at the time.

Students as young as 11-year-old Naomi Wadler gave the most powerful and heart-breaking speeches the world watched.

“As a nation, we continue to witness tragedy after tragedy, yet our politicians remain complacent. The Parkland students, along with young leaders of all backgrounds from across the country, refuse to accept this passivity and demand direct action to combat this epidemic,” the movement’s mission statement declared.

“Gun violence does not always look the same; this issue includes mass shootings, suicides, domestic abuse, violence on our streets, and more,” the movement, which continues tour campaigning, added.

A total of at least 65 shootings took place on school campuses throughout the US in 2018, according to monitor groups, although not all incidents resulted in casualties, yet dozens of students and people were killed and injured. Several incidents involved armed students.

Donald Trump’s stance

Trump mourned the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting in a Twitter statement on 8 November and praised police action, receiving hundreds of replies with calls for gun control measures.

In a video interview following the Pittsburgh synagogue incident, Trump blamed it on security protection inside the temple, and advocated toughening up laws to deliver death penalties to shooters of innocent people.

But, asked whether the shooting would be an opportunity to revisit gun laws, Trump said “this [violence] has little to do with [that].”

Also addressing the public after the Parkland school massacre, Trump asserted his administration was working closely with authorities to investigate the shooting and help secure the schools and “tackle the different issues of mental health.”

Yet gun control measures were not among the things Trump mentioned, as he insisted priority be given to make schools safer.

The Parkland shooting sparked media to highlight the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) support to Trump’s election campaign spending about $11m, in addition to supporting legislators. It reportedly also spent millions in advertisements against Democrats.

New congressional promises of action on gun control

Hopes for action are being renewed in light of last week’s midterm elections which brought a Democrats majority in the House of Representatives.

According to CNBC, gun control proponents outnumbered gun rights advocates. “The new majority includes dozens of candidates who support gun control, including Lucy McBath in Georgia, whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot in 2012, and who made gun violence the centrepiece of her campaign,” the report said, citing some supporters among 17-newly elected House Democrats who back stricter gun laws.

However, The Guardian noted that the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to block “even moderate, bipartisan gun control measures from becoming law,” quoting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell as saying on Friday “it’s highly unlikely there will be restrictions passed.”

In 2016, the Senate rejected restrictions on gun sales, despite the fact that one of the deadliest shooting in US modern history had taken place on 12 June at an Orlando gay night club killing 49 people.

California has the strictest gun laws in the US. However, in many attacks, including this week’s shooting, firearms were reported to have been acquired legally in California.

Still, Senator Dianne Feinstein upheld her pro-gun control stance. “Some will say California’s strong gun laws didn’t prevent this shooting, but without stronger federal gun regulations, there’s little California can do to keep guns coming in from other states,” Feinstein said in a statement on 8 November.

Feinstein added that while Republicans would argue that gun policies shouldn’t be debated after mass shootings, advocating the opposite argument that these are the best times to discuss them as to reduce the frequency of these murders.

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Mortgage finance fund, best answer to overcome deceleration in real estate market: developers Wed, 07 Nov 2018 07:00:43 +0000 Next year will witness major changes in real estate market, focused primarily on categorising serious, committed developers, capable of managing variables imposed upon them during next stage

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Although the government has so far provided approximately EGP 17.5bn as mortgage funds to serve 200,000 clients, real estate developers are unsatisfied regarding the state’s conduct regarding this issue.

Additionally, the real estate mortgage finance portfolio of 11 companies operating in the Egyptian market reached EGP 9bn by the end of the first quarter (Q1) of the current year, compared to EGP 8.47bn in December 2017—an increase of EGP 554.5m.

Developers believe that promoting mortgage finance systems is the best and ideal method to revive real estate sales and avoid a recession in the market.

Managing Director (MD) and Board Member of Tatweer Misr, Ahmed Shalaby, expected that the market would witness a hiatus in sales during the coming phase, especially with the continued focus on a specific residential segment, in addition to the lasting stability of customers’ purchasing power.

Shalaby added that real estate companies have played their role during the previous spell, apropos economic and market variables and maintaining market operations, which may discontinue in the event of new reforms, as these companies have a financial solvency which must be maintained, so providing any new arrangements linked to company’s capital must have limitations in order for the company to be able to remain in the market.

The government must reconsider the mortgage financing system, which currently is the most prominent option to reinvigorate sales operations in the real estate market, indicated Tatweer Misr’s MD.

ARCO’s CEO Ayman Ibrahim noted that the mortgage finance rate is rather limited, and that it must be changed. Naturally, it is not less than 90% of the total customer numbers—as in the rest of the world—and the government must compensate the interest in mortgage financing, clarifying that there are international mortgage finance benchmarks which can be applied.

Next year will witness major changes in the real estate market, focused primarily on categorising serious and committed developers, who are capable of managing the variables that will be imposed upon them by the market during the next stage, Ibrahim elaborated,

Companies which have a solid financial solvency will survive, through which they will provide payment periods and a unique payment systems for their customers to encourage them to take a purchasing decision, stressed ARCO’s CEO.

Amlak Finance and Real Estate Investment’s CEO, Hatem Amer, said that the real estate mortgage sector is facing certain challenges, including the lack of awareness among Egyptians about the importance of real estate funding.

Amer added that the CBE’s initiative to support mortgage finance has succeeded in increasing the spread of mortgage finance, noting, “The increase in interest rates is another challenge to mortgage finance, especially after the raises in the value of the interest rate in the past period, which negatively affected the sector.”

Premium Assets for investment and Real Estate CEO, Riad Eladly, said that the shortage of affordable residential units created a upswing of illegal construction, without government permits during the past three years.

Eladly elaborated that the complication mortgage finance law forced some people to purchase units at low prices in some informal areas, however, if the government provides an affordable mortgage finance, it will eliminate and decrease informal buildings.

The mortgage system in Egypt needs more practicability to attract more clients and increase real estate market’s sales, stressed Eladly.

Asser Hamdy, executive chairman of Orientals for Urban Development, said that it is noticeable during Q3 of the current year that demand for projects implemented in some areas such as New Cairo, Sheikh Zayed and Sixth of October, is still.

“But, in general, the segments where most companies compete in began to saturate, especially with the high volume of competition, and the supplying of attractive offers which led to the split of residential segments between companies, decreasing each company’s share to that its previous state,” Hamdy elaborated.

He explained that the high prices in those areas resulted in increases in land prices and construction expenses, with the supply increase, especially after the growth in the volume of projects in East Cairo during the recent period, which may be the main reason for tranquil demand operations in the real estate market, which drives companies to reformulate an alternative plan, in the event of a subdued demand.

Hisham Shokry, chairman of Rooya Group for Real Estate Investment, said that real estate market is witnessing a deceleration, denying an imminent bubble driven by increased demand, since about 900,000 couples marry annually, and every five years developers provide about 50,000-60,000 units, which obviously does not match demand.

He also requested that the government provide increased incentives for developers, denying that developers’ profit margins are not highly driven by high land prices.

However, Ashraf Dowidar, CEO of ARDIC Real Estate Development, said that banks are wary from offering loans with low interest to developers, and therefore developers provide units at high prices.

There is no bubble, but it occured in a special segment of real estate projects, Dowidar indicated.

The government’s intervention in the sector may participate in the sector’s decelaration, however, the state can be responsible for identifying market needs and addressing their problems, remarked ARDIC’s CEO.

Mohamed El Barouny, head of Corporate Banking at CIB, said that banks are acting as technical supporters and supervisors for companies and developers and not just fund providers.

El Barouny noted that banks are interested in providing finance for infrastructure development in projects such as new cities, road networks, and other utilities.

He reaffirmed that the size of mortgage funds and developers’ loans is very small.

No downtrend in real estate sales

However, CEO of Brickzey Property Management, Ahmed Selim, sees that there is no downtrend in real estate sales, despite the recent high competition level among the companies on a specific residential segment, especially above middle-income and luxury housing, however, that segment still needs more housing units.

Selim pointed out that the market’s overall delivery, in general, is less than marketed, stressing that the vast and strong companies—who have a strong financial and outstanding solvency and commitment with their customers—are outside the competition, and they managed to survive throughout the market changes.

However, Selim believes that the mortgage finance fund is not the best solution to revive the sales in the sector because the mortgage plays its role in serving people who want to purchase property for housing purposes only and not as investors.

It is illogical to have a mortgage finance to purchase a unit for investment purposes, noting that there is a real demand and sales in the sector, Selim pointed out.

Ali Gaber, CEO of Impact Commercial Real Estate, agreed with Selim that the mortgage finance is not solution to the deceleration in the market, however, price land increases and cost spikes affected the market because the clients’ purchasing power remained unchanged.

Gaber noted that mortgage finance, along with exporting property, can lead to the recovery of the real estate market with the condition of eliminating bureaucracy—especially since there exists controls which ensure all the financer’s rights.

However, the real estate market must decontaminate itself of the fanciful developers whose financial abilities do not exceed paying the amount of land contracts in the New Capital.

Developing a new mortgage finance system at an appropriate interest rate with less bureaucratic procedures, will contribute towards in stimulating sales operations, especially in some segments, which are saturated, Gaber elaborated.

Government increases mortgage finance

Head of the Mortgage Finance Fund (MFF), Mai Abdel Hamid, said that banks’ financing provided under the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) mortgage finance initiative increased by EGP 1bn in one month.

Abdel Hamid added that banks raised their financing share which was introduced into the mortgage finance initiative until the end of October, to reach approximately EGP 17.5bn compared to EGP 16.5bn by the end of September.

The CBE has allocated EGP 20bn towards the mortgage finance initiative four years ago, with a subsidised interest rate for a low-income and middle-income citizens, and a decreasing interest rate ranging from 5% to 7% for low-income people, 8% for middle-income and 10.5% for above middle-income citizens.

Deputy Minister of Housing for National projects, Khaled Abbas, said that the size of mortgage finance under the initiative of the CBE will reach EGP 20bn by the end of this year.

Abbas added that mortgage finance faced a big problem during the past period, where it was wrongly marketed, elaborating that mortgage financing does not focus on the interest rate.

Abbas noted that the Ministry of Housing successfully solved the crisis of mortgage finance for low-income and middle-income people.

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Egypt’s Copts targeted by terrorism, again Sun, 04 Nov 2018 11:00:59 +0000 ‘We have suffered from this incident and previous ones,’ says Pope

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Photos and videos showing bodies soaked in blood and distorted faces of men and women emerged Friday afternoon on social media. They were taken at a desert area, near the St. Samuel Monastery in the governorate of Minya, Upper Egypt.

At least seven Egyptian Copts were killed in an attack against their buses

At least seven Egyptian Copts were killed in an attack against their buses. Over 20 people were injured, the Coptic Orthodox Church Spokesperson said in a Saturday statement on Facebook.

Noontime on Friday, unidentified gunmen opened fire at two small buses returning from a visit to the monastery, one carrying members of a family from Minya, and the other with people from the governorate of Sohag.

Gunmen opened fire on the Sohag vehicle injuring six people, but the minibus was able to escape and made its way through to a hospital. Attackers then shot seven people dead, including two women, in the second bus, according to Bishop Makarius of Minya and Abu Korkas.

In a video circulated on social media, a man is heard crying. “What a loss,” he repeatedly said. “The gunshot got you in the head, my boy.”

The Islamic State group (IS) claimed the attack, saying through its affiliated news agency ‘Amaq’ that the gunmen who attacked the monastery’s visitors were IS fighters. Egypt’s police said they were looking for the perpetrators.

The terrorist occurrence is the second to take place in the same area. On Friday 26 May 2017, IS-affiliated gunmen killed 28 Copts in an attack against their convoy as they were on their way to the monastery.

“Another St. Samuel Monastery incident. Security and police officers don’t [even] have a tent here,” a man standing next to the bodies in the same video said.

The violent act is the first in nearly a year after the mosque terror in North Sinai, the country’s largest attack which killed more than 300 men and children when gunmen besieged Al-Rawda mosque during a Friday sermon.

Since he came to power, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi pledged protection to the Coptic minority in Egypt, especially after sectarian assaults and church fires reached a peak under former President Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist regime.

Al-Sisi is in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh where he is sponsoring the World Youth Forum.

Government reaction, Pope call for resistance

Al-Sisi is in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh where he is sponsoring the World Youth Forum. The president sent out his condolences to the families of the victims, and stood with the forum’s attendees for a moment of silence.

Neither the Ministry of Interior nor the armed forces have issued official or mourning statements. The ministry referred to the below statement which cited an unnamed security official, calling on the press to stick to “official statements.”

The statement sent out to the press and media said the main road to the monastery has been closed for security reasons because of the unsafe desert area and absence of telecommunications network. It added that the victims had sought alternatives pathways to reach the monastery.

As for Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, he thanked Al-Sisi for a phone call offering condolences to the families of the victims, and a conversation during which the president stressed upon Egypt’s determination to stand against terrorism.

“We suffered today after this incident in which a number of our children became martyrs and wounded on their way to the [monastery]. We have suffered so much during such incidents,” the pope said in a statement early Saturday morning.

“We know that such incidents do not affect us Copts only, but affects the entire Egyptian society and we are aware that the most valuable things we have are our unity and cohesion,” the pope added.

Shortly after the May 2017 attack, the Ministry of Interior had issued a statement announcing the initial number of victims and explaining that gunmen used three four-wheel drive cars in the attack.

In August 2017, the ministry announced the killing of three terrorist suspects involved in the bus shootings during a fire exchange in a desert area near the Qena governorate.

Terrorism targets Coptic worshipers constantly

In August, a suicide bomber failed to infiltrate the worshippers gathered at the Virgin Mary Church for a service.

Security around the church prevented him from doing so, however, and he subsequently detonated his explosives on top of a nearby bridge in the Qalyubia governorate on the outskirts of Cairo, killing himself in the process.

Police then arrested seven alleged militants with relations to the foiled bombing.

The targeting of Coptic pilgrims and worshippers in mass terror attacks has increased in the past couple of years.

Last December, a gunman killed at least 10 people at the Mar Mina Church in Helwan in the southern suburb of Cairo.

On Palm Sunday in April 2017, a twin suicide bombing took place at St. George’s Church in the northern Egyptian city of Tanta on the Nile delta, and Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the principal church in Alexandria, seat of the Coptic papacy, where the pope was giving a sermon. The attacks killed at least 45 and injured over a hundred.

In December 2016, at least 29 people were killed and over 40 injured as a suicide bomber targeted St. peter and St. Paul’s Church, a chapel next to Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, in Cairo‘s Abbasia district.

In North Sinai where security forces have been leading an anti-terrorism war since 2013, Coptic citizens were regularly the target of extremists, shooting them dead on the streets and in their houses, or beheading them and destroying their properties. By February 2017, dozens of families had fled the peninsula.

Minya, Coptic community faces extremism in Upper Egypt

On Friday 31 August, Copts of Demshaw Hashem village in Minya were subjected to sectarian violence. At least two people were injured. Assaulters stole money and golden objects from them, destroyed household electronic equipment, and set fire to their properties, according to Bishop Makarius of Minya.

While the incident comes in a long series of such attacks against Coptic communities in Upper Egypt, largely in Minya, Assiut and Sohag, Bishop Makarius implied negligence on behalf of the security apparatus.

He stated that talks about a possible attack already existed few days before it happened, and security forces were informed but then arrived at the village after the attack.

He also added that another attack had taken place weeks earlier at another village called Ezbet Sultan. The motives behind sectarian attacks was more or less similar throughout the months and years; extremists objecting to Copts having a worship place to gather, whether it’s a church, an affiliated building or an unlicensed house.

In July, the Sultan village witnessed a protest with anti-Coptic chants, displaying power and defiance and an official promising them to respond to their demands at the cost of Copts rights to perform their religious rituals.

Al-Sisi vowed to protect the Coptic community in the aftermath of violence and churches burning in post-2013.

But in July 2016 as attacks mounted, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) counted at least three incidents in the Minya governorate alone between June to July.

A report said that ten cases were documented since January 2016 and 77 cases since 2011, not including attacks on churches, religious structures, schools, civic associations, and private property owned by Copts from August 14 to 17, following the crackdown on the sit-ins of the supporters of the deposed President Morsi and pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins of Rabaa Al-Adawiya and Nahda Squares.

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Coffee across globe: 1.8% more production, 5.7% more consumption in 2018 Tue, 30 Oct 2018 08:30:33 +0000 Coffee consumption in Finland highest, reaching 12kg per capita annually according to ICO

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The world loves coffee. This is something everybody knows. That warm tingle in your stomach in the morning, the smell of the freshly-brewed beans at your favourite coffee shop, and the varying kinds of coffee, welcoming all kinds of coffee drinkers every day, and everywhere.

However, some countries are more obsessed about their hot morning drink than others. Coffee consumption across the world has always been interesting to look at, as well as coffee production.

On the 1st of October of each year, the world celebrates ‘International Coffee Day’, making it a good opportunity to look at the figures and understand the world’s coffee consumption, production trends, and to dig deeper into that delicious world.

When it comes to countries that produce coffee, Brazil has the lion’s share as the world’s largest exporter. It ships about 5.7bn pounds of grounds each year, the Telegraph reported. It has managed to remain in its position as a main exporter for over 150 years, supplying about 80% of the world’s coffee in 1920s. However, that figure has recently fallen to around a third. The second largest exporting country is Vietnam, exporting 3.6bn pounds each year, followed by Colombia with 1.8bn pounds, Indonesia with 1.5bn pounds and Ethiopia with 847m pounds.

According to a September 2018 report by the International Coffee Organization (ICO):

“Global coffee production has seen some changes, including changes in prices. World production in coffee, in 2017/18 is an estimated 5.7% higher with a total output of 164.81m bags. Arabica increased by 2.2% to 101.82m and Robusta by 11.7% to 62.99m bags. The larger supply in coffee for year 2017/18 is reflected in increased shipments in August 2018, as global exports increased 6.3% to 11.1m bags compared to August 2017. For coffee in 2017/18, world consumption is estimated 1.8% higher at 162.23m bags, but coffee production exceeded this by 2.58m bags. This surplus has contributed to the low prices this season. The ICO composite indicator fell to 98.17 US cents/lb. in September 2018, 4.1% lower than in August 2018, the lowest monthly average since October 2006 when it reached 95.53 US cents/lb. Prices for all group indicators fell for the fourth consecutive month in September 2018. The largest decrease occurred in the average price for Robusta, which fell by 5% to 76.70 US cents/lb. followed by a decline of 4.4% to 99.87 US cents/lb. for Brazilian Naturals.”

As for coffee consumption, the Telegraph has reported that Finland has the highest coffee consumption rates, reaching 12kg per capita per year, followed by Norway at 9.9kg, Iceland at 9kg, Denmark at 8.7kg, and the Netherlands at 8.4kg. The US ranks 26th and the UK ranks 45th on that list.

Noteworthy, the leading company in the black coffee market is Starbucks, followed by UCC, Pacific Coffee and Chameleon.

On the other side of the globe, specifically in Egypt, Egyptians’ consumption of coffee spiked in 2018, reaching about 45,000 tonnes of coffee during the first half of the year, compared to 40,000 tonnes in 2017. This is according to a report issued by the Coffee Division at Cairo’s Chamber of Commerce, showing a 30% increase in demand for coffee, especially following the month of Ramadan.

Egypt imports 100% of its coffee, with 70% of from Indonesia, given the reasonable price and good quality.

The global trends of coffee production and consumption across the world may keep changing, but one thing is for sure, coffee is popular and is not going anywhere anytime soon.

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Egypt has potential to become industry focal point, trading centre for electric vehicles Tue, 30 Oct 2018 07:00:51 +0000 Environment Ministry is working to expand sustainable transportation projects

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The Friedrich Ebert Foundation has concluded its ‘Sustainable Transport in Egypt’ conference entitled ‘Cleaner Mobility and the Advent of Electric Vehicles’.

The conference was held in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, the Centre For Environment & Development For The Arab Region & Europe (Cedare), the UNDP facility, and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) on 24 and 25 October. The conference discussed means of using clean energy in the transport sector, policies and legislations, and providing infrastructure to rely on electric vehicles throughout Egypt.

Environment Minister Yasmin Fouad

The conference was attended by Environment Minister Yasmin Fouad; Representative for Egypt’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Country Office Richard Probst; Regional Director of the sustainable growth sector at CEDARE Hossam Allam; Representative of the New Administrative Capital on behalf of Ahmed Zaki Abdin, Mahmady Eid; Chairperson of the New Administrative Capital; Representative of the UNEP  Alexandre Corner; a Jordanian delegation to present its transformation experience into electric vehicles; several Egyptian and international experts in the field of electric mobility and sustainable transport, and a few Egyptian automotive company representatives.

During the conference, Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad explained that the ministry began seven years ago to coordinate with international and local partners to plan for electric vehicle-based sustainable transport, given its major role in reducing harmful emissions, provide a clean environment, green economy and improve life quality.

She added that it goes beyond importing electric vehicles, up to to implementing a comprehensive operation system. Currently, the Environment Ministry is working to expand sustainable transportation projects to save fuel consumption in the sector in Egypt and improve the environment.

Furthermore, Fouad is also cooperating with several local and international partners as well as with university students, to utilise their potential and projects in serving sustainable transport. The minister hopes that Egypt be successful in reducing harmful emissions within Egypt’s 2030 Sustainable Development Plan.

Additionally, the environment minister praised the conference because it is a real opportunity to exchange experiences on how electric vehicles and infrastructure are needed in different countries by presenting a research paper on the general status of electric vehicles in Egypt, as well as the case study of Jordan, and overviews of China and Germany.

Representative for Egypt’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Country Office Richard Probst

Richard Probst, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung representative, urged the need for a community dialogue with all stakeholders at all industry levels, including trade and environment, as well as strengthening local and international companies based on the Green Economy Roadmap for the UN, which heavily relies on innovative change in the transport sector, and shifting towards sustainable transport.

Egypt has the potential to become an industry focal point, and a trading centre for electric vehicles, indicated Probst, noting that electric vehicles are one of the most prominent pillars which can have a permanent positive impact on the community’s economic indicators.

He also stressed the need to exchange experiences on how to trade electric vehicles and the necessary infrastructure in different countries.

He also expressed great pleasure in the Egyptian government’s attempt to transform according to sustainable transport, based on the use of electric vehicles, in addition to the presence of local dealers and agents of local cars convinced of the need to move towards electric vehicles, and whom have recently  already started introducing models in the local market.

Mohamady Eid, representative of Ahmad Zaki Abdeen, president of the New Administrative Capital, confirmed during the conference that the New Administrative Capital is currently building the first electric train out of a total of two trains for public transport, in cooperation with Chinese partners, which will start operating within two years.

Eid added that the New Capital will be environmentally-friendly, according to Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad’s recommendations, which require using environmentally-friendly tools, including electric vehicles. He indicated that one of each lampposts will have a charger, and much more, where the New Administrative Capital will be Egypt’s first smart city.

The Capital allocated only 25,000 feddan for roads, which is 15% of the total area, so that the width of each road will range from 240m to 40m, to keep the environment clean, and ensure low carbon combustion, stressed Eid.

The New Capital also includes green areas on 22,000 feddan, in addition to an 8,000 feddan green river which will produce oxygen and eliminate carbon emissions.

Hossam Allam, CEDARE representative, said that the debate about introducing means of electrical transportation in the Arab region started two years ago, especially in Egypt, pointing out that cars are a small part of what Egypt can unlock in terms of substitutable development, and what they contribute to economic and social development.

During his speech at the conference, Allam said that Egypt is qualified to become a station and a centre for electric car manufacturing, especially in the SCZone, which can become the most important areas in the world for electric vehicle manufacturing, given that Egypt has important international agreements, such as COMESA and Agadir, pointing out that there were countries who have applied similar experiences, such as Morocco five years ago, which has now become a manufacturing hub.

Allam also highlighted that besides in addition to the negative impacts of traditional fuel, it also consumes government subsidies, which costs the state billions annually, mentioning that fuel is less efficient than electricity for motor vehicles.

Furthermore, he declared CEDARE’s commitment to develop a strategic plan, in cooperation with the concerned authorities and research centres, to identify the roles and policies and build an institutional framework in order to achieve the desired objectives of sustainable transport, and the distribution of electric vehicles.

Representative of the UNEP  Alexandre Corner

Alexander Corner, representative of the Air and Navigation Unit at UNEP, presented an e-Mob draft to enable the use of electric vehicles in developing countries, in cooperation with the Global Environment Facility, which focuses on the local potential of these countries for electric vehicles, through the infrastructure and local electric transmission project, which is working to rehabilitate 30 countries worldwide.

Corner explained that there is significant potential Egypt, including developing electric transport policies, analysing and developing local affairs studies, relying on electric buses and trucks, developing electric car industry policies , and starting activities to raise consumer awareness.

In Addition, he recommended developing a special version of the national project of electric transport in Egypt.

Ahmed El-Dorghami, Environmental and Energy Expert at CEDARE, presented several studies on the damage of all environment aspects in Egypt due to transport pollution, especially in overcrowded cities such as Cairo, stressing the importance of transforming to electric vehicles to preserve Egyptian lives.

He pointed out that 95% passenger cars are spent on parking, hinting at the need to increase reliance on electric public transportation to serve the sustainable development goals in Egypt.

The government exempted electric cars from customs, while other electric vehicles are subject to 40% in customs, which hinders sustainable development operations, and Dorghami urged the government to reconsider this, adding that the existence of a city to scrap old cars is necessary, as they are the most prominent reason of pollution.

In addition, there is concern about the laws and policies related to electric vehicles, especially licenses, so it is necessary to develop an integrated general strategy for electric transport in Egypt, concluded Dorghami.

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Western media role exposed Khashoggi’s true fate Sun, 28 Oct 2018 10:00:53 +0000 Case topped news agenda for weeks pushing world leaders, Saudi Arabia to seek accountability

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Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, 53, was assassinated last October in a car bomb. Swedish Kim Wall, 30, was murdered and her body decapitated last August. Slovakian Jan Kuciack, 27, and his girlfriend were shot dead in their house earlier this year. This month, Bulgarian Victoria Marinova, 30, was just found murdered.

With little justice served so far in the brutal murders of these journalists, targeted for their work, by those in power be it government-linked members, organised crime groups or other individuals.

But one new case finally turned things upside down, bringing global attention to a gruesome act committed against a journalist and topping the global agenda for weeks.

Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, 59, was killed earlier this October inside his consulate in Istanbul. His case has shaken things at the highest command level of the kingdom’s ruling family.

As the world watched, King Bin Salman Abdul Aziz had to sack intelligence officers and an advisor to the court. Saud Arabia is yet to completely put out the fire out of this one after a series of official Khashoggi scenarios failed one after the other.

Media pressure pushed world leaders, even US President Donald Trump who sees media as enemies and whom Khashoggi was critical of, and Saudi Arabia to seek accountability.

Despite accusations to the media of biased coverage or misleading reports, what the media established about the fate of Khashoggi winded up being correct: he had disappeared after last being seen entering the consulate but never coming out and he has been killed inside, although the details of what happened to remain subject of investigations.

Since his disappearance on 2 October, media raised concerns. More than two weeks later, media reported his murder citing unnamed Turkish officials, casting doubt on the Saudi government.

Media painted the large picture. Khashoggi, living in self-exile in the US and criticising some policies adopted by Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, had been lured into the consulate– killed and his body put out of sight.

Khashoggi had first visited the consulate on 28 September, willingly, to finalise divorce documents in order to marry his Turkish fiancée and was asked to come back on 2 October.

By that time, a plan to deal with him would be set up, as Saudi Arabia later confirmed, arresting 15 suspects reported to have flown to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi.

While most Arab media contents politicised the case to attack or support the kingdom, with Saudi and pro-Saudi media focusing on slamming Qatari and Turkish media, the Western media, particularly American newspapers and TV led the quest for truth in the case.

Pictures of Saudi journalist Khashoggi are placed on security barriers during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul

The Washington Post on the hunt for contributor fate

The situation for the Post was different from that of other media as the case concerned one of its own, putting out the first information on Khashoggi on 3 October.

“A Saudi journalist who has written Washington Post columns critical of the kingdom’s assertive crown prince has gone missing after visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the newspaper and his supporters said Wednesday, raising concerns over his safety,” it said. Two days later, it printed an empty column by the writer.

Columnist David Ignatius, Khashoggi’s longtime friend, and Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Post talked about the missing Post contributor and his work. According to Ignatius, Khashoggi was very positive during the Arab Spring but Attiah said years later he was worried about the degree of oppression.

“As far as for the Post, we’re not gonna let this go, we shouldn’t let this go and his words aren’t gone,” Attiah said.

Jamal starting writing for the Post in 2017 when he left Saudi Arabia to the US as censorship on him increased back home. The Post often published an Arabic version of his articles too. They published his last article on 17 October, saying they had received it from his translator after his disappearance.

Media, one step ahead, imposes truth revelation

Western media quickly picked up the Post’s first reports of their missing journalist. Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi’s fiancée, was the main source, as she accompanied him to the consulate and waited outside for him to come out, in vain. Thus, media began searching to solve the mystery.

Relying on Turkish officials leaks, media reported that Khashoggi has been intentionally killed inside the consulate and his body feared mutilated. The media published a load of details, although unofficially confirmed, but enough to spark global scepticism to Saudis response that he had left the consulate intact and that they had no information on his whereabouts.

As media continued analysing the impact of the case had it been confirmed that the Saudi government was linked to the murder, possibly jeopardising Saudi-US relations, the kingdom tried to put up a more plausible story and arrested Saudi officials and nationals.

Going form an investigation gone wrong to a fistfight, Saudi officials may now be on their way to fully admit this was a premeditated murder and that somebody must be held accountable for it.

Leaks to Turkish media kept the story in the headlines, according to New York Times Megan Specia who wrote in a Wednesday column that Turkish authorities strategically began leaking information to pro-government news outlets, offering descriptions of audio recordings revealing how the body has been dismembered.

“The leaks, some of which were confirmed by President Erdogan in a speech on Tuesday, put pressure on the Saudi government to offer an explanation on Mr. Khashoggi’s whereabouts,” Specia wrote.

Media reacts

“WHERE is Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi? We are watching and we need answers. A valued colleague for decades, his courageous reporting is vital for any informed citizenry,” CNN Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour tweeted as news of his disappearance emerged.

By the second week of Khashoggi’s disappearance, international media companies began pulling out of Riyadh’s economic conference as sponsors of the event.

CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, the New York Times and Japanese media company Nikkei all withdrew.

Finola McDonnell, chief communications and marketing officer at the Financial Times tweeted on 12 October: “The Financial Times will not be partnering with the FII conference in Riyadh while the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi remains unexplained.”

New York Times columnist and editor Andrew Ross Sorkin tweeted: “I’m terribly distressed by the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports of his murder. I will no longer be participating in the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.”

According to CNN, Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong have also cancelled plans to speak. Eventually, Fox Business Network was the last sponsor to pull out a few days ahead of the conference.

According to Reporters Without Borders, between 25 and 30 professional and non-professional journalists are currently detained in Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 169th out of 180 countries in 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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‘Coffee plantation work hard, but we love it, got used to it,’: Indonesian workers Mon, 22 Oct 2018 07:30:10 +0000 Daily working hours extend 10 during harvest season, says Yati

The post ‘Coffee plantation work hard, but we love it, got used to it,’: Indonesian workers appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

With delighted faces where hard work signs are obvious, Indonesian coffee plantation workers welcomed the Daily News Egypt reporter at their old standing coffee plantation “Banaran” in the city of Semarang.

Mul Yati, 47, has worked at the Banaran coffee plantation since 1984, and she became a supervisor at the plantation, adding, “I’ve been working here since the 1980s to help my mother, but I was not a legal worker.”

“The work here is hard, but we got used to as our grandfathers did and we really love it,” said Yati, adding that she works for hours daily. However, working hours extend to 10 hours during harvest season, which include the months from May to September annually.

The Banaran coffee plantation, which dates back to 1908, includes 400 employees in the harvest collecting season, and 250 in regular months.

Yati mentioned that her company provides the workers with gloves and rubbers to protect their hands and feet while working in the plantation, noting, “I use manual sharp instruments while working. However, the company offers some modern equipment that men can control and use, but I can’t so women prefer the manual equipment.”

Noteworthy, Indonesian coffee plantation workers cut coffee trees to suit their personal heights which is why they use sharp instruments.

Yati noted that her salary is sufficient to supply her life needs, mentioning, “my salary is inshallah (God willing) enough. I have a boy and a grandchild, and I don’t have an additional job.”

“Now there are no children working for the plantation, and the worker’s ages are convenient. Personally, I will retire at 55,” announced Yati, adding that she loves drinking coffee, but she cannot drink it for health issues.

According to the International Coffee Organization (ICO) that there are 1.4bn coffee cups drunk daily worldwide.

The world’s top coffee lovers are Finns according to consumption per capital. They grind their way through an impressive 12kg per person, per year.

Brazil is the world’s largest coffee exporter, shipping a truly remarkable 5.7bn pounds of ground coffee annually, according to the ICO. Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee exporter for over 150 years

The ICO noted that Brazil supplied around 80% of the world’s coffee in the 1920s, but that figure has fallen to around a third.

The second exporter is, perhaps surprisingly, Vietnam, followed by Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.


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Indonesian PTPN to open two offices in Cairo, Dubai soon Mon, 22 Oct 2018 07:00:30 +0000 PTPN’s investments worth $66bn; ‘we want direct access to Egyptian clients’ says Budiman

The post Indonesian PTPN to open two offices in Cairo, Dubai soon appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

 Indonesia- PT Perkebunan Nusantara Holding company (PTPN) will inaugurate two new offices in Cairo, Egypt and Dubai, the UAEArif Budiman, the company’s senior Vice President of Marketing department told Daily News Egypt (DNE), adding that his company aims to open direct access to its clients in the Middle East region.

“Egypt imports about 70% of its coffee needs from Indonesian traders who purchase from our company and sell to Egyptian traders. We want direct access to Egyptian clients,” explained Budiman.

PTPN’s investments are worth about $66bn, said Budiman, noting, “we don’t have branches outside Indonesia as we produce tropical products that need certain conditions to grow, so it impossible to invest in plantations in Egypt due to the different climate.”

The company exports limited amounts of crude palm oil to Egypt, said Budiman, noting, “exported palm oil to Egypt depends on tenders offered, and the country’s demand, as palm oil is not very commonly used in Egypt. However, it is used in several different ways instead of in food.”

Notably, palm oil products are used in consumer retail food and fast food manufacturers, personal care and cosmetics products, biofuel and energy products, animal feed products, pharmaceuticals, industrial utilization, food services as well as the service industry.

Palm oil applications vary widely because they can be processed and blended to produce a vast range of products with different characteristics.

PTPN is currently negotiating with Arma group to export 5,000 tonnes of Indonesian palm oil to Egypt on a monthly basis, said Budiman, adding that his company is conducting negotiations with other Egyptian companies to directly export Indonesian coffee.

Budiman clarified that the current negotiations with Egyptian private sector companies began when a business delegation from the company visited Egypt early October, noting that Egyptian markets possess great potential.

From 7 to 10 October, an Indonesian delegation from PTPN visited Egypt, sources from Indonesia’s embassy to Cairo told DNE early October, noting that the company is a fully state-owned enterprise engaged in Indonesia’s agriculture sector.

PTPN’s visit aimed to explore potential opportunities for the enhancement of Indonesian-Egyptian bilateral trade cooperation especially in commodities which PTPN trades in, said the sources, adding that Crude palm oil (CPO), palm kernel oil (PKO), palm kernel (PK), palm kernel meal (PKM), tea, coffee, cacao, as well as rubber, gloves are the main commodities which PTPN trades in.


During PTPN’s recent visit, Indonesia’s embassy in Cairo, organised a business meeting with a delegation from PTPN and Egyptian counterparts to discuss boosting joint cooperation. Meanwhile in July, Indonesian ambassador to Egypt, Helmy Fauzi, expected a 10% increase in the bilateral trade exchange between his country and Egypt by the end of 2018, noting that the annual average of bilateral trade registers approximately $1.5bn.

The company’s main markets for exporting palm oil products are India, China, European countries. On the other hand, rubber products are exported to China, the US, India, Japan, Belgium, and Taiwan, mentioned Budiman.

Additionally, Budiman declared that his company’s revenues were $3bn in 2017, mentioning that it aims to achieving 10% revenues increase by the end of 2018.

There are presently around 133,000 employees at Pt Perkebunan Nusantara Holding company, highlighted Budiman.

PTPN includes 14 affiliated companies which are established all over Indonesia, added Budiman, noting that his company mainly produces palm oil products as well as sugar.

“The first PTPN company is in Aceh and produces palm oil and rubber. The second PTPN company is in North Sumatra and produces sugar and palm oil. The third PTPN company is in North Sumatra and produces palm oil and rubber. The forth PTPN company is in North Sumatra and mainly produces palm oil and tea. The fifth PTPN company is in Riau and also produces palm oil and rubber,” said Budiman.

Budiman elaborated that the sixth company is in West Sumatra and produces palm oil, tea and rubber while the seventh company is in North Sumatra, Lambung, and produces palm oil, tea, sugar and rubber, adding that eighth company is in West Java and mainly produces palm oil, tea and rubber while the ninth company is in Central Java and produces coffee, tea, rubber and sugar.

“The 10th company is in the East Java province and produces sugar and tobacco. The 11th company is in the East Java province and only produces sugar. The 12th company is also in the East Java province and produces rubber, coffee, tea and sugar. The 13th company is in Kalimantan and produces palm oil and rubber. The 14th company is in the Sulawesi province, and mainly produces palm oil and sugar,” concluded Budiman.

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Media issues in Khashoggi case Sun, 21 Oct 2018 14:00:44 +0000 Despite Saudi Arabia’s admission of journalist’s murder, case coverage problematic

The post Media issues in Khashoggi case appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

If there have been concerns about lack of media professionalism and ethics in recent times, where international polarisation and social media platforms became leaders of the news agenda, the case of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi certainly provided concrete examples of just that.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who often criticised the Saudi government’s policies, disappeared after entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to what his fiancée initially reported.

While it has been widely circulated that Khashoggi may have been killed, to date, the journalist’s remains missing as nobody was found. Yet, instead of presenting the case facts, the media is juggling between biased analyses and rushing to conclusions, before the conclusion of investigations and reporting unnamed officials, mostly Turkish.

Reports arose of a recording detailing Khashoggi’s gruesome death and dismemberment at the hands of a Saudi hit squad, adding that one alleged member of the squad advised others to listen to music to calm themselves while dismembering Khashoggi’s body.

Accusations were directed to the Saudi government, given its low record in human rights, and brutal oppression of dissidents. The Saudis also issued conflicting statements about the case, originally stating Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed.

But on Saturday, Saudi Arabia admitted Khashoggi’s death inside the consulate. According to the Saudi Press Agency, the general prosecutor’s initial investigations revealed that Khashoggi physically quarrelled with members of the consulate, which resulted in his death.

The report added that 18 Saudis were arrested, and are undergoing investigations, and that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The case naturally put Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, who presented himself as a reformist, under the microscope, as he led the country’s growing influence in the region in the past couple of years. Opponents to the crown prince and the kingdom’s policies found an opportunity in the case to raise criticism.

Fake news, statements

On 17 October, over two weeks into Khashoggi’s disappearance, Reuters tweeted that the Saudi consul in Istanbul was sacked and investigated. A Reuters story cited the Saudi Sabq news website was the source of this information.

As journalists quickly began to search for the Saudi report, Reuters pulled out the story and published: “Saudi consul in Istanbul relieved of the post, to be investigated-report is withdrawn. The report did not appear on Sabq newspaper’s website as reported. There will be no replacement story.”

While this was not the only fake news circulated over the case generally, it was one of the most relevant instances: the world’s leading news agency had fallen for a bogus online link.

Interestingly, Reuters had conducted a research in 2017 on fake news, where it stated that less than half the population, or 43%, trust the media throughout the 36 countries surveyed, and almost a third, or 29%, actively avoid the news, rising to 38% in the US.

A follow-up report examined what publishers could do about fake news and quoted experts as saying: “The simplest thing journalists can do as gatekeepers of reliable information is to trace a figure right back to its source before quoting it, every time.”

In the case of Khashoggi, even alleged official statements could turn out to be fake.

For example, a statement circulated over the weekend attributed to the Council of Senior Scholars, the kingdom’s highest religious body appointed by the king, condemned Mohamed bin Salman and called for his isolation over Khashoggi’s murder.

Several Arabic news websites reported and published a copy of the statement. Actually, the council’s official Twitter account had published a statement on 14 October by the government, voicing the kingdom’s rejection of threats of economic sanctions, describing murder accusations as baseless claims and rumours.

On a different occasion, US President Donald Trump denied on Friday media reports that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had visited Saudi Arabia and Turkey last week, was ever “given or shown a transcript or video of the Saudi consulate event,” adding: “FAKE NEWS”.

This came as a response to an ABC News report which said that Pompeo heard an alleged recording of Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate, citing a senior Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity.

Biased, polarised media coverage

“The failure of media in the Khashoggi test” was the title of a piece published by the editor-in-chief of Egyptian private newspaper Al-Shourouk on 16 October.

Emad El-Din Hussein pointed out that until 15 October, news should have stuck to describing the incident as the disappearance of Khashoggi after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. “Until now, Turkish authorities have not pointed fingers towards Saudi Arabia of kidnapping or a forceful disappearance of Khashoggi, despite increasing Turkish and American leaks in the direction of murder,” he wrote.

What Hussein emphasised is that media coverage should have clearly stated that none of the information published was 100% accurate, without having proof. To him, bias stemmed from a state of regional and international polarisation between many parties.

According to Hussein, media hostile to Saudi Arabia, mainly in Turkey and Qatar, aimed at incriminating the kingdom after the Khashoggi case came to them as “a gift from the sky.” On the other hand, pro-Saudi media also provided a one-sided version of the story, also without proof.

Finally, Hussein criticised the increasing use of unnamed sources, and concluded that the case should be taught to media students as one where all parties were extremely biased.

Most Western media relied on unnamed Turkish officials, official statements from the US administration, and Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée who allegedly accompanied him to the consulate and reported his missing status.

Meanwhile, more than two weeks into Khashoggi’s disappearance, none of his family members, until Khashoggi’s son started tweeting a few days ago. While there may be concerns that family members could not have been able to speak for fear of reprisal or that they would support Saudi claims, there were no mentions of journalists’ attempts to contact them.

Pro-Saudi media focused on accusing other media of fabrication and bias. On 11 October, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya published a report accused Qatari and Turkish media of shamelessly politicising a human case.

The report said their media faked a story which quickly collapsed; claiming that a Saudi squad was behind the murder while in fact, those were Saudi tourists. Al-Arabiya provided no proof to its version of the story.

On the opposite side, CNN slammed Saudi Arabia over the case, heavily relied on Turkey for news and also criticised Saudi media coverage of the case. In a report on Saturday, CNN said: “With every claim from Turkey detailing more lurid details in the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s media bends further forward — risking a face plant in its efforts to kowtow to a different reality.”

In this analysis by Sam Kiley, all Saudi claims were rejected and Mohamed Bin Salman fiercely criticised, described as weak and portrayed as lying about the case.

On Friday, Al-Jazeera published a report criticising the “silence” of Arab leaders and their siding with Riyadh, in comparison to European countries which voiced their concern over the case. The report came before Saudi Arabia announced Khashoggi’s death.

“A handful of Arab governments including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did issue statements, but those were in solidarity with Saudi Arabia, which has faced an international backlash over the disappearance of Khashoggi,” Al-Jazeera reported.

In fact, the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement on 14 October, where it said Egypt was following the case with “great concern”, calling for transparent investigations and refuting baseless claims.

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In focus: Egypt’s complicated relationship with its traditions Thu, 18 Oct 2018 23:21:50 +0000 Egypt is a country with a long and distinguished history, replete with a rich and diverse culture.

The post In focus: Egypt’s complicated relationship with its traditions appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egypt is a country with a long and distinguished history, replete with a rich and diverse culture. Once home to some of the leading minds in human civilisation, ancient Egyptians have been credited with the advent of the written word, literature, mathematics, and geometry. Let’s not forget they were also the architects behind the world-famous pyramids.

Although their legacy as a trailblazing nation is undisputed, their various laws have been criticised by world leaders around the globe. In this article we take a look at some of the most baffling laws in Egypt, and see how they compare to those in the United Kingdom (UK).


Law 1: Gambling

 Online betting has long been legalised in the UK, and it is nighon impossible to escape the all-dominating allure of the industry in popular media, advertising, and everyday life. The online betting industry also provides an enormous financial windfall to the British government.

The Gambling Commission which answers to the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport regulates the industry (with the exception of spread betting which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) under the terms of the Gambling Act of 2005.

The Gambling Commission was established under the terms of the Gambling Act of 2005, assuming its full power two years later.

It took over many of the responsibilities previously held by the Gaming Board for Great Britain, and it also became responsible for the regulation of online gambling. Additionally, in 2013 it took over regulation of the National Lottery from the National Lottery Commission.

According to the Gambling Act of 2005, the Gambling Commission has the power to issue a license to gambling operators and impose fines, or revoke licenses if necessary. The act states the objectives of the Gambling Commission to be as follows:

  • Preventing gambling from becoming a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder, or being used to support crime
  • Ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • Protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling

When it comes to providing online gambling services to UK residents, only companies whose operations are based in the UK can be issued licenses by the Gambling Commission.

However, the organization has a whitelist of approved gambling jurisdictions. Operators who obtain licenses from within those jurisdictions may also service UK customers.

In 2017 the gross gambling yield of the industry was £13.9 billion, a third of which was from the online sector. Gambling also provides over 100,000 jobs for people in the United Kingdom.

The industry is heavily regulated by Theresa May’s government, and online betting companies are compelled to follow stringent laws regarding money-laundering, and the prevention of problem gambling.

The relaxed laws in the UK have encouraged healthy competition in the industry as well. This has given rise to a number of gambling sub-categories where companies have focused on specific customer-bases and markets.

One such website which has decided not to compete with mainstream betting companies in the UK is Rose Slots. Offering games that tap into a range of niches, and are tailored towards the demographic of middle-aged women, with generous bonus offers, they have enjoyed enormous success.

The rise of in Rose Slots shows the equality and diversity of the gambling industry in the UK, and how competition has allowed it to create a gaming site that caters for a non-traditional gambling demographic. Even just looking at these UK slot games it has available, indicates quite how broad the gambling culture is in the country – with game themed around cult movies, and popular music acts.

Egypt has none of these services available to its citizens – gambling is strictly forbidden,by Islamic law (shari’a) on the grounds that “the agreement between participants is based on immoral inducement provided by entirely wishful hopes in the participants’ minds that they will gain by mere chance, with no consideration for the possibility of loss,”and is only available to foreign tourists, with the exception of the state-run lottery. Egypt has derived most of its laws from the Qu’ran, which strictly forbids the practice of gambling.In scriptureit is stated in the Quran that games of chance, including gambling (qimar), are a “grave sin” and “abominations of Satan’s handiwork”.

They ask you about wine and gambling. Say: ‘In them both lies grave sin, though some benefit, to mankind. But their sin is more grave than their benefit.’

— Qur’an, 2:219 (al-Baqara)

However, many Egyptian citizens utilise online betting companies from different countries, as the ban on internet gambling is not widely regulated in Egypt. In physical land-based casinos, all guests must show their passports to gain entry, and prove that they are foreign visitors.

The gambling laws in Egypt seem particularly hypercritical when you consider that the state-run national lottery is widely advertised by the government.As a result of Egyptians’ strong fascination with gambling, there are plenty of land-based casino across the country. Due to the fact that government sanctioned casinos are only open to foreigners, it comes in handy that there are lots of online gambling sites on offer in Egypt. Additionally, there are many lotteries available, while sports betting is another popular pastime. Poker has also started to gain popularity, with the same applying for online poker games, including Caribbean Stud Poker.


Law 2: Controlled Drugs

 In the UK, Tramadol is a prescription-only drug issued to patients struggling with pain trauma – such as post-surgery pain, or conditions such as chronic back pain. Tramadol, like Diazepam and Fentanyl, is a controlled drug, as there is a risk of misuse, due to the addictive nature of the drug.Tramadol has become a Schedule 3 controlled drug as of 10 June 2014, as the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has a duty to keep drug

misuse in the UK under review, and to advise the government on measures for

preventing misuse and social problems arising from it. From a review of Tramadol, the

ACMD recommended the legislative changes following an increasing number of

reports within the NHS involving Tramadol, and the significant harm when misused

including death. The legislative changes are considered to provide the correct

controls to prevent the diversion and misuse of Tramadol.The ACMD also recommended that prescribers and other healthcare professionalswho prescribe, or come into contact with people who use Tramadol, should be given appropriate training and support concerning its misuse and adverse effects,especially with regards to its “dual-action”.

The following are the prescription requirements for a Schedule 3 controlled drug:

  • Tramadol prescriptions will only be valid for 28 days.
  • Prescriber – the prescription needs to be signed by the prescriber, with the

date it was signed, and the address of the prescriber-practice included on the

prescription (which must be within the UK).

  • Quantity – The maximum quantity to be supplied should not exceed 30 days,

in line with the Department of Health recommendations for Schedule 2, 3 and

4 controlled drugs. This is not a legal restriction, but a prescriber must be able

to justify the quantity requested on a clinical basis if more than 30 days’

supply is prescribed. When required quantities should also not exceed the

month’s supply. Please note this may result in additional prescription charges

for some patients that they should be made aware of.

The total quantity of medicine to be supplied must be stated in words and

figures on the prescription.

  • Dose – the dose must be clearly defined. For example:Not legally acceptable: Take as directed; When required; Decrease dose by50mg every four days.Legally acceptable: Take One as directed; Take Two every six hours whenrequired.
  • The formulation and strength (as tramadol is available in more than onestrength) must also be stated on the prescription.

From 10 June 2014, community pharmacists may contact the Practice for non-urgent

replacement prescriptions if they are presented with a Tramadol prescription dated

before the legislation came into force. The community pharmacist may also contact

the Practice if they have a Tramadol prescription that is awaiting collection or owing,

to ask the prescriber to review the prescription and issue a replacement.

Tramadol can no longer be prescribed as part of the NHS repeat dispensing scheme

as Schedule 2 and 3 controlled drugs cannot be prescribed under these

arrangements. Community pharmacists have been advised to check all NHS repeat

dispensing prescriptions that they hold for Tramadol, and to contact the prescriber to

request a review of any tramadol prescriptions and if needed, a replacement FP10


In Egypt, however, it is a banned drug, as the country recently endured an opioid misuse crisis with Tramadol being the number oneabused drug. According to the Egyptian Drug Authority, the Ministry of Health and Population issued a decree on 12 February 2012 that Tramadol, according to Article 1, is added to Section 2 of roster number 1, complementary to the Anti-Narcotics Act number 182of 1960, for the Tramadol substance, its equivalent, salts, isotopes and any ingredient used in its preparation.


However,Laura Plummer from Hull did not know this when she visited Egypt in late 2017.

She was travelling to meet her husband, and brought with her 295 Tramadol tablets (roughly 2 and a half months’ supply) for her partner, as he was suffering from back pain following a recent car crash.

Upon arrival, Plummer was inspected at customs, and subsequently sentenced to 3 years in the infamous Al Qanater prison in Cairo. The woman claimed to have been unaware of the laws in Egypt, but judges did not view that as a sufficient excuse.

Despite several efforts from the British Foreign Office, Plummer still remains in custody, and has over 2 years remaining in her sentence. If British nationals are travelling to another country with a controlled drug, they must seek permission from the Home Office, prior to travelling.

Unfortunately for Laura Plummer, she was unaware of this when she flew to Egypt.

Nevertheless, now you know, so exercise caution when travelling to Egypt with prescription drugs.


Law 3: Debauchery

In 1967 homosexuality was officially decriminalised in England and Wales, with Northern Scotland (1980) and Ireland (1982) following suit shortly after. Gay marriage was then legalised in mainland Britain in 2013, which signalled a major step towards equality in the country, however, the laws in Egypt are not quite as progressive.

Whilst the act of homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, it is heavily frowned upon and homosexuals are vulnerable to prosecution under ‘debauchery’ laws. In 2014, 16 men were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment after flying the Rainbow Flag at a festival.

These men were charged under the Anti-Prostitution Act No 10 law of 1961in Egypt, which prohibits ‘habitual debauchery,’ and the promotion of homosexual activity. The British Foreign Office advises homosexual citizens travelling to Egypt to not to show affection for one another in public, and not to tell people about their sexual preferences.


How to remain on the right side of the law in Egypt

 The Foreign Office provides extensive advice to UK citizens looking to travel to Egypt, along with a full list of laws that differ from the UK. As Egypt is a predominantly Islamic-run country, there is a huge list of laws which do not apply in the UK.


Women must always dress modestly, and all visitors should adhere to local customs, and establishedreligious practices. Egypt is a country with various grey areas, however, behaviour in tourist resorts is largely ignored by the authorities.


If venturing out of a tourist resort, you must be sure to be on your best behaviour in order to avoid breaking the law, and landing yourself with a harsh prison sentence. Gamblers must be aware that they can bet in casinos as foreign nationals, but not so online.

Travellers on prescription drugs must check the status of that drug in Egypt prior to travel, and if necessary apply for special dispensation from the Home Office. Homosexuals must also hide their sexual preferences—certainly in public—to avoid being accused of debauchery.

Criticism of the President, the government, or the country’s laws online, may lead to a custodial sentence, so be discreet on social media too.



Although these are not laws, familiarising yourself with the culture of the country you’re visiting will enable you to enjoy a have a fun-filled trip, especially one with such a rich historical heritage, and one of the world’s greatest civilisations.

Keep in mind that most Egyptian employees expect tips after performing a service, known as Baksheesh. This can be expected for something as little as pressing the button in the elevator. Many workers will even ask you to tip them before you get a chance. The typical tip for minor services is 50pt to 1 LE. Due to the general shortage of small change, you may be forced to give 5 LE to do simple things like use the bathroom. Just understand that this is part of the culture.

Do not photograph people without their permission, and in areas frequented by tourists do not be surprised if a bit of baksheesh is requested. If you’re male, don’t be surprised if another male holds your hand or forearm or engages in some form of bodily contact – there’s no taboo against men holding hands and unlike in the West, this behaviour is not associated with homosexuality. In general, Egyptians are a lot more comfortable with less personal space than are most Westerners; however, pairs of Westerners should be cautious in engaging in same-sex contact. Normal contact is quite acceptable (shaking hands, pats on the shoulder, etc.) but holding hands could be mistaken in Westerners as a sign of homosexuality, which is quite taboo in Egypt. Smoking is very common and cigarettes are very cheap in Egypt.

Gamal Abdul Nasser, the second President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and many others are considered national heroes in Egypt; you should say absolutely nothing that could be perceived as offensive or derogatory regarding him. Tread carefully around such topics and let others guide the openness of the discussion. Many Egyptians have a different interpretation concerning ambiguous expressions such as freedom of speech and democracy. Likewise, don’t bring up politics and other delicate issues impulsively. It is advisable not to discuss Israel even if tempted; do not speak loudly about it as it may attract unwanted attention, even if you are only talking about it as a travel destination.

Never discuss religion from an atheistic or similar point of view. Even highly educated Egyptians who studied abroad won’t appreciate it and doors will close for you. Also be aware that the Islamic “call to prayer” takes place five times a day, and can be heard loudly almost anywhere you go. Just understand that most Egyptians are used to it, and enjoy it as part of the cultural experience.

Take great care if you choose to drink, especially if you’re from countries where heavy drinking is accepted. Even if you are used to it, you can’t estimate the effects of the climate, even at night. The impact drunk people have on Egyptians is quite considerable, and very negative. The best plan is just to abstain or limit yourself to one drink per meal while in Egypt, and it will be cheaper too!

Do not elicit any conversations about politics, but don’t be afraid to partake if a local you are speaking with (typically a middle-class and well educated shopkeeper) begins a rant about his hatred for the current administration (for whom they blame, rightly or wrongly, for the drop in tourism and economic loss). This will be a common theme that you’ll find many of the friendly locals go into, but certainly you don’t want to be seen as a foreigner coming in to insult their government with knowledge of only what you hear in the media.



Egyptians are generally a conservative people and many are religious and dress very conservatively. Although they accommodate foreigners being dressed a lot more skimpily, it is prudent not dress provocatively, if only to avoid having people stare at you. It is best to wear pants or jeans instead of shorts, as only tourists wear these. In modern nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and bars in Cairo, Alexandria, and other tourist destinations, you’ll find the dress code to be much less restrictive. Official or social functions and smart restaurants usually require more formal wear.

At the Giza Pyramids and other such places during the hot summer months, short sleeve tops and even sleeveless tops are acceptable for women (especially when travelling with a tour group). However, you should carry a scarf or something to cover up more, while travelling to, or from, the tourist destination.

Women should cover their arms and legs if travelling alone, and covering your hair may help to keep away unwanted attention. Though as a foreigner, you may get plenty of attention no matter what you wear, mainly including people staring at you along with some verbal harassment which you can try to ignore. Egyptian women, even those who wear the full hijab, (full hair and body dress cover) are often subjected to sexual harassment, including cat calls. You may find that completely covering up does not make a huge difference, with regards to harassment, versus wearing a top with shorter sleeves. In regards to harassment, it’s also important how you act. Going out with a group of people is also helpful, and the best thing to do is ignore men who give you unwanted attention. They want to get some reaction out of you. Also, one sign of respect is to use the Arabic greeting, “Asalamualaikum” (means “hello, peace be upon you”), and the other person should reply “Walaikumasalam” (“peace be upon you”). That lets the person know you want respect, and nothing else.

The post In focus: Egypt’s complicated relationship with its traditions appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Russian-Egyptian political rapprochement to propel economic cooperation forward Wed, 17 Oct 2018 15:49:27 +0000 Analysts positively view relations’ outlook, awaiting resumption of Russian flights

The post Russian-Egyptian political rapprochement to propel economic cooperation forward appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is currently in Moscow on a three-day visit for talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, and is holding talks with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and other senior officials on boosting economic cooperation.

Economic experts and diplomats says relations with Russia are very diversified with a very positive outlook, due to the current political rapprochement, noting that joint investments await expected refreshment following the Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ ) project establishment, while the resumption of Russian flights to Sharm El-Shiekh and Hurghada will also positively reflect on the Egyptian tourism sector.

Establishment of RIZ to refresh Russian investments volume in Egypt, says economic expert

Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document upon request from the General Authority For Investment and free zones (GAFI), explaining that total numbers of the Russian companies in Egypt are 451 companies, with investments worth $71.23m, offering 4,395 job opportunities. 

The document noted that Egypt’s services sector is the most attractive sector for Russian investments in Egypt with 166 companies, adding that the tourism sector is ranked number 2 with 102 companies, while the market attracts 84 Russian construction companies, 18 agricultural companies, and only four companies in the Egyptian financial sector.

The document noted that top five governorates for the Russian companies in Egypt are the Red Sea with 256 companies, Cairo with 111 companies, Giza with 44 companies, Alexandria with 13 companies and Sharqeya with 7 companies.

Youmn El-Hamakki, an economic expert, said that Egypt’s investment relations with Russia need to be enhanced, noting that Russian investments in Egypt don’t suit with the extensive size of both countries.

El-Hamakki added that establishment of the RIZ project will refresh Russian investments in the local market, mentioning that “Egypt needs more investments in its heavy industrial sector, as well as its chemicals and medical fields.”

In May, Egypt’s Trade and Industry Ministry announced the signing of an agreement worth $7bn for the establishment of the RIZ project in the East Port Said region.

During the signing ceremony, former Minister of Trade and Industry Tarek Kabil explained that this 50-year agreement will give Russian companies rights to develop a 5.25m sqm stretches of land in the Suez Canal Economic Zone into an industrial zone for Russian companies that will be built over three phases, giving them a solid, strategically-located base in Egypt, to export to the rest of the Middle East and Africa. 

Denis Manturov, Acting Minister of Trade and Industry of the Russian Federation also said during the signing that “the signing of this agreement comes as a culmination of intensive discussions between the two ministries of industry and trade in the two countries over the past two years.” 

The RIZ is planned to increase Egyptian-Russian trade exchange, increase foreign direct investments in the local market, positively impact the country’s economic growth, and create new job opportunities for Egyptians.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia started working on establishing an industrial zone in Egypt, adding, “Russia has also begun the construction of a nuclear power plant in the city of Dabaa.”

Additionally, former assistant of Egypt’s foreign minister, Rakha Ahmed, said that establishment of the RIZ will positively affect the bilateral trade exchange that recorded about $6.5bn in 2017, but with an imbalance favouring the Russian side.

“The RIZ project will increase Egypt’s trade so the trade exchange will be a little bit balanced,” he explained.

In August 2018, Head of Trade Representation of Russia in Egypt, Nikolai Aslanov said that Egypt’s trade exchange with Russia increased by 37% during the first half of 2018, in comparison with same period of 2017, recording $3.212bn, citing the statistics of the Russian Federal Customs Service.

Aslanov added that Russian exports reached $2,810bn, increasing by 42% from January to June, while exports from Egypt increased by 12% to reach $402m in the same period, noting that main items of Russian exports to Egypt are wheat, metals, gas, means of transportation, wood and woodworks, fats, and oils.

Statistics mentioned that wheat represented 30% of the total volume of exports with an increase of 25% during the first six months, up to $840m, in addition to metals and metal ware, which contributes 23% towards exports, hence increasing by 226% up to $655m.

Statistics also mentioned that oil and gas exports, which represent 17% of the total exports, increased over 84% up to $481m during the first six months, adding that means of transportation exports reached $196m, while wood and woodworks’ exports increased by 57% up to $169m, and fats and oils exports’ recorded $150m.

Ahmed added that Russian and Egypt agreed on manufacturing train carriages, which is also considered another important project.

On Friday, Egyptian Transport Minister Hisham Arafat said that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Russia aims to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the transportation field.

Arafat added that an agreement between Egypt and a Russian-Hungarian consortium to produce 1,300 train vehicles at a cost of $1bn has been finalised, noting that the Russian company participating in the consortium is one of the biggest train manufacturers in the world.

The Russian-Hungarian consortium has been hired to help Egypt establish a local manufacturing line at the National Organization for Military Production, according to Arafat.

The first batch of the carriages will be manufactured in Russia, and will be a model for the other batches later. 

Dabaa project is a top priority for Egypt

Egyptian foreign minister’s former assistant, Rakha Ahmed, also said that the Dabaa project will keep Egypt and Russia connected for over 20 years in the future, affirming that the project is top priority for the country, and is set to be discussed over the current presidential visit to Russia.

In December 2017, President Al-Sisi and his Russian counterpart witnessed the signing of a document to start the implementation of contracts for the construction of four nuclear reactors in the Dabaa area.

For the first reactor, primary receiving and commercial operation is expected to be completed by 2026. The agreed programme includes design and construction, supply of nuclear fuel, advisory services, maintenance, management, and treatment of exhausted fuel.

The project consists of four nuclear reactors with a capacity of 1,200 MW, with a total of 4,800 MW. The Russian Ministry of Finance provided a financing loan to establish the project worth $25bn, representing 85% of its value. President Al-Sisi approved the loan agreement, and it was announced in the Official Gazette in mid-May 2016.

The Russian side will operate the project after finishing its construction processes, said Ahmed, noting that continuing cooperation in the Dabaa project is a positive sign on developing the bilateral relations with Russia, following their relation’s deceleration due to the Russian plane crash in Sinai at end of October 2015.

The Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Mohamed Shaker, and head of the Nuclear Power Plant Authority, Amjad al-Wakeel, will hold a meeting with officials of the Russian company Rosatom on the sidelines of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s visit to Moscow.

Shaker told Daily News Egypt on Tuesday that the operation of the Dabaa nuclear station is proceeding normally, and the project needs time to be implemented, and denied the reported cancellation of the contract. “Such rumours are absolutely untrue. We agreed on a timetable, and identified the cost and completed the work on the project,” he stressed.

The meeting will include the follow-up of the current position of the Dabaa Nuclear Plant Project, which is being implemented, and reviewing the characteristics of the project, the specifications of the selection of companies participating in the operational work of the station, as well as setting the timetable for the implementation of the project.

Political views are compatible

Since 30 June 2013, the joint political relations with Russia are developing very well on many aspects of cooperation, particularly the military and political fields, said Ahmed, adding that views of both countries regarding regional issues in Yemen, Syria, and Libya are compatible.

Russia and Egypt believe that the regional issues should be solved with negotiations and peaceful ways and not by force, Ahmed mentioned, noting that both countries are cooperating in information exchange regarding terrorist attacks, as Russia thinks that the now banned Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist entity.”

Ahmed said that there have been some reports saying that Russian nationals have “left their country and joined the Islamic State,” and added that “Russia seeks information about their activity due to possible attacks by them.”

Russia believes in the Palestinians’ right to establish their own state, in the Eastern Jerusalem beside the Israel’s state, which agrees with the Egyptian opinion, said Ahmed.

In another context, 2018 marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Egypt, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday, adding, “the current political dialogue between the countries is developing dynamically, and the trade turnover is worth more than $6.5bn and is growing, and the treaty and its legal framework are being improved.”

Ahmed added that President Al-Sisi is set to deliver a speech at the upper house of the Russian parliament during the visit about the updates of the joint cooperation, adding, “I think it is the first time for an Arab leader to deliver a speech the Russian parliament.”

Resuming Russian flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurgada, very important

The resumption of Russian flights to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurgada will positively affect the relations, boost Egyptian tourism which suffered following the Russian decision of the flight-ban that was issued in October after the plane crash in Sinai in 2015.

“Russian planes fly only to Cairo airport now. I expect that the current visit by president Al-Sisi to Russia will witness announcement of resuming flights to Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurgada,” said Ahmed, adding that Egypt was receiving huge numbers of Russian tourists before 2015, which played an important role in boosting the country’s tourism, as well as its economy.

Russia’s biggest airline Aeroflot announced in March 2018 that it will resume its flights to Cairo in April 11 of the same year, recouping civilian air traffic after over two-and-half years.

Restoration of flights between Moscow and Cairo did not help Egypt’s troubled tourism sector, centred in resort towns on the Red Sea coast, where Russian tourists once flocked.

“Tourists do not need direct flights to Cairo. The transfer from Cairo to sea resorts is long and uncomfortable, and no one will be going there in that way,” Russian Tourism Industry spokesperson Irina Tyurina told international media in April.

Tyurina said that most Russians who want to visit the Red Sea areas will continue to book flights through Minsk or Istanbul, as they have since direct flights were suspended.

The post Russian-Egyptian political rapprochement to propel economic cooperation forward appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Disappearance of Khashoggi threatens future of US-Saudi relations Tue, 16 Oct 2018 12:30:56 +0000 Members of US Congress already demanding a firm stance against Saudi Arabia

The post Disappearance of Khashoggi threatens future of US-Saudi relations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi draws uncertainty over the future of US-Saudi relations which have already gone through uneasy times during the past weeks.

Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist and a Washington Post columnist, who had recently criticised the kingdom’s reforms, and who went missing two weeks ago, after he entered Saudi consulate in Turkey, and has not been seen outside it since.

Only a few days after his disappearance, a senior Turkish official was quoted in international media claiming that Khashoggi was allegedly murdered inside the Saudi consulate, which was later denied by Saudi officials who insisted that the journalist left the consulate shortly after he arrived.

Turkey’s narrative stirred global outrage, leading the US and other European countries to urge Saudi Arabia to present a detailed clarification regarding the journalist’s disappearance, while nothing has been released yet.

If the Turkish police report- the investigation is still ongoing- is proven to be true, Saudi Arabia will do a complete mand exhaustive about face in its efforts to silence the opposition.

Jamal Khashoggi

US President Donald Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if its involvement is proven in the disappearance of the journalist.

Saudi Arabia rejected the threats of economic sanctions and political pressure, describing them as “attempts to undermine the kingdom.”

“The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action,” a statement by the Saudi foreign ministry declared, adding that the Saudi economy stands powerful, influencing global economy, and could only be impacted by global economic changes.

All of Trump’s statements over the incident until now indicated that the US supports Turkey’s claims concerning the case, as he pointed out in a number of interviews that he found out that the journalist entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul but did not leave it.

Only one month before the incident, there were debates between both countries over oil prices. The US wanted Saudi Arabia to lower the prices of oil, as otherwise it would face an uncertain future, implying that the Saudi King would not safely last in his post without the backing of the US military.

Since taking over the decision-making in the kingdom, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman has been pursuing confrontational policies in the kingdom, which stirred controversy in the previous year, starting from the detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri in Riyadh, cutting relations with Canada and German trade companies, the arrest of Saudi top figures and businessmen, to the recent crackdown that appeared against women’s rights activists.

One of the biggest threats facing Saudi Arabia if responsibility is proven in the journalist’s case, will be the reduction of foreign investments, as it is already attempting in vain to attract foreign capital due to fears of internal tensions in the Royal family. The current volume of foreign direct investment is small compared to the level Saudi Arabia is targeting to reach in order to carry out its ambitious reform campaign.

Researcher Christian Harrison at Rice University said that Saudi Arabia led by the Crown Prince will take the country towards more reckless practices as a result of a very limited consideration of consequences, while Political Science Professor at Waterloo University Bessma Momani said that if Saudi’s involvement is proven then understanding the Crown Prince will become more difficult, especially in Washington and other Western capitals, DW reported.

Thus, the missing journalist seems to be a new addition to a series of factors harming the relations between US and Saudi and diplomatic relations in general. Members of US Congress are already demanding a firm stance against Saudi Arabia.

As the debate over Saudi politics is escalating, US Congress is likely to re-consider future US-Saudi relations. Already, there has been a passed resolution against Saudi practices in Yemen which later failed to materialise. But with the US midterm elections approaching, Saudi Arabia could find itself soon facing increasing hostile US legislation.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said that he intends to introduce a bill that would cut off military aid to Saudi Arabia until the missing journalist is found safe and well.

He said that however there is no proof yet that Saudi killed Khashoggi, but there is still “enough to indicate that they were involved” citing the recent Saudi military intervention in Yemen which harmed several civilians.  It is the third time that Paul drafts a resolution to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as the two previous attempts failed.

Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman

Moreover, Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, said that the Saudi government should provide clear answers over Khashoggi’s situation. “There would be hell to pay” if the missing journalist was killed by the Saudi government,” he said.

A number of Democratic Congress members agreed with Graham, and demanded the US government take a more assertive action towards Saudi Arabia.

Senator Bob Menendez said that the international community must take a unified position and measures against Saudi Arabia as a response to any stance that tries “to silence activists, dissidents, and journalists in Arab countries.”

Also in June, Menendez notified the Trump administration that he would use an informal ban to prevent US arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of concern over the activities of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

Senator Bob Corker, the influential chairman of the US Foreign Senate, said he had contacted the Saudi ambassador to the US over the issue, “to let everyone know that the US will have a position from any country targeting journalists abroad.”

Another point of view was stated by Journalist Rob David, who wrote in an article published in The Guardian, that Saudi Arabia enjoys a privileged position both geopolitically and economically, which could give the country power in case tensions with the US and the West escalate, especially that Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter in the world.

US-Saudi relations extend over more than seven decades, and none of them can work without the other for the shared support. However, they were never free of crises and tensions. Saudi Arabia was the first country that Trump visited in his first foreign tour a few months after becoming president, where both officials signed contracts worth $110bn to buy US weapons.

Before travelling to self-exile in the US in 2017, Khashoggi, 60, was a Saudi royalist who was close to members of the ruling family, and worked as a media advisor for some of them. However, during recent months, he displayed some criticism for Saudi policies.

He has been working for over 30 years in journalism, covering several conflicts, and was one of the first who interviewed the late leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.

The post Disappearance of Khashoggi threatens future of US-Saudi relations appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Officers-turned-militants: a history of radical changes Sun, 14 Oct 2018 12:00:12 +0000 Facilitations offered by state for Islamists in Egypt since 1971 helped to shape a more radical trend among Islamists, who thought Brotherhood was more reformist, rather than revolutionary

The post Officers-turned-militants: a history of radical changes appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

During a discussion with military personnel last Thursday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said the state wants to retrieve officer-turned-militant Hisham Al-Ashmawi, in order to hold him accountable for the crimes he committed.

Al-Ashmawi, a former Egyptian Special Forces officer, has turned into a jihadist and joined militant circles in Syria, Iraq, Sinai, and finally Libya, where he was arrested last Saturday by the Libyan National Army (LNA).

During his speech before hundreds of military personnel from all branches, Al-Sisi made a comparison between Al-Ashmawi and another officer named Ahmed Al-Mansy, a Special Forces commander who was killed in an ambush against military headquarters in North Sinai in October 2016.

“The difference between Al-Ashmawi and Al-Mansi, is that one was confused and might have committed treason, but the other offered his life for the protection of the state,” the president said.

The 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty signed at Montreux, Switzerland—which officially brought to an end 54 years of British occupation of Egypt—gave the Egyptian government the administrative control over the national armed forces. As a result, Egyptians were allowed to enrol in the country’s different military academies.

However, since the signing of the treaty, and the growing influence of political Islam in Egypt, several officers and cadets were also, as per Al-Sisi’s description, confused and deviated from the politically conservative, and nationalist stance of the Egyptian state.

The first group of officers who were influenced by outside ideologies was the Free Officers Movement who later led a coup in 1952, overthrew the Egyptian monarchy, and confronted the British occupation. They were influenced by several and diverse ideas ranging from communism, socialism, Islamism, and even fascism.

However, as the Free Officers overwhelmed the scene in Egypt’s political and social sphere, as they formulated the very political ideology that has dominated Egypt since 1954, constituting of state capitalism, patriotic nationalism, and moderate application of Islam, with a touch of neo-liberalism.

From that date when former President Gamal Abdel Nasser claimed power, until ex-Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi became the current president, some officers and soldiers have joined different Islamist groups.

Following their first clash with the Egyptian state, and the military-motivated government of Nasser, the Muslim Brotherhood’s revolution from strategy of mobilising the masses did not include recruiting members only from syndicates, low-income groups, and rural areas, but also security and military personnel. According to the Egyptian state narrative, several students in the Military Academy were arrested in 1956, after findings by the Military Intelligence Apparatus claimed that there was a nationwide plot by the Brotherhood to assassinate the president and top officials, and stage a sabotage countrywide. According to websites affiliated with the Brotherhood, one of the Military Academy students, named Fathy Abdel Haq, was arrested in this incident, and was sent to prison.

The 1965 Plot, as described by many historians, led to the arrest and detention of hundreds of Brotherhood members across the country. However, after the death of Nasser and the appointment of Anwar Al-Sadat as the new president, several imprisoned Islamists were set free by the regime which aimed then to counter the spread of Marxist and Leftist trends in universities, and society.

The facilitations offered by the state for Islamists in Egypt since 1971 helped to shape a more radical trend among the Islamists, who thought the Brotherhood was more reformist, rather than revolutionary.

In April 1974, a group of radical Islamists, most of whom were officer cadets, attacked the Military Academy and managed to reach a warehouse inside, but were met with heavy resistance from the academy guards who killed 11 of the militants.

The 1974 assault was the first organised militant act against the 1952 regime, and hence changed the dynamics of the Jihadist groups in the Middle East. Two of the defendants in the case, Saleh Saria and Talal Al-Anadouly, were executed, while the rest of the defendants received harsh prison sentences.

Since 1974, many assaults and assassination operations have took place by different militant groups in Egypt. In 1981, the conflict between President Sadat and his former Islamist allies reached its peak. On 6 October of the same year, while Sadat was showcasing military troops in a parade, commemorating the 6th of October War victory, a group of military officers and soldiers descended from a military van and assassinated Sadat in a dramatic scene. One of the perpetrators was Lieutenant Khalid Al-Islamboli who was arrested and convicted of assassination in a military trial and later executed.

Fast-forward to September 2013, following the failed attempt to assassinate former minister of interior Mohamed Ibrahim, a militant group then-called Ansar Bayr Al-Maqdis, currently known as the Sinai Province, released a propaganda clip revealing that a former officer in Egypt’s security apparatus had triggered the car bomb that targeted Ibrahim.

Amid Egypt’s ongoing counter against radical political Islam and militancy, several attempts by Egypt’s security apparatus has been made to expel students who have alleged ties to the Islamists or the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014 and 2015, the Police Academy Council expelled around 80 students after accusing them of allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Similarly, in 2013 the ministry of interior suspended dozens of bearded officers who demanded to continue their work in the police apparatus despite a police ban on facial hair for officers. At the time, the ministry argued that the suspended officers are in violations to security regulations and grooming standards. In July 2018, the spokesperson of the pressure group, Colonel Hani Al-Shakary, was arrested and referred to court on charges of joining the militant group Lewaa El-Thawra.

Al-Shakary was accused of joining a terrorist group and training militants in the governorate of Menoufia. He and others were also accused of executing an attack on a police checkpoint in 2017, killing two policemen.

The post Officers-turned-militants: a history of radical changes appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Al-Ashmawy’s apprehension is ‘big win for Cairo’ but ‘not enough to boost Sinai operations’: experts say Sun, 14 Oct 2018 11:00:10 +0000 Analysts consider Ashmawy’s fall as “big win" for Egyptian government, urged them to avoid excessive hopes as threats might escalate rather than decrease

The post Al-Ashmawy’s apprehension is ‘big win for Cairo’ but ‘not enough to boost Sinai operations’: experts say appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The chapter of Hisham Al-Ashmawy, a major militant, Al-Qaeda fighter, and the former Egyptian special forces commander, was apparently shelved after his capture, raising inquiries regarding his significance as a jihadist and a leader, and whether his arrest was a big deal.

Al-Ashmawy, who was taken into custody by the Libyan National Army (LNA) in Derna last week, was accused by the Egyptian authorities of orchestrating the most dangerous, and high-profile attacks in the last few years.

The attacks include the Farafra checkpoint attack which killed 22 soldiers in July 2014, the assassination attempt of the Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in May 2013, and the killing of the country’s Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat in a car bomb in June 2015.

After the Libyan side finishes its investigations with the militant, Al-Ashmawy will be handed over to his country’s authorities to face a long list of charges, which have been growing throughout the last few years. 

Analysts consider Ashmawy’s fall as a “big win” for the Egyptian government, but urged them to avoid excessive hopes as the threats might escalate rather than decrease. 

“It’s hard to properly estimate what Al-Ashmawy’s capture will lead to,” HA Hellyer, a senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute in London told Daily News Egypt.

“[Al-Ashmawy] has been blamed and held responsible for a lot of different attacks, not all of which are as likely as each other, but at the very least, symbolically, this is a big win for Cairo, and is probably a big blow against al-Murabitun, the group Ashmawy was the emir of,” Hellyer added.

Al-Ashmawy was discharged from the Egyptian army in 2011 after he displayed radical tendencies. In a voice message released in July 2015, he called for a holy war against the Egyptian government.

He is the leader of the Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, Al-Murabiteen, and has links to other militant groups, including Jund Al-Islam, and Ansar Al-Islam.

in 2013, Al-Ashmawy joined Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, the militant group based in Sinia peninsula that emerged after the toppling of the former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. He left them after the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in November 2014. 

Throughout the last four years, the Egyptian media, and even authorities, have maximised allegations regarding Ashmawy’s involvement in several attacks hitting the country, while he has been in Libya for the last four years according to Libyan officials.

“It’s obviously difficult to know quite how important he was in terms of ongoing terrorism plots—especially given the nature of different types of media reports—but it’s still a big deal, nonetheless,” Hellyer noted.

However, another expert believes things might have gone worse, and Al-Ashmawy followers, and Al-Murabiteen’s followers might become more dangerous.

“I have done substantial research on the effects of leadership decapitation, that is, the effects of removing the leader of a militant group, especially with the rise of drones, leadership decapitation has become an increasingly prised approach to counter terrorism,’ Max Abrahms, a professor of political science at Northeastern University, and author of the new book Rules for Rebels: The Science of Victory in Militant History, told DNE.

Abrahms elaborated, “my research shows, however, that militant groups tend to become even more extreme when their leaders have been removed.”

Moreover, Abrahms highlighted that he found ‘statistical evidence that militant groups “are more likely to perpetrate terrorism by attacking civilians in the immediate aftermath of the leader getting killed or captured, as lower-level members who are increasingly less restrained jockey for power.”

“This research has implications for the arrest of Hisham Al-Ashmawy because he is the leader of the Al Qaeda offshoot Al-Murabiteen, which may now become even less restrained against civilians, as his replacements rise to the top,” Abrahms explained.

Therefore, Abrahms said that ‘Egyptian authorities should be careful what they wish for in capturing him.’

A death sentence is waiting for Al-Ashmawy in Egypt, as he was convicted in absentia to death over his involvement in a string of deadly attacks in his country, including the Farafra checkpoint attack. 

Following his arrest, state media and pro-government newspapers have quoted several military experts describing Al-Ashmawy as “the black box”, looking for getting information regarding his group tactics, and planned terrorist attacks through investigations.

They also wish that the arrest will help state security institutions in countering terrorism inside the country, giving a boost to the state’s recent ‘Sinai 2018’ comprehensive military operation, which was launched last February in central and North Sinai, the Nile Delta region, and the Western Desert.

However, Zack Gold, a Middle East analyst, believes that the arrest of Al-Ashmawy will have any impact on operations in Sinai.

“Al-Ashmawy broke ties with militants in Sinai when they chose to align with ISIS in late 2014, so his capture will have no impact on intelligence for Egyptian operations in North Sinai,” Gold said.

The post Al-Ashmawy’s apprehension is ‘big win for Cairo’ but ‘not enough to boost Sinai operations’: experts say appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Egypt’s most wanted militant’s arrest recounts fighting extremist groups in Derna Sun, 14 Oct 2018 10:00:14 +0000 Libya in Italy conference next November, elections off table

The post Egypt’s most wanted militant’s arrest recounts fighting extremist groups in Derna appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Last Monday, Libya’s forces captured Egypt’s most wanted terrorism suspect, Hesham Al-Ashmawi, in Derna city. His arrest came as a significant moment for Egypt in its war against terrorism.

Al-Ashmawi, a former military officer, has been sentenced to death in absentia, after a military court convicted him of planning several attacks against security personnel, officials, and Coptic civilians. Dissenting from the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis after the group swore allegiance to the Islamic State group (IS), Ashmawi formed his own Al-Murabiteen cell.

Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesperson for the Libyan National Army (LNA), explained in a statement that Ashmawi was “taken by surprise” by speed of the security operation, preventing him from blowing a suicide belt he was wearing.

Under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the LNA has been for months now leading its own war against extremist armed groups in eastern Libya. Earlier this month, clashes renewed in Derna city between the LNA and an Islamist militia coalition known as the Derna Protection Force – formerly the Derna Mujahideen Shura Council.

This came as Haftar’s forces announced last May a military operation to “liberate Derna” from Derna’s Protection Force, which pushed IS out three years ago, and then they declared victory in July, despite recurrent fighting, and continued displacement ever since.

According to humanitarian groups, there has been more than 49,000 displaced persons and returnees to and from Derna since the beginning of the year, the Libya Observer reported. In a June 2018 report, Amnesty International called on Haftar “and all parties involved in the fighting to urgently open humanitarian corridors to give impartial assistance, and save the lives of civilians still trapped in the city as the army advances.”

Derna, a port-city in eastern Libya with a population of about 120,000, broke from the government following mass protests that overthrew long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and came under the control of the National Transitional Council.

In 2014, the city fell under the control of IS, seeking to make of it another stronghold outside Syria and Iraq, along with Sirte.

In February 2015, Egyptian air forces, in coordination with Libyan forces, launched airstrikes against IS targets, after the group conducted a brutal execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic men kidnapped in Sirte. Two years later, Egyptian fighter jets carried out airstrikes again near Derna, after an IS affiliated group claimed an attack against a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Egypt, which killed at least 29.

In an op-ed for Al-Ahram on Saturday, political researcher Amr Abdel Samie argued that the LNA was what was holding Libya together currently. No outsiders could have been able to go get Al-Ashmawi, he cited as an example as he opinionated that if elections were to take place, the people will choose the candidate who belongs to the army.

Haftar vowed to eradicate Islamist militant groups

Commenting on the arrest of Ashmawi, an LNA official told the media that he was on his way to escaping Derna, given the tight siege imposed on militant groups in the city. Two days after his capture, the LNA reportedly arrested Al-Ashmawi’s bodyguard, Safwat Zidan.

In April, Haftar returned to Benghazi after receiving medical treatment in France, as uncertainty regarding his condition sparked rumours of his death. On 7 May, the LNA commander declared the zero hour for an operation aimed at liberating Derna, and targeting “terrorist hideouts”, he said in a speech, where he also assured “instructions to avoid civilians.”

The Derna operation timeline:

7 May 2018: LNA starts fighting in Derna, losing seven members in clashes with Derna Protection Force in Fatayeh district

8 May: LNA advances in eastern parts of the city, captures high ground outside the city. Reports on fleeing families emerge. High Council of State members denounce and demand end of operation

15 May: Human Rights Watch raises concern over humanitarian situation amid ground attacks and air raids   

18 May: LNA acquires a new frigate to be added to naval fleet, says it consolidated power in Derna

24 May: Two LNA soldiers are killed in a car bomb and a third abducted from a checkpoint, as Haftar says he is close to victory 

29 May: Sources in Derna report that Derna Protection Force withdrew from Al-Fatayeh district to the east of the city. LNA takes control of western entrance to Derna

5 June: LNA says it controlled 75% of Derna, second part of operation announced

9 June: Photos on social media show civilian cars on the road waving white flags so as not to be shot as they flee some Derna districts because of the fighting, the Libya Observer reports

12 June: Twin suicide attacks target LNA members, casualties among civilians reported

21 June: “The main battle is finished, and we are fighting) in an area of one square kilometre,” LNA spokesperson Al-Mismari tells media

28 June: LNA announces victory

As UN reports shed light on humanitarian crisis in Derna, the fighting against remnants of fundamentalists continues. In August, The LNA reported that it has killed 15 ‘‘terrorists’’ on the Ajdabiya-Tobruk desert road, whom it claims were escaping from the city of Derna, the Libyan Herald reported.

Back in 2014, Haftar launched the ‘Dignity Operation’ against Islamist militants in Benghazi, but it took more than two years to dislodge Islamists.

In September 2016, before the Tobruk-based parliament promoted him to field marshal, Haftar launched operation ‘Swift Thunder’ and seized key oil terminals of Zueitina, Brega, Ras Lanuf, and Sidra, in the oil-rich heartland locally known as the ‘oil crescent’.

Clashes with militias sparked violence last month in the capital Tripoli. By the last week of September, the death toll stood at least at 115, and more than 300 people injured.

The possibility of holding the Libyan elections under current circumstances has been ruled out. In May, Haftar and Fayez Al-Sarraj, his rival leader from the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli, agreed in a Paris meeting to hold the UN-backed elections in December.

In September, UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame told the press that was hardly an option anymore.

In other news, a report published by ‘The Sun’ last week sparked controversy after it suggested that Russia has deployed troops to Libya to back up Haftar, which Moscow denied.

Russia is expected to participate in an upcoming November conference on Libya hosted by Italy.

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Roadmap of parliament’s special committees during 4th legislative round Wed, 10 Oct 2018 07:00:37 +0000 Municipalities, criminal procedures, parties, insurance, pensions, unified construction, old rents, combating illiteracy, reducing population increase, top of parliament agenda

The post Roadmap of parliament’s special committees during 4th legislative round appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Several parliamentary committees have announced their agendas scheduled during the fourth legislative round, which started last week, in accordance to the presidential decree.

The Egyptian Parliament is required to finalise several pending issues since the first round, as there are various laws that are expected to be either discussed, or amended.

Among the top regulations listed at the top of the parliament’s agenda are municipality laws, criminal procedures, parties, insurance, pensions, unified construction, old rents, combating illiteracy, and reducing the population increase.

The constitutional and legislative affairs committee, headed by Baha Abo Shoqa, declared that the criminal procedures law is a priority, which should be tackled at the beginning of the current round, particularly since the drafting of the law was completed as of the third round, but was postponed due to time constraints.

Abo Shoqa said that citizens will be granted unprecedented freedom, through the new law, which comes in accordance with the constitution, explaining that the new law will deal, for the first time in history, with defendants as innocent, until proven guilty.

He also added that there will be a guarantee provided for the accused and lawyer, starting from the time of evidence collection, and information related to the investigation stage, until an alternative for pre-trial detention is found instead, up to the completion of the investigation.

Abo Shoqa explained that they are looking forward to making the pre-trial detention a punishable decision, only permitted for certain conditions, and not to be used repeatedly without justification.

For the first time, we decided to organise the travel ban issue according to the constitution, which grants freedom of movement to all citizens, and we also decided to abolish absentee sentences, to ensure the defendant’s right of being informed about his legal situation, he also noted.

Also, among the committee’s agenda is the personal status law, which was already presented during the third round, but is still awaiting the recommendations of Al-Azhar, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), and the National Council for Human Rights.

Abo Shoqa concluded that committee is also working on activating all the constitutional articles related to the citizen’s rights, and public freedoms in terms of a law.

Human Rights

The head of the human rights committee, Alaa Abed, said that their plan is focusing on drafting a bill, to help compensate all those whose innocence was proven after facing a long pre-trial detention period, and instead assigning another penalty for suspects.

The law stipulates that defendants should not exceed a two year pre-trial detention period, however, throughout recent years, several prisoners were held in pre-trial detention, for over three years as punition, until the court referral date.

He also said that the committee is planning to propose a legislation aiming to combat all forms of violence practised against women, and to draft another bill for debtors to find alternative penalties for them, instead of imprisonment, in the event they are incapable of paying their debts.

Abed added that the committee is expected to launch a special rights and freedoms observatory, to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt, and deal with any citizen who faces any violation.

We will organise field visits to prisons, orphanages, and police stations in various nation governorates, said Abed, concluding that the committee has a scheduled visit to one of the provinces before the plenary session of 21 October.

Foreign affairs, Media and Tourism 

The foreign affairs committee will review the most important recommendations declared during the previous round for application, and is scheduled to set an agenda for visits expected during the fourth round to foreign countries, to benefit from the expertise of foreign parliaments, and to clarify Egypt’s war against terrorism.

Meanwhile, the media and culture committee will follow-up the implementation of the articles of recent laws issued to regulate the media, and press in Egypt. The parliament has approved three long-awaited laws regulating the work of the Supreme Media Council, the National Press Authority, and the National Media Authority, during the previous round, following a long session of discussions, and meetings.

Tourism and civil aviation committee deputy, Amr Sedki, said that they are supposed to start discussing a draft law to regulate the well-being of tourism in Egypt, which he previously submitted to parliament, covering both the medical and tourism angles.

The committee will also check pending laws, such as the unified tourism law, and will coordinate with the communications and information technology committee, in order to limit electronic tourism problems such as cybercrime, he also added.

Population and Education

Among the parliament’s priorities as well, this round is attempting to find a sound solution to limit the increase in population growth, which has been categorised as one of the top challenges facing the country.

Defence and national security committee member, Mohamed Kassab, said the committee is studying the draft of a legislation, which includes positive incentives to control the problem of the population explosion, which will include exempting “optimal” families from taxes, and supporting them with products, funding their children’s’ education, as well as granting other medical and social care services.

As for the education committee, it is still waiting to receive the general education law as well as the universities’ law from the government in order to start its discussions.

Population and housing committee member, Ahmed Abdel Aziz, said that the committee has four rulings on its agenda for this round, which include laws for unified construction, building violation reconciliation,, old rents, and the sewage authority.

The unified building law, which aims to eliminate random construction, was already drafted by a number of government members during the second round, but has been postponed.

Transportation and Communication

Priorities of the transportation and communication committee’s fourth round are to follow-up on the development of the Railway Authority, the maintenance of old tractors, the supply of new tractors, to the new metro lines.

The committee also follows-up on the port development plan, due to its important objectives concerning the national economy. It will also complete its internal navigation law of the Nile River, and follow-up on the implementation of the steps related to the National Roads Project.

Moreover, the committee will also check into the execution of the road linking Egypt to Sudan, as proposed in the recommendations issued by the government’s statement.

Regarding the communication committee, the personal data protection law is at the forefront of the agenda. Several committee members stressed that the law is a high priority in view of its special importance in preserving the rights, and privacy, of citizens from being violated by some companies. The committee also will continue to work on cybercrime, and laws to dispute rumours.

The new round marks the one before the last for this parliamentary term. The third legislative round ended by the end of July.  The last session was on 26 July ,when the parliament granted confidence to the new government declared for President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s second term.

During the third round, a total of 111 laws were approved, including statutes for comprehensive health insurance, persons with disabilities, trade and labour unions, the electricity sector as well as other bills for consumer, and antiquities’ protection.

Hundreds of laws have been passed since the parliament was established in 2016, some of which were the subject of public objection on both the economic and political levels, including media, and social media laws. Other legislations came amid major economic reform policies implemented by the state.

The parliament is the country’s legislative authority which issues rules and regulations for state entities to work under, in accordance with the constitution. The state’s most significant and serious decisions are always forwarded by the cabinet to the parliament, for discussion and debate, before the president’s ratifications.

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New project detects fake news at source Thu, 04 Oct 2018 07:00:06 +0000 Phenomena of fake news has become international concern since Trump came to power

The post New project detects fake news at source appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The past few months witnessed several discussions about the what was called in the speeches of the United States President Donald Trump phenomena of ‘fake news’, and amid that climate, the fact-checking world has been in a relative crisis.

Sites such as PolitiFact and Snopes have traditionally focused on specific claims, which is admirable but tedious, as by the time they have gotten through verifying or debunking a fact, there is a good chance it has already travelled across the globe and back again.

Social media companies have also had mixed results to limit the spread of propaganda and misinformation. For example, Facebook plans to have 20,000 human moderators by the end of the year, and is spending many millions developing its own fake-news-detecting algorithms.

About two months ago, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said that the country is facing huge number of rumours. The president clarified that Egypt has faced 21,000 rumours in just three months. Al-Sisi’s statements were followed by a massive media campaign against fake news.  

A collaborative recent project by researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and the Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) revealed that the best approach is to focus not on the factuality of individual claims, but on the news sources themselves. Using this technology, they’ve demonstrated a new system which uses machine learning, to determine if a source is accurate, or politically-biased.

Ramy Baly, postdoctoral associate and lead author of a new paper in the project said “if a website has published fake news before, there’s a good chance they’ll do it again.”  He added “by automatically scraping data about these sites, the hope is that our system can help figure out which ones are likely to do it in the first place.” Baly also added that the system needs only about 150 articles to reliably detect if a news source can be trusted—meaning that an approach like theirs could be used to help stamp out fake-news outlets before the stories spread too widely.

According a statement from MIT’s CSAIL, the system is a collaboration between computer scientists at MIT CSAIL and QCRI, which is part of the Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar. Researchers first took data from the Media Bias-Fact Check (MBFC), a website with human fact-checkers who analyse the accuracy and biases of over 2,000 news sites, from MSNBC and Fox News, to low-traffic content farms.

Following that, they fed that data to a machine learning algorithm called a Support Vector Machine classifier, and programmed it to classify news sites the same way as the MBFC. When given a new news-outlet, the system was then 65 % accurate at detecting whether it has a high, low, or medium level of ‘factuality,’ and roughly 70 % accurate at detecting if it is left-leaning, right-leaning, or moderate.

The team determined that the most reliable ways to detect both fake news, and biased reporting were to look at the common linguistic features across the source’s stories, including sentiment, complexity, and structure.

For example, fake-news outlets were found to be more likely to use language that is hyperbolic, subjective, and emotional. In terms of bias, left-leaning outlets were more likely to have language that related to concepts of harm or care, and fairness or reciprocity, compared to other qualities such as loyalty, authority, and sanctity. These qualities represent the five ‘moral foundations,’ a popular theory in social psychology.

Co-author of the project, Preslav Nakov, said that the system also found correlations with an outlet’s Wikipedia page, which it assessed for general length— longer is more credible—as well as key words such as ‘extreme,’ or ‘conspiracy theory.’ It even found correlations with the text structure of a source’s URLs: those that had several special characters and complicated subdirectories, for example, were associated with less reliable sources.

“Since it is much easier to obtain ground truth on sources [than on articles], this method is able to provide direct and accurate predictions regarding the type of content distributed by these sources,” said Sibel Adali, a professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who was not involved in the project.

Nakov is quick to caution that the system is still a work-in-progress, and that, even with improvements in accuracy, it would work best in conjunction with traditional fact-checkers. “If outlets report differently on a particular topic, a site like PolitiFact could instantly look at our ‘fake news’ scores for those outlets to determine how much validity to give to different perspectives,” said Nakov, a senior scientist at QCRI.

Baly and Nakov co-wrote the new paper with MIT senior research scientist James Glass, alongside master’s students Dimitar Alexandrov and Georgi Karadzhov of Sofia University. The team will present the work later this month at the 2018 Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) conference in Brussels, Belgium.

The researchers also created a new open-source dataset of over 1,000 news sources, annotated with factuality and bias scores— the world’s largest database of its kind. As next steps, the team will be exploring whether the English-trained system can be adapted to other languages, as well as go beyond the traditional left-right bias, to explore region-specific biases (like the Muslim World’s division between religious and secular).

“This direction of research can shed light on what untrustworthy websites look like, and the kind of content they tend to share, which would be very useful for both web designers and the wider public,” explained Andreas Vlachos, a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, who was not involved in the project.

Nakov added that QCRI also has plans to roll out an app which helps users step out of their political bubbles, in order to respond to specific news items, by offering users a collection of articles which span the political spectrum.

“It’s interesting to think about new ways to present the news to people,” Nakov said. “Tools like this could help people give a bit more thought to issues, and explore other perspectives that they might not have otherwise considered.”

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Dozens of Palestinian activists gather to defy Israeli intention to demolish village of Khan Al-Ahmar Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:00:43 +0000 Demolition is cruel blow, war crime, Amnesty International said

The post Dozens of Palestinian activists gather to defy Israeli intention to demolish village of Khan Al-Ahmar appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

The Israeli military is planning to demolish a West Bank village called Khan Al-Ahmar, and forcibly transfer its residents to make way for Jewish settlements.

In defiance, dozens of Palestinian activists and residents decided to gather and physically block the demolition.

Amnesty International released a statement on Sunday saying the act is “a war crime that lays bare the Israeli government’s callous disregard for the Palestinians.”

The Khan-al Ahmar lies east of Jerusalem and has around 180 residents. According to Palestinian local media, Israeli authorities offered the villagers a choice of two possible destinations, either a site near the former Jerusalem municipal garbage dump, near the village of Abu Dis or a site in the vicinity of a sewage plant close to the city of Jericho.

“After nearly a decade of trying to fight the injustice of this demolition, the residents of Khan Al-Ahmar now approach the devastating day when they will see their home of generations torn down before their eyes,” said Saleh Higazi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“This act is not only heartless and discriminatory; it is illegal. The forcible transfer of the Khan Al-Ahmar community amounts to a war crime. Israel must end its policy of destroying Palestinians’ homes and livelihoods to make way for settlements.” 

Israel claims that the village, which is an encampment of corrugated shacks near the Kfar Adumim settlement, was built illegally, with activists countering such arguments saying that it is almost impossible for Palestinians to get building permits.

Israel’s Supreme Court has twice ruled in favour of demolishing the entire village of Khan Al-Ahmar, first on 24 May 2018, and again on 5 September 2018, following a desperate appeal by the residents of the village.

Israeli officials praised the court decision, as the Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman praised the judges for what he called a “brave” ruling.

“No one is above the law. No one can stop us from implementing our sovereignty and responsibility as a state,” he was quoted by AFP last week.

Another argument the Israeli government cites is that the buildings that make up the Khan Al-Ahmar encampment, which include an Italian-funded school, “posed a threat to residents because of their proximity to a highway.” The school is constructed from rubber tyres and provides education for 170 children from five different Bedouin communities. 

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called late September on Israel to drop its plans and said that the destruction of private property by an occupying power violates international law.

For more than 60 years, members of the village have been struggling to maintain their way of life, Amnesty International said, adding that they have been continually harassed, pressured and resettled by successive Israeli governments.

Since 1967, Israel has forcibly evicted and displaced entire communities and demolished more than 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures.

On 30 September, Amnesty International, alongside Jewish Voice for Peace, launched a Twitter storm targeting the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli Defence Ministry unit responsible for implementing government policy in Area C of the West Bank.

The Olso Accords split the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C. Area C is temporarily administered by the Israeli Civil Administration (the bureaucratic arm of Israeli Army) but, per the Oslo Accords, the administration of land was to have transferred back to Palestinian control within 18 months after the formation of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Most of Area C is zoned for Israeli use, and over 400,000 Israelis living in about 130 separate settlements, although this is against international laws of military occupation.

Palestinian communities’ master plans must be approved by the Israeli Civil Administration, or they are at risk of demolition. 108 technically-sound plans have been professionally developed and submitted to the ICA since 2011, but only three have been approved, according to activists.

Plans are rejected for spurious reasons, like the assertion that infrastructure will be impossible to implement. Critics say that is baseless, as Israeli settlements enjoy well-developed modern infrastructure.

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After recent data breach: Facebook deals with $1.63bn EU fine, dropping shares Tue, 02 Oct 2018 13:17:45 +0000 Nearly 90 million users were logged out of their accounts as a security measure, users’ data may be unsafe

The post After recent data breach: Facebook deals with $1.63bn EU fine, dropping shares appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Recently—in a very shocking but not an unpredictable incident—Facebook was vulnerable to hackers who exploited a bug, and were able to access nearly 50m accounts, possibly gaining access to their private messages, posts, and pictures. This is considered the biggest-ever security breach after the Cambridge Analytica Scandal.

The hacking was revealed by Facebook in late September. The administration of the social media platform also revealed that the breach may have affected third-party applications, for instance, Tinder, that users may have logged into via Facebook, according to Economic Times.

As damage control, Facebook has logged close to 90 million users out of their current accounts, and it has informed law enforcement agencies in the United States about the hack, and investigations are currently underway regarding the incident.

Unfortunately for Facebook, that is not all. The ‘massive data breach’ may cause the company’s administration to face a fine from the European Union’s (EU) privacy watchdog. The find may amount to $1.63bn.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, which is Facebook’s lead privacy regulator in Europe, has asked Facebook to submit more details concerning the incident, where the data of over 50 million users was hacked via ‘Access Tokens’ or digital keys.

The “privacy watchdog could fine Facebook as much as $1.63bn for the data breach,” the report added.

“We are concerned about the fact that this breach was discovered on Tuesday (last week) and affects many millions of user accounts, but Facebook is unable to clarify the nature of the breach, and the risk for users at this point,” the regulator was quoted as saying.

A Facebook spokesperson said that the social media giant will respond to questions from the EU watchdog, Economic Times reported.

Forbes has described the recent hack as an ‘internet catastrophe.’

“What is most worrying of all, is what the hack has proven: that a company with the resources and power of Facebook can be robbed of keys that allow access to millions of accounts across the web. Given the keys allowed the hacker to take over any account using a Facebook login, the real number of affected individuals is likely far higher than 50 million. A vast number of people have trusted Facebook would be able to keep their login information safe, just as they do with Google and other tech providers. Should Facebook’s rivals be trusted with people’s online security too? This week’s breach would suggest perhaps not,” Forbes said.

“While I’m glad we found this, fixed the vulnerability, and secured the accounts that may be at risk, the reality is we need to continue developing new tools to prevent this from happening in the first place.” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in reaction to the recent breach.

The major breach—as expected—has cast its shadow over Facebook’s shares in the stock exchange, which have dropped by over 3% of their market value, which reflects a loss of faith in the platform’s ability to maintain the privacy and safety of its users.

While some may say this scandal is the worst since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in March 2017, Bloomberg begs to differ.

“Will the uproar be louder for this breach? It won’t, unless Facebook tells us what the hack actually exposed, or sought to accomplish. Cambridge Analytica touched a nerve because the consultancy that got the Facebook profile information went on to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. There was political intrigue wrapped up in the public’s sense of betrayal. Without that, the news is similar to dozens of other hacks of major companies—devastating in theory, but with intangible effects.” Bloomberg said.

This is not Facebook’s first time to fall for such incidents, which may only cause a state of distrust among its users on the platform and give them more reasons to exit social media.

Facebook has a lot on its plate, however, according to Bloomberg, just as it had plenty of other problems in the last week. On Wednesday a report was released detailing how the company is using phone numbers provided for security purposes to target people with advertisements. Can it gain the trust of its users back sometime soon? We will just have to wait and see.

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Hamas in Cairo, Abbas threatens from America Tue, 02 Oct 2018 12:00:47 +0000 Efforts of last opportunity to avoid explosion of situation in Gaza

The post Hamas in Cairo, Abbas threatens from America appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

A Hamas delegation left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing to the Egyptian side on Saturday, the information office at the border said on Saturday in a statement.

While sources from Gaza said that the delegation included members from the political bureau of Hamas, including Khalil Al-Haya, Rohi Mushtahe, and Nizar Awadallah, in addition to Taher El-Nunu. The delegation is headed by Deputy Hamas Chief Saleh al-Arouri.

The visit comes as part of Egypt’s continuous efforts to contain the disputes between Hamas and Fatah.

The meeting on Monday took place at the headquarters of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service.

Many Hamas officials participated in Monday’s meeting, including Members of the Hamas politburo, Musa Abu Marzouq, Nizar Awadallah, Izzat Al Rishq, Husam Badran, Rawhi Mushtaha, and Hamas leader Taher al-Nono.

On 23 September, Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, said in Gaza that a delegation would soon visit Cairo at the invitation of the Egyptian side to complete talks with the Egyptian intelligence service in the framework of bilateral relations and the Palestinian files.

An Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip last Saturday which included Major General Ahmed Abdel Khalek, the intelligence officer tasked with the Palestinian file, and the Egyptian consul to Palestine, Abdullah Shehadeh.

The movement said in a statement that the Egyptian delegation met with the head of its political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, in Gaza City.

On the other hand, a delegation of the Fatah movement headed by a member of the central committee of the movement, Azzam Al-Ahmad, concluded its three-day visit to Cairo on 19 September, during which the delegation discussed with the Egyptian intelligence the means to complete the Palestinian reconciliation.

The shuttle visits came during a time of escalating friction between both movements, with fears of an explosion of the situation in the Gaza Strip.

“If Hamas continues to refuse to abide by the reconciliation agreement, we will not take responsibility for anything from now on,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last Thursday during his address to the UN General Assembly and Hamas.

During his speech, Abbas said that within days there will be a final round of talks of Palestinian reconciliation.

“We want only one legitimate weapon in the Gaza Strip, and we do not want militias, but Hamas refuses, and that is why reconciliation is broken.”

Hamas said in response that describing the resistance from the UN platform was a “militia and terror” and rejecting its right to bear arms is a stab in the people’s side, history, resistance, and martyrs, as well as a free gift to the occupation.

Moreover, the movement said in the statement that its use of this platform to declare secession from the Gaza Strip and threaten its people and its residents with further sanctions constitutes a danger to the Palestinian national fabric and the future of reconciliation, a threat that is inconsistent with the Egyptian efforts to restore unity.

He added that continuing the course of negotiations with the Israeli side is “an attempt to undermine the right of return by attacking The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. All this is happening, and security coordination between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel is still ongoing. The resistance in the West Bank is constrained, and the people are restricted in expressing their rejection of Judaisation, and illegal settlements, even in a peaceful manner.”

Egypt brokered and concluded the reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas on 12 October 2017, after a series of meetings in Cairo. Former Head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Khaled Fawzy headed to Gaza where he met with Hamas and PA officials and delivered a message from President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi while attending the PA’s first cabinet meeting there earlier in October.

The Rafah border crossing administration has been transferred to the Palestinian National Authority since November 2017, according to an agreement between the authority and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. In June 2007, Hamas threw out its rivals from Fatah, the nationalist faction that runs the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), after winning the 2006 Palestinian general elections.

The Egyptian side had closed the Rafah border crossing due to security concerns in the Sinai Peninsula since July 2013, but it has occasionally re-opened the crossing to allow Palestinians to travel to and from Gaza, especially for medical purposes. Egyptian authorities had launched a campaign to destroy illegal underground tunnels, which played a vital role in supplying Gaza residents with food, medicine, fuel, and building materials.

A state of emergency has been imposed in North Sinai, along with curfew hours in the cities of Rafah, and Al-Arish, following a terrorist attack that took place in 2014.

Hamas subsequently entered a new era of bilateral relations with the current Egyptian government in April 2016, as deputy head of Hamas’s political office Mousa Abu Marzouk vowed that  “our [Hamas’s] upcoming practices will prove our new intentions.”

Since then Hamas’s leaders have vocally cowed to cooperate with Egypt’s national security, and relations, with some voices calling upon the movement to refer all members to the prosecution to prove their alleged innocence in assaults, or conspiracies, against Egypt in order to progress in bilateral relations.

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2018-08-08 22:55:37Z | | ÿ—kíh

In 2016, the Interior Ministry accused Hamas of training suspects who were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the assassination of former Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat. According to the case, the suspects, who are alleged members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, received military training by elements from the Gaza-based Hamas organisation, which infiltrated national borders.

Since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian relations with Hamas have deteriorated, as Egypt repeatedly accused the group of interfering in its internal affairs and supporting Islamist insurgents in Sinai. Morsi stood trial on charges of espionage for Hamas, and received a life sentence in the case.

Main differences between Fatah and Hamas movements

Fatah confirms that its leader Mahmoud Abbas has the authority, and the Palestinian decision as President of the PLO, President of the Palestinian Authority, and President of the State of Palestine.

Hamas rejects this and does not like Abbas in charge, alone, with Palestinian decisions, and believes that decisions must be taken by participation, as part of Palestinian legitimacy.

Hamas wants reconciliation efforts to include both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in order to regain its presence and activity in the West Bank, and to participate in its governing, along with Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority.

Fatah views the implementation of reconciliation is only applicable to the Gaza Strip, and that it should not include any Hamas activities in the West Bank.

Fatah wants to take full control of the government in the Gaza Strip, without Hamas having any role in the management of the sector.

Hamas wants to be part and partner of the Palestinian administration, in the sense that it maintains what it sees as achievements over the past years.

Hamas appointed some 40,000 employees after taking over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Fatah refuses to integrate them into the administrative body, or at least taking that into consideration, which Hamas views as a hindrance towards reconciliation efforts.

Hamas believes it is necessary that the movement should play a similar role to that of the Fatah movement in the PLO, and to be a participant in the Palestinian national decision, and to have an influential role.

Fatah utterly rejects this notion.

Hamas wants to halt any security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli sides, and to sever any agreements with the Israeli occupation.

Fatah wants security forces to maintain their commitment to security coordination, and abide by all security agreements signed with the Israeli side.

Hamas wants the Palestinian factions to retain their weapons and have the freedom to use them.

Fatah sees the inevitability of disarming factions, and the need for Palestinian arms to unify and become subjects of the Palestinian Authority.

The post Hamas in Cairo, Abbas threatens from America appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

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Lissa:Critical take on modern medicine and the Arab Spring Thu, 27 Sep 2018 08:00:08 +0000 The graphic novel is written by academics Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye, and illustrated by artists Sarula Bao and Caroline Brewer.

The post Lissa:Critical take on modern medicine and the Arab Spring    appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Upon its release in November 2017, the graphic novel  Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution gained several positive reviews among academics and scholars. The film as featured in the ethnoGRAPHIC series published by the University of Toronto Press.

Combining between drawings and dialogue Lissa is a graphic narrative, a fictional story based in years of ethnographic fieldwork. The book is told in three parts, and revolves around two young women Anna and Layla. The writers tells their story as they evolve from adolescence into early adulthood. The two women, one American and one Egyptian, face different medical dilemmas.

The events of the are primarily taking place in Cairo, Egypt, with some events taking place in the US largely during the Egyptian Revolution. It reveals through the personal stories of the two characters

The first two parts of the ethnography gives a due care to serious medical decisions which they and their families are challenged by. The main argument in the book can be understood in the context where the state creates and exacerbates pain. The two characters deal with choices about breast cancer genetic risk and organ transplantation, and readers are invited to engage in the character’s intimate moments, personal histories, family demands, cultural expectations, and economic access.

The novel touches on social class, imperialism, transnational labor migrations, the lack of medical access in poor counties, the privatization of medicine in the U.S., the supposed “fatalism” of people who refuse high-tech medical intervention, international capital, oil extraction and militarization.

The book provides two complicated social worlds, while artistically and anthropologically trying to push forward the similarity between the two cases. The differences for examples and their contrasting views,  are due to their living in completely different realities. Layla’s community emphasizes more on collective action and relying heavily on divine intervention. On the other hand Anaa is raised to act as an independent agent and to think for herself.

For example, Anna’s story line has sweeping lines of DNA strands connecting to chemical toxins that are embodied in the treatment of a patient living with cancer, carcinogens in the environment and household carcinogens that transform our bodies, which takes the readers to her family history and Anna’s cancer genealogy. Another storyline follows Layla’s father who is infected with parasites and schistosomiasis in water, and it also tackles power grids and industrial pollution, the politics and greed associated with wheat production.

The two conflicts puts the two characters in an almost similar experience, and the symbolism and authorship of Hamdy and Nye create a space for looking into the medical systems. The storytelling in the work, is innovative in a sense that it compare people’s lives without broad stroke generalizations. The novel also well covered several aspects of cyberactivism, social media and texting, tools that were instrumental in communicating during the revolution. The artists used drawings Facebook pages or a series of texts, helping readers to digest the digital communication that were essential in the time of the novel.

The sequence of the comic panels which the artists direct makes readers not only delve into the lives of Anna and Layla, and immerse themselves into the pain that comes with medical hardships, but also investigate the the complexities of socio-political revolution. Lissa ends with an arguably with with some  hope as one character says “Our scars tell the story of where we’ve been and remind us of how far we still have to go. We still have so much to fight for. There’s still time (242).” The book depicts violence, trauma, and fear, but at the same time it believes in decency and camaraderie.

The book also combines between real and the fictional overlap for example using graffiti and graphics from the Egyptian Revolution.

Meet the writers and artists

Sherine Hamdy, anthropology associate professor, studies medical anthropology and science and technology in the Middle East. She’s an experimental ethnographer who uses comics to bring her research to a wider audience. She’s also working on another graphic novel, under contract with Penguin, in Young Adult fiction. Preliminarily called Jabs, it is the story of a young Muslim woman coming of age in New York, grappling with everyday racism, sexism, family tragedy, and cultural misunderstanding.  Outside of her work in comics, she published Our Bodies Belong to God: Organ Transplants, Islam, and the Struggles for Human Dignity in Egypt.

Coleman Nye, Assistant Professor  Coleman Nye comes to SFU from Brown University where she completed her PhD in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and her MA in Anthropology. Nye’s research and teaching traverses the fields of “feminist science and technology studies, critical race and gender theory, theatre and performance studies, bioethics, disability studies, environmental politics, and anthropology of medicine and reproduction.” 

Sarula Bao graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2016 with a BFA in illustration. Based in Brooklyn, New York, she explores in her sequential work the queer Chinese-American experience.

Caroline Brewer graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 2016 with a degree in illustration and a concentration in literary arts and studies. Along with Marianne Khalil, Brewer is the author and illustrator of Autodesk’s science fiction anthology Four.

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The Angel should be dealt with in a serious way, we should understand what message Israel tries to send: Tarek Fahmy Mon, 24 Sep 2018 11:00:19 +0000 Film debuted on 14 September on Netflix

The post The Angel should be dealt with in a serious way, we should understand what message Israel tries to send: Tarek Fahmy appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Even before the release of the American thriller depicting a narrative of an Egyptian spy, The Angel, was released 14 September on Netflix, there have been several controversies on tackling the case of Ashraf Marwan.

The controversy around Ashraf Marwan’s alleged role in the Arab-Israeli conflict is due to him being the son-in-law of the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Netflix secured the $12m spy thriller movie, which is based on Uri Bar-Joseph’s bestselling novel The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, which tells the story of the high-ranking Egyptian official Marwan, who allegedly became a spy for Israel in the 1960s and 1970s.

Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with the political science professor at Cairo University Tarek Fahmy, who is an expert on Israeli affairs, to talk about how Marwan is seen in the Israeli community, and how the Egyptian state should deal with the film. In addition to that Fahmy evaluates the previous measures the Egyptian state used to deal with the case of Marwan. The transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:

How do you view the Israeli narrative regarding their espionage claims in the wake of the newly released film The Angel?

I have said before that there a lot of facts that should be explained before tackling why Israel has opened the case of Marwan again. I expect that Israel will open several files that are similar to that case, in order to undermine all the heroic stories and narratives that we have seen and heard about in the last years. Since 1948 till 2018, Israel has not admitted that a single spy that worked for it, has been caught with the exception of the Azzam Azzam case who was an Israeli Druze, who was convicted in Egypt of spying for Israel and jailed for eight years. All of Israel unified to free him, and he was freed after the Egyptian state exchanged him for a number of Egyptians who were jailed in Israel. Egypt was the winner in this exchange.

As for the famous Refaat Al-Gammal’s case, Israel has remained quiet and said that Egypt was just glorifying itself, which reflects the philosophy of the Mossad, which is to ignore news that it arrests spies working for Egypt and Hezbollah for example.

For many years, Israel has ignored the stories that glorified Egypt. A dispute between two Israeli apparatuses made them break their silence and talk about the case of Marwan. Apparently, there is a dispute among Israeli intelligence apparatuses, between the Directorate of Military Intelligence often abbreviated to Aman and the national intelligence agency of Israel known as the Mossad.

The dispute is still ongoing and is discussing why Israel does not announce its espionage victories like how the Arabs do. In this year, a former Israeli minister was accused of spying for Iran and got arrested, yet is not on trial. Subsequently, a debate has been going on in Israel about the importance of telling the stories of the important spies who work in Israel.

What questions, do you think, the film will raise?

As for Marwan, it is not the issue of whether he was a patriot or not. In modern terms, there is nothing called a double agent who works for the intelligence apparatus of two countries. But there should be an assertion that Marwan did play a role. I want to state some facts that may be absent from our analysis. Israel was the one that acknowledged Marwan’s role in the war, and said he did great things for the country, but it did not honour him in a public way or among the intelligence community. Egypt, on the other hand, has honoured him and decorated him with the highest recognition the state has to offer. Third, and most important, some Egyptian writers accused Marwan of working for Israel. The last part was in the dispute between the Nasserists and Sadatists. Several writers like Ali Amin for example dedicated furious campaigns against Marwan only to attack Gamal Abdel Nasser’s legacy. However, Marwan has a patriotic history, as far as Egypt is concerned.

Do you think that there will be other cases similar to Marwan’s?

We should expect that in the upcoming period there will be other projects about other spies. Here comes the danger, and it is no longer a question of who is a patriot and who is not. Israel will open these files and hence will turn the table on its adversaries.

There are some writings in Israel that talk about how patriotic Marwan was. These books were censored by the Israeli authorities. These Israeli authority operatives were the ones who worked on the Ashraf Marwan file. Some writers dedicated books to him.

I think history was unfair to him when it accused him of informing Israel of the date of the 1973 War and when the Egyptian Army was going to attack, and this indeed happened. However, he told them that the Egyptian army was going to attack at 12:00 am, and Egypt started the war at 2:00 pm. When we come to write the history of this period [1973 War] we have to keep an eye on the testimonies and autobiographies of leaders of intelligence apparatuses.

How can Egypt counter or deal with such efforts? And what about previous reactions to the case?

The Mossad is expected to reveal the black box, and in return, we should have a vision. We have dealt with the release of the film with an amount of naivety. For example, there is news that an Egyptian film has been recently approved by the censors, which is called The Agent. This is not an official work. It is by an artist who presented his film to the censors once and twice and finally was accepted.

There should be a response because Marwan’s reputation was distorted, such as the alleged portrayal of him as a ladies’ man and a gambler. This was not true. Even when he got into business inside and outside of Egypt none of these deals affected his reputation. The film was written by a number of the Mossad agents and writers, and not just one writer. The novel itself is naive, and it showed that the Mossad is glorious and great, that the Egyptian army failed to keep up with.

Two incidents should be mentioned about Egypt’s official response. The first was when Mubarak was asked about Marwan, and he replied that he was a “patriotic man” and ordered a funeral for the man. But Mubarak’s former Spy Chief and Vice-President Omar Soliman ordered the formation of a fact-finding committee after Marwan’s death, but it seems Mubarak thought the funeral was enough.

What do you think the reaction to the film will be?

The film will be introduced to test the reaction of the audience and should be understood as a film that is based on a novel. The danger here is when you are a recipient. You must have a vision and a point of view. The new generations are growing up and have no idea about Marwan. And the part that a few people do not know is that some people who helped Marwan in his work are still alive in Egypt and they should go public and speak. This means that in the next period there will be a vicious information war, and there is a chance that all the espionage films or TV series that we grew up watching will have their narratives attacked. Israel is now doing what Egypt has done in the 1980s concerning helping the production of films and series that glorifies its espionage operations.

Now everyone keeps talking and talking without any evidence. This period should be academically historicised. I believe the film should be dealt with in a serious way, and we should understand what the message Israel is trying to send. We should not depend on the fact that we are in a peace with Israel, whereby we should ignore this issue. When the General Intelligence Service helped in the making of the Rafaat Al-Hagan series in the 1980s, there was a wave of disappointment in the Egyptian society, yet this series indeed lifted the morale of the country, and people would gather in cafes and around their families to watch the series. Creating history has rules. For us now to create a spy thriller in the same way as we did in the 1980s, will not be digested by people easily.

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The Angel, orientalism by ignorance Mon, 24 Sep 2018 10:00:39 +0000 Controversy over Marwan’s alleged role in Arab-Israeli conflict due to him being son-in-law of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser

The post The Angel, orientalism by ignorance appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

On 14 September, over-the-top media services provider and now film production company, Netflix released Ariel Vromen’s new feature film called The Angel, a spy thriller, depicting the Israeli narrative of the involvement of Egyptian diplomat Ashraf Marwan with Israeli intelligence bodies.

Vromen’s Netflix original goes on to cinematically depict the story one of the Middle East’s most famous, yet mysterious, spy, who was closely related to the family of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, as a son-in-law, and who was an even closer aide to former President Anwar Al-Sadat. The film is based on Uri Bar-Joseph’s novel The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel.

The script is a brilliant translation of a semi-academic book, which is supported by official documents and archival material, as well as open accounts of former Mossad agents and officials. The controversy around Marwan’s alleged role in the Arab-Israeli conflict is due to him being the son-in-law of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The movie is produced by Israel’s TTV production company, in addition to French company ADAMA.

On 27 June 2007, Marwan allegedly fell to his death from the balcony of his apartment in London, raising questions and speculations of a possible homicide. He died at the age of 62.

It was very predictable that Netflix would buy and support this film, a very interesting espionage thriller about in one of the most conflict driven parts of the world. Such a trend is noticeable in films (feature and narrative) that Netflix produces and offers to the public, pornography workers in Los Angeles, DEA agents in Mexico, and a youth road trip in a jungle film genres. Throughout the last years, Netflix has proven to be a hunter of good stories, which can be produced, packaged, and screened to an international audience, and The Angel script and story line does very well to impress in that sense.

In the film, Marwan Kenzari plays Marwan, a husband to the daughter Mona (played by Maisa Abd Elhadi who starred in The Letters on Sarah and Saleem) of Gamal Abdel Nasser who was played by Waleed Zuaiter (who played a counterterrorism officer in the Palestinian Drama Omar). Kenzari plays a convincing role, according to the script, of a lost and overwhelmed relative of a powerful president [Abdel Nasser] in the years following the 1967 defeat, who ends up calling the Israeli embassy in London, in order to inform them with critical information about Egypt.

Following Nasser’s death, Marwan is faced by a new order, where Sadat plans to rule out all of Nasser’s legacy and supporters. In terms of acting, that is when the travesty in the film begins. While keeping in mind that none of the actors are Egyptian, hence none of them have a clear Arabic Egyptian accent, Netflix and Ariel Vromen have indeed taken for granted their audience. Sasson Gabai (who acted in House of Saddam) in the role of Anwar Al-Sadat, Slimane Dazi (who acted in Chouf and The Nile Hilton Incident) and in the role of Nasser’s confidant, Sami Sharaf, spoke with a horrible Arabic Egyptian accent.

There is a lot of similarity between The Angel and House of Saddam, a 2008 co-production between the BBC and HBO, a drama which charted the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein.

While the dialogue in House of Saddam was all in English, based on a script by Stephen Butchard and Alex Holmes, the Angel has English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Nevertheless, both works are targeting a western audience.

Both works attempted to capture the inner life of politics and decision-making in the Arab world depicting a dog-eat-dog world full of plots, espionage, betrayal, personal interest, and vengeance.

The Angel, or rather Uri Bar-Joseph’s novel, argues that Marwan’s first initiative was due to his frustration with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s stubborn attitude towards entering into peace negotiations with the Americans, and the late president’s alleged full confidence in the Russians. The film argues that Marwan has sold out several Palestinian militants to the Israelis, and has informed Israel of every time Sadat intended to attack Israel, even in the 1973 War.

The double agent angle comes when the film reaches the climax, and viewers find that Marwan has been advising Sadat to stage fake readiness of launching a war, time after time, till the Israelis are no longer moved by any threats, citing Aesopica’s story The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The film brought back to life an everlasting controversy among Egyptian nationalist historians and officials who are all in dispute and challenge Israel’s narrative that Marwan was a double agent working for both Israel and Egypt.

Nonetheless, we can and we should critique The Angel for its artistic and technical approach, and it should be criticised for its dull visual interpretation of Egypt. In several scenes, the film shows streets that it claims were in Egypt, and personnel that it argues to be policemen and army members in Egypt. Such a depiction shows again that the producers and the director have taken the audience for granted. A Middle East studies’ freshman in any university could have advised the producers on what the Egyptian palatalization sounds like, or what an Egyptian prisons look like, or how the Egyptian police dress.

Having said that, Arab nationalists who dispute the Israeli narratives that Marwan was a double agent should not blame Uri Bar-Joseph, Vromen, or even Netflix, but should blame Arab states for lack of transparency and clarity when it comes to releasing documents, giving archival access to historians, announcing an official narrative that is not repeated and copy-pasted by pro-state ‘experts’, and autobiographies, but rather by official documents. To argue that Marwan was not a double agent and was a hero that served the Egyptian cause in the 1973 War, without presenting any evidence or documents, can be debated to also be taking the Arab audience for granted.

In 1978, the founder of what is now known postcolonial studies Edward Said, published his most famous and prominent book Orientalism, arguing that the same depictions that scholars, painters, and writers had about the Middle East the so-called Orient in the 1700s and the 1800s has not changed, or developed little in the 1960s, and the 1970s.

He wrote that “Orientalism can be discussed and analysed as the corporate institution for dealing with the Orient—dealing with it by making statements about it, authorising views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it; in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Netflix and the film, can be interpreted according to Said’s analysis to be “the corporate institution,” and to have “made statements….and dominated the restructuring” of one of Egypt’s most important and critical chapters in history, and in the words of Said, has proven to have “authority over the Orient.”

In this sense, the very act of Orientalism is done not only due the actions of the ‘Orientalist’ who frames the Middle East into ready-to-be-consumed narratives, but also due to the lack of initiative by the ‘Orient’ to credibly challenge the narrative.

For states and officials concerned with the film, to counter the narrative of Uri Bar-Joseph with a film, a media campaign in all newspaper and media outlets, or a book, would be a weakest response, but instead states should disclose files, documents, and archival content, and make them available to the world.

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Egypt’s Al-Sisi to make pledge to Arab regional security at UNGA 73rd session Sun, 23 Sep 2018 08:00:03 +0000 Palestinian president speech anticipated

The post Egypt’s Al-Sisi to make pledge to Arab regional security at UNGA 73rd session appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi headed on Friday to New York in order to participate in and address the 73rd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, taking place between 18 September and 5 October.

Al-Sisi, who regularly attends the annual UNGA summit, is joining the conference this year with an agenda focused on discussing topics concerning regional security issues.

The president is expected to cover the crises in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, the importance of the United States’ influence in reviving peace talks between Palestine and Israel, along with combating terrorism, Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the UN Mohamed Idris informed state-media last week.

In related news, Egyptian army chief of staff Mohamed Farid participated in a Kuwait meeting of chiefs of staff of the member-states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, (GCC) Egypt and Jordan, along with the US Central Command.

The meeting tackled military partnership and cooperation between participant countries, along with regional and international efforts targeting to combat terrorism, and facing the challenges and threats challenging Middle East security and stability. However, according to Al-Ahram Weekly, the meeting was mainly to address a security plan among Arab allies, which would enable Washington to reduce its intervention in the region.

Prior to that, Egypt hosted the largest joint multinational military drill, also known as ‘Bright Star 2018’, with the participation of Egypt, the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Jordan, Greece, the United Kingdom, Italy and France among other countries.

“Approximately 800 US military service personnel will participate in this exercise for the second year in a row. The focus this year will be on regional security and cooperation, and promoting interoperability in irregular warfare scenarios,” the US Central Command said in a statement on 30 August.

Sisi’s participation in the past four UNGA sessions focused on explaining Egypt’s foreign policy. Through his speeches, the president emphasised terrorism threats, fuelled by religious extremism, which tore apart Arab countries, most notably Syria, and Libya.

Egypt’s foreign policy in the UN

Sisi’s participation in the past four UNGA sessions focused on explaining Egypt’s foreign policy. Through his speeches, the president emphasised terrorism threats, fuelled by religious extremism, which tore apart Arab countries, most notably Syria, and Libya.

“We have all witnessed Libya’s descent along a downward spiral when the forces of extremism announced their presence through actions that contradict the principles of Islam and humanity,” he stated in the 70th session in 2015, adding that Egypt supported the Skhirat Agreement.

Concerning Syria, Sisi said that “extremist groups took advantage of the nation’s aspirations in Syria,” reiterating Egypt’s invitation for Syrian parties to meet in Cairo so as to formulate a plan for the interim period in accordance with Geneva.

Sisi clarified that Egypt’s foreign policy supported nation states, and principles of citizenship and human rights, especially regarding the situations in those two countries.

He had also previously justified intervention in Yemen, based on its request, aimed to preserve Arab national security in the face of attempts by “outside parties’ intervention in its affairs”, highlighting Egypt’s commitment to Yemen’s unity.

The president repeatedly called for an imperative end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, by giving the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and an independent state, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In 2017, Sisi addressed the issue of extremist religious discourse serving ideological pretexts to terrorism, and called on the international community’s moral obligations towards the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, as well as Egypt’s commitment to cooperating with Sudan and Ethiopia regarding the Renaissance Dam.

Egypt has had a longstanding relationship with the UN, both as a founding member of the UN which has been elected six times to its security council, and is the seventh largest contributor to its peace-keeping operations world-wide.

As a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the past two years, Egypt initiated several resolutions, including some aimed at supporting the Palestinian cause, condemning the recognition of Jerusalem as its capital, vetoed by the US.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry welcomed in December the adoption by the security council of the draft resolution submitted by Egypt, Sweden, and Japan to extend the effect of Resolution 2165 on the delivery of cross-border humanitarian assistance to Syria. 

The UNSC also adopted a resolution to counter terrorist discourse, advanced by Egypt, which also obtained the support of the UNGA regarding a draft resolution, concerning terrorism’s impact on human rights.

Last week, the UNGA adopted an Egyptian proposed resolution on sexual abuse and exploitation titled “Sexual abuse and exploitation: Implementing zero-tolerance policy” which the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said it intends to prevent all kinds of sexual exploitation utilizing the UN system, including agencies, funds and programmes.

The Palestinian cause

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be attending the session and is expected to deliver his speech on Thursday.

In his last speech before the UNGA in 2017, Abbas focused on stating Israeli violations of international laws and Palestinian rights.

“We recognised the state of Israel on the 1967 borders. But Israel’s continuous refusal to recognise these borders has put into question the mutual recognition we signed in Oslo in 1993,” he stated.

With peace negotiations stalled since 2014, the situation is further complicated by US stances under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The US has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December, opened its embassy there, cut funding to the UNRWA, and recently decided to close the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s offices in Washington.

The moves have sparked hostility with Abbas. This is in addition to continued violence in the Gaza Strip, and failure to reach a permanent ceasefire agreement with Hamas so far.

Israel is concerned about escalation of tensions upon Abbas’ speech to the UNGA, which it expects to be aggressive, especially amid tense relations with the US.

Israeli Defence Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot reportedly warned during a cabinet meeting that the chances of a wave of terror in Judea and Samaria are between 60 and 80%, and if such a wave develops, it will be more significant than in Gaza, in terms of the number of forces required to deal with it, and could fuel lone-wolf Palestinian terrorism among the civilian population, media reported.

This came as Asharq Al-Awsat reported Friday that Abbas intends to “give a last warning” in his upcoming speech, to either have an international peace conference with a specified timeframe, or resort to unrecognising Israel, and hence act as a state under its occupation.

Arab issues

Syria continues to be a pressing issue among UN concerns of conflict in Idlib, so is the situation in Yemen.

Meanwhile, an anti-Iran stance remains on the Arab agenda, as does the diplomatic conflict with Qatar. A quartet commission including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – the four countries boycotting Qatar – met earlier in September on the sidelines of the 150th Session of the Arab League ministerial council.

They issued a statement in which they continued to blame Iranian interference in the region, citing the production of ballistic missiles targeted at Saudi Arabia, its hostile stance towards Arabs, and its pursuit of a nuclear programme.

“The commission also condemns Iran’s direct threats to international navigation in the gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as well as navigation in the Red Sea through its agents in the area, including the recent targeting of a Saudi oil tanker by the Houthis in Bab Al-Mandab Strait, in violation of the international law,” the statement read.

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Relations with Saudi Arabia await economic refreshment: experts Sun, 23 Sep 2018 07:00:03 +0000 Saudi Arabia is biggest receiver of Egyptian expatriates, says Al-Hamakki

The post Relations with Saudi Arabia await economic refreshment: experts appeared first on Daily News Egypt.

Saudi Arabia await economic refreshmentEconomic experts anticipate economic refreshment for Egyptian-Saudi relations driven by the already signed agreements with Saudi Arabia, noting that both countries signed in March investment agreements worth $10bn, to develop 1,000 square km of land in South Sinai, and committed the territories to Saudi’s ‘Neom’ project, which aims to build a new megacity. The agreements were signed during Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Egypt.

Moreover, Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document from the General Authority For Investment and free zones upon request, showing that Saudi firms in Egypt number 4,920 companies, offering 123,269 job opportunities, and Saudi investments worth about $6.292bn, covering the period from early 1970 till end of July 2018. 

Rakha Ahmed, former assistant to the Egyptian foreign affairs minister, said that the planned projects between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are very important for both countries, including the planned bridge which will connect Saudi Arabia with the Greater Arab Maghreb countries and Atlantic ocean, calling on both governments to announce the implementation of the latest agreements which were declared but have yet to be implemented.

Main stages of political cooperation

Rakha Ahmed said that relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia are historical despite some normal different political views, adding, “following the 25 January revolution in Egypt, joint relations suffered a real cooling period despite continuous communication between both countries’ officials.”

The Saudi foreign affairs ministry affirmed on many occasions its support for Egypt specially after the 30 June revolution, which was followed by threats from some foreign countries to cut their support to Egypt, noted Ahmed, adding, “I remember Saudi’s former Foreign Minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s announcement in Paris where he said that his country is ready to compensate Egypt if other countries cut their support.”

Ahmed added that both countries have some different views regarding specific regional issues, including Syria, as Egypt believes in the safe solution and respects the Syrian peoples’ choice, while Saudi Arabia thinks that the current Syrian regime must go away, noting, “Saudi Arabia and Egypt are collaborating on the Yemen issue discussions as Egypt views Yemen as a strategic partner because of its importance for the Suez canal’s safety.”

Joint cooperation with Saudi Arabia is diversified and includes economic, trade, scientific, and technical aspects, said Ahmed, elaborating that there are huge Saudi investments in Egypt, countless Saudi nationals studying in Egyptian schools and universities, while a wide tranche of Egyptians work in Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia announced its plans to invest significantly in the Egyptian market on the sidelines of both visits by Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince in March 2018, and Saudi King Salman’s trip to Egypt in 2016, said Ahmed.

Saudi Arabia showered Egypt with billions of dollars in aid since 2013, when Al-Sisi ousted elected President Mohammed Morsi from the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement, which Riyadh opposes, according to media reports.

Notably, in March 2018, President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi welcomed Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, the Deputy Premier and Defence Minister who paid a three-day official visit to the country. The Saudi crown prince was accompanied by a number of the Saudi ministers and senior officials.

President Al-Sisi and the crown prince then headed for the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis where they held a meeting, followed by expanded talks at the level of the two countries’ delegations. President Al Sisi welcomed the Saudi crown prince’s visit, the first official one since he took over as Crown Prince.

The meeting addressed different aspects of bilateral relations, mainly economic and investment ones. President AL-Sisi and the Saudi Crown Prince agreed to continue facing interference in regional affairs.

It is worth mentioning that President Al-Sisi visited Saudi Arabia several times which affirms the strong ties between both countries.

Experts clarify activating the bilateral signed agreements’ importance

Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed in March investment agreements worth $10bn, to develop 1,000 square km of land in South Sinai, and committed the territories to Saudi’s ‘Neom’ project, which aims to build a new megacity, the media reported, adding that the agreements were signed during Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Egypt.

Al-Sisi and bin Salman discussed launching numerous joint projects, notably in the tourism sector in the Red Sea, aiming to maximise the large potential for touristic developments, stated Egypt’s presidency.

The Neom project was launched by bin Salman in October 2017, and is a promising Saudi project which seeks to build future cities. The project will develop territories within Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia committed a joint fund worth $10 bn for the Neom project’s investment in Egyptian territories. The two countries also signed an environment agreement to embark on establishing projects within the ‘Red Sea Project’, while protecting the maritime environment and preserving coral reefs and beaches.

Saudi Arabia will establish seven tourism projects, 50 resorts on the Red Sea, and four small cities within the Red Sea Project.

The agreement stipulates the development of lands between the Neom project and the Red Sea Project. In addition, three tourist destinations will be established, which will include islands and beaches, as well as over 15 maritime destinations and hundreds of resorts, according to media reports.

Ahmed noted that petrol prices increased recently, which will support Saudi’s economic situation and offer additional liquidity to activate the previously agreed upon projects.

Meanwhile, Youmn Al-Hamakki, an economic analyst, said that Egyptian-Saudi relations are solid and enjoy a great prospect for boasting the economic cooperation, adding that Saudi investments in Egypt are important for offering Egyptians many job opportunities.

Daily News Egypt exclusively received a document from General Authority For Investment and free zones upon request, showing that Saudi firms in Egypt number 4,920 companies, offering 123,269 job opportunities, with Saudi investments worth about $6.292bn, covering the period from early 1970 till end of July 2018. The document added that the number of Saudi firms in Cairo are 2,231 firms offering 29,211 job opportunities with investments worth $2.4bn.

Al-Hamakki mentioned that there were significant agreements signed between both countries, and while there weren’t activated, he called for a  follow-up committee to help activate these agreements.

Al-Hamakki noted that the signed agreements with Saudi Arabia are very important and represent genuine opportunities for current cooperation opportunities, adding, “we all notice the increased endeavours of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in terms of the visits and signed agreements.”

Saudi Arabia is the biggest receiver of Egyptian expatriates whose remittances play a vital role for supporting the Egyptian economy, noted Al-Hamakki, mentioning that despite Saudi plans, Egypt can benefit by offering its technical expertise in the industrial sector development, especially for female entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, Al-Hamakki said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia should conduct detailed studies on how they can benefit from one another’s comparative advantage, in order to ensure complementary development cooperation. 

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Beast of poverty continues to grow Tue, 18 Sep 2018 07:30:46 +0000 4.6 million children in UK living in poverty, over 3.6 million college grads in US living in extremely difficult financial conditions

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Worldwide, poverty is the beast that cannot be killed. Strategies and visions try to tackle the issue of poverty, but only temporarily, because it keeps coming back again and again (sometimes even bigger and more vicious than before). Any change with the world economy quickly affects their life conditions, making the situation—in most cases—much worse.

A new study in the United Kingdom (UK)—developed by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC)—has found that more than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children are living below the breadline, according to The Guardian. “More than half of these people have been trapped in poverty for years, according to a new measure aimed at providing the most sophisticated analysis yet of material disadvantage in the UK. The measure seeks to forge a fresh political consensus between left and right over how to define and track poverty, with the aim of encouraging better-targeted poverty interventions, and making it easier to hold politicians to account. Especially, it finds poverty is prevalent in families with at least one disabled person, single-parent families, and households where no one works or who are dependent on income from irregular or zero-hours jobs,” The Guardian reported.

The SMC’s most significant innovation is to build core living costs, such as rent and childcare into its poverty measure. This recognises that even a relatively comfortable income is no guarantee that people can meet basic material needs if it is eaten up by unavoidable weekly outgoings, according to The Guardian.

All of this means that about 33% of children—an equivalent of 4.5 million—are in poverty, and there are predictions that the number will soar to a record 5.2 million over the next five years.

In the United States of America (US), the situation is not much better. American President Donald Trump has stated in July that America’s war on poverty “is largely over and a success”. The US Census Bureau reported that about $12.3 of US households live in poverty in 2017, down from 12.7% in 2016, however, one class of Americans keeps getting poorer, according to Quartz, and they are those with at least a college degree. “In 2017, some 4.8% of those with degrees lived in poverty, up from 4.5% in 2016. That means that more than 360,000 college-educated people joined the ranks of the impoverished in 2017,” Quartz said. In 2013, only 4.4% of college grads were poor, amounting to just below 3 million people, but since them, an additional 680,000 of them have slipped under the poverty line.

In Africa, the situation is much worse. A new research by the Overseas Development Institute has found that at least 400 million people who will still be living on less than $1.90 a day by 2030, despite governments pledging to eliminate all extreme poverty, according to All Africa.

“Researchers have calculated that among the poorest countries there is a funding gap of $125bn each year for health, education, and social protection, which are crucial for reducing poverty. Although increased taxation could close this gap in most middle-income countries, low-income countries will need aid to fund these social sectors and eliminate extreme poverty. Economic growth will continue to lift millions out of poverty, but health, education, and particularly social protection are severely under-funded,” it reported.

Researchers also found that if all countries maximised their income from tax then low and middle-income countries could increase revenues by $2tn to $9.4tn a year. However, 99% of this increase would be generated by middle-income countries, leaving 48 of the poorest countries unable to fully fund their education, health, and social protection. Of these, 29 severely financially challenged countries would not be able to afford even half the costs, according to All Africa.

Recognising issues is a first step on the path to solving them, but not so much with poverty, as the world seems to be perfectly aware of the severity of that issue, yet not much change is seen. Governments will have to take serious unhesitant steps, in order for things to start changing soon.

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Syria holds first local elections since beginning of revolution Tue, 18 Sep 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Since 2011, the Syrian government’s once effective monopoly on the use of force has consistently diminished and, in the past years, has been completely dismantled

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Syria held local elections for the first time since 2011 on Sunday, in an attempt by the Syrian state to show strength and present a veneer of normalcy as President Bashar Al-Assad’s government re-extends control over large swaths of the country.

Since 2011, the Syrian government’s once effective monopoly on the use of force has consistently diminished and, in the past years, has been completely dismantled. This is due to different factors. The fragmentation of the country means that large areas are outside government control.

While the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) is still present to a certain extent in the Kurdish territories, it is mainly the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (Partiya Yekitya Demokrat, PYD) that controls the north-eastern region of Hassake and Kamishly, as well as the north-western area of Afrin. In IS-controlled territories in eastern Syria, there is no presence of governmental forces, and IS has the monopoly on the use of force. The northern province of Idlib and the southern area of Daraa and Sweida are controlled by opposition forces.

Syrians in government-controlled areas cast ballots for more than 40,000 candidates competing for 18,478 seats on local administrative councils.

State controlled news said there was “good turnout” at the 6,551 electoral stations, without specifying. Images from state media showed voters putting ballots into plastic boxes with ubiquitous pictures of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on the wall looking on.

According to observers, the results are almost sure to be rigged in favour of the ruling Ba’ath Party, which has dominated politics and security in the authoritarian state since the 1960s. Most of the candidates were either from the Ba’ath Party or tied to it.

Pro-government forces have most recently retaken control of the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta and the southwest corner bordering Jordan and Israel.

Nearly 12 million people out of a pre-war population of 22 million who have been either internally displaced or made refugees outside the country were unable to vote.

Syria regularly holds parliamentary elections but due to the uprising, the 2011 elections were postponed to 2012. The elections are always closely monitored and did not fulfil any criteria of free and fair elections. The majority of the seats were reserved for Ba’th party candidates, with a smaller number of formally independent candidates running.

Constitutional reforms in 2012 slightly changed the system and references to the Ba’th party as the leading party in the country were eliminated. State authorities allowed for the participation of an opposition which was only formally independent and very close to the regime.

During the war, previous persecution of dissidents by the secret services has been complemented with a relentless military campaign. Most of the political opposition members are now outside the country, in prison or have been killed, rendering any future elections even more flawed.

Every seven years, the president is elected in a referendum. In 2014, for the first time, more than one candidate ran for president. Before the single candidate would win more than 97% of the vote. In 2014, Bashar Al-Assad achieved only 88.7%.

Over the past years, the situation in Syria has constantly deteriorated in political and socioeconomic terms. The fragmentation of the country and its near inaccessibility to foreign organizations and journalists make it difficult to gather solid information. Even for Syrians, it has become increasingly difficult to understand the living conditions all over the country.

The Syrian regime has been crushing hopes for democratisation in its territories; the rule of the Islamic State (IS) precludes any democratic options in territory under its control; and in Kurdish and rebel-held areas, military actors dominate political ones. Authoritarian tendencies have become more pronounced all over Syria. Thus, democratic actors have largely been exiled, killed or compelled to address social or humanitarian tasks.

In the beginning of 2014, the United Nations stopped counting the casualties of the war in Syria, however, an estimated half a million people have died so far. Over half of the population has been displaced, with over 6 million people internally displaced (IDPs) and more than 4.6 million registered as refugees, mostly the neighbouring countries.

In 2015, the UNDP estimated that 80% of the population lived in poverty and that life expectancy had been reduced by 20 years since 2011. Of the projected $4.38bn needed for humanitarian assistance in 2016, only $2.13bn could be funded.

The Syrian government’s military victories in Aleppo and the surroundings areas of Damascus in the end of 2016 could only be achieved through a combination of Russian airstrikes, the participation of Iranian military advisers, and a massive deployment of foreign militias, mainly the Lebanese Hezbollah and Shiite fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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BDS awakening leave Israel’s music scene in distress Sun, 16 Sep 2018 09:00:26 +0000 Over 140 artists signed letter threatening to boycott Eurovision 2019 if hosted in Israel, citing violations of Palestinian human right

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Amid successive US moves biasedly sustaining Israel—the recognition of Jerusalem as its capital and moving its embassy there – helping it bypass accountability for crimes committed under occupation and increasing pressure on Palestinians, some continue to challenge support to Israel despite criticism in the Arab world that the cause has taken a backseat.

The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which identifies itself as a “movement works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law,” is one of those activists’ groups. It recently led a campaign successfully impacting artists across the globe to boycott Israel.

In a letter published on 9 September by The Guardian, over 140 artists signed a letter threatening to boycott the popular Eurovision song contest of 2019 if hosted in Israel, citing “grave, decades-old violations of Palestinian human right.

The letter specifically referred to the Israeli military’s killing of at least 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters during the Great March of Return demonstrations and called on the European Broadcasting Union to move the concert to “another country with a better human rights record.”

Israeli authorities have pressured the BDS supporters by denying them entry or asking them to leave, including Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir.

Aside from formalities, the BDS movement has already launched its campaign to boycott Eurovision regardless of whether it is hosted in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, arguing it is part of Israel’s strategy to whitewash and distract attention away from its war crimes against Palestinians.

“Israel effectively declared itself an apartheid state by adopting the Jewish Nation-State Law. Palestinian citizens are now constitutionally denied equal rights. Holding Eurovision 2019 in Israel whitewashes apartheid,” the BDS claims.

In another move, at least 19 artists withdrew from Israel’s Meteor Festival held on 6, 7, and 8 September in Israel.

On 24 August, the Meteor team issued a statement accusing the BDS of “insanely” politicising their event. “The location of the festival is non-controversial. A private land chosen specifically as we have intended, from the start, to create as inclusive a setting as possible,” it read.

For its part, the BDS posted the following on its Facebook page on 12 September: “We thank the musicians, DJs, and producers from around the world who withdrew. Artists are increasingly refusing to allow Israel to use art to cover up its grave violations of Palestinian human rights.”

BDS pushes for one cultural boycott after the other

The recent wave of artists’ boycott included top artists, most notably American singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey. The move stood more clearly as a boycott from previous performance cancellations in Israel.

Some of the world’s top artists cancelling performances in Israel or denying news that they would go were often celebrated by the BDS and supporters despite that solidarity with Palestine was not always cited by the celebrities as reasons. But the movement has been keen on addressing artists whenever such news appeared.

Stanley Cohen, lawyer and anti-Zionist activist, explained the point in a 2016 interview with Al-Jazeera: “Once someone signs a contract, they then too often have the excuse that they cannot step out because of financial injuries to family or friends. You don’t want to wait until the ink has dried.”

In May, news that Columbian singer from Lebanese origins Shakira were confirmed to be false by American events promoter Live Nation. Still, the singer faced pressure from the BDS and online campaign urging her not to go.

In October 2016, Beyoncé’s representatives cancelled two concerts scheduled to take place in Israel. Two years earlier, they had also denied she was going there following announcements by the Israeli media.

While no boycotting reasons were clearly stated in both instances, it is largely believed that the singer’s refrainment could have been pressured by the BDS movement. The movement listed it among it 2016 achievements despite admitting it may have not been related to responding to appeals.

Back in 2012, soul legend Stevie Wonders pulled out of a concert raising money for the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces, the BBC reported, quoting his statement: “I am and have always been against war, any war, anywhere. Given the current and very delicate situation in the Middle East, and with a heart that has always cried out for world unity, I will not be performing.”

Not only music, but sports too was another cultural tool of making a statement. In June, Argentina’s national football team cancelled a World Cup friendly match with Israel supposed to be held in Jerusalem, describing the move as the “right thing to do.”

“There is nothing ‘friendly’ about military occupation and apartheid,” the BDS movement had said while calling on the team to cancel.

BDS acts to Israel’s distress

Those different forms of boycotting, some of which a result of the BDS campaigns, came to Israel’s distress, sparking internal criticism.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentina’s president following the team’s cancellation but was Mauricio Macri reportedly told him that “there was nothing that I could do,” Israel’s Army Radio reported.

Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted said it was “too bad” Argentina’s footballers did not “withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters. We will not yield before a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters,” he tweeted, and on one instance suggested football star Lionel Messi needed that warm-up game when the latter missed a World Cup penalty.

“The Day the Music Died: Will BDS Bring Tel Aviv’s Club Scene to a Standstill?” read a Haaretz’s headline on 7 September. “We may be reaching the day when the boycott movement bursts the escapist bubble of Israel’s nightlife,” it said.

The article criticised Del Rey and others’ decisions arguing that Israeli nightlife scene has “no room for politics,” and that British or American artists who cancelled are leftist “people who see cooperation with Israel as collaboration with Trump and Britain’s Conservative government.”

Generally, Israeli media reactions have been largely based on pointing which artists who opted for a boycott have previously been to Tel Aviv before, including Shakira and other DJs, or often emphasising the fact that many did not cite “politically motivated reasons”.

But with the pressure holding still, the BDS has impacted the Palestinian-Israeli debate using culture and corporate social responsibility. A StopBDS online website has stated that The BDS movement is rapidly spreading on campuses and communities, representing a looming threat to Israel and its supporters.

According to former Israeli deputy national security advisor Chuck Freilicha in a February article published in the Times of Israel, Israel is using the wrong approach in facing the BDS and failing to understand that Israel itself is the source of its bad image.

“Fifty years of efforts have failed to convince the international community of the merits of the settlement policy, which it considers counterproductive, first and foremost, to Israel’s own interest in maintaining its Jewish and democratic character and in achieving peace,” he wrote.

“No matter how much Israel invests in the battle against the BDS and delegitimization, it will not be able to change the international image that Israel has come to bear the primary responsibility for the diplomatic impasse,” he added.

According to BDS, its campaigns were a key factor behind a 46% drop in foreign direct investment into Israel in 2014 compared to 2013, in statistics provided by a UN report. The World Bank also attributed a 24% drop in Palestinian imports from Israel to boycott. Reports by the Israeli government and the Rand Corporation have predicted that the BDS could cost the Israeli economy billions of dollars.

Major European companies VeoliaOrange, and CRH have exited the Israeli market after high profile campaigns over their complicity with Israeli violations. Veolia sold its businesses in Israel and ended its role in infrastructure projects for illegal Israeli settlements after boycott campaigners persuaded local councils to drop Veolia from public contracts worth at least $20bn, the BDS stated.

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Hamas-Israel long-term truce uncertain amid Abbas opposition, Gaza protests Sun, 09 Sep 2018 12:00:18 +0000 Internal Palestinian reconciliation stands in way of negotiations with Israel

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The future of a possible long-term truce between Israel and Hamas looks uncertain. A brokered deal would involve easing the blockade on Gaza and prisoners’ swap.

But disagreements between Fatah and Hamas are standing in the way.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose anti-US stance escalated after US President Donald Trump’s internationally-rejected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the US embassy move, is rejecting any agreement that would deal with the strip separately from the rest of Palestine and insisting that Hamas handles Gaza to the PA, unrecognising its authority to sign any deals.

According to media reports, a delegation of Egyptian intelligence officers last week in Ramallah of was prompted the Egyptians to hold off, in order to resume talks on internal reconciliation first upon being communicated the PA’s rejection of a Hamas-Israel ceasefire.

On Friday, Israeli media reported that Abbas even threatened to sever all ties with Israel if it reaches a long-term truce agreement with Hamas that bypasses the PA and Abbas’s Fatah party.

Following weeks of violence in Gaza near the Israeli borders, a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt and the UN was eventually implemented last month. In mid-August, Reuters reported that Egypt was putting the “final touches” to a one-year agreement that was planned to be announced, only if Fatah helped.

Hamas officials say they want to advance a proposal that would put end to the difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza, but accused Abbas of coordinating with Israeli intelligence to thwart such an agreement.

More rounds of talks in Cairo are expected for delegations of Palestinian factions.

Stalled reconciliation process standing in way of progressing negotiations with Israel

For months, a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas brokered by Egypt and announced in October 2017 has been stalled, as both parties hold to their conditions.

Submitting Gaza to the PA’s control remains one of the main obstacles. Despite that the PA Cabinet convened in Gaza for the first time in October, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy was bombed in Gaza in March. Although he survived, the PA blamed Hamas.

Hamas had accepted a new reconciliation plan proposed by Egypt, with specific phases and a timeline and includes the lifting of all PA penalties on Gaza and the full payment of salaries and budgets in the strip, the commitment by Hamas not to interfere in the work of the national reconciliation government, as well as cooperation with it; the provision of fuel without taxes for the operation of the electric power plant under the supervision of the government; and the start of consultations in a month time to form a national unity government.

On the other hand, Abbas continued threats to withhold money sent to Gaza and maintaining Hamas disarmament as a crucial condition for the reconciliation process.

Last week, PA official Yehia Rabah summarised Fatah’s point of view to the local Al-Watan newspaper as following: there are no need for more discussion on reconciliation, but rather implementation of what was already agreed upon by Hamas instead of the group “delusional” pursuits, whether by agreeing to a ceasefire under Israeli conditions or falling in the trap of the “dead” deal of the century.

Situation not calming down with Israel

The details of an anticipated ceasefire plan remain undisclosed fully, but outlines published by different media suggested that it would include lifting sanctions on Gaza, facilitating entry of goods and working towards infrastructure reconstruction.

A prisoner swap in exchange of securing the release of Israeli civilians and soldiers’ remain held by the Palestinian organisation is also on the table.

The terms are essentially identical to those established after the 2014 war in Gaza and are similar to those agreed upon after the 2012 military campaign in the Strip, Haaretz reported in mid-August.

On the ground, signs of eased tensions with Israel are rarely visible whether in Gaza or other parts of the West Bank.

Hamas leading member Mahmoud Al-Zahar said negotiations with Israel did not lead to any practical results on the ground and that Palestinian protests will not back off until the Israeli blockade ends, SAMA reported on Friday, accusing Abbas of hindering Egyptian mediation efforts.

Protests demanding the right of return have been ongoing since March. At least one Palestinian was killed and over 200 injured on Friday in protests near the Israeli border, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

“Protesters rolled burning tires and hurled stones toward the Israeli soldiers and the border fence, witnesses said. The Israeli military said that some threw firebombs and a grenade. No Israelis were hurt,” Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, two Palestinians were wounded from rubber-coated metal rounds fired by Israeli soldiers who raided early Saturday the northern West Bank city of Nablus to arrest activists, according to Palestinian security forces, WAFA reported on Saturday.

Also on Friday, WAFA reported that Jewish settlers attempted to raid the village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, which is facing an imminent threat of demolition by Israeli authorities, before they were confronted by Palestinian protesters, local sources told WAFA.

As the situation is lingering, pessimism has started to take over. This also comes as the US position is stirring tensions in light of its recent decision to cut off contributions to the UNRWA. The aid agency the thought to raise funds through and urged contributors to come to its rescue.

Trump further stated that there will be no aids to Palestinians unless they make a deal. “I stopped massive amounts of money that we were paying to the Palestinians and the Palestinian leaders. We were—the United States was paying them tremendous amounts of money,” Trump said during the call on Thursday, adding, “and I’d say, you’ll get money, but we’re not paying you until we make a deal.  If we don’t make a deal, we’re not paying,” he reportedly told a conference room on Thursday.

In an interview published Friday by the Jewish News Syndicate, Trump’s senior Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said Hamas was an obstacle to the peace process and criticised the PA abstinence from speaking to the Americans.

“I certainly hope that President Abbas chooses to engage with the peace plan, and I hope he decides to lead his people to a better and brighter future, which is what this plan could bring the people,” Greenblatt stated.

He added that working with the Trump administration is President Abbas’s “best opportunity to possibly achieve many of the goals that he has set out for himself and his people” and that without engaging on the peace plan, the Palestinian people will “fall further and further behind.”

“Moreover, the continued condemnation of the peace plan is going to yield no solution whatsoever to the Palestinian people. So our hope is that, yes, he will realize when he sees the plan that he should become a partner for peace,” he said in the interview.

The so-called “deal of the century” proposed by the US was rejected by Palestine, while Egypt and Jordan maintained positions on the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem a capital of an independent Palestinian state as essential conditions.

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UNRWA seeks compensating significant budget gap as largest contributor US pulls out Sun, 02 Sep 2018 09:00:09 +0000 US move comes amid others pressuring Palestinians to settle for deal with Israel

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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is an agency providing relief and humanitarian assistance supporting at least 5 million Palestinian refugees.

On 8 December 1949, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 302 on the assistance of Palestinian refugees. It mandated continued assistance for the relief of the Palestine refugees deemed as “necessary to prevent conditions of starvation and distress among them and to further conditions of peace and stability.”

Before that in 1948, the body was named the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR).  On 19 November of that year, the General Assembly adopted resolution 212 considered that a sum of approximately $29.5m would be required to provide relief for 500,000 refugees for a period of nine months from 1 December 1948 to 31 August 1949. It added a sum of $2.5m for operational expenses.

Funds depended on voluntary government contributions, which the resolution urged to make whether from UN state members or non-members and calls were also made upon relief organisations, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other UN agencies, to contribute with supplies, specialised personnel and services.

In May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the state of Israel sparking the Arab-Israeli War and a Palestinian exodus and the displacement of at least 700,000. The more the violent developments in the region, the more the UN sought to increase relief budget.

With the foundation of the UNRWA in 1949, the UNGA’s resolution 302 established that $33.7m for direct relief and work programmes for the period 1 January to 31 December 1950 and another $21.2m would be required from 1 January to 30 June 1951. By 1952, the UN was talking about a $118m budget for the UNRWA’s work.

According to the agency, another 300,000 people including 120,000 Palestinian refugees, were made homeless or left their homes. Since then, the UNRWA’s mandate has constantly been renewed and its humanitarian mission expanded.

The UNRWA continues to be mainly funded by voluntary contributions of UN member states and is assisted by a regular budget from the UN. Its assistance to refugees includes programmes for education, healthcare, social services, infrastructure, and emergency assistance during armed conflicts.

As a civil war erupted in Syria in 2011, the UNRWA launched an emergency appeal to be able to assist some 439,000 Palestinian refugees in the country distributed between with over 120,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries, almost 254,000 internally displaced, and an estimated 56,600 are trapped in hard-to-reach or inaccessible locations.

The UNRWA required $409m, saying earlier this year that it made the call amid a “financial crisis exacerbated by the US decision to cut back its funding,” which provided 60%t of the total emergency funding in Syria.

“The lack of funding seems to be generating a lot of fear, anger and resentment. Unfortunately, it is yet another addition to a long list of historical grievances and creates a fertile ground for radical and extremists’ groups to recruit, operate and flourish,” said Mohammed Abdi Adar, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Syria.

US-initiated crisis

For over a decade, the US has been the largest contributing country to the UNRWA’s budget, including—until 2015—some $75m annually for projects in Gaza and the West Bank. US donations reached more than $364m in 2017.

On Friday, the Donald Trump administration decided to cut contributions to the UNRWA, saying it made a $60m contribution in January 2018.

“The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” the US Department of State said in a statement, citing “failure to mobilise adequate and appropriate burden sharing.”

The statement added that the US will seek other means to commit to assisting Palestinian children wherever they live.

Repeatedly asked about the US intention to cut funds to the UNRWA and the impact of such a decision in past months press briefings, spokesperson Heather Nauert often highlighted how much the US had ben bearing the burden.

In one of the encounters with the press in July, Nauert was asked about UNRWA schools, which may not be open as scheduled and “hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe tens of thousands of kids not being able to go to school, and clinics not opened and so on, because of the withheld American funds.”

She responded that aside from the $60 million pledged to UNRWA, there were concerns about the structure and the funding streams that go into UNRWA. “In terms of what is happening with the beginning of the school year, I’m afraid I’ve just – it’s not something I’ve been extremely focused on,” Nauert stated.

As a result of US cutting contributions by at least $300m, the UNRWA said there was a budget deficit of $446m and that after fundraising the deficit remained at $217m by June, which was risky for its sustainability of the second semester.

The US had announced its intentions towards the UNRWA funding back in January, sparking a wave of humanitarian concerns. More than half of the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip, where the unemployment rate is 46%, are dependent on support from UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies, Reuters reported on 17 January.

In July, dozens of UNRWA employees protested in the Gaza Strip against layoff decisions.

“Several employees fainted when they heard they had lost their jobs. One worker poured gasoline over his body and tried to set himself on fire before he was stopped by his co-workers,” The Jerusalem Post reported back then.

The US move comes amid other historically unprecedented decisions with regards to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict including the internationally denounced December announcement to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Other means of pressure on Palestinians in favour of Israel were revealed by a so-called ‘deal of the century’ to end the conflict, orchestrated by Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor Jared Kushner.

UN reaction

UN Chief Antonio Guterres expressed on Friday regret over the US decision, calling for the support of other countries to help with UNRWA’s financial gap so that it is able to continue vital assistance to refugees.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary-general said the UNRWA “has led a rapid, innovative and tireless effort to overcome the unexpected financial crisis UNRWA has faced this year. It has expanded the donor base, raised considerable new funding, and explored new avenues of support.”

Since the US gave its hint in January, the UNRWA exerted efforts to find funding alternatives. It launched “Syria emergency appeal” citing priorities of provision of cash, food and relief items and maintaining access to basic services including education; health; water, sanitation, and hygiene.

It also launched in January a fundraising campaign titled “Dignity is priceless” aimed at keeping schools open.

We are launching this campaign because UNRWA stands with you as witnesses to your historic plight. I wish to confirm to all Palestine refugees that UNRWA schools, proud schools like the one we are standing in, will remain open. Health care, and other services will be provided. It is a huge challenge, but it is absolutely imperative,” UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl had stated.

Following the US’ dramatic fund reduction, the UNRWA said that at stake was access to basic education for 525,000 boys and girls at over 700 UNRWA schools; emergency food and cash assistance to 1.7 million to extremely vulnerable Palestine refugees; access to primary health care for 3 million refugees, including pre-natal care; dignity and human security for 5.3 million refugees who endured 70 years of injustice and uncertainty.

Eleven countries rushed to deliver their funds early to the UNRWA in January. Germany reportedly pledged on Friday to increase its contribution, urging other states to work toward a sustainable finance basis for the organisation.

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