Over 2 million Muslim pilgrims converge at Mount Arafat for daylong worship as Hajj reaches its peak

Agencies
June 15, 2024

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Mount Arafat, June 15: Following the footsteps of prophets beneath a burning sun, Muslims from around the world congregated Saturday at a sacred hill in Saudi Arabia for intense, daylong worship and reflection.

The ritual at Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage. It is often the most memorable for pilgrims, who stand shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet, asking God for mercy, blessings, prosperity and good health. The mount is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Makkah.

It’s believed that Prophet Muhammad delivered his final speech, known as the Farewell Sermon, at the sacred mount 1,435 years ago. In the sermon, the prophet called for equality and unity among Muslims.

“It’s indescribable,” Ahmed Tukeyia, an Egyptian pilgrim, said on his arrival Friday evening at a tent camp at the foot of Mount Arafat.

Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. The rituals officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina, a desert plain just outside the city.

Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million, approaching pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to make the demanding pilgrimage.

The rituals largely commemorate the Qur’an’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajjar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.

The time of year when the Hajj takes place varies, given that it is set for five days in the second week of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar.

Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. When it falls in the summer months, temperatures can soar to over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The Health Ministry has cautioned that temperatures at the holy sites could reach 48 C (118 F). It urged pilgrims to use umbrellas and drink more water to stay hydrated.

After Saturday’s worship in Arafat, pilgrims will travel a few kilometers (miles) to a site known as Muzdalifa to collect pebbles that they will use in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil back in Mina.

Pilgrims then return to Mina for three days, coinciding with the festive Eid Al-Adha holiday, when financially able Muslims around the world slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to poor people. Afterward, they return to Makkah for a final circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf.

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal. Most of the pilgrims then leave Makkah for the city of Medina, some 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In recent years, Saudi authorities have made significant efforts to improve access and avoid deadly accidents. Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed across the city, especially around the holy sites, to control the crowds, and the government built a high-speed rail link to ferry people between holy sites in the city, which has been jammed with traffic during the Hajj season. Pilgrims enter through special electronic gates.

Saudi authorities have also expanded and renovated the Grand Mosque where cranes are seen around some of its seven minarets as construction was underway in the holy site.

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News Network
July 7,2024

An elderly man from Karnataka’s Shivamogga who had tested positive for Zika virus, died late Friday. Since the patient had comorbidities, doctors are yet to ascertain whether his death was directly caused by the virus.

Nonetheless, this is the first reported incident of death in Karnataka of a patient with traces of the deadly virus in his body this year. Another patient infected with the virus in Shivamogga is currently under treatment at home.

District health officer (DHO) Dr Nataraj said the 74-year-old man who died was suffering from breathing problems and other age-related issues. "He died at his residence in Gandhinagar after being discharged from the hospital," Dr Nataraj said. The patient was admitted to a private hospital on June 18.

After his blood and urine samples were tested, the hospital referred the results to McGann Hospital. Experts at McGann analysed the samples and forwarded them to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Bengaluru for a final report.

On June 21, the report from NIV confirmed that the patient was infected with Zika virus. Since then, he was under treatment at a private hospital.
However, despite his unstable condition, his family insisted on getting him discharged against medical advice. The patient was taken home early on Friday. He passed away later that night.

"Zika virus has no special treatment, except for symptomatic treatment, like any other viral infection," the DHO explained.

"Every day, we analyse all test reports and if there is any suspicion, we send the sample in question to NIV for confirmation. Samples collected from pregnant women with symptoms are taken special care of and are invariably sent to the NIV," the DHO further said.

Symptoms

Zika virus is transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquito bites that happen mostly during the day. Patients showing symptoms such as headache, joint and muscle pain, conjunctivitis must be monitored for more than a week, a health official said. Seeking medical advise during the first few days after contracting the virus is crucial.

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News Network
July 12,2024

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Microsoft has reportedly closed the email accounts of Palestinians living abroad, cutting off their access to online services used to contact relatives in Gaza amid the ongoing genocidal Israeli war.

Some Palestinians told the BBC on Thursday that their email accounts were closed without any explanation.

They added that this closure prevented them from accessing bank accounts, job offers, and the Skype application used to communicate with family members in the besieged Gaza.

“They killed my life online," said Eiad Hametto, who lives in Saudi Arabia.

"They’ve suspended my email account that I’ve had for nearly 20 years - It was connected to all my work.”

Hametto also said being cut off from Skype was a huge blow for his family.

Microsoft alleged that the affected users had violated its terms of service, but the Palestinians rejected the claim.

“We are civilians with no political background who just wanted to check on our families,” Hametto stressed. 

Salah Elsadi, who lives in the US, said that his Microsoft Hotmail account and all associated services were deactivated in April.

"I've had this Hotmail for 15 years," he said. "They banned me for no reason, saying I have violated their terms - what terms? Tell me. I've filled out about 50 forms and called them many many times."

Another Palestinian Khalid Obaied said he had paid for a package to make phone calls, but he was banned after 10 days for no reason.

"That means it's only because I’m a Palestinian calling Gaza,” he added.

Israel unleashed its brutal Gaza onslaught on October 7 after Hamas carried out its historic operation against the occupying entity in retaliation for the regime’s intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, the Tel Aviv regime has so far killed at least 38,345 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in Gaza, and injured 88,295 others.

The Israeli aggression has disrupted telecommunication services (landline, mobile, and internet) in the Gaza Strip. 

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News Network
July 16,2024

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More than 9,000 students have been killed and more than 15,000 others wounded in the ongoing Israeli war on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, reports the Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

The official Palestinian Wafa news agency, citing the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, reported on Tuesday that a total of 9,241 students had been killed and 15,182 injured since the start of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank on October 7, 2023.

The Ministry reported that over 9,138 students were killed in the Gaza Strip, while 14,671 others were injured there.

With Gaza's education system decimated, some 620,000 school-age Palestinians are out of school and more than 88,000 students are unable to enroll in universities, according to the ministry.

In West Bank, 103 students were killed, 505 injured and around 357 students were detained during the nine months of war.

The report also indicated that a total of 497 teachers and administrators have been reported killed, with 3,426 others injured in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

In the Gaza Strip, a total of 353 educational institutions, including government schools, universities, university buildings, and 65 belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA), were targeted in bombings and acts of vandalism.

Out of these buildings, 139 suffered severe damage, 93 were completely destroyed, and 133 government schools in the Gaza Strip were repurposed as shelter centers, according to the report.

In the West Bank, 69 schools and five universities have been attacked and vandalized.

The bloodshed in Gaza’s schools-turned-shelters, which Israel alleges are used by Palestinian resistance movement Hamas as hiding spots, has been a recurring scene throughout the war.

Only in the past 10 days, five UN-run schools have been hit by Israel forces, UNRWA posted on social X platform.

UNRWA in its recent report said that its facilities in Gaza had been attacked by Israel 453 times since the war began last October, and that more than 500 people sheltering in its buildings had been killed. The UN has also said that 80 percent of schools in the territory have been destroyed or damaged.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, has recently described the number of wounded children as “staggering” in Gaza.

Israel’s war has killed at least 38,713 people, including nearly 16,000 children, in Gaza since early October last year. Tens of thousands have also been wounded.

Some 21,000 children are also missing while 17,000 have been orphaned. 

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