AL-MUKALLA: Hopes that an environmental disaster in the Red Sea can be averted have risen after a donation by the Netherlands toward defusing the threat posed by the stranded Safer oil tanker in Yemen.
The UN hopes to raise the remaining $12 million shortfall this week in the wake of the Dutch donation.
“We remain roughly $12 million short of the funding we need to begin the work. We are hopeful that we might get sufficient funds later this week,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general, told Arab News on Sunday.
Liesje Schreinemacher, Dutch minister of foreign trade and international cooperation, announced the €7.5 million ($7.51 million) donation for the proposed UN-sponsored salvage operation, filling an urgent funding gap that had previously delayed plans.
“With this contribution, we have now reached the amount needed to start the salvage operation and we can prevent a severe disaster from happening,” the Dutch minister said on Twitter.
With its cargo of more than 1.1 million barrels of oil, the tanker has been stranded off Hodeidah in western Yemen since early 2015, when international engineers fled the city following the Houthi militia takeover.
In recent years, the tanker has attracted international attention as rust slowly corrodes its hull, allowing water to leak inside.
Environmentalists from around the world have warned of a devastating ecological catastrophe in the Red Sea in the event of an oil leak, tanker collapse or explosion.
The first phase of the UN plan will involve emptying the tanker’s oil and selling it to generate funds for the second phase, which will involve replacing the aging tanker with a new vessel.
Yemeni officials say that the first phase of the plan is fully funded thanks to the Dutch donation, but that they do not know when it will begin.
Saudi Arabia donated $10 million to the UN crowdfunding campaign in June in order to contribute to the $80 million target needed to save the Red Sea from environmental disaster.
Yemeni officials have accused the Houthis of using the tanker to blackmail the government and the international community.
For several years, the Houthis have refused to allow UN experts to board the tanker to perform damage assessments.
JERUSALEM: The online travel agency Booking.com said Monday it plans to add warnings to listings in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, becoming the latest foreign company to wade into one of the world’s most contentious debates.
Booking.com said it would caution customers booking accommodations in Israeli settlements that they were traveling to a “disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk” area that “may pose greater risks.”
The company told The Associated Press that it was still working on the language of the safety warning for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and a few other regions around the world. It did not say when the alert would take effect.
The move would come as violence rises in the West Bank, with raids by Israeli forces in cities and villages leaving at least 85 Palestinians dead so far this year. On Monday, the Israeli army said a vehicle came under fire as it passed by a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank. No injuries were reported.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Most of the world considers the settlements, built on land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, to be a violation of international law. Some 700,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem. The Palestinians seek these lands as parts of a future independent state.
Online travel companies like Airbnb and Booking.com long have faced pressure from Palestinian officials, activists and human rights groups to end their listings there.
But they risk Israeli fury if they do. Israel and its supporters have accused those who support anti-Israel boycotts, including products made in the settlements, of antisemitism. Airbnb scrapped its plan to bar listings in the settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.
Similar controversy has engulfed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont company set off an outcry in Israel by saying that it would stop selling its products in the occupied West Bank last year.
But a recent deal will see Ben & Jerry’s ice cream back on shelves in the occupied territories, after parent company Unilever sold the brand’s Israeli business to a local licensee.
Booking.com’s announcement did not directly question the legitimacy or legality of the settlements, and instead focused on safety. To some Israelis, the disclaimer showed Israel’s pressure has paid off.
“It shows Booking.com has paid attention to the massive damage Airbnb and Ben & Jerrys did to themselves when they adopted a boycott of Israeli controlled territories,” said Eugene Kontorovich, director of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a conservative Israeli think tank. “At the same time they want to throw a bone to anti-Israel activists.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the US, welcomed the travel warning as a decision to “recognize the reality of the occupation and human rights abuses,” calling on more foreign corporations to do the same.
Booking.com said its safety banner for the West Bank would resemble those currently shown for accommodations in Ukraine or Cyprus. The site’s warning for Ukraine cautions travelers of “an increased risk to customers’ safety in this location” and urges them to “review travel guidelines for this area provided by your government.”
The company declined to say whether the warning would also apply to Palestinian properties in the West Bank, such as in the cities of Hebron or Ramallah.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Monday that the company will ask for an exemption from sanctions against Iran to provide the firm’s Starlink satellite broadband service in the country.
Musk made the statement on Twitter at a time of widespread protests in Iran over the death of a woman in police custody. Some people on Twitter asked Musk to provide the satellite-based Internet stations.
Access to social media and some content is tightly restricted in Iran and Internet monitoring group NetBlocks reported “near-total” disruption to Internet connectivity in the capital of the Kurdish region on Monday, linking it to the protests.
Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology could not be immediately reached for comment. The foreign ministry, Iran’s mission to the United Nations and the United States Bureau of Industry and Security did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Musk did not specify from which country Starlink would seek exemptions, but Iran faces broad based sanctions.
SpaceX is aiming to rapidly expand Starlink, and it is racing rival satellite communications companies including OneWeb and Amazon.com Inc’s yet to launch Project Kuiper.
AMMAN: The EU has pledged €364 million ($365 million) in aid to Jordan, covering the period from 2021 to 2024, the Jordan News Agency reported.
The joint declaration was signed on Monday by Nasser Shraideh, Jordan’s minister of planning and international cooperation, and Maria Hadjitheodosiou, the EU ambassador to Jordan.
Shraideh said Jordan’s “strong, historical and strategic” ties with the EU have improved as a result of King Abdullah II’s efforts to hold regular meetings with European officials, including representatives of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament.
EU aid packages help to support the work of the Jordanian government to develop and reform the country’s economy, political system and administration, officials said, by funding development programs and projects in line with national plans in areas such as human development, civil society, governance, institutional development and the green transition.
The two sides also signed a €40 million agreement for assistance to Jordan in the implementation of its green economy program. Shraideh said this aims to support sustainable and efficient production and consumption patterns in the industrial sector, as well as sustainable resource management in energy, water, agriculture and green transportation.
TEHRAN: The Iranian human rights group Hengaw said two men were killed on Monday in protests against the death of a Kurdish woman after her arrest by Iran’s morality police, but there was no immediate official confirmation of the report.
“In Monday’s protests in the town of Divandarreh, at least two citizens — Fouad Qadimi and Mohsen Mohammadi — died after being taken to Kosar Hospital in Sanandaj and 15 others were injured,” Hengaw said on its Twitter account.
A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said the US wants accountability for her death.
“Mahsa Amini’s death after injuries sustained while in police custody for wearing an ‘improper’ hijab is an appalling and egregious affront to human rights,” the official said. “Our thoughts are with Mahsa’s family and loved ones.”
“Women in Iran should have the right to wear what they want, free from violence or harassment. Iran must end its use of violence against women for exercising their fundamental freedoms,” the official said. “There must be accountability for Mahsa’s death.”
Demonstrations were held in the capital Tehran, including several of its universities, as well in Iran’s second city, Mashhad, according to the Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
Protesters marched down Hijab Street — or “headscarf street” — in the center of Tehran denouncing the actions of the morality police, the ISNA news agency reported.
“Several hundred people chanted slogans against the authorities, some of them took off their hijab,” Fars said, adding that “police arrested several people and dispersed the crowd using batons and tear gas.”
A brief video released by Fars shows a crowd of several dozen people, including women who have removed their headscarves, shouting “Death to the Islamic republic!”
A “similar gathering” took place in the northeastern city Mashhad, the Tasnim agency reported.
The rallies on Monday came a day after police made arrests and fired tear gas in the dead woman’s home province of Kurdistan, where some 500 people had protested, some smashing car windows and torching rubbish bins, reports said.
Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in a hospital after three days in a coma, following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police during a visit to the capital on September 13.
Such police units enforce a dress code in the Islamic republic that demands women wear headscarves in public.
It also bans tight trousers, ripped jeans, clothes that expose the knees and brightly colored outfits.
Police have insisted there was “no physical contact” between officers and the victim.
Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi said Monday the woman had violated the dress code, and that his colleagues had asked her relatives to bring her “decent clothes.”
He again rejected “unjust accusations against the police” and said “the evidence shows that there was no negligence or inappropriate behavior on the part of the police.”
“This is an unfortunate incident and we wish never to see such incidents again.”
Students rallied, however, including at Tehran and Shahid Beheshti universities, demanding “clarification” on how Amini died, according to Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
Her death has reignited calls to rein in morality police actions against women suspected of violating the dress code, in effect since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Filmmakers, artists, athletes and political and religious figures have taken to social media to express their anger over the death, both inside and outside the country.
President Ebrahim Raisi, an ultra-conservative former judiciary chief who came to power last year, has ordered an inquiry into Amini’s death.
State television on Friday broadcast a short surveillance video that showed a woman identified as Amini collapsing in the police station after an argument with a policewoman.
Amjad Amini, the victim’s father, told Fars that he did “not accept what (the police) showed him,” arguing that “the film has been cut.”
AMMAN: Palestinian parents and students succeeded in closing most schools in East Jerusalem on Monday in protest at attempts by the Israeli Ministry of Education to force them to accept a censored version of the Palestinian curriculum.
Some 152 schools did not open because students failed to turn up.
The decision to launch the city-wide stayaway was taken by parent-led committees. This was meant to prevent school administrations from having to choose to do so and potentially suffer a major loss of funding.
The call to action was taken at a meeting of parents on Aug. 23 at the largest of six schools targeted by Israel that had rejected the curriculum changes.
Ironically, the strike included schools run by the Israel municipality and those that teach the Israeli “bagrut” or matriculation curriculum.
The “sanitized” curriculum that Israel is imposing on East Jerusalem’s schools includes the deletion of all photos of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the word Palestine and the Palestinian flag.
Holy Qur’anic verses are also deleted on claims that they help strengthen Palestinian, Arab and Islamic identities.
Israel had initially warned six schools to accept the sanitized version of the Palestinian curriculum or face closure.
Concern spread to all schools including private, Islamic Waqf, UNRWA, and Christian church schools.
Israeli Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton had sent warning letters on July 28 threatening to rescind the permanent operating licenses of the six Palestinian schools in East Jerusalem.
The minister had argued that the Palestinian government curriculum contains “dangerous incitement” against the Israeli government and army.
The schools were given one year to change the curriculum or face permanent closure.
The schools teaching the Palestinian curriculum and targeted by the decision are Ibrahimieh College and five schools run by the Al-Eman Schools organization.
Together, the schools have around 2,000 male and female pupils.
Parents at the six schools, and others, began distributing the original Palestinian books that were not changed by Israeli censors.
The stayaway brings back memories of September 1967 when Israel tried unsuccessfully to impose the Israeli curriculum on East Jerusalem schools. In the face of protests, Israel backed down and allowed the use of the Jordanian curriculum, which has since the Oslo Accords been replaced by the Palestinian curriculum.
The curriculum targets the high school tawjihi national examination in Jerusalem and the occupied territories, which is critical for acceptance to Palestinian and Arab universities.
Overall, the education system in Jerusalem continues to reflect the dichotomy faced by all Palestinians living in Jerusalem.
After the Oslo Accords, the 330,000 Arab Palestinians in Jerusalem were not allowed to hold Palestinian passports or have contact with the Ramallah government while being considered permanent residents in Israel. This came as a result of Israel’s unilateral annexation of Jerusalem.
Palestinian Jerusalemites insist that without an elected leadership they will continue to face this dichotomy, which will ultimately damage the education and job prospects of students.