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Worldwide Ummah reeling as Christchurch Masaajid attack leave 49 martyred, 48 injured.

three arrested, including live-stream video of horrific shootings by gunman from Australia

By Alameen Templeton

The Ummah worldwide is reeling from a gunman’s live-streamed attack on three Masaajid in New Zealand capital Christchurch that left 49 Muslims martyred.

Forty eight others, including children, are under surgery for gunshot wounds in hospital and it is feared the number of fatalities may rise. Other injured worshippers were taken to nearby clinics.

Police have arrested three people, including the apparent gunman, who identified himself as Australian-born Brenton Tarrant.

The live-stream video shows the gunman entering a mosque on Deans Avenue, Christchurch carrying a semi-automatic weapon. He starts firing even before entering the Masjid and proceeds to mow down worshippers preparing for esha salaah. The gunman mercilessly fires repeated rounds into anyone he meets and returns to the salaat area to shoot even more before the video suddenly ends.

He or possible accomplices are believed to have then visited two other Masaajid and continued the attack.

Christchurch policy says they’ve charged a 28-year-old man, believed to be Tarrant, with murder.

Neither he nor two others in custody were on any terror watchlists. A fourth person arrested on was not related to the events, police say.
Christchurch Hospital’s 12 operating theaters are working flat out as some of the injured suffered multiple surgeries.

Anxious relatives are gathered outside Christchurch Hospital, seeking news of family members. The gunman is believed to have been arrested in a car which had explosives and guns inside.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern calls the murders – the worst in New Zealand history – as the country’s “darkest day”.

On Friday night rain was falling on lit candles, handwritten notes and flowers set against a lamppost at the police cordon just down the road from the Linwood Mosque which was also attacked.

President of the NZ Muslim Association, Ikhlaq Kashkari has thanked police and urged New Zealand to

come together at this time.

He urged all New Zealanders in nearby areas to donate blood and to stay calm and united.

“We cannot allow these types of people to divide our community,” he added.

Speaking to Markaz Sahaba Online radio, Kashkari said the ummah in Christchurch had been swamped with offers of support and help from the non-Muslim community.

Muslims had been settled in New Zealand for more than 150 years and traditionally enjoyed peaceful and cooperative relations with the wider community, he said.

 

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‘Hello brother’: Muslim worshipper’s ‘last words’ to gunman

Victim of New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting greeted the attacker at entrance of mosque before being shot dead.

A Muslim worshipper, who was among the first people to be killed in New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting, appeared to say “hello brother” to the attacker just moments before he was shot dead.

According to a live stream video of the attack, the man, who is yet to be identified, could be overheard saying “hello brother” as the gunman approached the entrance of the Al Noor mosque in central Christchurch.

At least 49 people, including children, were killed in Friday’s attacks targeting the Al Noor and Linwood mosques. According to Christchurch Hospital, at least 48 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, which ranged from severe to critical.

Video footage of the attack, which has been widely shared on social media, showed a gunman shooting indiscriminately at worshippers as they ran for safety or lay huddled on the floor.

A 28-year-old Australian man, who police have not identified, has been charged with murder. He is set to appear in court on Saturday.

‘The reply was three bullets’

As the attack shocked New Zealand, a nation where violent crime is rare, several social media users hailed the Muslim man who greeted the attacker before he was murdered.

“‘Hello, Brother’ were the last words of the first New Zealand victim. As he faced a rifle, his last words were peaceful words of unconditional love. DO NOT tell me that nonviolence is weak or pacifism is cowardice,” one Twitter user said.

“‘Hello brother’ a word came out of a pure soul filled with a peaceful faith. ‘Hello brother’ was said to a killer with a rifle pointed to this greeting. ‘Hello brother’ he said thinking that he is talking to a human with soul and feelings. ‘Hello brother’ was shot dead,” another wrote.

“Hello brother and the reply was three bullets – Bi-ayyi thambin qutilat (For what crime. She was killed) [Quran: 81, v9],” said another.

 

nz tweet

 

Aziz Helou, a resident of Melbourne, Australia, wrote on Facebook that “amongst the chaos of today, the evil we both heard and saw”, that one incident stood out.

“The first Muslim man to die, his final words were ‘hello brother’. These words were uttered by a man who symbolised Islam. He had a rifle pointed at him by a man with clear intentions to kill and how did he respond? With anger? With aggression? No, with the most gentle and sincere greeting of ‘hello brother’.

“Perhaps this hero was trying to diffuse the situation? Maybe Allah used this man to show the world the kindness that is Islam. I don’t know but what I want, is to make certain, is that this detail isn’t lost amongst you. That this mans final act was an Islamic one, a sincere courageous and warm way to stop violence instead of fuelling it”.

Attack blamed on rising Islamophobia

In a social media video, a former New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams gave a tearful tribute to those killed.

Williams, a practising Muslim, struggled to hold back tears in the 64-second Twitter post, telling families of those killed that “you are all in Paradise”.

“I heard the news. I couldn’t put it into words how I’m feeling right now,” Williams said.

“Just sending my duas [prayers] to the families”.

Before the attacks took place, the gunman reportedly published an Islamophobic manifesto on Twitter. He then live-streamed his rampage, according to an analysis by AFP news agency.

Political leaders across the world condemned the killings, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan describing them as “the latest example of rising racism and Islamophobia”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also blamed the attacks on rising Islamophobia.

“I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia post-9/11 where Islam and 1.3bn Muslims have collectively been blamed for any act of terror by a Muslim,” said Khan.

“This has been done deliberately to also demonise legitimate Muslim political struggles.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

 

Israel launches Gaza air attacks after rockets fired at Tel Aviv

Israel’s military says attacks in response to rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli civilians – a claim the group denies.

 

Israel has launched air attacks on Gaza hours after rockets were allegedly fired near Tel Aviv, raising fears of a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Explosions were heard in the Gaza Strip early on Friday and Palestinian witnesses said Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas security positions. Four Palestinians were wounded in the raids, the enclave’s health ministry said

 

The Israeli military, in a post on Twitter, said it targeted 100 Hamas targets in Gaza, including an office complex used to plan and command the group’s activities, an underground complex that served as its main-rocket manufacturing site, and a centre used for drone development.

The Israeli military said the attacks were in response to rockets fired by Hamas at Israeli civilians – a claim the group has denied.

Palestinian news media reported raids throughout Gaza, from Rafah in the south to the north of the densely populated coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.

Maher Abdullah, a programme officer at Save the Children charity, said he and his family stayed awake all night because of the bombings in Gaza City.

“My children were already asleep but then the heavy bombardments started and they woke up screaming,” he said in a statement.

“We tried to reassure them that it was thunder, but they know now that thunder doesn’t shake a whole building the way ours was … What happened last night has happened many times and we fear for what will happen next.”

 

The late-night attack on Tel Aviv, Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital, marked a dramatic escalation in hostilities. It was the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

The rockets triggered air raid sirens across the city. Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired skyward and detonated – although the military said no rockets were shot down.

“I heard the rocket and I heard the siren going off. It was a bit surprising, I didn’t think that, you know, it could really reach Tel Aviv,” said resident Yonah Zeff.

The salvo missed built-up areas and caused no casualties or damage.

Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv, said he had ordered the city to open public air raid shelters as a protective measure. But he said there were no special instructions and encouraged residents to stick to their daily routines.

“Continue life as usual,” he told Channel 10 TV. “Be calm, but be alert.”

‘Against national consensus’

Hamas has denied responsibility for the attack on Tel Aviv, saying the rockets were launched when the group’s military wing was meeting with Egyptian mediators to try to strengthen a ceasefire with Israel.

In an unusual step that indicated Hamas was attempting to prevent further escalation, the interior ministry in Gaza said the rocket fire went “against the national consensus” and promised to take action against the perpetrators.

Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, two smaller Gaza armed factions, also denied responsibility.

“These accusations are mere lies by the Israeli occupation,” said Daoud Shihab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad. “Our movement and its military wing the Al-Quds Brigades did not fire any rockets,” he told Palestinian news agency Quds Network.

Israel has long said it holds Hamas responsible for all violence from Gaza, controlled by the group since 2007.

The sudden outburst of fighting comes at a sensitive time for both sides. Israel is holding national elections in less than a month. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is locked in a tight fight for re-election and could face heavy criticism from his opponents if he is seen as ineffective against the violence.

Netanyahu met with defence chiefs at military headquarters in Tel Aviv after the rockets were fired, and Israel’s response began later.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister, called for action against Hamas, saying: “It’s time to defeat Hamas. It’s time to act unilaterally and demilitarise Hamas in order to defend Israeli citizens.”

High tensions

Likewise, Hamas has come under rare public criticism in Gaza for the harsh conditions in the territory.

An Israeli-Egyptian blockade, combined with sanctions by the rival Palestinian Authority and mismanagement by the Hamas government, have fueled an economic crisis in the territory. Residents have little desire for another war with Israel.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since the group seized control of Gaza.

Hamas possesses a big arsenal of rockets and missiles, but it has sought to contain violence with Israel since the 2014 last war.

Tensions have been high for the past year along the Israel-Gaza frontier since Palestinians began popular protests near Israel’s fence west of the Gaza Strip.

The response from the Israeli military has often been lethal, with around 200 Palestinians killed in the demonstrations.

About 60 more Palestinians have died in other incidents, including exchanges of fire across the border. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed by Palestinian fire.

 

{source: al – jazeera AND NEWS AGENCIES}

 

New hope for abducted SA photojournalist Shiraaz Mohammed

Abducted photojournalist Shiraaz Mohammed who disappeared while on assignment in Syria, may be coming home soon.

by Elphas Nkosi

 

Gift of the Givers founder and chairman Dr Imtiaz Sooliman today shed some light with Markaz Sahaba Online Radio on the disappearance of Mohammed who was kidnapped in Syria in January 2017.

“It took us two years to try to find the right people to make connection with the group [of abductors].

“But now, in the last four weeks or so, the group that took him have appointed someone to talk to us directly in South Africa. We now talk to them directly and they have been pushing for money.”

It is understood the kidnappers initially demanded three million Euros as ransom. However, they dropped their demands after the Gift of the Givers indicated they were not interested in engaging in negotiations for financial gain.

Sooliman further stated: “Last week they called. It sounded like desperation as they said ‘are you guys not prepared to reconsider bringing something?’ And we said ‘no we are not interested, we do not pay ransom’.”

Sooliman was positive that Mohamed would be released unconditionally, adding that “waiting patiently” is an important part of securing his release.

 

 

 

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Gift of the Givers shoots down ‘South Africans joining Isis’ claim

Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman has cast doubts on allegations by a self-proclaimed terrorism expert that South Africans are flocking to Syria to join Isis.

by Elphas Nkosi

 

Jasmine Opperman director at the Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium says seven unidentified South African women have travelled to Syria to become jihadi brides.

Opperman says some of the women followed their husbands who went to Syria to join Isis, while others went voluntarily after being recruited by Isis.

But there also those who went to carry out humanitarian work and got caught up in the ideological battle, she says.

Founder and Chairman of The Gift of the Givers, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, told Markaz Sahaba Online Radio he understood most South Africans had gone to Syria for different reasons.

“We have been to Syria several times; we went there to set up a hospital in the north of Syria called Darkush, which the whole world has seen and the whole world have visited. And there are 230 staff members from Syria and it is run by Syrian Doctors,” he said.

He added that. “We did hear of other South Africans who went across to different parts of Syria. What we were told is that they went there for a better life – life according to Islamic teachings – and the husbands took their wives and children.

“It is outrageous to think a two-year-old child or a four-year-old child is there to join a terrorist group.”

Opperman claims a South African doctor was killed in an airstrike in Syria.

Doctor FerozGanchi was working in a refugee camp in the besieged country. Gift of the Givers’ Imtiaz Sooliman said there are about 27 South Africans in different parts of Syria.

Sooliman said he have informed the Department of International Relations and Co-operation that some South Africans went to Turkey. Some found themselves stranded in Syria after getting lost on the porous border.

Having not intended to visit Syria, they find themselves stuck without documents.

He said this has happened several times over the years.

“Recently with the death of FerozGanchi and with the big attacks on ISIS, a lot of women and children have been moving to refugee camps … and now it seem there is a lot of desire from a lot of people who have been there to come home.

“That is the information I get from family members and all I know is that many people there are only women and children.”

The Gift of the Givers Founder said there are currently 30-31 South Africans trapped inside Syria and parts of Iraq.

Sooliman said a family disappeared on December 25 from inside Syria – a lady with six young children and a teenager. It is believed they were abducted by ISIS operatives to Damascus.

“From the information that we received, we were told that they were taken away by ISIS people to Damascus and they said from their own understanding they think they were taken to prison in Damascus, a prison called Palestine 235 or Palestine 215 they are not exactly sure of the number”.

 

 

Transplant-775x517

Tshwane’s Steve Biko Academic hospital performs world’s first middle-ear transplant

A team of South African doctors have pioneered a breakthrough in world medicine, with the first-ever, successful middle-ear transplant.

By Elphas Nkosi

 

The good news shines like a beacon amidst the negative stories South Africans consume everyday about corruption, Crime, Maladministration and State Looting.

The pioneering surgical procedure uses 3D-printed middle ear bones made of titanium, developed by Professor Mashudu Tshifularo and his team at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Faculty of Health. It may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic disease.

 

The surgery can be performed on anyone, including new-borns. Professor Tshifularo’s innovation restored hearing to a 35 -year-old man whose middle ear was completely damaged in a car accident.

 

The procedure replaces the hammer, anvil, and stirrup – the smallest bones in the body – that constitute the middle ear.

 

By replacing only the tiny bones that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures, Professor Tshifularo says.

The tiny, titanium bones are bio compatible and are put in place with an endoscope, with minimal scarring.

 

The South African Hearing Institute says more than half of all humans will suffer significant hearing loss by age 80.

The new procedure reduces the chance of facial nerve paralysis, a significant danger with traditional surgical methods.

 

Professor Tshifularo says 3D technology is allowing surgeons to do things they never thought they could. But further development will need sponsors and funding.

 

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says his department will do everything in its power to assist and mobilize resources to ensure the professor gets all the help he needs.  Motsoaledi called on donors and development partners, especially in the local business community to support the scientific breakthrough.

 

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Israeli forces set to reopen Al Aqsa Mosque Compound

Clashes broke out after Israeli police alleged a firebomb was thrown at their post inside the holy compound.
By Elphas Nkosi

 

Israeli police said the entrances to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound will be reopened on Wednesday morning, a day after heavy clashes with Palestine worshipers as the Israeli Authorities closed off the gates in response to what they said was a firebombing of a police station on the site.

Palestinian Activist Abeer Zayyad told Markaz Sahaba Online Radio that the fire was caused by children who were playing with fireworks.

“The thing is that the Israeli Police said there was fire inside a police station situated inside the AL Aqsa Mosques, we do not know who started the fire but of course Israeli immediately said it is the youth that started the fire and used that as an excuse to close Al Aqsa Mosque,” said Abeer.

No injuries were reported, but scuffles broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshipers, which resulted in the arrest of at least two Palestinians.

Abeer Zayyad added: “Dozens of Israeli soldiers stormed the Al-Aqsa compound and assaulted several religious figures,” including Al Aqsa`s Imam Omar Kiswani and Omar Kiswani and Sheikh Wasef al-Bakri, the acting supreme judge of Jerusalem’s Islamic Courts.

“They did not allow us to pray inside Al Aqsa as they continued assaulting our people. Now, we are afraid and we do not know what is going to happen. But we will wait to hear what will happen from now,” said Abeer.

Closing off Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, is a continuation of arbitrary policies of Israel against Palestinian rights.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, in which the Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

Markaza Sahaba Online Radio received confirmation from Akram Al Satari Head of International Relations at Sawaed Association for Relief and Development in the Gaza Strip that Al Aqsa Mosque Compound has been re opened for prayers. “Yes I can confirm that this morning already the Al Aqsa Mosque was re opened by the Israeli Authorities after Muslims made it clear that their place of worship shall not be threatened by the Apartheid Israel”.

“We stood firm on our course to continue push for the reopening of the Holy site”. He added.

ALGERIANS DEMAND BOUTEFLIKA’S RESIGNATION

Pretoria embassy besieged by expats demanding end to president’s 20-year rule

By Alameen Templeton

 

A crowd of determined Algerians gathered outside their embassy in Pretoria this morning in support of massive protests in their home country demanding an end to the Bouteflika regime.

A small police contingent kept a close eye on proceedings, although the protesters were well-behaved and never got out of control.

“We are here to demand the president and his gang of mafia. They have stolen from our country for more than 20 years and it is time for them to go,” Hafiz, a particularly vocal protester said.

The crowd showed a remarkable degree of commonality on how they read the situation in their home country.

Their first two demands are that President Aboubakr Bouteflika not stand for a fifth term. The wheelchair-bound octogenarian is bidding for his fifth term as head of state, despite promises to the electorate while running for his third and fourth terms that “this election will be my last”.

Bouteflika has  made similar promises going into this election, set for next month, that he will sit as president for just two years before handing over to someone else, but few  people outside his immediate circle are satisfied with his assurances.

“He is old, he can’t even stand up from his wheelchair. He can’t even sign his name to documents. Our ambassador here in Pretoria was supposed to have been replaced, but Bouteflika is incapable of signing his name to the necessary authorisations. How then can such a man stand as leader of our country?” Nema, a reserved spokesman for the protesters asked.

All protesters interviewed were adamant the mass protests in their country would never go the same way as happened to the “Arab Spring” protests in 2011. They also started out peacefully, but returned to militarism after a few initial, public victories.

“It is impossible! Impossible! Algerians are far too educated and experienced. South Africa in terms of its evolution after its revolution is around about where Algeria was in 1962 (the year Algeria gained its independence from France after bitter years of fighting that claimed about 1.5million lives). We will never let it happen,” Muhammad, a middle-aged protester said.

All were adamant the secretive oil and gas supply agreements with France would have to be cancelled.

Algeria’s government has extended a free provision of oil and gas agreement with France almost indefinitely.

This is something everyone spoken to was adamant would have to be changed.

But first, the president and his “Forty thieves” would have to go, everyone at the protest said.

 

palestine-checkpoint 300

Israel’s Checkpoint 300: Suffocation and broken ribs at rush hour

Palestinian workers say conditions at the notorious checkpoint in occupied West Bank have worsened over the last months.

 

Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – Frantic clamouring disrupts the usual noises at Israel’s Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem, where thousands of Palestinian workers queue for hours, starting at 3am, to make it on time for their jobs in Israel.

Workers chat, bicker, joke, frustratingly shout, bang on the steel bars, and rattle the turnstiles that Israeli border police officials intermittently lock amid the heavy traffic.

“He has fainted. Everyone move! Call an ambulance!” The crowd becomes louder as a young man is carried outside the checkpoint. Numerous workers surround the man’s limp body stretched out on the ground, and others attempt to resuscitate him – to no avail.

Several of the bystanders shout: “Move, move! Make room! Let the journalist film! Show the world what is happening to us”, as they push people aside to create a cleared space for Al Jazeera to photograph the scene.

An ambulance arrives, and the young man is lifted onto a gurney and rushed to the hospital. The workers continue on through the single cement lane, sipping on small paper cups of coffee to push past their exhaustion. One worker looks at Al Jazeera and says: “Israel treats animals better than us.”

It’s a typical morning at Checkpoint 300.

Suffocation, broken ribs and death

Palestinians have long complained of the volatile conditions at the checkpoint – also referred to as the Gilo checkpoint. However, Palestinian workers tell Al Jazeera that the conditions at the crossing have worsened over the last two months.

The checkpoint was built more than a decade ago as part of Israel’s separation wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004. EAPPI, an organisation that monitors Israel’s checkpoints, tells Al Jazeera that 300 is “the worst (checkpoint) in the West Bank”.

Thousands of Palestinians from the southern occupied West Bank must cross this barrier to work in occupied East Jerusalem – part of the occupied Palestinian territory – or Israel. It can take up to three hours to cross the checkpoint during the rush hour. When traffic is less during the day, the journey takes just a few minutes.

Many Palestinians are escaping high unemployment rates in the occupied West Bank, while others prefer to work in Israel for the better wages – at times receiving more than double than what they would make in the West Bank.

The scene each morning is chaotic, with Palestinians squeezed together inside a single lane, and pulling themselves up on the surrounding steel bars, climbing over, and dangling among the crowd.

When Israeli officials unlock the turnstile at the entrance of the checkpoint, Palestinians push forward, passing one by one, until it is locked once again. Those who make it through then enter a warehouse-like compound where they meet more turnstiles, a security conveyor belt – where they must place all of their items – and a metal detector.

Finally, they arrive at the permit check, where Israeli officials verify work permits and take their fingerprints.

Abed Abu Shiera, who has sold coffee outside the checkpoint for 11 years, has seen first-hand the effects of the barrier’s harsh conditions. Every morning, at least one or two workers suffocate and faint from the lack of airflow, he says. Abu Shiera himself often has to call the ambulance to collect them.

The 44-year-old has witnessed legs being broken after Palestinians fall off the steel bars where dozens of workers hang from. Other times, he has seen workers get their ribs broken from the pressure of the crowd pushing forward each time the turnstile is unlocked.

A young Palestinian man faints at Checkpoint 300 [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

Abu Shiera has even witnessed death. In October, a 65-year-old worker from Arroub refugee camp in the southern Hebron district reportedly slipped and fell on his head inside the narrow corridor of the checkpoint. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

Despite this daily reality, Abu Shiera echoed the voices of many workers Al Jazeera spoke with: “I have come here six days a week for 11 years,” he said. “But this past month and a half is the worst period I have ever seen.”

‘It gets worse and worse’

Palestinian workers tell Al Jazeera that before a few months, the large crowds would thin out by 7am. However, during Al Jazeera’s visit this week, even at 8am, the checkpoint was still crammed with people.

Amir, a 23-year-old Palestinian who has worked as a cleaner at the checkpoint for a private Israeli company for some five years, says that Israeli officials used to typically lock the turnstiles for five- to 15-minute intervals, before letting more Palestinians pass.

For the past two months, however, Israeli officials have locked the turnstiles for up to one hour, Amir says, causing the already intolerable conditions at the checkpoint to exacerbate. Palestinians are now fainting more frequently, and some workers expressed fear of being crushed in the crowd.

Nasser Abu Maria, a 45-year-old construction worker from Beit Ummar in Hebron, stands to the side with a few dozen other Palestinians, waiting for the crowd to disperse before daring to enter the checkpoint.

 

A week and a half ago, Abu Maria suffocated and fainted inside the checkpoint. The lane was too crowded for workers to carry him outside, forcing them to hurl his listless body over the steel bars, where workers on the other side grabbed him and settled him on the ground.

He was then rushed to a hospital. “I am too scared to enter the checkpoint when it’s like this,” he said, gesturing to the sea of workers crammed and stacked on top of each other in between the cement and steel.

“All we want is for them (Israelis) to just stop locking the gate. Just let us pass. That’s all we ask. Stop putting us through all this humiliation,” he said. “The exhaustion I experience going through this checkpoint is more tiring than my eight-hour workday.”

Last week, frustrations at the checkpoint reached a boiling point, as Israeli officials locked the turnstiles for long durations throughout the morning hours. Abu Shiera tells Al Jazeera that out of frustration workers broke one of the turnstiles and a gate inside the checkpoint in order to rush through.

Abu Shiera says that the workers were suffocating, but an Israeli border police spokesperson claims the workers were “acting violently, shoving, pushing and breaking things”.

Israeli officials gathered the workers into an open yard inside the compound until they could fix the damage.

“This checkpoint has always been difficult,” Ibrahim Hushiyye, a 28-year-old construction worker from the town of Yatta in Hebron, told Al Jazeera. “But it used to be easier than these days.”

“Every day it gets worse and worse,” he said. “It’s far beyond just being intolerable. If someone has never experienced something like this, then I hope they never have to.”

‘We are humans’

The Israeli border police spokesperson confirmed that the Israeli army is expanding the area of the checkpoint, creating more lanes, and introducing technological upgrades in order to lessen traffic, similar to the recent developments at Israel’s Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.

The exhaustion I experience going through this checkpoint is more tiring than my eight-hour workday.

NASSER ABU MARIA, PALESTINIAN CONSTRUCTION WORKER

However, he denied that this was the cause of the heavy traffic, instead telling Al Jazeera that it was the result of an increase of permits Israel has been issuing for Palestinians to work in Israel. Yet Abu Shiera says he has not seen any increase in the number of workers, and the main issue is the Israeli officials locking the turnstiles.

When asked by Al Jazeera if Israeli authorities were aware of the difficult conditions Palestinians are facing at the checkpoint, the spokesperson took a long pause, and said: “Yes.” But went on to say these issues are relegated to “the Palestinian side [of the checkpoint], not the Israeli side”, and said it was the responsibility of Palestinian authorities to address these issues.

A source at the Palestinian District Coordination Office, which coordinates with the Israeli army, spoke to Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity and said that the entire area of the checkpoint is Israeli-controlled. “We have no decision-making power with the Israelis. They don’t consult with us at all. We have no control over the Israeli checkpoints,” he said.

Even if the Israelis were to request Palestinian assistance at the checkpoint, however, the Palestinian side would refuse. “We won’t allow them to put us in front of the workers. Then the workers will fight us instead of the Israelis.”

“We don’t interfere at all,” he added. “The problem is the checkpoint itself and this is caused by the Israelis.”

The Israeli border police spokesperson assured Al Jazeera that a new, upgraded checkpoint would be open in the coming months and would solve the issue of traffic.

Palestinian workers, meanwhile, say that the Israeli army has been renovating a new portion of the checkpoint for at least a year and a half, and each time a date is set for its opening, it gets postponed.

“We are always told that the checkpoint is being renovated and it will get better. But I don’t think Israel is interested in making our lives any easier,” Abu Maria said.

“All of this is completely unnecessary,” he continued. “We pass through this checkpoint almost every day. They (Israeli officials) know us. We are carrying our lunch bags, not weapons. We are just trying to make it to work on time.

“We are not any less human than they are.”

{source: al-jazeera news networks}
ALGERIAN PRESIDENTIAL CONVOY

President Bouteflika returns to Algeria amid mass protests

The 82-year-old, whose bid to seek a fifth term sparked widespread demonstrations, was in Geneva for medical treatment.

 

Amid the biggest threat to his 20-year rule, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflikaarrived at an airbase southwest of the capital, Algiers, according to state media.

His aircraft on Sunday flew into the Boufarik military airport from the Swiss city of Geneva, where the 82-year-old leader – whose bid to seek a fifth term has been met with unprecedented protests – had a two-week medical trip, Ennahar television said.

State TV carried a statement from the presidency saying he had returned to Algeria after routine medical checks. Images later showed a convoy departing the airport.

The president, who is confined to a wheelchair, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, prompting critics to question whether he is being used as a puppet candidate by a faction of civilian and military figures.

Massive protests began on February 22 to denounce Bouteflika’s plans to extend his rule in the April 18 polls.

Bouteflika has offered to limit his term after the election and has vowed to change the “system” that runs the country. The promises, however, have failed to quell public anger, galvanising discontent among different sectors, particularly students and other young people.

Some long-time allies of Bouteflika, including members of the ruling FLN party, have expressed support for the protesters, revealing cracks within a ruling elite long seen as invincible.

In the clearest indication yet that the generals sympathise with protesters, the chief of staff said the military and the people had a united vision of the future, state TV reported. Lieutenant General Gaid Salah did not mention the unrest.

“Bouteflika’s system is over,” said a commentator on Ennahar, which is close to the president’s inner circle.

Students have been at the heart of the protests and more rallies took place on Sunday in Algiers, where thousands of flag-waving supporters poured onto the streets shouting slogans such as: “Bouteflika, there will be no fifth term.”

Many shops in the capital were shut and residents said train services had been suspended.

“We have taken to the streets today to protest a fifth presidential term. We are against a fifth term. This is enough,” protester Zakaria told Reuters news agency in front of the Central Postal Office.

“We want Bouteflika and all his mafia to leave. They have to leave this country,” added Salim, a high school student among thousands of people demonstrating on Sunday.

Holiday time

A general strike has hit the country’s Mediterranean oil ports of Skikda and Bejaia but exports were not affected, according to port staff.

The government, meanwhile, has brought forward a scheduled university holiday by two weeks – in an apparent attempt to defuse student-led rallies against Bouteflika.

The ministry of higher education’s decision on Saturday came a day after tens of thousands of demonstrators packed the centre of Algiers.

Without giving a reason for the move, the ministry said in a decree the spring break would be brought forward by 10 days to run from Sunday to April 4.

Teachers and students at several universities have gone on strike, while others had vowed to begin striking on Sunday.

 

While rallies in Algiers and elsewhere were mostly calm, police reportedly used tear gas in several areas of the capital, including to block the road to the presidential palace.

State media also said security forces arrested 195 protesters, citing offences including looting.

Bouteflika has been in Geneva, Switzerland, for the past two weeks for what his office called “routine medical tests”.

On Thursday, he issued his first warning to protesters, saying the movement – now entering its third week – could create chaos in the oil and natural gas-producing North African country.

“This time, it’s quite different. What we see now is a momentum that is building up across Algeria,” Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, who has covered the region extensively, said of the ongoing demonstrations.

“Many people believe if this momentum continues for the next two weeks, it could be a game changer,” Ahelbarra added.

Looking ahead, Ahelbarra said a key date for the country was going to be March 13, when Algeria’s constitutional committee is set to determine the legitimacy of the presented candidacies for next month’s elections.

{source: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES}

 

boeing 737 max

China, Ethiopia ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 after deadly crash

A number of other airlines across the world carrying out safety inspection on aircraft following Sunday’s crash.

China and Ethiopia have grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft while a number of airlines across the world are carrying out safety measures on the jets following the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday that killed all 157 people on board.

On Monday, China ordered its domestic airlines to suspend commercial operation of nearly 100 of the jets in question. Ethiopian Airlines followed China’s announcement by grounding all of its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft as well, according to a spokesperson.

The crash, that took place just outside Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, comes just months after another deadly accident of that same model in Indonesia when a Lion Air flight crashed after take-off from Jakarta in October, killing all 189 people on board.

Noting the “similarities” between the two accidents, China’s Civil Aviation Administration said domestic airlines have until 6pm local time (10:00 GMT) to ground all 737 MAX 8 aircraft.

It said operation of the model will only resume after “confirming the relevant measures to effectively ensure flight safety”, the administration said in a statement.

“Given that two accidents both involved newly delivered Boeing 737-8 planes and happened during take-off phase, they have some degree of similarity,” it said, adding the order was in line with its principle of zero-tolerance on safety harzards. The 737 MAX 8 is sometimes referred to as the 737-8.

Chinese airlines have 96 737 MAX jets in service, the state company regulator said on Weibo. The aviation authority will contact the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing for consultation, it said.

Chinese aviation data firm Variflight said at least 29 international and domestic flights on Monday were cancelled and that airlines swapped out the plane on 256 other flights that had been scheduled to use it.

Caijing, a Chinese state-run news outlet that covers finance and economics, said many flights scheduled to use 737 MAX planes would instead use the 737-800 models.

Cayman Airways said it had grounded both of its new 737 MAX 8 jets until it got more information.

On Monday, Ethiopian Airlines’ spokesperson Asrat Begashaw said although it was not yet known what caused the crash, the airline decided to ground its remaining four 737 Max 8 planes until further notice as “an extra safety precaution”.

Ethiopian Airlines was using five new 737 Max 8 planes and was awaiting delivery of 25 more.

South Korea was also conducting emergency safety inspection on two Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, according to it transport ministry.

India’s aviation watchdog DGCA is likely to speak to Boeing and local airlines Jet Airways and SpiceJet about the use of the aircraft, NDTV reported citing a senior official.

Indonesia’s ministry of transportation also said it will increase the supervision of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the country.

Boeing representatives did not immediately respond for comment. The company tweeted that it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the Ethiopian Airlines airplane.

“A Boeing technical team will be travelling to the crash site to provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board,” a statement on Boeing’s website read.

Fastest growing market

China is an important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models.

The company has delivered 76 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to Chinese airlines, which have ordered another 104, according to data from the aircraft maker’s website updated through January.

Al Jazeera’s Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing, said “China became the first country to ground this aircraft”.

“Part of the 737 MAX is actually completed here in China,” he said. “China is where the seats are fitted, the final cosmetic work is carried out before the aircraft actually goes into the air.

“China is the world’s fastest growing aviation sector and by 2030, it’s estimated that it will become the world’s largest aviation market.”

 

Meanwhile, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there were no plans to follow suit given the 737 MAX had a stellar safety record in the United States and there was a lack of information about the cause of the Ethiopian crash.

 

{SOURCE: AL – JAZEERA NEWS NETWORKS}

Addis

Ethiopian Airlines plane crash: No survivors among 157 on board

All 157 people on board Boeing 737 killed in plane crash en route to Nairobi, Ethiopian Airlines says.

None of the 157 people on board a new Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on Sunday morning en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa have survived, the airline said.

The aircraft, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, took off at 08:38am (05:38 GMT) and lost contact with air traffic controllers six minutes later.

It crashed near Bishoftu, southeast of the Ethiopian capital, killing all 149 passengers and eight crew members on board, Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash of the plane, which had been delivered to the airline in November.

According to Ethiopian Airlines’ CEO Tewolde Gebremariam, the pilot, who had been working for the carrier since 2010, sent out a distress call shortly after take-off and was given clearance to return.

Tewolde, who visited the scene of the crash, also said that the “brand-new airplane” had flown 1,200 hours and had arrived from Johannesburg on Sunday morning.

Ethiopian Airlines later published a photo on Twitter showing him standing in the wreckage, lifting what appeared to be a piece of the plane debris at the bottom of a large crater in an empty field.

Little of the aircraft could be seen in the freshly-churned soil.

The CEO “expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident,” the post said.

Ethiopian state media said more than 30 nationalities were on board flight ET 302.

They included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight each from China, the United States and Italy; seven each from France and Britain; six from Egypt; four each from India and Slovakia, among others.

Foreign governments said tourists, business people, doctors, and a Kenyan football official were among the dead.

Also on board was at least one staff member of the UN Environment Programme meeting in Nairobi from Monday for an annual assembly of 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives. The head of the World Food Programme also wrote on Twitter that agency staff were among those on board.

Ethiopian Airlines said it set up a committee with all stakeholders concerned to conduct forensic investigations and identify the victims.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi airport, said an “information and service desk has been set up for the relatives looking for information.”

Among them is Edward Gathu, 39, who has been waiting to hear information about his 45-year-old brother, Benson, who was on the flight.

“I feel very weak. I wish they can give me information so that I can accept and move on,” Gathu told Al Jazeera.

“He spoke with his wife last night. Until now we have no information about his whereabouts.”

The Boeing 737-8 MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after the take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was a Boeing 737-800 that exploded after taking off from Lebanon in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew members.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office tweeted it “would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning.”

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta offered prayers for the family members and loved ones of those on the flight.

“We are saddened by the news of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger aircraft that is reported to have crashed 6 minutes after takeoff en route to Kenya. My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenyatta said on Twitter.

‘Brand new aircraft’

US aerospace giant Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the accident and would provide technical assistance to find out why its aircraft crashed.

“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board.”

A passenger safety instruction card seen at the scene of the crash [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Kyle Bailey, an aviation analyst and pilot, said the pilot’s distress call signalled that the plane may have gone down due to a “controllability issue” than an explosion.

“That may lead me to believe that the problem wasn’t imperatively serious,” he told Al Jazeera from New Jersey. “Typically in major disasters when crashes happen, when there are explosions, usually there is no communication from the pilots,” Bailey added.

“The pilots are so focused on that catastrophic event, that they don’t have time to call air traffic control.
The fact that there was a call made to air traffic control, in this instance, makes us believe that it was a controllability issue – that they were struggling for control.”

 

radar

 

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Malaga, Spain, aviation analyst Alex Macheras explained that the 737 MAX is the brand new updated version of the Boeing 737.

“The MAX is in service all around the world. Airlines such as the Ethiopian Airlines are using this aircraft, as it is the latest, the most fuel-efficient, short-range Boeing aircraft on the market.

Macheras said new aircraft “do have their hiccups” but that is not to say they are unsafe or more prone to being involved in accidents.

“There are certain advisories for lots of new aircraft and that’s perfectly normal as they enter the market place,” he added.

The Boeing 737 MAX was initiated in response to Airbus’s A320 Neo. Both planes feature modifications to make the aircraft more fuel-efficient.

“It’s a very safe aircraft,” Macheras said, “but of course this accident will send jitters across the industry.”

 

{SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES}

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