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Madressa closed for the term after fire damages Masjid Ul Ansaar, Lakefield

Madressa has been closed until next term at Masjid Ul Ansaar, Lakefield in the East of Gauteng.

Residents this morning woke up to a fire at the masjid

According to the Masjid executive committee, brothers responded very swiftly and put out the fire.

The committee says the causes as well as the extent of the damage is still being investigated, adding that, there is absolutely no need for any panic.

“InshaaAllaah, Salaah at the Masjid will continue.”

“However, as a security precaution, Madrasah will be closed for the term and we will Inshaa Allaah resume next term.”

israeli

Netanyahu annexation pledge denounced as ‘dangerous’ and ‘racist’

Arab leaders and United Nations react against Israeli prime minister’s controversial promise in lead-up to election.

Palestinian and regional leaders have sharply denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s pledge to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank if he wins next week’s snap election.

Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political life after an inconclusive vote in April, said on Tuesday Israel will “apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea immediately” if he secured a fifth term in the September 17 polls.

The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea make up 30 percent of the West Bank. They lie in Area C, which means they are mostly under Israeli military and civil control.

Approximately 65,000 Palestinians and 11,000 Israelis residing in illegal settlements live in that area, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. The main Palestinian city is Jericho, with about 28 villages and smaller Bedouin communities.

After Netanyahu’s announcement, Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo called his election promise a “dangerous development and a new Israeli aggression by declaring the intention to violate the international law.”

“The Arab League regards these statements as undermining the chances of any progress in the peace process and will torpedo all its foundations.”

In a series of separate statements, Qatar criticised “Israel’s continued contempt of international law”; Turkey slammed the annexation pledge as “racist”; Jordan called Netanyahu’s plan a “serious escalation”; and Saudi Arabia called for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The United Nations, meanwhile, warned that Netanyahu’s plan would have “no international legal effect”.

Palestinian reaction

During his televised announcement, Netanyahu also reaffirmed a pledge to annex all of the Jewish-only settlements Israel has established in the West Bank.

Some 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since 1967. International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

Palestinians swiftly reacted to Netanyahu’s statements by saying he was destroying any hopes of peace.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, warned that all agreements signed with Israel would end if it annexed parts of the West Bank, noting that Netanyahu’s announcement contradicts UN resolutions and international law.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu was seeking to impose a “greater Israel on all of historical Palestine and [carry] out an ethnic cleansing agenda”.

“This announcement is a declaration of war against the Palestinian people’s rights as well as the very foundations of the international rules-based order,” she said in a separate statement.

‘Complicity’ with US administration

In his address, Netanyahu also said a long-awaited United States peace plan, the release of which has been delayed until after the election, represented “a historic and unique opportunity to apply our sovereignty over our settlements” in the West Bank and “other places key to our security, our heritage and our future”.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said in early May that he hoped Israel would take a hard look at President Donald Trump‘s upcoming proposal before “proceeding with any plan” to annex West Bank settlements.

Abdulsattar Qassim, a political science professor at al-Najah University in Nablus, said Palestinians are not expecting anything from Trump, a staunch Netanyahu ally who has enacted a series of policies that support Israel’s expansion, including the widely condemned decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“From the way Trump has been behaving, we expect that he will support any kind of Israeli decision to annex parts of the West Bank,” Qassim told Al Jazeera.

“Trump has shown great animosity towards the Palestinians. He has transferred the US embassy to Jerusalem, supported the annexation of the occupied Golan Heights, and cut the financial resources of UNRWA, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA.”

According to Qassim, Netanyahu’s pledge to annex occupied Palestinian territories is hardly new within the arena of Israeli politics.

“This project is not exclusive to Netanyahu,” he said. “All across the Israeli political spectrum, from Labour to the right-wing Likud party, Israelis have favoured the annexation of the West Bank.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

xenop

Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after attacks

Nigerian airline to return more than 600 nationals in the coming days with victims saying it’s ‘not safe here’.

Nigeria began repatriating more than 600 of its citizens from South Africa following a wave of deadly xenophobic attacks that frayed relations among neighbouring nations.

Private Nigerian airline Air Peace volunteered to fly people for free back to the commercial capital Lagos on Wednesday.

A flight carrying 189 Nigerians landed in the commercial capital Lagos late Wednesday, with some of those onboard punching the air and singing the national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.

“I ran for my life, they would have killed me,” Samson Aliyu, a clothes seller who lived in South Africa for two years, told AFP news agency.

“They burnt my shop, everything,” he added.

A second flight departs on Thursday or Friday with 640 Nigerians in total fleeing the country.

The repatriation came after riots in Pretoria and Johannesburg killed at least 12 people as 1,000 foreign-owned businesses were targeted. The nationalities of those killed have not been announced but Nigerians, Ethiopians, Congolese, and Zimbabweans were attacked, according to local media.

The violence sparked an international outcry and calls for a boycott of South Africa.

Pastor Ugo Ofoegbu has lived in South Africa for close to two decades. He sent his wife and three children back to Nigeria.

“My family is not safe here,” Ofoegbu told Al Jazeera.

Precious Oluchi Mbabie, a 35-year-old Nigerian woman who works as a fashion designer and seamstress in a Johannesburg suburb, boarded the flight with her three children, leaving her husband behind.

“We agreed that it is better I go back home with the children,” said Mbabie.

She and her family live in Rosettenville, one of the first areas to be affected by the violence.

“Where we are staying is very dangerous because of xenophobia,” she said. “They say they don’t want any foreigners there.”

Reprisal attacks in Nigeria last week forced South African business to shut down, while the South African embassy in Lagos temporarily closed its doors over safety concerns.

Not just Nigerians

More than 700 people from other countries, including Malawi and Zimbabwe, have sought refuge in community centres. Many left their homes with little more than a few bags when the violence began. 

One is Mozambican Oscar Setuve, who registered for a temporary travel document to return home. He has lived in South Africa for 30 years, but lost everything in the riots. 

“What made me run is that I saw how they were attacking people, attacking them like dogs. And some of the people who were attacking us were people that have known us for a long time. That’s what hurts me the most,” Setuve said.

Mozambique and Zimbabwe were also considering some sort of repatriation of their nationals.

Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from the airport in Johannesburg, said a small group was turned back because of “incorrect documentation”.

Ofoegbu said they will have to go to the Nigerian consulate to get the right papers before travelling.

Police on high alert

It was not the first time that foreigners were attacked in South Africa.

In 2008, at least 62 people, including South Africans, were killedViolence and looting targeting foreign-owned stores left seven dead in 2015.

“I am so worried about the safety of my family, because these [xenophobic] attacks keep happening, so if I don’t save my family now, I don’t know when [this will] start again,” Ofoegbu said. 

“It happened in 2008 and then in 2015, now it is repeating.”

The root cause of the latest violence is still unclear, but high unemployment, poverty and criminality may have played a role. 

South African officials were hesitant to describe the violence as xenophobic attacks, and instead said it was an issue of criminality that the government was trying to deal with.

“While there has been a significant decline in the number of incidents, police forces remain on high alert and are closely monitoring hotspots to ensure further violence does not erupt,” Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Police have arrested at least 653 people, mostly South Africans but some foreigners as well, in connection to the attacks, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said. 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to visit South Africa next month to discuss the violence and seek a solution.

Xenophobia – where are our leaders?

By Alameen Templeton

Right2Know outs Ramaphosa, Mashaba and Zwelethini as politicians who have openly fanned the hatred of immigrants that shames South Africa

President Cyril Ramaphosa and other leading politicians must shoulder responsibility for the ongoing surges in xenophobic violence that has seen shops looted, truck blazing and South Africa’s reputation in tatters.

Fingers have also been pointed at the police who critics say have largely adopted a bystander role as crudely armed mobs rampage through its most prominent cities with near-impunity.

Increasingly, voices are calling for perperators to be punished. As long as people believe they can target foreigners with impunity, the problem is not going to go away, they say.

In the last two weeks, mobs have burned and looted shops in Tshwane and Johannesburg while sporadic attacks against foreign truck drivers have occurred in many parts of the country, most recently on Monday night.

Speaking to Markaz Sahaba, Right2Know campaigner Dale McKinley said Tuesday the violence had exposed “a complete intelligence breakdown in South Africa”, with ordinary police officers unable to do much besides helping with the clean up in the wake of violence.

The organisation says leading politicians need to shoulder the blame for the rising threat of xenophobia in South Africa.

It outed Ramaphosa, Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba and Zulu king Goodwill Zwelethini as primary miscreants.

McKinley said politicians had in the mid-Nineties already started blaming immigrants and refugees for rising crime in the country. This had created a false narrative in ordinary South Africans’ minds that foreigners were to blame for their problems.

Foreigners had been blamed for a host of socials ills confronting the country – depleted healthcare facilities, drug abuse, violent crime, and joblessness.

The police themselves had been repeatedly accused by immigrant organisations of targeting foreigners and refugees for easy bribes. Hawkers in Johannesburg complain the police use regular raids against pavement businesses as a cover for stealing their goods.

Right2Know acknowledges there are many sources of the violence “but it is also clear that statements of outrage and condemnation by state officials at all levels (Cabinet, Parliament, the Gauteng Province, SAPS and Metros) fuelled the actions of ordinary citizens who interpreted those statements to be licence to take the law into their own hands. 

“Senior political leaders find an easy target in the vulnerable Africans seeking to make a new home in South Africa. 

“Indeed, there is a dangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism that leads to attacks on foreign nationals. In 2015, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s speech, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2019 election campaign pronouncements, the Minister of Health’s comments on the strain placed on health services by foreign migrants, and the xenophobic blaming for Johannesburg’s ill by Mayor Herman Mashaba have been followed by xenophobic attacks in different localities.

“In all these instances, even when not responding to a direct call, political populism is used as justification by instigators and perpetrators who would have been waiting for an opportunity to strike for their own reasons,” Right2Know says.

It described this weekend’s Jeppestown and Turffontein violence as a hate crime.

“These actions – which are criminal in nature – when combined with the targeting of the victims as belonging to a certain group, becomes a hate crime.

“Apartheid was the experience of being stateless and homeless within one’s home country. Today, we find South Africans showing the same hatred towards fellow Africans that we ourselves suffered not too long ago.

“As hosts of the World Conference Against Racism in 2001, we recognised xenophobia (and the local Afrophobia) as expressions of racism; in 2008 we experienced how the deep roots of internalised oppression enabled us to turn our own experience of racism and oppression into actions that discriminated against, targeted and in some cases killed other Africans living in South Africa. 

“It is an issue of national shame that xenophobic violence has become a regular and highly visible feature of South Africa’s political landscape. Outsiders have been regularly attacked, killed and their livelihoods destroyed since the dawn of democracy in 1994.”

Speaking to Markaz Sahaba, independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the national crisis had deep-rooted origins that could not be addressed by “the securitisation of xenophobia”.

Throwing police and soldiers at the problem would not solve matters, he said.

“Socio-economic problems cannot be solved by police and soldiers; they need socio-economic fixes and that you will find only in wider community fora, including religious and community leaders, business organisations and politicians, he said.

McKinley said research showed interventions to address xenophobia had failed “largely because of the state’s denialism”. Ramaphosa is on record as recently as two months ago denying there was any xenophobia in South Africa.

Right2Know says a combination of a lack of political will and impunity all encourage perpetrators to strike whenever it suits their interests.

Economy surprises with massive 3.1% rebound

By Alameen Templeton

South Africa shrugs off the doldrums as GDP takes off

South Africa stumped all the doomsayers in the second quarter with official figures showing the economy grew a healthy 3.1% in the three months to end-June, Stats SA said Tuesday. 

That beat most economists’ forecasts; they had expected a cumulative 2.4% rise.

But the good news has not tempered expectations of a rate cut at the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee meeting on September 17 to 19. The shock R2.88billion trade deficit for July continues to eat into confidence levels.

Warning lights had been flashing after the economy  shrank in the first quarter. A second, consecutive quarter of negative growth would have plunged South Africa into official recession.

But the first three months of the year saw more than 270 hours of load shedding, low investment levels, a five-month gold mining strike at Sibanye mines and a weak grape harvest. 

But Q2 data out today shows the mining sector has rebounded with growth of 14.4% – contributing a full percentage point to GDP.

The end of the Sibanye strike helped, but mining was boosted by a major rally in metal prices, particularly gold. Bullion is at its highest level in six years, while platinum leaped from below $800/oz in June to above $930.

Finance, real estate and business services rose 4.1%. Trade, catering and accommodation increased 3.9% and general government services grew 3.4%.

But the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector continued to shrink and, in the second quarter, was 4.2% smaller. Construction was down 1.6%.

Still, the economy was only 0.9% bigger in the second quarter of 2019 than a year before.  Stats SA revised the first-quarter GDP number down from -3.2% to -3.1%. 

The outlook remains bleak. Investment levels are moribund, and businesses are struggling. Purchasing managers data show weaker private sector activity with a grim outlook.

In July, the committee cut the benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.5% from 6.75% – the first cut since March 2018.

That was strictly in line with the US Fed. The South African Reserve Bank has been foreshadowing America’s interest rate movements in order to continue attracting carry trade portfolio flows into the JSE.

That boosts our trade numbers and prevents a slide into deficit and a consequent run on the rand.

‘A hamburger and my brother’

By Alameen Templeton

Kidnap victim Amy-Lee de Jager had her six-year-old girl priorities intact when she reappeared unexpectedly last night just hours after her shocking abduction.

Six-year-old kidnap victim Amy-Lee de Jager wanted just two things – a burger and her brother – when she was returned suddenly to her parents on Tuesday night.

Her abductors had dropped her off at a shopping centre close to the Vanderbijl Park police station at around 2am. They had pointed to a blue car and said it was her mothers and she must wait close by.

But her six-year-old instincts would have none of it. She was refusing to accept anything her abductors said. She wouldn’t eat the food they offered. She wouldn’t drink their water.

She small-girl stubbornness seemed to have worn them down.

They’d pulled their car into the shopping centre, it would appear, to simply get rid of her. They gave her R4 and told her to go across the road to buy some food and cold drink. But, when she refused to do that too, and crossly told them that the blue car was not her mother’s, it seemed their final reserves of patience failed and they fled into the night.

So Amy Lee did what any six-year-old girl would do in the circumstances. She started screaming.

That attracted the attention of a couple walking past. When they found out her circumstances, they ran with her to the police station as they did not own a car.

Amy Lee’s abduction had gripped the nation after she was taken when her mother was dropping her off at school.

Police launched a manhunt while her distraught parents – Wynand and Angeline de Jager – waited at the Vanderbijl Park police station for news.

Angeline’s sister, Louise Horn, said Wynand was on his way out of the police station to grab a breath of fresh air when he saw the couple walking towards him with his daughter in tow.

“He told me there was no way to describe what he felt at that moment,” Horn told News 24.

“The first thing Amy-Lee said was that she wanted a hamburger and her brother. So, they bought some burgers and came straight to my house where her little brother had spent the night,” Horn said.

The little girl was then taken to hospital, but she appeared unharmed, Horn said.

Police liaison officer Vishnu Naidoo said Amy-Lee’s disappearance and sudden reappearance were still under investigation.

Horn said no ransom was paid, although a demand for R2million had been made earlier by her abductors.

While Amy-Lee’s parents still had many questions, they were glad their little girl was home again, Horn added.

JHB

Mobs rampage through Joburg again

By Alameen Templeton

The chaos that began Sunday in Jeppestown spread to Turffontein Monday with outnumbered police standing by helplessly as mobs target foreign-owned shops.

Looting is continuing in Turffontein, Johannesburg, after overnight unrest saw police arresting 12 people during overnight chaos when rampaging mobs burned and looted several foreign-owned shops and set alight cars and buildings.

The looters are pillaging and destroying shops owned by foreign nationals.

The violence started on Sunday along Jules Street when businesses were ransacked by a mob.

A Joburg Metro Police officer was wounded in the leg by armed looters.

The police’s Mavela Masondo said many in police custody were suspected looters.

“The police are here, emergency services are here… we are still searching for other suspects that are involved or responsible for this. For us, this is criminality, nothing else. We are searching for the people responsible for all this damage.”

Desk kids

Gavin Watson’s Bosasa youth centres may have to close

By Alameen Templeton

Ten Bosasa youth development centres for children awaiting trial or battling behaviour problems may be forced to close following founder Gavin Watson’s sudden death

THE future is bleak for children, many awaiting trial, at 10 Bosasa youth development centres across the country after liquidators stepped in.

The liquidators for the company, now known as African Global Operations (AGO), have sent notices to stop rendering services at the end of October.

The centres house young people with severe behavioural challenges and many are in conflict with the law.

A letter was sent to the centres on 8 August titled: “Notice of termination of the service level agreements – and termination of employment.” It tells centre employees their last day of work will be October 31.

In the letter, liquidator Ralph Lutchman, says the centres have been operating while in liquidation and this has “placed tremendous strain on the business operations” and staff morale.

“We urge you to continue your normal duties in a professional matter until the service is terminated,” Lutchman says.

However, the national social development department says it has returned the letter with a request for a redraft outlining adequate reasons for the “termination”.

Bosasa liquidator, Cloete Murray Friday took charge at the company’s headquarters in Krugersdorp (Mogale).

The Mogale centre was the first and largest secure care centre to be privately managed in South Africa when it opened outside Krugersdorp in 1995.

Bosasa then established centres across the country between 1995 and 2012, aimed at children between the ages of 14 and 17.

An official at the De Aar centre insisted it would remain open despite news reports it would be closed this weekend.

The beleaguered facilities management and security company announced in February it was under voluntary liquidation after FNB said it would close the company’s banking facilities by February 28.

AGO and its directors have been implicated at the state capture commission corruption and bribery in exchange for state contracts.

National social development department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said the termination letters give the October timeframe without citing reasons.

This led to a meeting between the department, the liquidators and the Master of the High Court.

“An agreement was reached that the liquidator will go back and rewrite the letters including reasons for the early termination or exit. The department is still awaiting the revised letter.”

The liquidators have as yet not commented.

Oliphant said the children remained their priority and any changes would have to be premised on “the understanding that there should be no inconvenience, disruption or compromise to the safety and well-being of the children”.

“There are retrieval plans for each province, however, it is important to note that provinces are at different levels in terms of retrieving the service from the service provider. The plans indicate what will happen when and who is going to take care of the children,” she said.

Western Cape provincial communications head Esther Lewis said the department would take over the Clanwillian and Horizon centres as of November 1.

The provincial department began preparing to take over the provided services in March 2019 after the liquidation was announced.

“This process, including recruitment of staff, is expected to be concluded in October in order to ensure the services being rendered to children in those centres are not disrupted,” Lewis said.

The Gauteng social development department said plans were in place, awaiting approval.

sun

Temperatures to hit 50 degrees Celsius during Haj season in 2019

Temperature during Haj season this year is expected to reach 50 degrees Celsius on some days.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Meteorology and Environmental protection also expects humidity to reach 85 per cent, making it feel even hotter.

The authority said there was a chance of some rain clouds over Makkah, where pilgrims arrive to circle the Kaaba, and visit nearby holy sites that are visited during the pilgrimage, Arab news reported.

It also expects wind that could lift dust and a chance of rainfall, especially in the afternoon and evening hours, over Makkah.

In 2018, pilgrims were met with heavy rain on the first evening of Haj.

Asphalt may help

Dr. Abdul Fattah Mashat, Deputy Minister of Haj Saudi Arabia, reportedly told Saudi Newspaper “Asharq Al-Awsat” in an interview that the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Holy City, launched an initiative to alleviate the heat of the holy sites by implementing a project to coat the asphalt, as a way to reduce the temperature by as much as 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.

He said that 3,500 square meters were covered so far and that other sites would be treated over the next year.

He added that the project also included measuring the temperature every 10 seconds through sensors placed under the asphalt.

Ahmed Manshi, the director general of the holy sites and seasons in Saudi Arabia, also said “The project aims to reduce the temperature of the pavement surface in Shaiben area, and there is a possibility to include the Jamarat facilities, and coat several pedestrian pathways at holy sites.”

He explained that the success of this project would be measured through surveys distributed to pilgrims.

Source : Gulfnews

India revokes disputed Kashmir’s special status with rush decree

The Indian government has rushed through a presidential decree to scrap a special status for India-administered Kashmir, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly seven decades.

Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament on Monday that the president had signed a decree abolishing Article 370 of the constitution that gave a measure of autonomy to the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.

“The entire constitution will be applicable to Jammu and Kashmir state,” Shah said to loud protests from opposition legislators who were against the repeal.

Article 370 of the constitution forbid Indians outside the state from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs and securing education scholarships.

The decree, which was issued hours after imposing a major security clampdown in the disputed region, said the measure came into force “at once”. 

Critics of such a measure say that in doing away with Article 370, the government hopes to change India-administered Kashmir’s Muslim-majority demographics by allowing in a flood of new Hindu residents.

Shah said the government also decided to split the state into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a legislature, and Ladakh, which will be ruled directly by the central government without a legislature of its own.

Despite the blackout on internet services in the region, Jammu and Kashmir’s former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufi tweeted that the government’s decision is “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.

“Today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy,” Mufti wrote.

What is Article 370?

Regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir had earlier called attempts to revoke Article 370 an aggression against the 7 million people living in the disputed region.

The law dates to 1927, when an order by the administration of the-then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir gave the state’s subjects exclusive hereditary rights.

Two months after India won independence from the British rule in August 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, signed a Treaty of Accession for the state to join the rest of the union, formalised in Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

Further discussions culminated in the 1952 Delhi Agreement, a presidential order that extended Indian citizenship to the residents of the state but left the maharaja’s privileges for residents intact.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the region in its entirety.

The Indian-administered part of the territory has been in the grip of a rebellion for three decades that has left tens of thousands dead.

Article 35A of India’s constitution permitted the local legislature in Kashmir to define permanent residents of the region. The article came into being in 1954 by a presidential order under the constitution’s Article 370. 

On Sunday, former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah chaired a meeting of political leaders from the region, who issued a statement, warning “against any tinkering with the special status of the region” as guaranteed under Article 35A of the Indian constitution.

The statement said the region’s political parties “remain united … in their resolve to protect the autonomy and special status” of Kashmir.

Article 35A had been challenged by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its right-wing allies through a series of petitions in India’s Supreme Court.

Last month, a senior BJP leader hinted that the government was planning to form exclusive Hindu settlements in the region.

Lockdown after troop build-up

On Sunday, parts of India-administered Kashmir were placed under lockdown and local politicians reportedly arrested amid growing tensions following a massive deployment of troops by the Indian government.

“As per the order there shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed,” a statement by the government of Jammu and Kashmir, which is currently under the central rule, said on Sunday night.

The order said the indefinite security restrictions will be applicable in the main district of Srinagar.

Indian media reports said some pro-India leaders from the region, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, have been placed under house arrest.

The measures came after the Indian government moved about 10,000 troops to the region last week, followed by an unprecedented order asking tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave the Himalayan valley.

Source : Al Jazeera

germany - iran

Germany refuses to join US-led naval mission in Strait of Hormuz

Germany’s foreign minister says his country wants to avoid further escalation, will not take part in mission.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said his country will not participate in a United States-led naval mission in the Strait of Hormuz, prompting a frustrated response from Washington’s ambassador to Berlin.

Maas told reporters during a trip to Poland on Wednesday that “Germany will not take part in the sea mission presented and planned by the United States,” adding the situation in the Gulf, where tensions have been rising between the US and Iran, was very serious and everything should be done to avoid an escalation. 

The US had formally requested earlier in the week that Germany and other European allies take part in the naval mission which it said was needed to protect shipping routes in the strategic passageway, through which about 20 percent of the world’s oil passes, and to “combat Iranian aggression”.

The decision to not join the mission was motivated by Berlin’s belief that the US strategy of exercising “maximum pressure” against Iran was “wrong”, Maas, a Social Democrat, said.

One of the main hurdles for any German involvement in a military operation in the Gulf is the opposition by the Social Democrats, the junior partners in a ruling coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats.

Expressing frustration about Maas’ announcement, US Ambassador Richard Grenell launched into a tirade against Merkel’s government.

“Germany is the biggest economic power in Europe, this success brings global responsibilities,” Grenell told the Augsburger Allgemeine on Thursday.

He said Washington had been trying to get support from Germany for weeks for the military mission in the Strait of Hormuz. 

European-led mission

Separately, London last week called for a European-led mission to protect commercial shipping in the Gulf following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker, a move that came after British forces captured an Iranian oil tanker near Gibraltar that the United Kingdom claimed was heading for Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

But that maritime alliance, proposed even as the US continues to press for a mission that would include its own forces, which are far more powerful than those of European allies, has also failed to secure Berlin’s support.

Relations between the US and Germany have soured since President Donald Trump took office, due to disagreements on a range of issues from defence spending to trade tariffs and the NordStream 2 gas pipeline.

Berlin has also been critical of Washington’s policy on Iran in the wake of its unilateral withdrawal last year from a landmark nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers, as well as the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign through economic sanctions aimed at forcing it to come to the negotiating table to strike a new deal.

“After verbally attacking Germany so many times, [Trump] wants them now to contribute to the Gulf mission,” Miguel Otero, a senior analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute, wrote on Twitter. “No wonder they say: nein!”

SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA NEWS NETWORKS

High-tech ‘smart’ cards to keep Hajj pilgrims safe and secure

Jeddah, (UNA-OIC) – Up to 25,000 Hajj pilgrims in Mina this year will be issued wearable high-tech smart cards in a pilot program being launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The cards will store the pilgrims’ personal information, health status, residence and Hajj tour details.

They will also be fitted with a location tracker to follow individual pilgrims’ movements, managed by a control room in Mina.
“It is the experimental stage of a smart Hajj initiative we are working on, and we will study to what extent it might be advantageous to the pilgrims,”

Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, the chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said, according to Arab News.
“The numbers will increase in the coming years to include more pilgrims in the other areas.” The ministry is also issuing up to 200,000 pilgrims ID cards, which will have the same information storage technology but without the location tracking feature.

These cards are scannable, allowing Hajj service providers to quickly identify pilgrims, access their medical history and establish what assistance they may need.

The cards will be complemented this year by a Smart Hajj ID app, Al-Maddah said. “It will offer the same features as the smart ID card, including tracking location, identifying crowded spots on the map, and the transport schedule.”

The smart card and mobile app also enable the ministry to simulate and predict crowd behavior during Hajj. “This new technology will help us collect data through the cards, cameras, and sensors distributed around the pilgrimage sites,” said Al-Maddah.

Source: AG/UNA-OIC/Arab News
Image : hajjumrahplanner.com

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