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Archive for the ‘Land of the Arab Revival’ Category

At least 18 people die in flash flood in Jordan

Friday 26/10/2018

DEAD SEA – At least 18 people, mainly schoolchildren and teachers, were killed on Thursday in a flash flood near Jordan’s Dead Sea that happened while they were on an outing, rescuers and hospital workers said.

Thirty-four people were rescued in a major operation involving police helicopters and hundreds of army troops, police chief Brigadier General Farid al Sharaa told state television. Some of those rescued were in a serious condition.

Many of those killed were children under 14. A number of families picnicking in the popular destination were also among the dead and injured, rescuers said, without giving a breakdown of numbers.

Hundreds of families and relatives converged on Shounah hospital a few kilometers from the resort area. Relatives sobbed and searched for details about the missing children, a witness said.

King Abdullah cancelled a trip to Bahrain to follow the rescue operations, state media said.

Israel sent search-and-rescue helicopters to assist, an Israeli military statement said, adding the team dispatched at Amman’s request was operating on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.

Civil defence spokesman Captain Iyad al Omar told Reuters the number of casualties was expected to rise. Rescue workers using flashlights were searching the cliffs near the shore of the Dead Sea where bodies had been found.

A witness said a bus with 37 schoolchildren and seven teachers had been on a trip to the resort area when the raging flood waters swept them into a valley.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: https://middle-east-online.com/en/least-18-people-die-flash-flood-jordan%C2%A0.

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What pushed Jordan to reclaim land from Israel?

Thursday 25/10/2018

AMMAN – A decision by Jordan’s King Abdullah II to reclaim territory leased to Israel for a quarter of a century was spurred by domestic pressures and the Arab nation’s struggling economy, experts said.

The move announced at the weekend risks sparking a crisis between the neighboring countries which signed an historic peace treaty in 1994, they warned.

King Abdullah said his country had notified Israel that it wants to take back two border areas: Baqura in the northern province of Irbid and Ghumar in the southern province of Aqaba.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would like to open negotiations with Jordan to keep the current arrangement in place.

The Hashemite kingdom said it was willing to engage in talks but insisted on its right to reclaim the land.

Israel occupied Jordanian territories including Ghumar in the Six-Day War of 1967 and seized Baqura when its forces infiltrated the kingdom in 1950.

During peace talks, Jordan agreed to lease the lands to Israel for a 25-year renewable period under annexes of the treaty that lay down a one-year notice period, with the kingdom retaining sovereignty.

King Abdullah’s announcement on Sunday came days before the end of this notice period.

“The king had two choices: either risking a crisis with Israel, or risking protests and a worsening of the internal situation,” said Oraib Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman.

“Jordanians on the street are angry, especially over the economy, and they don’t need new crises or disappointments,” he said.

‘Nationalist card’

Jordan, largely dependent on foreign aid and devoid of natural resources, has been plagued by economic woes, with a jobless rate of 18.5 percent and around 20 percent of the population teetering on the brink of poverty as consumer prices rise.

The king’s announcement came after a series of demonstrations calling for the return of Baqura and Ghumar organised by lawmakers, political parties, trade unions and activists.

The move was greeted with joy by many Jordanians.

“The Jordanian people are happy with this courageous decision,” said teacher Mohammed Hassan.

Suad Yussef, a housewife, said it was an “historic moment”.

For Kirk H. Sowell, a Jordan-based analyst for Utica Risk Services, the decision was “the least that King Abdullah can do to play the nationalist card”.

“It is definitely directed at the domestic audience” in a country with “loads of internal socio-economic problems” but “few options in pushing back at Israel,” Sowell said.

Rantawi said that “going back on this decision is impossible” as it would be likely to destabilize the kingdom.

In June, a parliamentary delegation from the opposition Islamist bloc Al-Islah visited Baqura, where Jordanians need permission to enter.

The delegation was headed by Saleh al-Armuti, who said “the decision is that of the king, the people’s government and the parliament and we strongly support and defend it”.

“We will go further by demanding the cancellation of all agreements signed with the Zionist enemy,” he said.

‘Suicidal choice’

Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.

The Baqura zone amounts to six square kilometers (2.3 square miles) and Ghumar covers four square kilometers — land where Israeli farmers cultivate cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Rantawi does not rule out the possibility that Israel will “impede the implementation of the Jordanian decision”.

“Jordan could face a political, economic and legal battle with Israel,” he said.

“Netanyahu wants negotiations to extend the agreement, which would be a suicidal choice for Jordan.”

Relations between the two countries have been tense since the killing of two Jordanians by an Israeli embassy security guard in Amman in July last year.

But Sowell said he believes Israel does not have the legal means to challenge the Jordanian decision.

“Israel has means of pushing back on Jordan, by cutting off the water, or not lobbying for Jordan in (the US) Congress as they normally do, but whether they should is a different question,” he said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: https://middle-east-online.com/en/what-pushed-jordan-reclaim-land-israel.

Ex-Jordan MP: Abbas lost his legitimacy

August 31, 2018

Former Jordanian lawmaker Hind Al-Fayez said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has lost his legitimacy and everyone can assert that he is not working to benefit Palestinians.

Al-Fayez told Shehab.ps that the Palestinian Authority, which refuses to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, confirms that it does not represent the Palestinians and that it is administered by Israel.

“While Gaza is suffering from siege and hardship and its people live in the largest prison in the world, Abbas imposes more sanctions on it. Does he care about the homeland or the people’s interest?” she asked.

“Mahmoud Abbas and his sons, who have billions of dollars in international banks, does he care about Gaza, the homeland or the people?” Al-Fayez added, stressing on the importance of the Great Marches of Return and breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.

“The Palestinian child in Gaza uses paper and stone against the occupation, while the authority can only arrest resistance and partake in security coordination with the occupation,” she added.

Al-Fayez said the marches have strengthened Gaza’s position and – for the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli relations – there is a strong Arab party and that party is Gaza.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180831-ex-jordan-mp-abbas-lost-his-legitimacy/.

Jordan gives up idea of large nuclear power plant

June 29, 2018

The chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Khaled Toukan, announced today that his country has abandoned the idea of establishing a nuclear power plant, which was planned to be built with Russian technology with a capacity of 2,000 megawatt.

Dr. Toukan told a news conference that the commission has abandoned the construction of a large plant and will consider building small reactors. The chairman added that small reactors need less funding and are more likely to be sponsored internationally than large stations.

The official explained that the small reactors began to appear world wide after Fukushima nuclear disaster and the scientific developments that followed this incident.

He added that the Commission signed two memorandums of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation to conduct economic feasibility studies of Chinese technology this year.

He clarified also that the Commission is currently negotiating with China to build the same reactor that China is currently constructing, indicating that no contract will be signed before the actual activation of the Chinese reactor and linking it to the network for two years at least.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180629-jordan-gives-up-idea-of-large-nuclear-power-plant/.

4 Jordanian troops, 3 suspected militants dead in clash

August 12, 2018

SALT, Jordan (AP) — Jordanian search teams pulled the bodies of three suspected militants from the rubble of their hideout, a government official said Sunday, hours after assailants opened fire and set off explosions that killed four members of the security forces trying to storm the building.

The clash late on Saturday was among the deadliest between suspected militants and Jordanian security forces in recent years. It raised new concerns about attempts by domestic and foreign militants to carry out attacks and destabilize the pro-Western kingdom.

Jordan has played a key role in an international military coalition that helped push back the extremist group Islamic State in neighboring Syria and Iraq. The chain of events in Jordan began Friday when assailants detonated a home-made bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital of Amman.

The blast, labeled a terrorist attack by Jordan’s prime minister, killed a police officer. Jordanian authorities did not say what motivated the Fuheis attackers, and there was no claim of responsibility.

Security forces chasing the suspects zeroed in on a multi-story building in the town of Salt, near Fuheis, and attempted to storm it late Saturday. The suspects holed up inside opened fire and set off powerful explosions, officials said. A wing of the building collapsed.

In initial statements late Saturday, government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat said three members of the security forces were killed. She said Sunday that a fourth officer had died and that the bodies of three suspects were pulled from the rubble. Five suspects are in custody.

The Hala Akhbar news website linked to Jordan’s military said the suspects are Jordanians and that the cell had planned to attack security installations and other sensitive targets. The site said the suspects had been armed with explosives, grenades and weapons.

Jordan has been a target for attacks by Islamic State in recent years. In June 2016, a cross-border car bombing launched from Syria killed seven Jordanian border guards. In December 2016, a shootout at a Crusader castle in the southern town of Karak left 14 people dead, including seven members of the security forces, four militants and three civilians.

Jordan is considered to an important security ally, particularly by the United States and Israel which view any signs of unrest there with concern. The kingdom has cracked down on suspected militants in recent years, imposing prison terms of several years for suspected sympathizers, including those expressing support for militant ideology on social media.

At the same time, hopelessness and alienation among some of the kingdom’s young people, driven by high youth unemployment, have provided fertile ground for recruitment by militant groups.

Associated Press writer Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

HRW criticizes Jordan’s end to medical protection for Syrians

2018-03-25

AMMAN – Human Rights Watch criticized on Sunday Jordan’s decision to end medical protections for Syrian refugees residing outside of camps in the kingdom.

Jordan, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled war in their country since 2011, took a “step forward” and another “step back for urban refugees”, granting them legal status while revoking health subsidies, HRW said.

On March 4, Jordan began to regularize the status of thousands of vulnerable refugees who live outside camps, a move aimed at protecting them from arrest and facilitating better access to education and employment opportunities.

The decision came less than two months after authorities in January moved to revoke the eligibility of Syrians living outside camps to receive subsidized healthcare.

“The move to regularize the status of Syrian refugees in Jordan’s urban areas means that they no longer have to live underground, promising a better future for their children,” said Bill Van Esvald, senior children’s rights researcher at HRW.

“Jordan and its international donors should not undermine these improvements by pulling the rug out from under refugees on health care that families are already struggling to afford.”

Syrian refugees in Jordan had access to free healthcare from 2012 to 2014. Since then they had received the same subsidies as uninsured Jordanians, the watchdog said.

January’s decision, which is expected to affect 30,000-50,000 Syrians, will require refugees in urban areas to pay the same rates as other foreigners at public hospitals “with 80 percent up-front”, HRW said.

Jordanian officials have not explained the reasons for the change in their medical protection policy, but have in the past pointed to the exorbitant cost of providing healthcare services to refugees, it said.

From the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011 though 2016, Jordanian authorities spent nearly $2.1 billion (1.7 billion euro) on health services for Syrians, the rights group said.

More than 650,000 Syrian refugees are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan while Amman says the kingdom is hosting more than one million refugees from Syria.

Funds provided by international donors for Syrian refugee medical care in Jordan met only 66 percent of what was needed for 2017, HRW estimated.

As of February, the UNHCR had only received $17.8 million of the $274.9 million budget it needs for Jordan in 2018, it said.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=87817.

Jordanian attempts to commit suicide in parliament

July 21, 2018

Jordanian security on Thursday rescued a man who tried to throw himself off the balcony in the parliament building.

The man shouted: “I am seeking help from you,” before trying to jump while parliament were in session to approve the new government.

Parliament Speaker Atef Tarawneh asked security to take the man to his office in order for him to listen to his complaint after the parliament session ended.

However, Jordan’s newly appointed Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz hugged the man and went out of the parliament chamber with him.

During the session, parliament approved Al-Razzaz’s government with overwhelming majority.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180721-jordanian-attempts-to-commit-suicide-in-parliament/.

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