Umrah pilgrims must book via app, says Saudi govt

News Network
March 22, 2023

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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
May 19,2023

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Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip have held a demonstration against the so-called "flag march," which they view as a highly provocative act.

Reports said on Thursday that Israeli forces have attacked the Palestinian protesters near the eastern borders of Gaza City and injured several of them.

Israeli forces used live fire and tear gas against the protesters, injuring several of them, as far-right Israelis held the "flag march" in occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds’s Old City.

The protest in Gaza was called for by Palestinian factions in response to the Israeli provocation.  

The demonstrators condemned the "flag march" in East Jerusalem al-Quds, and called for an end to Israeli attacks in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Similar protests were also held in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus in support of al-Quds.

The annual flag march marks Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and al-Quds in 1967. It is organized by far-right Israeli settlers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied al-Quds.

The march is also an attempt by extremist Israeli settlers to slam what they call the Tel Aviv regime’s failure to deal with the Palestinians and affirm their presence in the occupied Palestinian city and its holy sites.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) earlier warned that holding the demonstration would fuel tensions in the occupied territories and Israel will be fully responsible for any possible escalation.  

A spokesman for the Islamic Jihad movement also said the Israeli regime cannot defeat Palestinians through these measures.

He said the Palestinians’ fight against the regime won’t stop unless Israel is wiped off the map.

 Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Hamas resistance movement, commented on the issue as well.

He said the regime’s massive deployment of security forces to al-Quds shows it is fearful of acts of resistance by Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Israeli legislators are pushing a new bill that would see the display of the Palestinian flag punishable by up to one year in prison in the latest crackdown by the far-right Israeli administration.

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has already voted on preliminary approval of the bill, and it will need three additional votes to pass.

Ever since taking office earlier this year as the most right-wing administration in the Israeli regime’s history, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet has introduced a raft of legislation aimed at appeasing the far-right society in the occupied territories.

The Islamic resistance movement Hamas censured the Israeli parliament’s plan to ban Palestinian flags from public places.

Hamas in a statement said the bill shows the insistence of the regime on its fascist agenda and is a declaration of war against Palestinians.

It added, the bill will not scare Palestinians, but will rather encourage them to carry and raise their national flag which represents their identity everywhere.

Hamas also called on the international community and the UN to condemn Israeli atrocities against Palestinian people.

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News Network
May 16,2023

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London, May 16: The majority of Palestinians are opposed to the Abraham Accords, the agreements that normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and some Arab nations in 2020, and that just over a half believe it made Israel more aggressive, a new survey suggested.

The latest Arab News-YouGov poll about the Palestinian situation from the point of view of Palestinians on the 75th anniversary of the Nakba, revealed that 64 percent of the respondents said to be against the accords, with only 10 percent expressing a favorable opinion.

The Abraham Accords, signed in September 2020, are a series of agreements between Israel and four Arab countries  — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco  — that established formal diplomatic relations, including the exchange of ambassadors and the opening of embassies.

The Accords, mediated by the Trump administration, were hailed as a major breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy.

However, the agreements have been met with widespread opposition from Palestinians, who believe they fail to address the root causes of the conflict. 

When asked about the impact of the Accords, 52 percent of those surveyed said that the agreement had made Israel more aggressive towards the Palestinians, while 43 percent said they had seen no impact or change, and only 6 percent said they believed the agreement had made the situation better.

The results of the poll highlight a deep mistrust of Palestinians towards a possible peaceful resolution of the conflict, as they show that the Abraham Accords failed to produce tangible improvements for Palestinians.

This mistrust was foretold by former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al Faisal, who said in an interview with Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” video show in May last year that there is no evidence that embracing Israel has made it less aggressive towards Palestinians.

Prince Faisal argued that despite some Arab countries having normalized their relationship with Israel, the situation in the West Bank and Gaza remains the same.

“Attacks and assassinations of Palestinian individuals take place almost on a daily basis. The stealing of Palestinian land by Israel continues despite the assurances that Israel gave to the signatories of the peace (accord) between the UAE and Israel,” Prince Faisal said.

“So, there is no sign whatsoever that appeasing Israel is going to change their attitude.”

The poll also revealed the most commonly chosen reasons for the failure of peace talks, unveiling a fragmented, complex picture.

The top reason, chosen by 21 percent of respondents, was “Continued Israeli intimidation, settlements, and annexation.”

This was followed by “US bias towards Israel,” chosen by 15 percent, and “mistakes and lack of leadership of the Palestinian Authority,” chosen as the top reason by 14 percent of people surveyed.

While 11 percent of respondents saw the disputes over Al-Aqsa Mosque and the status of Jerusalem as significant barriers to peace, 32 percent of interviewees believed that Palestinian armed militias sabotaging the peace talks ranked at the bottom of the reasons for failure.

These results suggest that Palestinians see a range of factors contributing to the failure of past peace talks and initiatives, including both internal and external factors. However, only 2 percent of respondents ranked the issue of the “Palestinian state’s ability to carry arms and defend itself” as the top reason for the failure.

Interestingly, the poll also revealed that a significant proportion of respondents  — 31 percent  — did not choose any of the six options presented, indicating a level of uncertainty or frustration with the peace process. 

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News Network
May 26,2023

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Dubai-based billionaire businessman Micky Jagtiani, who founded retail giant Landmark Group, has passed away. The chairman and owner of the group was 70 years old.

With a net worth of $5.2 billion, he was ranked 511 on the Forbes' 37th annual world billionaires list earlier this year. 

Jagtiani was originally from India and started the business in 1973 with one store in Bahrain. He then expanded the business across the west Asia, Africa and India. According to Forbes, Jagtiani drove a taxi in London before moving to Bahrain and starting a baby products shop.

Currently, his wife Renuka runs the Landmark Group as chairman and chief executive officer (CEO).

His three children are directors in the group, overseeing different aspects of the business.

The Landmark Group also entered India in 1999 and has a range of retail brands like Lifestyle and Max for clothes and Home Center for furniture and home furnishings.

The Dubai-headquartered group also operates brands Babyshop, Centrepoint, Home Centre, Lifestyle, Splash, Shoemart and Emax.

"Today Dubai lost a man who was a key player in the retail and real estate industry. Micky Jagtiani the founder of land mark group has passed away," tweeted Emirati businessman Majid Saif Al Ghurair.

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