Umrah pilgrims must book via app, says Saudi govt

News Network
March 22, 2023


Jeddah, Mar 22: Pilgrims who wish to perform the Muslim Umrah ritual are now required to reserve an appointment via the Nusuk or Tawakkalna apps, the Saudi interior ministry announced on Tuesday.

“The Umrah security plan for (this) year included managing and organizing crowds and traffic, providing humanitarian services, supporting and empowering the entities participating in implementing the plan, and distributing manpower,” said Director of Public Security Lt. Gen. Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Bassami.

He said that there were a “sufficient” number of bookings available, and called on pilgrims to adhere to their specific dates, all of which were being organized in coordination with the Ministry of Hajj and the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

He was speaking to reporters during a press conference for the leaders of the Umrah security forces on the ministry’s plans and preparations for this year’s Umrah season at the 911 Unified Operations Center in Makkah, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

“The expected densities in public transport stations at the entrances to Makkah and the vicinity of the Third Ring Road and next to the Holy Mosque of Makkah were taken into account, and the paths were reorganized to ensure crowd movement safety,” Al-Bassami said.

He stressed the importance of wearing face masks to preserve public health and in compliance with instructions for preventive measures and health regulations.

Al-Bassami said that large crowds would be directed accordingly and beggars who entered these sites would be dealt with firmly and strictly.

Director-General of Civil Defense Maj. Gen. Hammoud bin Suleiman Al-Faraj said: “The General Directorate of Civil Defense has completed its preparations in all sites frequented by pilgrims and visitors to ensure readiness, fire prevention and protection, especially in areas that witness high density.”

He said that the Civil Defense had coordinated with authorities to take legal measures by applying regulations and controlling violations.

Al-Faraj said that the directorate was ready for intensive deployment around the Grand Mosque in Makkah, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, and important sites through safety inspectors and support forces.

He praised the fire and rescue services in Makkah, Madinah, the holy site centers, and the deployment of mobile units at specific times.

Al-Faraj also praised the creation of a number of rapid intervention teams, especially in the central area in Makkah, around the Prophet’s Mosque and other vital sites.

Maj. Gen. Saleh bin Saad Al-Murabba, deputy director-general of the General Directorate of Passports, said that his authority had worked on early social and technical preparations and equipment for the Umrah season, developed plans and executive programs, raised media awareness, enhanced communication, and supported and assisted operating agencies for pilgrims.

He said that the directorate had completed its operational preparations by equipping ports with manpower and modern technologies to easily complete the procedures for pilgrims at all international ports, through qualified staff that spoke a number of languages to guide visitors to adhere to Umrah instructions. 


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News Network
November 19,2023


The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its new assessment of the situation in the Gaza Strip's al-Shifa Hospital, describing it as a "death zone" and the situation as "desperate."

The United Nations health organization released its report early Sunday, just a day after a short and "very high-risk" mission into the hospital on Saturday.

The regime has turned Gaza's hospitals into a specific target of its ongoing war of genocide against the coastal sliver, alleging that those facilities house Palestinian resistance fighters and their equipment.

On Saturday, Mai Alkaila, the Palestinian health minister in the occupied West Bank, strongly condemned Israel for committing genocide against the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Shifa, Gaza's biggest hospital, has taken the brunt of the Israeli assaults on the territory's healthcare system, with the regime claiming that it houses a "command center" belonging to the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

The situation has forced "scores of sick and injured, some of them amputees" to flee the hospital towards the seafront without ambulances, along with displaced people, doctors and nurses, the WHO said. It added that only 291 patients, including 32 babies "in extremely critical condition," and 25 health workers have remained inside the complex.

"Signs of shelling and gunfire were evident. The [WHO] team saw a mass grave at the entrance of the hospital and were told more than 80 people were buried there," the world body said in its statement.

A lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food, and other essential aid has caused the hospital to basically stop functioning as a medical facility, it noted.

"Corridors and the hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection," the WHO said.

Also on Sunday, WHO's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X social media platform that the world body was "working with partners to develop an urgent evacuation plan and ask for full facilitation of this plan."

"We continue to call for protection of health and of civilians," he said, lamenting that "the current situation is unbearable and unjustifiable. Ceasefire. NOW."

The regime launched its devastating war on October 7 following a surprise operation by Gaza-based resistance movements. At least 12,300 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 5,000 children, and over 29,800 people sustained injuries during the war.


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News Network
November 23,2023


Israel says there will be no halt to the fighting in the Gaza Strip, as it continues to bombard the besieged enclave despite agreeing to a four-day truce with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas.

An unnamed Israeli official told AFP early on Thursday that the temporary ceasefire and the planned release of prisoners have been delayed and will not come into effect until Friday at the earliest.

The official’s comments came after Tzachi Hanegbi, an adviser to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said none of the prisoners held by Hamas in Gaza would be freed before Friday.

“The release will begin according to the original agreement between the parties, and not before Friday,” he said in a statement on Wednesday night, adding that talks on the deal were continuing.

Hanegbi gave no reason for the delay, and it was not clear when Israel would begin a four-day pause in its attacks on Gaza, which was expected to take effect at 10 a.m. local time Thursday.

Early on Wednesday, Hamas announced a four-day truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip that will see the cessation of Israeli assaults on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said in a statement that the deal, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, will allow the entry of hundreds of humanitarian, medical and fuel aid trucks to Gaza.

The deal will also see the release of 50 Israeli war prisoners in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian women and children from the occupying entity’s jails.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued to attack Gaza in the hours after an agreement was reached between the two sides for a truce, striking various parts across the blockaded territory and leaving many injured.

Local sources reported that Israeli airstrikes targeted a house in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, wounding a number of people, according to Palestine’s official WAFA news agency.

Israeli warplanes also bombed the town of al-Fokhari, east of the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The Israeli military also pounded Beit Lahia town in the north of the Gaza Strip, as well as Beit Hanoun and the Jabalia refugee camp, leaving dozens of citizens dead or injured.

Israel waged the war on Gaza on October 7 after Hamas carried out a surprise attack, dubbed Operation Al-Aqsa Storm, into the occupied territories in response to the occupying regime’s intensified crimes against the Palestinian people.

According to the Gaza-based health ministry, at least 14,500 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes, most of them women and children, and injured around 35,000 others.

Tel Aviv has also imposed a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting off fuel, electricity, food and water to the more than two million Palestinians living there. 


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News Network
November 18,2023


Israel’s bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza since October 7 has killed over 12,000 people so far, including 5,000 children, according to officials in Gaza. 

Gaza’s government media office said on Friday there are also more than 30,000 injuries, 75 percent of which are women and children.

There are 3,750 missing persons, including 1,800 children who are still under the rubble, it said as the official death toll in Gaza had not been updated for days due to the collapse of the its health system.

The media office said at least 200 doctors, nurses, and paramedics have been killed, as well as at least 22 civil defense team members.

Also, at least 51 journalists and media representatives have been killed, the media office said.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of any let-up despite international calls for a ceasefire or at least for humanitarian pauses.

Israel's military, which has concentrated its assault on northern Gaza, said its troops and warplanes were keeping up pressure on Friday.

Media reports say fierce confrontations continue in northern Gaza, with the Israeli military trying to push from the western side of Gaza City towards the neighborhoods of Shujaiya and Zeitoun.

The health ministry in Gaza said that 24 patients have died in the past two days at Al-Shifa hospital due to power cuts, as Israeli forces keep blockading the medical facility.

"Twenty-four patients in different departments have died over the last 48 hours as vital medical equipment has stopped functioning because of the power outage," said ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

Israel attacked the hospital earlier this week, claiming Hamas has used the hospital and its area as a command center.

Hamas denies using hospitals for military purposes. It says some hostages have received treatment at medical centers but they have not been held inside them.

‘Starvation imminent in Gaza’

Israel has bombed much of Gaza to rubble, ordered the depopulation of the entire northern half of the strip and made around two-thirds of Gazans homeless.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), quoting Palestinian data, said Israeli attacks had destroyed or damaged at least 45% of Gaza's housing units.

International officials say a humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million residents of Gaza is entering a new, more dire phase as the Israeli war continues.

A Palestinian UN official said on Friday people in Gaza were facing war on two fronts, one “with bombs and bullets” and the other “through the siege” on the Palestinian territory.

One of the wars is “The siege is killing people every hour. It has killed hundreds these last few days. It will kill thousands in the next few days,” Majed Bamya, the deputy permanent observer for the State of Palestine at the UN, said on social media.

“It is a criminal tool used to kill and displace and pressure in cold blood. It is inhumane, brutal, barbaric. Israel is holding 2.3 million Palestinians hostage. The only options it is giving them is leave this earth or leave this country.”

UN aid deliveries to Gaza were suspended on Friday due to shortages of fuel and a communications shutdown, deepening the misery of thousands of hungry and homeless Palestinians.

Friday marked the second consecutive day that no aid trucks arrived in Gaza due to a lack of fuel for distributing relief.

The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said civilians faced the "immediate possibility of starvation" due to the lack of food supplies.

Nearly the entire Gazan population is in desperate need of food assistance, said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.

"With winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation," she said in a statement.

A UN human rights official said Israel must allow water and fuel into Gaza to restart the water supply network otherwise people would die of thirst and disease. Israel's actions were a breach of international law, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo said.

The World Health Organization said it feared the spread of disease, including respiratory infections and diarrhea. 


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