Egypt’s Sisi Opens Huge Suspension Bridge over the Nile

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt’s Sisi Opens Huge Suspension Bridge over the Nile

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019 – 11:15
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday opened a suspension bridge over the Nile touted as the world’s widest, one of a series of military-led, mega-projects designed to improve infrastructure and provide jobs.

The bridge, which crosses the Nile just north of central Cairo, is a key link in a highway stretching from the Red Sea in the east to Egypt’s northwestern Mediterranean coast, and is meant to help reduce congestion in the capital.

Traffic ground to a halt in parts of central Cairo on Wednesday morning as Sisi traveled to open the bridge with ministers and military generals.

At its widest, the bridge has six traffic lanes in each direction and measures 67.3 meters (222 feet) across. A regional director for the Guinness Book of World Records present at the opening said that makes it the world’s widest suspension bridge.

Around one million cubic meters of concrete as well as 1,400 km (2,268 miles) of steel wire for 160 suspension cables were used in its construction, according to a presentation given at the formal opening.

The bridge crosses the Nile’s Warraq Island, which has an estimated 100,000 residents, some of whom have protested against planned demolitions on the island and plans to develop it into a “modern residential community”.

Other prestige projects launched under Sisi include an expansion of the Suez Canal, completed in 2015, and the building of a new capital in the desert east of Cairo that is currently under construction.

Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt’s Dar Al Ifta: ISIS Issued Controversial Fatwas in Ramadan

Saturday, 11 May, 2019 – 09:45
AAAWSAT AR Website
Cairo – Waleed Abdurrahman
Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, an Egyptian body which works to keep contemporary Muslims in touch with religious principles, said that 10 religious edicts released by the terror group ISIS are highly controversial.

For the time during Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan, the terror group outlawed keeping special calendars, allowing women outside homes during the day, decorating homes, and lighting incense.

“Hardliners and radical groups are the furthest away from the guidance and teachings of the prophet (pbuh) and his family. Prohet Mohammad, the messenger of Allah, taught values of compassion. He did not come to order us to kill or slaughter, nor to corrupt the earth,” a Dar al-Ifta source told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Egyptian scholastic body is used as a global reference for Muslims looking for clarity on the “the right way,” the removal of doubts concerning religious and worldly life, and religious law for the new issues of contemporary life.

More so, the terror group has exempted fighters engaged in duty from fasting, releasing an edict which justified the exception by saying that fasting exhausts and strains combatants during battle.

Another fatwa prevented women from going out during daytime in Ramadan, so that their departure does not lead to sedition. Female Muslims, only when guided by a guardian, are allowed outside the confines of their houses after the intermittent fasting period is up.

Saying it aims to bolster devotion ahead of Eid El-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam’s lunar month of fasting, ISIS released another fatwa ordering the closure of all commercial shops 10 days ahead of the holiday. Its justification was that the closure of shops will help Muslims observe religious affairs more intently.

One of the more extreme ISIS fatwas was one which disclaimed the fasting of non-ISIS Muslims. This outrageously means that Muslim congregations living in ISIS-run neighborhoods could be subjected to punishment if found fasting during Ramadan.

Egypt: Life Sentences For 53 Defendants In ‘Nahda Events’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Egypt: Life Sentences for 53 Defendants in ‘Nahda Events’

Monday, 6 May, 2019 – 09:00
A protester reacts during demonstrations in Cairo January 29, 2011. (File photo: Reuters)
Cairo – Asharq Al-Awsat
An Egyptian court on Sunday handed life sentences to 53 people for participating in the “Muslim Brotherhood” gathering at al-Nahda Square in Giza in 2013.

Two others were given a one-year prison sentence, while 10 were acquitted of the charges during a retrial.

The total number of defendants in the case is 379, including 189 detainees.

The court also ordered the accused to pay EGP 2 million to Orman Park, EGP 10 million for Giza province, and EGP 25 million to the Engineering Faculty at Cairo University for damages.

The prosecution accused the defendants of organizing a gathering in Nahda Square, putting the lives of citizens at stake, resisting police forces responsible for dispersing the rally, premeditated murder and carrying unlicensed weapons and ammunition.

Last month, the Court of Cassation rejected 66 appeals in the same case, upholding the verdicts.

The court also acquitted 115 defendants and terminated the criminal prosecution of two defendants after they died. All defendants were fined EGP 39 million for the damages they caused at the zoo, al-Orman, Giza Governorate, and Engineering Faculty at Cairo University.

On August 14, 2013, the Egyptian security services broke up two protests- the Rabaa sit-in in Cairo, and the Nahda protest in neighboring Giza – following the toppling of the regime of former president Mohamed Morsi, who is considered a terrorist by the authorities.

In addition, the Criminal Court of Cairo decided to adjourn Morsi’s retrial, along with a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and top officials in the lawsuit known as the “illegal crossing of eastern borders.”

The trial was postponed to Saturday after a number of detained defendants failed to appear in court.

Palestinian Authority Rejects Direct Arab Support To Hamas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Palestinian Authority Rejects Direct Arab Support to Hamas

Monday, 29 April, 2019 – 08:15
Head of Hamas delegation Saleh Arouri and Fatah leader Azzam Ahmad sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo, Egypt, October 12, 2017. (Reuters)
Ramallah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The reconciliation between Hamas movement and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has seen no development in the past few weeks, according to informed Palestinian sources.

The sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Fatah’s position remains unaltered and that it had informed the Egyptian leadership that there was no need for any dialogue with Hamas, but rather it should implement the reconciliation agreement of 2017.

The sources pointed out that the policy of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, will restrict the money that reaches Hamas. They indicated that the Authority does not want to keep an ATM for Hamas and do not want any Arab funds to reach the movement directly.

The funds must come through the PA, because it’s capable of employing them to provide relief to Gaza Strip. Otherwise, it will be a direct support for Hamas.

A Fatah delegation recently visited Cairo and conveyed fears to Egypt regarding the ceasefire in Gaza, especially the flow of money to Hamas. Fatah has rejected suggestions from regional countries for a meeting of Palestinian factions.

Fatah says there won’t be any meeting with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements before they recognize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people, and there will be no meetings regarding reconciliation.

In the context, Secretary of the Central Committee of Fatah, Major General Jibril al-Rajoub said that Hamas is required to take practical steps to end the division.

Rajoub noted that the movement should do what’s necessary to establish a national front based on fortifying the national project based on an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital within the 1967 borders and the return of refugees.

He stressed that Hamas must first remove all forms of its authority in Gaza, return the government to the Strip to carry out its duties and its responsibilities as the Palestinian national government from Rafah to Jenin.

Rajoub noted that the concept of partnership is embodied in a genuine democratic process, such as the recent elections of student councils in the universities of the West Bank.

Earlier, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he was ready to meet with Abbas in order to restore national unity in the face of the “deal of the century”.

“Hamas has no veto on any meeting that would ensure unity and end the division in order to provide elements of perseverance and confrontation against the deal of the century,” Haniyeh explained.

“Reconciliation and unity are urgent demands… We don’t want an alternative to the PLO,” he added.

Haniyeh’s remarks on the PLO were in response to previous accusations by its officials against Hamas.

PLO officials had previously said that the movement was seeking to form an alternative to the organization. It had called on all Palestinian factions to boycott a supreme body that Hamas has been trying to form on the pretext of confronting the deal of the century.

African Union Dispatches Delegate To Sudan

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

African Union Dispatches Delegate to Sudan

Monday, 29 April, 2019 – 09:15
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi poses for a photo with heads of several African states during a summit to discuss Sudan and Libya, in Cairo, Egypt April 23, 2019. (Reuters)
Nouakchott – Al-Sheikh Mohammed
The African Union (AU) has sent special envoy Mauritanian diplomat Mohamed El-Hassan Ould Labbat to Sudan following the political crisis the country has seen since the toppling of former President Omar al-Bashir.

The Union said that the new envoy is tasked with providing African assistance to the efforts of the parties in order to lay the foundations for an urgent democratic transitional phase in the country.

The AU stressed that this phase must end with the establishment of a democratic system and civil governance in Sudan.

By choosing Labbat as the envoy, the AU wants to keep abreast of developments in Sudan, facilitate the transition and establish communication between all parties.

AU Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat had visited Khartoum and held intensive meetings with the leaders of the ruling transitional military council and the opposition forces.

Mahamat had previously granted the council 15 days to hand over power to civilians.

The AU had held a summit in Egypt on Tuesday and agreed to give Sudan’s ruling military council two weeks to six months to hand over power to a civilian government – a key opposition demand.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, who holds the rotating AU presidency, said that the meeting agreed on the need to deal with the situation in Sudan by working to “quickly restore the constitutional system through a political democratic process led and managed by the Sudanese themselves”.

“We agreed on the need to give more time to Sudanese authorities and Sudanese parties to implement these measures,” he added.

The presidents of Chad, Djibouti, Rwanda, the Congo, Somalia and South Africa, the AU commissioner and representatives of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria participated in the Cairo summit.

Mahamat warned that if Sudan’s military rulers fail to hand over power to a civilian government by the end of the deadline, the country’s membership in the Union will be suspended.

(Persian) Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Gulf Acquisitions, Mergers Grow by 39 Percent

Sunday, 28 April, 2019 – 08:45
General view of Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. (Reuters)
London – Mutlaq Muneer
The number of merger and acquisition deals (M&As) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) grew 39 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2019, according to a report released by Kuwait Financial Center (MARKAZ) on Saturday.

The Saudi market topped the Arabian Gulf markets in terms of M&As in Q1-19, in which the sector witnessed Aramco’s 70 percent acquisition of SABIC in a deal worth USD69.1 billion.

In January, the Kuwait Finance House (KFH) said it gave initial approval for the average of stock exchange with AUB Bahrain at a rate of 2.33 shares of AUB’s in return for one share in KFH, added the report.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), listed on Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), announced last month that its general assembly approved its merger with Union National Bank (UNB).

Italy’s Eni and Austria’s OMV will collectively acquire a 35 percent stake in ADNOC Refining for an estimated USD5.8 billion, whereby ADNOC will retain the remaining 65 percent stake in the company. KKR and BlackRock have acquired a 40 percent stake in ADNOC Oil Pipelines, an entity that will lease ADNOC’s interest in 18 pipelines for 23 years.

GCC acquirers accounted for 60 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 75 percent during Q4 2018. Foreign acquirers accounted for 34 percent of the total number of transactions during Q1 2019 and 17 percent during Q4 2018. Buyer information was not available for 6 percent of the transactions in Q1 2019.

Each of the GCC acquirers seemed to have a different appetite with regards to M&A transactions during Q1 2019.

Kuwaiti acquirers preferred investing in their home country. Saudi acquirers mostly invested in their home country and equally between other GCC countries and outside the GCC. UAE acquirers mostly invested outside the GCC and within their home country. Bahraini acquirers only invested outside the GCC. Qatari and Omani acquirers each engaged in one acquisition in their respective countries.

Q1 2019 witnessed a 70 percent increase in the number of completed transactions by foreign buyers compared to Q1 2018. In comparison to Q4 2018, the number of such transactions grew by 89 percent.

UAE targets represented 71 percent of the closed transactions by foreign acquirers during Q1 2019, while Saudi Arabia and Kuwait represented 23 percent and 6 percent respectively of the transactions during the same period. Bahraini, Omani and Qatari targets did not attract any foreign buyers during Q1 2019.

As per MARKAZ’s report, the industrial, financial and consumer sectors in the GCC accounted for 62 percent of M&As in the region during the first three months of 2019.

The media, insurance, telecommunication services and aviation sectors each accounted for 2 percent of the total closed transactions during Q1 2019, collectively amounting to 8 percent of the transactions during the period.

There was a total of 14 announced transactions in the pipeline during Q1 2019, representing a 27 percent increase in the number of announced transactions compared to Q4 2018.

UAE and Saudi Arabia collectively accounted for 79 percent of the announced transactions during Q1 2019. Oman and Qatar made up 21 percent of the announced transactions.

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

ISIS Survival Hangs by a Thread, Desperate Fatwas

Friday, 5 April, 2019 – 10:45
(Image from Arabic Website/ no caption)
Cairo – Waleed Abdurahman
Ailed by losing its final Syria stronghold, in the eastern town of Baghouz, ISIS is pinning high hopes on its outlandish and radical edicts, or fatwas, to prop up its comeback. A recently published Global Fatwa Index (GFI) document, prepared by Egypt’s Dar El-Ifta (an educational institute and a center for Islamic legal research), broke down the transformation ISIS literature and religious fatwas have undergone over the last few years.

Early fatwas issued by the group were violent in calling for “garnering support” enough to materialize a so-called Islamic caliphate. During its prime on the Syria-Iraq theater, ISIS guidance worked to uphold the status quo by encouraging members to plunder and violate international conventions on human rights.

With the caliphate going into decline, the group’s edicts started to tilt towards desperation, at times taking stock in labeling “patience” as virtuous and defeat as a “test of will.” It also focused on promising a martyr’s heaven to its scattered and discombobulated fighters.

The GFI report reaffirmed that the fatwas suggest the group’s ‘clinical death,’ especially that they are almost entirely focused on combating despair that is dousing its supporter base. ISIS has gone from missionizing and authorizing its recruits to plunder and enforce their radical ideology to asking them to donate and give up their lives in exchange for the caliphate’s rebirth.

At least 30% of recent edicts called for overthrowing Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, under whose leadership ISIS had fallen flat on its face. Another 25% urged for donations and 20% ordered persistence among “believers.”

But these are hardly as shocking as the 15% of total decrees recently issued and that absolve ISIS supporters from the responsibility to defend their comrades, especially those who are pursued by security agencies abroad.

ISIS expansionist and pro-jihad edicts represented a shy 5% of total laws dished out by the group’s leaders.

Among the key factors that led to lethally slashing ISIS influence and consequently defeating the group, according to the GFI, is the killing of 30% of its fighters in battle and the fierce anti-terror crackdown it faces worldwide.

International security services taking down 25% of ISIS’ social media accounts coupled with adherents losing faith in the group’s leaders, has also left ISIS in the face of a double whammy. The group’s rift with other terror groups and dried funding has also steered ISIS into a tight corner, making it easier to defeat.

Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

READ MORE:

Hundreds protest reported Gaza ceasefire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Hundreds protest reported Gaza ceasefire, block Sderot roads with burning tires

Some demonstrators in rocket-battered town clash with police, chant ‘Bibi go home’; protesters said planning rally in Tel Aviv Wednesday

Protesters burn tires at the entrance to the southern town of Sderot, Novermber 13, 2018 (Hadashot screenshot)

Protesters burn tires at the entrance to the southern town of Sderot, November 13, 2018 (Hadashot screenshot)

Hundreds of people were demonstrating Tuesday evening at the entrance to the town of Sderot over Israel’s reported agreement for a ceasefire with Gaza’s Hamas terrorist rulers, after a 25-hour period that saw over 460 rockets fired at Israeli communities near the Palestinian enclave.

Protesters were blocking roads and burning tires, with some chanting, “Bibi go home,” using a nickname for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confrontations were reported between protesters and policemen.

Police said they were working to restore order, saying they would “allow freedom of expression and lawful protest” but not “disturbance of public order, violence towards policemen and civilians and riots on major roads.”

Some 500 people were reported to be taking part in the protest.

According to Hadashot TV news, some southern residents planned further demonstrations and road blockages in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to protest the truce.

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Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay expressed support for the protesters, saying it was a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them.

He said the government had failed the south by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war.

“This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment.”

Hamas and other Gaza terror groups said Tuesday they had accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Israel. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, and there was no immediate comment from Israel. But a senior Israeli diplomatic official appeared to confirm the reported armistice.

“Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect],” the official said, on condition of anonymity.

Many southern residents were unhappy with the decision.

“It’s better that we suffer in shelters and they put an end to it once and for all,” Reut Bassis of Sderot told Hadashot. “A month from today the same thing will happen…it doesn’t make sense that our lives are like this.”

Another Sderot resident, Miri, said: “The IDF is hitting empty buildings, while sending them trucks with cement and construction materials. Where’s our self-respect? We’ve been at war for 17 years.”

Another man, Yohanan Cohen, said he had lost faith in the prime minister. “I’ve been a Likud man for 40 years but I promise I won’t vote Likud anymore. We’re captives of Hamas.”

People gather outside a house that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on November 13, 2018. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Channel 10 news reported Tuesday evening that at least four senior ministers opposed the decision.

The report said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers.

An unnamed minister who attended the seven-hour meeting Tuesday told the news outlet that no vote was held to determine the next steps. A source with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed to the Times of Israel there was no vote.

The source confirmed there were several disagreements between cabinet members, some of which were the focus of debate for a number of hours. They would not comment on the content of the disagreements.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the security cabinet released a statement that read, “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”

According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.

A home in the southern Israeli town of Netivot that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on November 12, 2018. (Israel Police)

In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”

In recent weeks, Egyptian and UN mediators had appeared to be making progress in brokering informal understandings aimed at quieting the situation.

Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million to Gaza to allow cash-strapped Hamas to pay the salaries of thousands of government workers. At the same time, Hamas has lowered the intensity of violent border protests in recent weeks.

The fighting on Monday and Tuesday cast doubt over understandings previously brokered by Egypt and UN officials to reduce tensions. Just a day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended those understandings, saying he was doing everything possible to avoid another “unnecessary war.”

READ MORE:

Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb

Men carry mummified cats from a tomb at the Saqqara necropolis in Egypt on Saturday.

Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

The more archaeologists continue to explore the tombs of ancient Egypt, the more evidence mounts that ancient Egyptians admired cats — and loved mummifying them.

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

The Ministry of Antiquities was clear about its goals in announcing the discoveries: attracting visitors back to Egypt’s heritage sites, as the country has experienced a significant drop in tourists since the 2011 mass protests that overthrew dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak.

The ministry tweeted photos of the findings. Pictures of the cat statues took front and center — with the ancient felines looking proud and cool, like an upscale, 4,500-year-old version of what a cat fancier today might try to commission.

The mummified cats themselves … well, those images are more unsettling, though they offer incontrovertible evidence that mummification is highly effective.

While ancient Egyptians saw cats as divine, they didn’t exactly worship them, Antonietta Catanzariti, curator of the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery exhibit Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, told NPR last year.

“What they did is to observe their behavior,” she said, and create gods and goddesses in their image — much as they did with other animals, including dogs, crocodiles, snakes and bulls.

And while cat mummies are fascinating, Catanzariti said they were also pretty common in ancient Egypt, where cats were bred for the purpose. “In the 1890s, people from England went to Egypt and they collected all these mummies. One cargo was 180,000 of them.”

An Egyptian archaeologist cleans mummified cats in the necropolis at Saqqara, south of Cairo, on Saturday.

Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps that’s why the antiquities ministry made a bigger deal about something else they discovered in the tomb: mummified scarab beetles. Two large specimens were found wrapped in linen, apparently in very good condition. They were inside sarcophagi decorated with drawings of scarabs.

“The (mummified) scarab is something really unique. It is something really a bit rare,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told outlets including Reuters.

“A couple of days ago, when we discovered those coffins, they were sealed coffins with drawings of scarabs. I never heard about them before.”