Recent history (19th-21st Century)
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What a royal funeral in the UAE says about the nation's future direction

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An honor guard carries the body of UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his burial ceremony in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

Abu Dhabi, UAE (CNN)In a smooth transition of power over the weekend, the United Arab Emirates' Supreme Council of rulers selected the nation's third president.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, known as MBZ, took the reins on Saturday after his half-brother Sheikh Khalifa passed away a day earlier. The former crown prince of Abu Dhabi had been running the day-to-day affairs of the country during his brother's prolonged illness.

Sheikh Mohammed takes leadership of an evolving country. That evolution has been gradual and smooth, and was also spelled out by the government in recent policy positions.

Late last year, as part of the 50th anniversary of its founding, the UAE announced its direction for the next half-century. Foreign policy, it said, would be guided primarily by its economic interests and good neighborliness. It subsequently identified the countries that it sees as its future economic partners, singling out Israel, Turkey, India, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Indonesia, Kenya and Ethiopia as partners for trade and investment.

What could however shed more light on the nation's future direction and partnerships is the list of delegates that flew in to offer condolences.

Here's a list of noteworthy attendees, and why they matter:

United States
The US counts the UAE as one of its main allies in the Middle East, and has sought to mend fences with it amid tension stemming from what the UAE sees as the Biden administration's lackluster response to threats the UAE faces. The administration was represented by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Iran sent its foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the highest-level visit by a high-ranking Iranian official to the country in years. Relations between the two countries have been tense of late, but the UAE has reached out to the Islamic Republic and has sought to distance itself from the notion that it and Tehran are enemies.

Israel, represented by President Isaac Herzog, is the only state on the UAE's list that hasn't been a traditional trade partner. That's because relations were only normalized in 2020. But the UAE has been keen on catching up with the years of lost opportunity, signing a number of economic pacts with the country since normalization. The two nations signed a free trade agreement last month, and the UAE plans to invest $10 billion in Israel.
What one meeting in Israel says about a changing world order

The nation of over one billion has been singled out among the main economic partners of the UAE for the next fifty years. The two countries signed a major trade agreement this year, aiming to raise bilateral exchange to $100 billion in five years as the first trade agreement the South Asian economic power signed with a major trade partner in over a decade, according to local media reports. India was represented by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

Ankara and Abu Dhabi only recently turned the page on a decade-long rift over diverging positions on the region's politics. In November, the UAE launched a $10 billion fund to support investments in Turkey as leaders of the two nations exchanged visits. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to visit the UAE on Tuesday.

Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani offered condolences in his first visit to the UAE since a Saudi-led boycott of the country began in 2017. The boycott, of which the UAE was part, ended early last year.

United Kingdom
The UK is a traditional trade partner of the UAE, but one the Gulf nation seeks to significantly expand ties with. Last year, it announced a £10 billion ($13.8 billion) investment partnership with the UK, and said it could invest a further $1.4 billion. The UK was represented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. ... index.html
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Israeli Government Loses Parliament Majority, Raising Prospect of Election

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Increasing tensions between Israeli authorities and Palestinians have put pressure on the government, leading to the possibility of a fifth election in three years.

CAIRO — A second lawmaker quit Israel’s governing coalition on Thursday, giving the opposition a narrow two-seat majority in Parliament and raising the possibility of a fifth election in three years.

Although the move will not necessarily bring down the current government, a fractious coalition of parties with clashing agendas, the loss of its majority underscores its instability and the risk that any divisive issue could topple it.

The government has come under intense pressure with the recent escalation of tensions between Israeli authorities and Palestinians — including clashes at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, terrorist attacks in Israel and a heavy military response in the occupied West Bank.

The lawmaker who resigned from the coalition on Thursday, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, a member of Israel’s Palestinian minority from the left-wing Meretz party, said she disagreed with the government’s treatment of the Arab community in Israel, specifically citing recent police interventions at the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the police assault on mourners at the funeral of a Palestinian journalist last week.

Last month, a right-wing member of the coalition quit. That lawmaker, Idit Silman, said the government no longer reflected her right-wing and religious values.

The government coalition, the most diverse in Israel’s history, coalesced a year ago over one issue: a shared desire to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to break a political deadlock that had forced Israel into four elections in a row.

But the ideological incompatibility of the coalition’s eight constituent parties — an alliance of right-wing, left-wing, secular, religious and Arab groups — left it fragile from the start.

The defections could offer a political lifeline to Mr. Netanyahu, who now leads the opposition in Parliament.

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Cloud Wars: Mideast Rivalries Rise Along a New Front

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As climate change makes the region hotter and drier, the U.A.E. is leading the effort to squeeze more rain out of the clouds, and other countries are rushing to keep up.

Artificial lakes like this one in Dubai are helping fuel an insatiable demand for water in the United Arab Emirates.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Iranian officials have worried for years that other nations have been depriving them of one of their vital water sources. But it was not an upstream dam that they were worrying about, or an aquifer being bled dry.

In 2018, amid a searing drought and rising temperatures, some senior officials concluded that someone was stealing their water from the clouds.

“Both Israel and another country are working to make Iranian clouds not rain,” Brig. Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, a senior official in the country’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps, said in a 2018 speech.

The unnamed country was the United Arab Emirates, which had begun an ambitious cloud-seeding program, injecting chemicals into clouds to try to force precipitation. Iran’s suspicions are not surprising, given its tense relations with most Persian Gulf nations, but the real purpose of these efforts is not to steal water, but simply to make it rain on parched lands.

As the Middle East and North Africa dry up, countries in the region have embarked on a race to develop the chemicals and techniques that they hope will enable them to squeeze rain drops out of clouds that would otherwise float fruitlessly overhead.

With 12 of the 19 regional countries averaging less than 10 inches of rainfall a year, a decline of 20 percent over the past 30 years, their governments are desperate for any increment of fresh water, and cloud seeding is seen by many as a quick way to tackle the problem.

The tawny mountain range that rises above Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates is where summer updrafts often create clouds that make excellent candidates for seeding.

A ground crew for the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology equipping an aircraft with the hygroscopic flares that release seeding material into the clouds.

And as wealthy countries like the emirates pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the effort, other nations are joining the race, trying to ensure that they do not miss out on their fair share of rainfall before others drain the heavens dry — despite serious questions about whether the technique generates enough rainfall to be worth the effort and expense.

Morocco and Ethiopia have cloud-seeding programs, as does Iran. Saudi Arabia just started a large-scale program, and a half-dozen other Middle Eastern and North African countries are considering it.

China has the most ambitious program worldwide, with the aim of either stimulating rain or halting hail across half the country. It is trying to force clouds to rain over the Yangtze River, which is running dry in some spots.

While cloud seeding has been around for 75 years, experts say the science has yet to be proven. And they are especially dismissive of worries about one country draining clouds dry at the expense of others downwind.

The life span of a cloud, in particular the type of cumulus clouds most likely to produce rain, is rarely more than a couple of hours, atmospheric scientists say. Occasionally, clouds can last longer, but rarely long enough to reach another country, even in the Persian Gulf, where seven countries are jammed close together.

The “Surreal” water attraction at the Dubai Expo 2020 featuring a 360-degree, 14-meter-high wall of cascading water.

Dubai’s Miracle Garden claims to be the largest in the world, with more than 150 million water-sipping flowers.

But several Middle Eastern countries have brushed aside the experts’ doubts and are pushing ahead with plans to wring any moisture they can from otherwise stingy clouds.

Today, the unquestioned regional leader is the United Arab Emirates. As early as the 1990s, the country’s ruling family recognized that maintaining a plentiful supply of water would be as important as the nation’s huge oil and gas reserves in sustaining its status as the financial and business capital of the Persian Gulf.

While there had been enough water to sustain the tiny country’s population in 1960, when there were fewer than 100,000 people, by 2020 the population had ballooned to nearly 10 million. And the demand for water soared, as well. United Arab Emirates residents now use roughly 147 gallons per person a day, compared with the world average of 47 gallons, according to a 2021 research paper funded by the emirates.

Currently, that demand is being met by desalination plants. Each facility, however, costs $1 billion or more to build and requires prodigious amounts of energy to run, especially when compared with cloud seeding, said Abdulla Al Mandous, the director of the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology in the emirates and the leader of its cloud-seeding program.

After 20 years of research and experimentation, the center runs its cloud-seeding program with near military protocols. Nine pilots rotate on standby, ready to bolt into the sky as soon as meteorologists focusing on the country’s mountainous regions spot a promising weather formation — ideally, the types of clouds that can build to heights of as much as 40,000 feet.

The desert outside Dhaid, United Arab Emirates. Desertification is a growing problem in the Middle East, which is trending ever hotter and drier.

A staff member at the Emirates’ National Center of Meteorology and Seismology monitoring current and historical radar data on cloud movements in the region.

They have to be ready on a moment’s notice because promising clouds are not as common in the Middle East as in many other parts of the world.

“We are on 24-hour availability — we live within 30 to 40 minutes of the airport — and from arrival here, it takes us 25 minutes to be airborne,” said Capt. Mark Newman, a South African senior cloud-seeding pilot. In the event of multiple, potentially rain-bearing clouds, the center will send more than one aircraft.

The United Arab Emirates uses two seeding substances: the traditional material made of silver iodide and a newly patented substance developed at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi that uses nanotechnology that researchers there say is better adapted to the hot, dry conditions in the Persian Gulf. The pilots inject the seeding materials into the base of the cloud, allowing it to be lofted tens of thousands of feet by powerful updrafts.

And then, in theory, the seeding material, made up of hygroscopic (water attracting) molecules, bonds to the water vapor particles that make up a cloud. That combined particle is a little bigger and in turn attracts more water vapor particles until they form droplets, which eventually become heavy enough to fall as rain — with no appreciable environmental impact from the seeding materials, scientists say.

Pilots with the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology are on 24-hour alert to bolt into the sky should a cloud ripe for seeding appear.

Releasing experimental nanomaterial in a cloud-seeding demonstration in the Emirates. The technology has never been proved to work, though proponents say new techniques are reaping better results.

That is in theory. But many in the scientific community doubt the efficacy of cloud seeding altogether. A major stumbling block for many atmospheric scientists is the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of documenting net increases in rainfall.

“The problem is that once you seed, you can’t tell if the cloud would have rained anyway,” said Alan Robock, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University and an expert in evaluating climate engineering strategies.

Another problem is that the tall cumulus clouds most common in summer in the emirates and nearby areas can be so turbulent that it is difficult to determine if the seeding has any effect, said Roy Rasmussen, a senior scientist and an expert in cloud physics at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Israel, a pioneer in cloud seeding, halted its program in 2021 after 50 years because it seemed to yield at best only marginal gains in precipitation. It was “not economically efficient,” said Pinhas Alpert, an emeritus professor at the University of Tel Aviv who did one of the most comprehensive studies of the program.

A roadside produce vendor selling mostly imported fruits and vegetables along the side of a road in the Emirates, where water-intensive crops are not widely grown.

There had been enough water to sustain the U.A.E.’s population in 1960, when there were fewer than 100,000 people. By 2020, the population had ballooned to nearly 10 million, and the demand for water soared.

Cloud seeding got its start in 1947, with General Electric scientists working under a military contract to find a way to de-ice planes in cold weather and create fog to obscure troop movements. Some of the techniques were later used in Vietnam to prolong the monsoon season, in an effort to make it harder for the North Vietnamese to supply their troops.

While the underlying science of cloud seeding seems straightforward, in practice, there are numerous problems. Not all clouds have the potential to produce rain, and even a cloud seemingly suitable for seeding may not have enough moisture. Another challenge in hot climates is that raindrops may evaporate before they reach the ground.

Sometimes the effect of seeding can be larger than expected, producing too much rain or snow. Or the winds can shift, carrying the clouds away from the area where the seeding was done, raising the possibility of “unintended consequences,” notes a statement from the American Meteorological Society.

“You can modify a cloud, but you can’t tell it what to do after you modify it,” said James Fleming, an atmospheric scientist and historian of science at Colby College in Maine.

The Netherlands’ exhibition on sustainable water vapor harvesting and agriculture at the Dubai Expo 2020.

Even as officials in the emirates scramble to seed clouds to make rain, water is used freely at events like Brazil’s pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020.

“It might snow; it might dissipate. It might go downstream; it might cause a storm in Boston,” he said, referring to an early cloud-seeding experiment over Mount Greylock in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

This seems to be what happened in the emirates in the summer of 2019, when cloud seeding apparently generated such heavy rains in Dubai that water had to be pumped out of flooded residential neighborhoods and the upscale Dubai mall.

Despite the difficulties of gathering data on the efficacy of cloud seeding, Mr. Al Mandous said the emirates’ methods were yielding at least a 5 percent increase in rain annually — and almost certainly far more. But he acknowledged the need for data covering many more years to satisfy the scientific community.

Hygroscopic flares burning during a demonstration on Hatta Mountain.

Salah Hamadi, 63, at his small farm in the deserts of Sharjah. Mr. Hamadi helps to monitor a weather station there for the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology.

Over last New Year’s weekend, said Mr. Al Mandous, cloud seeding coincided with a storm that produced 5.6 inches of rain in three days — more precipitation than the United Arab Emirates often gets in a year.

In the tradition of many scientists who have tried to modify the weather, he is ever optimistic. There is the new cloud-seeding nanosubstance, and if the emirates just had more clouds to seed, he said, maybe they could make more rain for the country.

And where would those extra clouds come from?

“Making clouds is very difficult,” he acknowledged. “But, who knows, maybe God will send us somebody who will have the idea of how to make clouds.”

Emirates officials are not relying entirely on cloud seeding for future water supplies. They are hoping that the Raffish Dam’s reservoir, in addition to providing recreational activities, will help recharge ground water stores. ... 778d3e6de3
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Protests Intensify in Iran Over Woman Who Died in Custody

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Unrest has spread to dozens of cities, with at least seven people killed, according to witnesses, rights groups and video posted on social media.

Protesters in Tehran on Thursday. Unrest erupted last weekend after Mahsa Amini died in police custody following an arrest under the law on head scarves.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Antigovernment protests in Iran over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody are intensifying, and dozens of cities are embroiled in unrest that has been met with a crackdown by the authorities, according to witnesses, videos posted on social media and human rights groups.

The protests appear to be one of the largest displays of defiance of the Islamic Republic’s rule in years and come as President Ebrahim Raisi is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. They erupted last weekend after the woman, Mahsa Amini, died following her arrest by Tehran’s morality police on an accusation of violating the law on head scarves.

At least seven protesters had been killed as of Wednesday, according to human rights groups. Protesters have been calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, chanting things like “Mullahs get lost,” “We don’t want an Islamic republic,” and “Death to the supreme leader.” Women have also burned hijabs in protest against the law, which requires all women above the age of puberty to wear a head covering and loose clothing.

A picture of Mahsa Amini provided to Iran Wire by her family. The authorities have said she died of heart failure; her family say she had been in good health.
Credit...Iran Wire

Mr. Raisi’s government has unleashed a massive deployment of security forces, including riot police officers and the plainclothes Basij militia, to crack down on the protesters. Internet and cell service has been disrupted in neighborhoods where there were protests. Access to Instagram, which has been widely used by the protesters, was also restricted on Wednesday.

“For security reasons, the relevant authorities may impose certain restrictions on internet speed,” Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, Issa Zarepour, said in a statement.

The videos posted online and the scale of the response from the authorities are difficult to independently verify, but video and photographs sent by witnesses known to The New York Times were broadly in line with the images being posted widely online, showing protesters, many of them women, facing off against the police, and fires on the streets of Tehran.

The police shoved protesters to the ground, beating them with batons and firing shots and tear gas in their direction, according to witnesses and some of those videos.

Ms. Amini’s death has garnered international attention and turned her into a symbol of Iran’s restrictive and violent treatment of women and its repressive policing of the opposition.

The Iranian authorities say that Ms. Amini died from a heart attack, and have denied accusations that she suffered blows to the head while being taken to a detention facility. Her family, which has not responded to requests for comment from The New York Times, has told news outlets that she was healthy at the time of the arrest.

The protests that have swept the country are one of the most daring displays of defiance of the government’s religious and social restrictions in years, according to analysts and rights experts.

“The anger on the streets is palpable,” said Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director at the Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based nonprofit organization, adding that the protests were a “culmination of the past five years where all facets of society — laborers, teachers, retirees, university students and average people everywhere — have been trying to call for an end to the crisis of impunity in Iran despite violent state repression.”

The demonstrations have largely been spontaneous and leaderless, she said, and had probably been inflamed by the photos and videos circulating across social media showing extraordinary scenes across the country, including women risking arrest by symbolically removing and burning their hijabs in public. Many have rallied on social media with hashtags in Persian referring to the death of Ms. Amini.

A police motorcycle burned during a protest in Tehran on Monday, in a photo from the state media.Credit...West Asia News Agency, via Reuters

In the city of Kerman, in the southeast, one video showed a woman cutting her hair while sitting on a utility box in front of a roaring crowd. In the south, in the city of Shiraz, another showed an older woman shouting at a security officer, “If you think you are a man, come and kill me.” And one showed university students gathering on campuses in Tehran chanting “Killings after killings, to hell with morality police!”

“These are all acts that are punishable by law,” Ms. Ramsey said in a phone interview, referring to the videos. “They’re showing a serious challenge to the Islamic Republic in their chants and the amount of people that are in the streets,” she added.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Tehran late Tuesday, setting fire to tires, and shouting “Death to the dictator,” and “Life, liberty and women,” according to a witness.

Tehran’s governor, Mohsen Mansouri, said on Wednesday that foreign agents had hijacked the demonstrations and were fueling violence in the streets.

Witnesses said it was clear that the protests were getting broad support from people with a long litany of grievances after struggling under oppressive rules and economic hardship.

Some Iranian protesters lashed back at security forces, chasing them down the street with rocks. In Isfahan and Tehran, protesters set fire to police cars and motorcycles and in Kerman they encircled a police officer and beat and kicked him to the ground, videos showed.

At least seven people have been killed in cities in Kurdistan, Ms. Amini’s home province in the northwest of the country, according to Hengaw, a human rights group, which posted names and photos of victims online.

They were killed by “direct fire by Iranian security forces,” the group said in a statement posted to its website. At least 450 people had been injured and at least 500 were arrested in protests in cities across the Kurdish province, the group said.

The Iranian media reported that Mr. Raisi, who was scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, told Ms. Amini’s family on Sunday that he had ordered an investigation into her death.

“Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones,” he said.

The protests were not addressed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who gave a speech at an event on Wednesday commemorating veterans of the Iran-Iraq war. In an effort to curb the backlash, a representative of the supreme leader visited Ms. Amini’s family home, according to the state media.

“All institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated,” the adviser, Abdolreza Pourzahabi, said in the state media. “As I promised to the family of Ms. Amini, I will also follow up the issue of her death until the final result.”

Iranian law requires all women above the age of puberty to wear a head covering and loose clothing.Credit...Atta Kenare/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On Tuesday, the United Nations acting high commissioner for human rights, Nada Al-Nashif, condemned the “violent response” of the security forces to the protests and called for an independent investigation.

“The authorities must stop targeting, harassing, and detaining women who do not abide by the hijab rules,” Ms. Al-Nashif said in a statement.

President Emmanuel Macron of France, who met Mr. Raisi on Tuesday, told BBC’s Persian news service that the “the credibility of Iran is now at stake regarding the fact that they have to address this issue.”

The unrest comes at a challenging moment for Ayatollah Khamenei, who recently canceled all meetings and public appearances because of illness, according to four people familiar with his health condition.

Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East program at Chatham House, a British research institute, said there was little hope that the protests would bring real change on such a foundational issue as long as the supreme leader, who is 83, was still alive.

“At the end of his life, he’s looking to preserve his legacy and keep the system intact,” she said. “His worldview, shared by those around him, is predicated on the idea that compromise opens the door to further compromise and demonstrates weakness rather than strength.”

Ms. Vakil said to expect a “coordinated coercive response” from the authorities in the coming days or weeks, one likely to include a further internet slowdown, violence, and more detentions of protesters.

“They might close the doors, but people will again, find a way to push open windows,” Ms. Vakil said. “And that’s what we keep seeing these continued patterns of protests — because they’re not able to, or not willing to, address popular anger and economic frustration.” ... 778d3e6de3
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‘They Have Nothing to Lose’: Why Young Iranians Are Rising Up Once Again

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Amid growing repression, a sickly economy and bleak prospects, the death of one young woman was all it took.

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By Vivian Yee and Farnaz Fassihi
Published Sept. 24, 2022
Updated Sept. 25, 2022, 3:50 a.m. ET

The 22-year-old woman emerged from the Tehran subway, her dark hair covered with a black head scarf and the lines of her body obscured by loose clothing, when the capital city’s Guidance Patrol spotted her. They were members of Iran’s notorious morality police, enforcers of the conservative Islamic dress and behavior rules that have governed daily life for Iranians since the 1979 revolution, and newly energized under a hard-line president who took office last year.

By their standards, Mahsa Amini was improperly dressed, which could mean something as simple as a wisp of hair protruding from her head scarf. They put her in a van and drove her away to a detention center, where she was to undergo re-education. Three days later, on Sept. 16, she was dead.

Now, over eight days of rage, exhilaration and street battles, the most significant outpouring of anger with the ruling system in more than a decade, her name is everywhere. Iranian protesters in dozens of cities have chanted “women, life and freedom” and “death to the dictator,” rejecting the Iranian Republic’s theocratic rule by targeting one of its most fundamental and divisive symbols — the ailing supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In several of the videos of the uprising that have torn across social media, women rip off their head scarves and burn them in street bonfires, including in deeply religious cities such as Qum and Mashhad. In one, a young woman atop a utility cabinet cuts off her hair in front of a crowd of roaring demonstrators. In another, young women dare to dance bareheaded in front of the riot police.

“Death to the dictator,” protesters at Tehran University chanted on Saturday. “Death to the head scarf! Until when must we tolerate such humiliation?”

Protesters in the streets of Tehran on Wednesday.Credit...Associated Press

Previous protests — over fraudulent elections in 2009, economic mismanagement in 2017 and fuel price hikes in 2019 — have been ruthlessly suppressed by Iran’s security forces, and this time may be no different. Yet, for the first time since the founding of the Iranian Republic, the current uprising has united rich Iranians descending from high-rise apartments in northern Tehran with struggling bazaar vendors in its working-class south, and Kurds, Turks and other ethnic minorities with members of the Fars majority.

The sheer diversity of the protesters reflects the breadth of Iranians’ grievances, analysts say, from a sickly economy and in-your-face corruption, to political repression and social restrictions — frustrations Iran’s government has repeatedly tried, and failed, to quash.

“The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place,” said Shadi Sadr, a prominent human rights lawyer who has campaigned for Iranian women’s rights for two decades.

“Because they have nothing to lose,” she added, “they are standing up and saying, ‘Enough of this. I am willing to die to have a life worth living.’”

Information about the protests remains partial at best. Internet access continues to be disrupted or fully blocked, especially on widely used messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Instagram, making it difficult for Iranians to communicate with one another or to share updates on the unrest with the outside world.

But witnesses say the demonstrations, which spread to at least 80 cities on Saturday, are the most forceful, vitriolic and emboldened they can remember, far more intense than the previous tremors of unrest. Desperate to damage the powers-that-be before the inevitable crackdown, videos circulating on social media and shared with The New York Times show, protesters have set fire to security vehicles and assaulted members of Iran’s widely feared paramilitary forces, in some cases killing them.

A fire burning during a protest in Tehran on Monday.Credit...Wana News Agency/Via Reuters

The information that has leaked out, after many hours’ delay, also suggests an escalating crackdown. The authorities have moved to crush the demonstrations with violence, including live fire and tear gas. Dozens of people have died. The Committee to Protect Journalists said on Saturday that at least 17 journalists had been detained, including one of the first to report on Ms. Amini’s hospitalization, and arrests of activists are also mounting.

With Iran’s economy at a nadir and Ayatollah Khamenei in ill health, the government is likely to dig in rather than show any signs of weakness, analysts said. But violence will only buy time, they say, not long-term peace.

The regime’s top leaders have “always said, ‘We’re not going to make concessions, because if we make one small concession, we’ll have to make bigger concessions,’” said Mohamed Ali Kadivar, an Iranian-born sociologist at Boston College who studies protest movements in Iran and elsewhere. “Maybe they’ll push people off the street, but because people want change, repression is not going to stop this. Even with a crackdown, then they would just go home for a while and come back.”

Avenues for pushback have dwindled in recent years, leaving Iranians with only protest as a means of demanding change. Just how much their political freedoms had shrunk became clear last year, when the country’s leadership disqualified virtually all candidates except the supreme leader’s preferred one, the ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi, from the presidential election. In the process, they degraded what had once been a forum for Iranians to debate political issues and choose their representatives, even if the candidates were always preselected from within the governing apparatus.

Mr. Raisi opposed returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States that had put limits on Iranian nuclear development in exchange for lifting sanctions and economic openness. His election, combined with the worsening economy, left Iranians who craved better opportunities, more social freedoms and closer ties with the rest of the world in despair.

President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran speaking at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday.Credit...Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

“The reason the younger generation is taking this kind of risk is because they feel they have nothing to lose, they have no hope for the future,” said Ali Vaez, Iran director for the International Crisis Group, noting that protests were now a regular feature in Iran.

By continually blocking reforms, the country’s leadership has “created a situation where people no longer believe that the system is reformable,” he added. “I think people would be willing to tolerate a milder version of the Islamic Republic, but they’ve just entrenched their positions and have created this situation. It’s turned Iran into a tinderbox.”

The head scarf, known as the hijab, is an especially inflammatory issue: The law requiring women to wear loose robes and cover their hair in public has been a pillar of the ruling theocracy and a lightning rod for reform-minded Iranians for decades, drawing one of the first protests against the ayatollahs after the 1979 revolution from women who did not want to be forced to cover up.

During the tenure of Mr. Raisi’s predecessor, the reformist Hassan Rouhani, the ‌‌morality police had been discouraged from enforcing Iran’s often draconian laws against women, particularly the requirement that they wear the hijab in public in the proper fashion, entirely covering their hair. That led to young women showing more hair, even in devoutly conservative cities such as Qum. Unmarried men and women were allowed to mingle in public in some places, while contemporary Western music thumped in Western-style cafes in upscale northern Tehran.

But the country’s conservative leadership saw the slippage in standards as a threat to the republic’s theocratic foundations. Mr. Raisi called in July for the conservative dress laws to be implemented “in full,” saying that “the enemies of Iran and Islam” were targeting the “religious foundations and values of the society,” the official news agency IRNA reported.

Over the summer, Iran’s morality police, which patrols public areas for infringements of Islamic rules, stepped up enforcement of hijab standards, and three coffee shops in central Qum were closed down for having bareheaded customers. In a video that was widely shared on Iranian social media in July, a mother threw herself in front of a van taking away her daughter for violating hijab rules and screamed, “My daughter is sick, I beg you not to take her.”

The backlash to Ms. Amini’s death has been so strong that religiously conservative Iranians have spoken up alongside liberal ones. On social media, women who wear the hijab by choice have started solidarity campaigns questioning the harsh enforcement of the laws, and a prominent religious leader has said the morality police were only driving young women away from religion. Even tightly controlled state media outlets have acknowledged the issue, broadcasting at least three debates that featured reformist voices — a rarity.

During a protest in Erbil, in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, women holding posters of Mahsa Amini on Saturday.Credit...Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The authorities have denied using violence on Ms. Amini. They claimed that she suffered from an underlying health condition, which her family has disputed, and that she had a heart attack in custody. But to many Iranians, photos of her lying on a hospital bed, her face bloodied, told a different story.

While Mr. Raisi has promised an investigation in a small nod to the fury, Iran’s response to the protests has been to give no quarter. It is the same as in previous uprisings: bullets, tear gas, arrests and blood.

In 2009, millions of urban, educated Iranians flooded the streets of cities across the country, furious at what they believed was election rigging by their leaders to guarantee a hard-line president and thwart reforms. The elite Revolutionary Guards and the Basij paramilitary forces opened fire, killing dozens and arresting far more, and eventually the “Green Movement” was stamped out.

As 2017 turned to 2018, protesters in dozens of cities demonstrated against high inflation and a weak economy. Again, they were met with force. In 2019, the government abruptly hiked gasoline prices, sparking weeklong protests by Iranians fed up with ever-thinning wallets, corruption and repression. The authorities killed at least 300 in the crackdown that followed, according to Amnesty International, and slowed the protests’ momentum by blocking or disrupting the internet.

The internet outages have now returned. To help Iranians access the internet, the Biden administration on Friday authorized technology companies to offer secure platforms and services inside Iran without risk of violating United States sanctions that normally prevent doing business with Iran. It also greenlit the export of private satellite internet equipment, such as the Starlink service offered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to Iran.

But Iranians may face odds that are too great.

“At some stage, I think it’ll become impossible for them to control these movements,” Mr. Vaez said of the governing authorities. “But as of now, the system is bound to bring down its iron fist and try to nip this movement in the bud.” ... 778d3e6de3
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How Two Teenagers Became the New Faces of Iran’s Protests

Post by kmaherali »

The 16-year-old girls were killed by the Iranian security services in a crackdown on the protests that have rocked the country for the past month.


By Farnaz Fassihi
Oct. 13, 2022
As unrest erupted across Iran calling for an end to the Islamic Republic’s rule last month, with young women in big cities and small towns tossing their headscarves onto bonfires to chants of “Women, Life, Freedom,” two teenage girls left their homes to join the protesters.

It was the last time their relatives would see them alive. One family searched frantically for their daughter for 10 days, posting desperate appeals for information on social media; the other found out the fate of their daughter within hours of her disappearance.

But the grim result was the same. The missing teenagers had been killed by the security forces, their families and human rights groups said. One girl’s skull was smashed, and the other girl’s head was cracked by baton blows. Their bodies were handed back to their families bruised and disfigured. They were both just 16.

The two teenagers — Nika Shakarami and Sarina Esmailzadeh — have become the new faces of the protests that have convulsed the country for the past month, the largest and most sustained bout of civil unrest to grip Iran since 2009. Their images appear on posters secretly plastered on walls in cities across Iran and on banners carried by protesters, their names a rallying cry for the fury being directed against the rulers of the Islamic Republic.

Women and girls have been conspicuous on the front lines of the protests, which erupted almost a month ago, as have young people, with even high school students taking part, braving repeated crackdowns by the security services.

Nika Shahkarami at a protest in Tehran last month, in an image taken from a video that her family has confirmed as authentic to several Iranian journalists.
Credit...via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The crackdowns have taken a deadly toll: Iran’s Committee to Protect Children’s Rights says 28 children and adolescents have been killed and that many have been detained. The United Nations’ children agency, UNICEF, said this week it was “extremely concerned” by the reports.

The families of the two teenagers and human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Iran Human Rights, say the two girls were killed by security forces after taking part in different protests in late September, Nika in Tehran, and Sarina in the city of Karaj, outside the capital. The security forces smashed Nika’s skull, broke her teeth and dislocated her cheekbone, her mother has said in interviews; Sarina’s head was fractured after she was hit repeatedly with a baton until she bled to death.

The government has said that the two teenagers committed suicide by jumping from rooftops. Family members have repeated that official narrative on state TV, but relatives say those appearances were coerced, and that they have been threatened and even jailed to deter them from saying what really happened to Nika and Sarina.

In life, Nika and Sarina were happy teenagers who sang and danced, giggled with friends, roamed shopping malls, and posed for selfies, according to videos they shared. In death, their faces have come to symbolize a national uprising to topple the Islamic Republic that has thousands of young people on its front lines, and a young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in the custody of the morality police last month, as its inspirational spark.

The authorities have tried to crush them with violence and throttle them by disrupting the internet and blocking popular social media platforms such as Instagram.

A still image taken from a video showing Iranian students chanting slogans as they protest at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran, on Monday.Credit...via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It hasn’t worked. Protests have spread from streets to university campuses and to high schools. High school girls across Iran have stripped off their hijabs, ripped up pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and booed and chased away a guest speaker from the feared Basij militia, videos posted on social media show.

Rear Adm. Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, said last week that the average age of detained protesters was 15. Yousef Nouri, the minister of education, said on Tuesday that high school students who had been arrested had been sent to “psychiatric centers to undergo education and behavioral reform.”

Ms. Amini, whose death on Sept. 16 in the custody of the morality police sparked the protests, had been arrested on charges of not properly observing the hijab law, which mandates a head covering for women. Her family has rejected the government’s claim that she died from a heart attack, and said she suffered a head injury after being beaten by the police.

Four days after Ms. Amini’s death, Nika dashed out the door of her home in Tehran to join the protesters massing on the streets. She stood defiantly on top of a garbage can, her black hair tied in a pony tail, and waved a hijab she had set ablaze as a crowd of young people around her chanted “death to the dictator,” according to a video that her family has confirmed as authentic to Iranian journalists.

Nika lived with her aunt and worked part-time at a cafe training as a barista. She dreamed of going abroad after high school and loved to sing. A video from a school ceremony shows her standing onstage and holding a microphone, giggling. She then sings a well known Iranian song, with the lyrics: “One heart says go, go, and another heart says don’t go, don’t go. My heart cannot endure, what to do without you?”

Nika, in an undated family photograph posted on social media.

Nika disappeared the night of Sept. 20 from a central Tehran boulevard where security forces clashed with protesters. Her mother said in a video message published by Radio Farda that Nika’s last phone call was shortly before midnight and that she could hear protesters and security forces shouting in the background.

The family searched for her in detention centers but without success. Her aunt, Atash Shakarami, with whom she lived, posted Nika’s photograph on her Instagram page seeking help finding her. Ten days later, her family received a call from the authorities: they could collect her body from a morgue in downtown Tehran.

Nassrin Shakarami, Nika’s mother, reached by phone in Tehran on Wednesday, said she wanted to publicize her daughter’s story and was living under “difficult conditions.” Nika’s aunt and uncle were both detained for days to pressure the family into silence, and the aunt was forced to repeat the official cause of death on state TV, Ms. Shakarami said.

“They are threatening me. I have said the things I needed to say to explain what happened,” said Ms. Shakarami, referring to the message published by Radio Farda in which she said the security forces had killed her daughter and were pressuring her to call it a suicide.

Her conversation with The New York Times was abruptly disrupted, and a recorded message from the state telecommunications company said her phone number had been disconnected.

Ms. Shakarami said in her video message that security forces had seized Nika’s body as the family was arranging a funeral service and had buried her without the family’s knowledge or presence. After a public backlash, state television aired video of a young woman they claimed was Nika entering a building from which they said she jumped. Her mother says the woman in the video was not her daughter.

Iranian police at a protest in Tehran last month.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Two days after Nika disappeared, Sarina Esmailzadeh joined protests in Karaj, a satellite city west of Tehran, along with some classmates, according to rights groups and two Iranian journalists, Fereshteh Ghazi from Radio Farda and Farzad Seifikaran from Radio Zamaneh, who both interviewed relatives.

Sarina studied at a high school in Karaj for the gifted and talented, and she chronicled on YouTube the daily life and musings of a typical teenager; trying on makeup for the first time, making pizza and singing pop songs in the back of the car

“We need joy and fun, we need good spirit, good vibes and good energy,” Sarina said in one video. “But in order to have all of these, you need to have freedom.”

At the protest, security forces grabbed Sarina and struck her head with a baton over and over, according to Amnesty International and Iran Human Rights. She was taken to the hospital, but there was little the doctors in the emergency room could do. She had already bled to death.

Sarina’s mother, who is being treated for a brain tumor, received a phone call from the authorities around midnight to go to the hospital and identify her daughter’s body, according to the two journalists who interviewed the family and a report on Sarina by Iran Human Rights. Sarina’s father died when she was a child and she lived with her mother and older brother. At the hospital they were not allowed to see Sarina.

A still image taken from a video posted on social media earlier this month showed Iranian women protesting in the city of Rasht.
Credit...via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At the funeral the next day security forces brought Sarina’s body, wrapped in a customary white cloth, and allowed the mother a short glimpse at her face before they buried her. But it was long enough to notice that one side of her forehead had been smashed.

Sarina’s mother, looking disoriented, appeared twice on state television, including on Tuesday, where she repeated the official line that Sarina had jumped from a building. Iran’s state TV has a history of broadcasting coerced interviews of political dissidents and families of people who have been killed.

Ms. Ghazi, who has been in contact with Sarina’s relatives, said the security forces had threatened that if Sarina’s mother did not confirm the official account, they would harm her son, her only other child.

The grim aftermath of Sarina’s death could not have been at greater contrast with the youthful exuberance of her life. “What’s a better feeling than being free and careless?” Sarina said in a video after finishing an exam and buying herself a bottled iced coffee as a treat. “It’s finished, it feels so great, Goodbye.” ... 778d3e6de3
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Saudi Halloween: Once-Banned Holiday Now Haunted by Masked Monsters

Post by kmaherali »

Only a few years ago, a Halloween party meant arrest. Now, a government-sponsored “horror weekend” means sold-out costume shops and scary clowns. “Saudi is changing,” said a young man going as a wizard.


Bathed in an eerie light, Yaser al-Hazzazi paused to adjust the bloodstained gauze wrapped around his head and face. His cousin Yahya leaned in to help, untangling a loose end that dangled over his relative’s white robe — splotched with a bloody handprint — before the pair strolled into a crowd of people decked out in devil horns and bunny ears.

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, the two 21-year-old men had never celebrated Halloween, which was variously viewed as a suspiciously pagan foreign holiday — or as sinful, unnecessary and weird — in the conservative Islamic kingdom. As recently as 2018, the police raided a Halloween party and arrested people, sending costumed women clamoring to cover up and escape.

But this year, parts of Riyadh, the Saudi capital, looked like creatures from a haunted house had escaped and taken over the city. Monsters, witches, bank robbers and even sultry French maids were everywhere, leaning out of car windows and lounging in cafes.

The scene was a stark — and a slightly spine-chilling — sign of the changes that have torn through Saudi Arabia since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now heir to the throne and prime minister, began rising to power in 2015 and started doing away with social restrictions one by one.

And the cousins, along with thousands of other 20-somethings in Riyadh who had rushed to get to the city’s costume shops before they sold out, were thrilled by the chance to frighten each other.

“If we go back to the way we were, this wasn’t part of our customs and traditions,” Yahya al-Hazzazi said, as spooky music played over loudspeakers at Boulevard Riyadh City, a sprawling complex of shops, arcades and restaurants that opened in 2019 as part of the government’s push to provide entertainment. “We love to discover new things.”

Yahya al-Hazzazi helping his cousin Yaser with his mummy costume.

Public Halloween celebrations began in the Saudi capital for the first time last year.

This being Saudi Arabia, where strategic ambiguity reigns as social changes sweep across the country, the government-sponsored event was not, strictly speaking, a Halloween festival.

Instead, it was promoted as a “horror weekend,” conveniently coinciding with the weekend before Halloween.

Like many of those swarming the entertainment complex on Thursday night — jamming the surrounding neighborhood into gridlock and making any search for parking in vain — the al-Hazzazi cousins wanted costumes that would attract attention.

They threw together their makeshift mummy outfits using medical gauze they bought at a pharmacy and improvised fake blood using Vimto, a sugary red drink consumed during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

As they headed inside, red lights set a mysterious mood and decorative cobwebs festooned the bushes. Men, women and children clogged a look-alike Times Square, posing for photographs in front of a Dior logo and scarfing down fries at McDonald’s.

In another part of the city, a line of wannabe ghouls and goblins stretched down the block outside a party store selling so many Halloween costumes that employees could barely restock them fast enough. House music thumped from the shop’s entrance, guarded by a bouncer in a black suit.

Costumed men, women and children on Thursday night clogged Boulevard Riyadh City, a sprawling complex of shops, arcades and restaurants.

“Saudi is changing,” said Abdulaziz Khaled, 23, a finance student awaiting his turn in line. Switching seamlessly midsentence between Arabic and English, Mr. Khaled said he planned to dress up as a wizard this year.

Waiting beside him, Reema al-Jaber, also 23, and sporting caramel-blond bangs, wanted to go as a white-winged angel for a gathering at a friend’s house. “But I could be a black angel,” she fretted. “We have to see what they have in stock!”

Like most Saudis, Ms. al-Jaber had never celebrated Halloween growing up, though she’d seen it in movies. Sorcery and witchcraft were forbidden — with some accused practitioners prosecuted and beheaded by the state — and celebrating non-Islamic holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Halloween was taboo.

But forbidden foreign festivals were the least of it.

The Saudi Arabia of Ms. al-Jaber’s childhood was one where women were barred from driving, required to wear floor-length robes called abayas in public and accosted by the religious police shouting at them to cover their hair and face.

Myriad life decisions required the approval of a male guardian, and gender segregation was enforced in offices, cafes and many other spaces. Playing music in public was effectively prohibited.

People shopping for Halloween costumes at a party store in Riyadh.

As recently as 2018, the police raided a Halloween party and arrested people, sending costumed women clamoring to cover up and escape.

In 2016, Prince Mohammed announced an economic diversification plan that called for turning the kingdom into an investment powerhouse and global business hub. The religious police lost their authority to make arrests — rendering them mostly toothless advice-givers — and women were allowed to drive. Many of the shackles of the male guardianship system were undone, although others remain.

Prince Mohammed, 37, also started a push to develop entertainment options as a new economic sector beyond oil. Many of the 58 percent of Saudis under 30 say they were starving for entertainment before the changes.

Movie theaters opened for the first time in decades, and a series of government-sponsored festivities took over the kingdom. The largest of them is the continuing “Riyadh Season,” a monthslong extravaganza that will culminate in DJ Khaled and Bruno Mars performing at a rave in the desert.

The changes have left some Saudis giddy and others angry or reeling, with the country nearly unrecognizable to outsiders and citizens alike.

The easing of some social restrictions has also been accompanied by a notable increase in political repression, with a crackdown on domestic dissent that has landed hundreds of writers, activists and Snapchat influencers in prison alongside billionaires, religious clerics and royal family members.

On social media, the government has deployed a mixture of manipulation and control, resulting in an increasingly unified narrative venerating the crown prince and his “Vision 2030” plan.

In private, some Saudis complain that the entertainment push feels like a distraction from economic challenges, like high youth unemployment, and political ones, like the lack of freedom of speech. The chaotic, carnival-like atmosphere that is allowed to briefly erupt on occasions like Saudi National Day and now Halloween is quickly bottled up again.

Until recently, celebrating non-Islamic holidays like Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Halloween was taboo.

But any excuse to let loose is welcomed by many young people.

“We’re seeing what the government is doing here, which is great, and it’s really helping the people,” said Raad al-Kamel, 25, a store manager at Party Experts, where Halloween is the busiest time of year.

“Maybe people just want to drop life and just party and forget everything?” he said, wearing a tiny red demon on his shoulder. “At least for a moment, until they come back to real life.”

This weekend’s public Halloween celebrations, the second year they have been held, appeared to attract more adults than children. In Party Experts, children’s costumes were relegated to a small section in the back.

In the front, young men perused a wall of rubber masks, elaborate and terrifying. The costume choices for women were overwhelming. There was a Vixen Pirate Wench and a Classic School Girl, a Playtime bunny and a Tuxedo Madame Bunny, a Sophisticated Maid and a Pretty and Proper French Maid, a Kitty Witch and a Sultry Sea Witch and a Spellbinding Witch, and the perplexing Darling Robin Hood.

At midnight — when the last customers trickle out and the store closes — the music keeps going as the shop is transformed into a mini rave for employees to enjoy after a long day on their feet, Mr. al-Kamel said.

The government-sponsored event was promoted as a “horror weekend,” conveniently coinciding with the weekend before Halloween.

In private, some Saudis complain that their country’s new entertainment push feels like a distraction from economic challenges, like high youth unemployment.

Some of the revelers at Riyadh Boulevard City seemed to have only a vague idea of what Halloween was, and had come simply to enjoy the atmosphere.

Abdulaziz al-Otaibi, 24, had orchestrated matching outfits with two friends, draping themselves in shiny white fabric from head to toe, with purple-rimmed sunglasses.

He seemed unsure when asked what he thought about Halloween — “You mean these activities?” he said.

Regardless, he was having a grand time with his friends, hamming it up for pictures.

“I was born in this life and I didn’t expect it to change, ever,” he said. “But it changed, and it’s a good thing.”

The changes have left some Saudis giddy and others angry or reeling, with the country nearly unrecognizable to outsiders and citizens alike. ... 778d3e6de3
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The Israel We Knew Is Gone

Post by kmaherali »

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

Imagine you woke up after the 2024 U.S. presidential election and found that Donald Trump had been re-elected and chose Rudy Giuliani for attorney general, Michael Flynn for defense secretary, Steve Bannon for commerce secretary, evangelical leader James Dobson for education secretary, Proud Boys former leader Enrique Tarrio for homeland security head and Marjorie Taylor Greene for the White House spokeswoman.

“Impossible,” you would say. Well, think again.

As I’ve noted before, Israeli political trends are often a harbinger of wider trends in Western democracies — Off Broadway to our Broadway. I hoped that the national unity government that came to power in Israel in June 2021 might also be a harbinger of more bipartisanship here. Alas, that government has now collapsed and is being replaced by the most far-far-right coalition in Israel’s history. Lord save us if this is a harbinger of what’s coming our way.

The coalition that Likud leader Bibi Netanyahu is riding back into power is the Israeli equivalent of the nightmare U.S. cabinet I imagined above. Only it is real — a rowdy alliance of ultra-Orthodox leaders and ultranationalist politicians, including some outright racist, anti-Arab Jewish extremists once deemed completely outside the norms and boundaries of Israeli politics. As it is virtually impossible for Netanyahu to build a majority coalition without the support of these extremists, some of them are almost certain to be cabinet ministers in the next Israeli government.

As that previously unthinkable reality takes hold, a fundamental question will roil synagogues in America and across the globe: “Do I support this Israel or not support it?” It will haunt pro-Israel students on college campuses. It will challenge Arab allies of Israel in the Abraham Accords, who just wanted to trade with Israel and never signed up for defending a government there that is anti-Israeli Arab. It will stress those U.S. diplomats who have reflexively defended Israel as a Jewish democracy that shares America’s values, and it will send friends of Israel in Congress fleeing from any reporter asking if America should continue sending billions of dollars in aid to such a religious-extremist-inspired government.

Netanyahu has been propelled into power by bedfellows who: see Israeli Arab citizens as a fifth column who can’t be trusted; have vowed to take political control over judicial appointments; believe that Jewish settlements must be expanded so there is not an inch left anywhere in the West Bank for a Palestinian state; want to enact judicial changes that could freeze Netanyahu’s ongoing corruption trial; and express contempt for Israel’s long and strong embrace of L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

We are talking about people like Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted by an Israeli court in 2007 of incitement to racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist organization. Netanyahu personally forged an alliance between Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party and Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, which turned them (shockingly for many Israelis) into the third-largest party in the country — giving Netanyahu the allies Likud needed to win a parliamentary majority in this week’s election.

Smotrich is known for, among other things, suggesting that Israeli Jewish mothers should be separated from Arab mothers in the maternity wards of Israeli hospitals. He has long advocated outright Israeli annexation of the West Bank and argued that there is “no such thing as Jewish terrorism” when it comes to settlers retaliating on their own against Palestinian violence.

Netanyahu has increasingly sought over the years to leverage the energy of this illiberal Israeli constituency to win office, not unlike how Trump uses white nationalism, but Netanyahu never actually brought this radical element — like Ben-Gvir, who claims to have moderated because he has told his supporters to chant, “Death to terrorists,” instead of, “Death to Arabs” — into his ruling faction or cabinet. As more of Netanyahu’s allies in Likud split with him over his alleged criminal behavior and lying, however, Bibi had to reach further and further out of the mainstream of Israeli politics to get enough votes to rule and pass a law to abort his own trial and possible jail time.

Netanyahu had fertile political soil to work with, the Yediot Ahronot Israeli newspaper columnist Nahum Barnea explained to me. There has been a dramatic upsurge in violence — stabbings, shootings, gang warfare and organized crime — by Israeli Arabs against other Israeli Arabs, and Israeli Arab gangs and organized crime against Israeli Jews, particularly in mixed communities. The result is that, “like in America, ‘policing’ has become a huge issue in Israel in recent years,” said Barnea — and even though this upsurge started when Netanyahu was previously prime minister, he and his anti-Arab allies blamed it all on the Arabs and the national unity Israeli government.

One election billboard summed up Netanyahu’s campaign. It was, as Haaretz reporter Amos Harel reported, a “gloomy-looking one with the caption: ‘That’s it. We’ve had enough.’ It depicts outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his coalition partner, Mansour Abbas of the United Arab List.”

Abbas is the rather amazing Israeli Arab religious party leader who recognizes the State of Israel and the searing importance of the Holocaust, and who was part of the now-fallen unity government.

As Harel put it: “The ‘had enough’ message seems to have sunk in among supporters of Likud, Religious Zionism and the ultra-Orthodox parties. It’s likely that the message also helped Netanyahu win Tuesday’s election.” Among the critical factors, Harel wrote, was “hatred of Arabs and the desire to keep them out of positions of power.”

But Netanyahu was also aided by the fact that while the right and the far right were highly energized by both growing fears of and distrust of Arabs — whether Israeli Arab citizens or Palestinians in the West Bank — their centrist and center-left opponents had no coherent or inspiring countermessage.

As Barnea put it to me: “Israel is not divided down the middle,” with 50 percent being pro-Netanyahu and the other 50 percent with a unified message and strategy opposing him. “No, Israel is divided between the 50 percent who are pro-Netanyahu and the 50 percent who are pro-blocking Netanyahu. But that is all they can agree on,” Barnea said. And it showed in this election. And it wasn’t enough.

Why is all of this so dangerous? Moshe Halbertal, the Hebrew University Jewish philosopher, captured it well: For decades members of the Israeli right, a vast majority of whom were “security hawks,” have believed that the Palestinians have never and will never accept a Jewish state next to them and therefore Israel needed to take whatever military means were necessary to protect itself from them.

But Israeli hawkishness toward the Palestinians, explained Halbertal, “is now morphing into something new — a kind of general ultranationalism” that not only rejects any notion of a Palestinian state but also views every Israeli Arab — who make up about 21 percent of Israel’s population, nearly 20 percent of its doctors, about 25 percent of its nurses and almost half its pharmacists — as a potential terrorist.

“What we are seeing is a shift in the hawkish right from a political identity built on focusing on the ‘enemy outside’ — the Palestinians — to the ‘enemy inside’ — Israeli Arabs,” Halbertal said.

Netanyahu’s coalition has also attacked the vital independent institutions that underpin Israel’s democracy and are responsible for, among other things, protecting minority rights. That is, the lower court system, the media and, most of all, the Supreme Court, which Netanyahu and his allies want brought under the political control of the right, “precisely so they will not protect minority rights” with the vigor and scope that they have, Halbertal said.

At the same time, not only is this election a struggle about the future of Israel, he said, but also “about the future of Judaism in Israel. The Torah stands for the equality of all people and the notion that we are all created in God’s image. Israelis of all people need to respect minority rights because we, as Jews, know what it is to be a minority” — with and without rights. “This is a deep Jewish ethos,” Halbertal added, “and it is now being challenged from within Israel itself. But, when you have these visceral security threats in the street every day, it becomes much easier for these ugly ideologies to anchor themselves.”

This is going to have a profound effect on U.S.-Israel relations. But don’t take my word for it. On Oct. 1, Axios published a story quoting what sources said Senator Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who leads the Foreign Relations Committee, told Netanyahu during a trip to Israel in September. In the words of one source, the senator warned that if Netanyahu formed a government after the Nov. 1 elections that included right-wing extremists, it could “seriously erode bipartisan support in Washington.”

That is now about to happen.

I have reported from Israel for this newspaper for nearly 40 years, often traveling around with my dear friend Nahum Barnea, one of the most respected, sober, balanced, careful journalists in the country. To hear him say to me minutes ago on the phone that “we have a different kind of Israel now” tells me we are truly entering a dark tunnel. ... 778d3e6de3
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Post by swamidada »

New capital's lavish mosque angers Egyptians facing poverty
Imogen James - BBC News
Tue, April 4, 2023 at 9:20 AM CDT
The new Grand Mosque in Egypt's New Administrative City
Egypt's new Grand Mosque covers more than 19,000 sq m and is capable of hosting 107,000 worshippers
Egypt has opened a record-breaking mosque in its new administrative capital city - but has been widely criticized for the costs involved.
The government has been building a new city in the desert, to try to move people away from heavily-congested Cairo.

But the unveiling of the new centre and mosque was criticized on social media.

It comes at a time when Egypt has been fighting soaring prices, with inflation running at just over 30% in March.

The New Administrative Capital of Egypt has been purpose-built 45km (28 miles) east of Cairo.

Its new Islamic Cultural Centre also includes the Grand Mosque, which covers more than 19,000 sq m and is capable of hosting 107,000 worshippers.

The mosque cost 800 million Egyptian pounds ($25.9m; £20.7m) to build and is the second-biggest mosque in the Africa.

State media celebrated the mosque for breaking three world records - including the highest pulpit in the world, standing at 16.6m (54.5ft) and handcrafted from the finest types of wood.

The second and third were for the main chandelier of the mosque, which is the heaviest in the world at 24,300kg (53,572lb), and the largest, with a diameter of 22m (72.2ft) and comprising four levels.

The opening event was attended by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, with state media describing it as showing Egypt's "grandiosity".

But on social media there was severe criticism.

new capital
The New Administrative Capital of Egypt is 45km (28 miles) east of Cairo
Egypt is facing a deepening economic crisis. Its currency has lost half of its value against the dollar over the past year, causing inflation to reach its highest level in five years.

The country has also been selling state assets to Gulf investors to help plug a widening budget deficit.

Many people went to Twitter and Facebook to criticize lavish spending on religious places at this critical time, as millions of Egyptians struggle every day to put food on their table.

One Facebook user posted: "Overspending, insanity and waste of money. The tallest pulpit, the heaviest chandelier and people can't find anything to eat. Sell this chandelier and pulpit and the whole mosque if this will help solve the problem."

A third raised concerns about overspending on mega projects, writing: "Well, what should we do with people who can't find what to eat or young men who can't get married? It does not matter. We have the largest mosque, heaviest chandelier, and the biggest foreign debt that we will continue to pay till Doomsday."

President Sisi - who led the military's overthrow of his predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013 following protests against his rule - thanked participants, workers and singers at the event, which was also attended by the prime minister.

His official spokesperson used social media to post pictures of him enjoying the celebrations, an event the local media described as launching the era of the "new republic". ... 43377.html
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Saudi Arabia Wants Tourists. It Didn’t Expect Christians.

Post by kmaherali »

In a fluid new age for the conservative Islamic kingdom, evangelicals have become some of its most enthusiastic visitors.

Joel Richardson, left, a minister and author from Kansas, with a tourist and a local tour guide in Saudi Arabia, in February.

The caravan of five Toyota Land Cruisers raced across Saudi Arabia’s rocky desert, weaving onto a highway so new it was not on the map. At the cleft of sea that splits the kingdom from Egypt, they stopped on a barren beach. Fifteen tourists spilled out and gathered around Joel Richardson, a Kansas preacher.

As the sun dipped below the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula — hazy across the water in Egypt — Mr. Richardson asked the group to imagine standing on the other side at the moment of the biblical Exodus, fleeing from Pharaoh’s army with Moses, when the sea ripped in half.

He opened a Bible, donned his glasses and began to recite. “Who among the gods is like you, oh Lord?” he said. “Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”

Two Florida retirees, a Colorado pharmacist, an Idaho bookkeeper and an Israeli archaeologist listened intently.


These were not the visitors Saudi officials expected when they opened the country’s borders to leisure tourists in 2019, seeking to diversify the oil-dependent economy and present a new face to the world. First would come the adventurers, they thought — seasoned travelers searching for an unusual destination — and then the luxury market, with yacht owners flocking to resorts that the government is building on the Red Sea coast. No one in the conservative Islamic kingdom had planned for the Christians.

Yet Christians of many stripes — including Baptists, Mennonites and others who call themselves “children of God” — were among the first people to use the new Saudi tourist visas. Since then, they have grown steadily in numbers, drawn by word of mouth and viral YouTube videos arguing that Saudi Arabia, not Egypt, is the site of Mount Sinai, the peak where Jewish and Christian Scriptures describe God revealing the Ten Commandments.

The tour visited Jebel al-Lawz, in northwestern Saudi Arabia, which some Christians believe could be Mount Sinai.

Mainstream biblical scholars vigorously dispute this. But that does little to dampen the pilgrims’ enthusiasm as they embark on what is, for many of them, the trip of a lifetime, hunting for evidence that they think could prove the truth of the Exodus.

“It makes something tangible that you have believed in your whole life,” said Kris Gibson, 53, the Idaho bookkeeper on Mr. Richardson’s trip, who had never traveled beyond the United States and Mexico before she boarded a plane in February to Saudi Arabia.

For decades, nearly all of the tourists who entered Saudi Arabia were pilgrims going to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam. Openly practicing other religions was effectively forbidden. Synthetic Christmas trees were smuggled in and sold as contraband. People accused of “witchcraft” were executed.

The country’s religious dogmatism began to ease early in the 2000s, when tens of thousands of Saudis studied in the United States. Then, in 2015, a new king elevated his 29-year-old son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, into the line of succession.

Prince Mohammed declared that he would turn the kingdom into a global business hub. He unleashed a cascade of social changes, stripping religious police of their powers, loosening dress codes and lifting a ban on women’s driving.

He also oversaw an increase in political repression, silencing almost every Saudi voice that might challenge him. In 2018, Saudi agents in Istanbul murdered and dismembered the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critical exile. An American intelligence assessment determined that the prince probably ordered the killing, a charge he denied.

Petroglyphs in the Tabuk region of Saudi Arabia that the Christians believe may depict a scene of “calf worship” described in the Old Testament. Saudi archaeologists say similar petroglyphs are found across the region.

Since then, Prince Mohammed has defied attempts to isolate him, deploying Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth in new ways to cement the country’s influence, including this month’s surprise deal between a Saudi-backed golf league and the PGA Tour.

As Saudi Arabia traverses this fluid new age, once-unthinkable events have become commonplace, giving daily life the texture of a surreal dream.

Few Saudis would dare to speak of full religious freedom; atheists — and even Muslims who question the tenets of Islam — can face imprisonment. But religious taboos are shifting rapidly. Buddhist monks attended an interfaith gathering in the kingdom last year, and Jewish visitors recently planted date palm trees in Medina, Islam’s second holiest city. An American-Israeli man turned up in the capital, Riyadh, with a website proclaiming himself “chief rabbi of Saudi Arabia.”

The kingdom is changing so fast that people are often unsure what has official approval and what is an accident. Government entities did not respond to requests for comment about Christian tours. Some Saudis privately expressed bemusement, though, and expanding tourism is a priority as the country diversifies its economy.

There is also a more subtle incentive. Saudis have long been portrayed in North America and Europe through tropes that brand them as backward and barbaric. They view tourism as a way to redefine the narrative and showcase their culture: its hospitality, its generosity, its spiced coffee and deep-fried sweets.

“When you think of Saudi Arabia from the States, you certainly don’t think of this,” said Ms. Gibson, strolling through a canyon filled with palm trees.

‘How Beautiful’

When Ms. Gibson told a friend she was going to Saudi Arabia, he called her crazy. She worried about offending Saudis — wearing the wrong thing, eating with the wrong hand — but once she arrived, no one seemed to care.

“I’m just absolutely shocked at how beautiful it is,” she said. “Because, you know, in my head I’m thinking, nothing but sand.”

Israel and Egypt have local Christian populations and long ago welcomed Christian travelers, drawing millions of people a year, many of them American evangelicals. Saudi Arabia is a nascent market. But several tour companies now offer packages geared toward Christians.

Like most similar journeys, Mr. Richardson’s tour — costing $5,199 per person — covered an area that Prince Mohammed chose for a science fiction-inspired mega-project, Neom, where he plans to build a linear metropolis composed entirely of two parallel skyscrapers.

Kris Gibson, a member of the tour from Idaho, at a Bedouin family’s home.

Neom’s planners promise to preserve archaeological sites. Still, some Christian tourists worry.

“I wanted to see it in its pristine nature,” said Michael Marks, 52, the pharmacist from Colorado, who accelerated his plan to visit because of the project.

Like many Christian tourists, Mr. Marks became interested in the kingdom through the story of Ron Wyatt, an American nurse who popularized the idea that Saudi Arabia was the location of Mount Sinai.

Biblical archaeologists typically place Mount Sinai in Egypt, although there are other theories. A minority points to writings by the Roman historian Flavius Josephus suggesting that Jebel al-Lawz, a mountain in northwestern Saudi Arabia, is the site. There is also local lore that Moses spent time in the area. “No historical or archaeological evidence support these stories,” Saudi archaeologists wrote in a 2002 paper.

A Bedouin family hosting the Christian group for lunch.

In the 1980s, Mr. Wyatt smuggled himself into Saudi Arabia and was arrested for entering illegally. He made a series of dubious claims, including that he had discovered the remains of ancient Egyptian chariots under the Red Sea.

Nevertheless, his ideas — initially on the fringe of evangelical beliefs — spread. Several years ago, Ryan Mauro, a self-described security analyst and Fox News commentator, narrated a popular YouTube video, “Finding the Mountain of Moses,” in which he said: “The Saudis have been hiding the evidence of the Exodus.”

Such conspiratorial assertions are often coupled with Islamophobia, but Saudi officials appear to see little conflict in courting conservative American Christians. For one, they are relatively inured to prejudice against Muslims; declarations by Donald J. Trump, like “I think Islam hates us,” did not dent his warm ties with Prince Mohammed when he was president.

But also, links to these groups offer a new source of soft power, coveted as an alternative way of connecting to Americans even when formal U.S.-Saudi ties are rocky. In 2018, weeks after Mr. Khashoggi’s murder, the prince hosted a delegation of American evangelical leaders in Riyadh.

Evidence in the Desert

Mr. Richardson led his first tour to the kingdom in 2019, when the tourist visas were first available. A bearded man with a dry sense of humor, he was raised nominally Catholic in Massachusetts. As a teenager, he was a “very successful hedonist,” he joked.

But in the early 1990s, he came across a tent revival meeting in Tennessee and became an evangelical. “The Holy Spirit just spoke to me and said, ‘Your entire life is just a complete lie,’” he said.

A man gestures, with a group standing behind him and the sun shining bright over mountains.

Mr. Richardson and the group at Jebel al-Lawz. He is driven by an urge to uncover proof of the Bible’s stories, to walk where he believes they happened.

He became fascinated by end-times prophesies, and in two books published more than a decade ago, argued that the Antichrist will be Muslim, describing Islam as a “totalitarian ideology” with “satanic origins.”

Asked how he reconciles his writing with what he calls a love of the Middle East, he said his perspective has changed, describing himself as a “conservative libertarian” who now has more of a live-and-let-live attitude.

On one of their last days in the kingdom, he took the tourists to a Bedouin camp, where their hosts milked a camel, pouring the frothy liquid from a silver bowl into cups for them to drink. Inside a tent lined with burgundy carpets, they dipped dates into fresh goat butter and feasted on meat and rice piled on platters the size of chandeliers. “This is such a privilege, that we get to be at the forefront of all this,” he said, praising the cultural exchange.

That pleasure alone is not what brings him to the kingdom; nor is profit from the tours, which are costly in a country where tourism is still new. Like many of the tourists, he is driven by an urge to uncover proof of the Bible’s stories, to walk where he believes they happened. The scenes of the Exodus fill him with awe. Finding signs that it occurred “would be the single greatest sacred biblical step forward in the past couple of thousand years,” he said.

“In my opinion,” he said, “all the evidence is sitting right out there in the desert.”

As they planned their journey, Luis Torres, 54, and his wife, Elinette Ramirez, 55, wanted to mark the occasion. They printed shirts with an image of a mountain crowned in flames with the GPS coordinates of Jebel al-Lawz.

To get there, the group drove for hours and hiked through a golden-brown canyon. “I want to give everyone time to reflect and pray,” Mr. Richardson said.

As a child, Ms. Ramirez had struggled to connect to the Bible’s stories. Now, she and her husband had traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to see the peak they believed was the mountain of God.

The sun beamed, sending rays floating into the valley, as they lifted their palms to the sky. “Hallelujah! Christ is coming!” they sang. “The trumpet will sound soon and the heavens will open up.”

When the time came to leave, Ms. Gibson lingered. She swayed as she gazed at the valley, wrapped in thoughts of the divine.

“All the majesty,” she said, her cheeks wet with tears. “I just got overwhelmed.”

A group stands on the edge of a sea.
Gazing across the Red Sea.

Ahmed Al Omran contributed reporting from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Charo Henríquez and Isabel Kershner contributed translations.

Vivian Nereim is the Gulf bureau chief. She has more than a decade of experience in the Arabian Peninsula and was previously a reporter for Bloomberg News covering Saudi Arabia. @viviannereim ... 778d3e6de3
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Iran Orders Nationwide Shutdown Because of ‘Unprecedented’ Heat

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The government announced a two-day public holiday, ordering all government agencies, banks and schools to close amid soaring temperatures that threatened public health and strained the power grid

Standing amid a group of yellow taxis in Tehran, a man splashes his face with water in the sweltering heat.
In Iran’s capital, Tehran, the temperature was expected to reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) in the coming days, the country’s metrological organization said.Credit...Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

By Farnaz Fassihi
Aug. 1, 2023

Iran on Tuesday announced a two-day public holiday in response to “unprecedented” heat, ordering all government agencies, banks and schools to shut down, an unusual move prompted by soaring temperatures that threatened public health and strained the country’s power grid.

The nationwide shutdown will run from Wednesday to Thursday, as temperatures exceeded 123 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) in some southwestern cities. And the Iranian Health Ministry advised older people, children and those with underlying health conditions to stay indoors because of the risk of heat strokes. Iran’s soccer league also canceled all games in the next few days because of the heat.

“Given the unprecedented heat in the coming days and to protect public health, the cabinet has agreed with the Health Ministry’s recommendation for a nationwide shutdown on Wednesday and Thursday,” Ali Bahadori Jahromi, the government spokesman, said in a post on Twitter.

Temperatures were well above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) on Tuesday in more than a dozen Iranian cities, and in the capital, Tehran, they were expected to reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly 39 degrees Celsius) in the coming days, according to Iran’s metrological organization.

Iran, a geographically diverse country with mountains and high-altitude terrain that can experience cooler weather, has not been known to shut down the country because of heat. Hot summers are typical in Tehran and the country’s southern cities.

Neighboring Iraq extended public holidays last year to protect employees from 125-degree weather. And in Egypt, officials have been cutting the power at least once a day during the recent heat wave because they do not have enough energy to power the grid. The Cairo government advised buildings and sports stadiums to cut back on air conditioning and lights, and most government employees were told to work from home on Sundays to save electricity.

Iran’s shutdown comes as a heat wave has gripped the Asian, European and North American continents this summer, with July becoming the hottest month ever recorded. Scientists have concluded that human-induced climate change is fueling the high temperatures.

The Middle East, with its shrinking water sources and long stretches of desert, has been hit particularly hard, as its population experience water shortages and sporadic power cuts. In June, Iran changed government employees’ summer office hours so that they could start and end earlier to save energy.

But drought and the systematic mismanagement of water resources have exacerbated the heat crisis for many Iranians. Poverty and the lack of infrastructure in rural areas like Sistan and Baluchestan Province have prevented residents from being able to afford air-conditioners and from getting access to clean drinking water.

Electricity usage was expected to hit a record high across Iran as people turn to air-conditioners, according to the Ministry of Energy. As of Tuesday, at least two power plants had gone off the grid, and power cuts have been reported in some cities, raising concern that the closures were meant to prevent more problems with the grid, according to local news reports.

Many Iranians took to social media to dispute the government’s reasoning for the shutdown, saying it could not meet the expected demand for electricity.

Trust in the government has eroded significantly in the aftermath of an uprising that began last September demanding the end of the Islamic Republic’s rule. Protests erupted across the country because of the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police after she was accused of violating the mandatory hijab law, and as security forces unleashed a violent crackdown.

“The reason for the closures tomorrow and the day after is not the heat,” tweeted Marziye Mahmoodi, an editor of Tejarat News, a financial daily newspaper. “The super power of the region doesn’t have electricity!”

Ataollah Hafezi, a political scientist, also tweeted that the closings “could be for any other reason except for unprecedented heat.”

Experts have said that Iran’s electricity infrastructure is old and needs foreign investments for upgrades. But that is nearly impossible because of U.S. sanctions.

A spokesman for the Energy Ministry, Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi, told local news outlets that the ministry was considering requesting more shutdowns in the coming weeks because of the strain on the electrical grid.

Vivian Yee contributed reporting. ... tdown.html
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Growing Segregation by Sex in Israel Raises Fears for Women’s Rights

Post by kmaherali »

Ultra-Orthodox members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition want to expand the powers of all-male rabbinical courts, and to bar women and men from mixing in many public arenas.


An ultra-Orthodox man walking past a sign in Bnei Brak, Israel, that urges men to not look at women in the street.Credit...Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

The trains from Tel Aviv were packed one evening last month when Inbal Boxerman, a 40-year-old mother of two, was blocked by a wall of men as she tried to board. One of them told her that women were not allowed on — the car was for men only.

Ms. Boxerman was stunned. It was a public train operated by Israel Railways, and segregated seating is illegal in the country. The men stopping her appeared to be protesters going home from a rally supporting the governing coalition, which includes extremist religious and far-right parties pushing for more sex segregation and a return to more traditional gender roles.

“I said, ‘For real?’” said Ms. Boxerman, who works in marketing. “And my friend came up and she also said, ‘Are you for real?’ But they just laughed and said, ‘Wait for the next train — you can sit in the way back.’ And then the doors slammed shut.”

Public transportation is the latest front of a culture war in Israel over the status of women in a society that is sharply divided between a secular majority and politically powerful minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who frown on the mixing of women and men in public.

Although the Supreme Court has ruled that it is against the law to force women to sit in separate sections on buses and trains, ultra-Orthodox women customarily board buses in their neighborhoods through the rear door and sit in the back. Now, the practice seems to be spreading to other parts of Israel.

A woman sits in a window seat on a train.
Inbal Boxerman was blocked from entering a train by a group of men who said the car was for men only.Credit...Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Incidents like the one described by Ms. Boxerman have received widespread media attention since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu included extremist right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties in his governing coalition late last year.

As part of an agreement with ultra-Orthodox allies that underpinned the formation of the coalition, Mr. Netanyahu made several concessions that have unsettled secular Israelis. Among them are proposals to segregate audiences by sex at some public events, to create new religious residential communities, to allow businesses to refuse to provide services based on religious beliefs, and to expand the powers of all-male rabbinical courts.

Supporters of expanding the rabbinical courts’ jurisdiction — such as Matan Kahana, a former religious affairs minister who remains in Parliament but is not in the governing coalition — argue that as a pluralistic society, Israel should tolerate sex segregation in some arenas to accommodate the ultra-Orthodox, for whom it is a way of life.

“I’m all for the rabbinical courts — they are a symbol of Israeli sovereignty in our own land and our eternal connection to Hebrew law,” he said on Twitter earlier this year.

Although some women within the Likud-led coalition are loyal to carrying out its agenda, much of the push to strengthen the rabbinical courts is by the two ultra-Orthodox parties, which don’t allow women to run for office.

Israel’s laws have not been amended to reflect the concessions, but some fear that the changes are already coming, at the expense of women. The Israeli news media has been full of reports in recent months about incidents seen as discriminatory.

Bus drivers in central Tel Aviv and southern Eilat have refused to pick up young women, because they were wearing crop tops or workout clothes. Last month, ultra-Orthodox men in the religious town of Bnei Brak stopped a public bus and blocked the road because a woman was driving.

And Israel’s national emergency medical and disaster service is for the first time segregating men and women during the academic part of paramedic training undertaken to fulfill a national service requirement, the Israeli news media reported last week. A spokesman, Nadav Matzner, said that many of the students were religious, and emphasized that all of the clinical training will be in mixed-sex settings and that paramedics must provide care for everyone.

People on a crowded beach.
A beach reserved for only men and boys in Ashdod, Israel, this month.Credit...Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Over the past decade, sex segregation has seeped into many areas. Small public colleges that enroll ultra-Orthodox students seeking undergraduate degrees segregate classes by sex. Some drivers’ education and government job training courses have run sex-segregated sessions, and some public libraries post separate hours for girls and boys.

Now, the demands of the coalition’s ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties could radically transform the face of a country where equal rights for women are guaranteed in the 1948 declaration of independence and reinforced in several key Supreme Court decisions.

“What is going on here is not an issue of left and right — they are changing the rules of the game, and it will have a dramatic effect on women,” said Moran Zer Katzenstein, who heads Bonot Alternativa, a pro-democracy group, as well as a nonpartisan umbrella group of women’s organizations. “Our rights will be harmed first.”

Members of Bonot Alternativa show up at weekly antigovernment protests dressed in scarlet robes and white wimples that mimic those of the disenfranchised women forced to bear children in the dystopian television show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

A woman rolls up red fabric while sitting at a table in a home.
Efrat Levin-Yoffe, an activist, preparing red robes and hats to distribute to women attending protests.Credit...Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

In a global gender gap report issued by the World Economic Forum in June that ranks 146 countries, Israel dropped to the 83rd place, from 60th place last year. Although the report ranked Israel first in terms of women’s education, the country’s ranking for women’s political empowerment slipped to 96th, just below Pakistan, from 61st last year.

There are fewer women in government than just a year ago. Two of the ultra-Orthodox parties in the governing coalition effectively ban women from running for office, ignoring a 2019 Supreme Court ruling saying that they had to end the practice.

One of the first bills put forth by the coalition’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party proposed jailing women for six months if they visited the holy site of the Western Wall in Jerusalem in “inappropriate” or immodest clothing. Although the bill drew so much outrage that it was dropped, the coalition has taken other steps that worry women.

It has barred the use of feminine nouns in advertisements for civil service jobs, even though Hebrew has distinct masculine and feminine forms for job titles. And although the government passed a law requiring electronic monitoring of men who are the subject of restraining orders because of domestic violence, critics say the law was significantly watered down so that it applies only to men who are deemed an immediate threat or have a criminal record.

People holding a Torah scroll and Israeli flags near a wall.
Members of Women of the Wall, an organization that campaigns for gender equality, praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem last year.Credit...Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Advocates for women are also concerned about the government’s efforts to weaken the Supreme Court, which has supported equal rights for women in several arenas, making it easier to sue over unequal pay, overturning the army’s ban on female fighter pilots — and ruling that mandatory sex segregation on public trains and buses is illegal.

Still, the court has allowed sex segregation in undergraduate college classrooms, a concession made to incentivize ultra-Orthodox men to get an education and join the work force, said Prof. Yofi Tirosh, vice dean of the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law. Many ultra-Orthodox men engage in religious studies full time and do not work or serve in the army.

Professor Tirosh said that women would lose out as more financial resources are invested in men’s programs, female students are shunted into jobs typically seen as the domain of women, and sex segregation spreads to workplaces and public venues.

When women and men are seated separately at publicly funded shows and concerts to accommodate the wishes of the ultra-Orthodox, she said, “the women are seated in the back.”

The latest threat to the status of women is a law proposed by the coalition to expand the powers of the rabbinical courts, which base their rulings on Jewish religious law.

The Orthodox rabbinical court already has jurisdiction over divorce for all Jews in Israel and gives only men the power to formally dissolve a marriage. The proposed changes would also grant them possible jurisdiction over the economic aspects of a divorce and allow them to act as arbitrators in civil matters such as labor or contract disputes, as long as parties have consented. Critics of the bill say that consent is not always given freely.

If lawmakers approve the bill, which has already passed a preliminary hearing, it will reverse a 2006 Supreme Court ruling that curbed the powers of the rabbinical courts to arbitrate civil matters.

A woman speaks into a megaphone as other marchers hold a banner and flags.
“Our rights will be harmed first,” said Moran Zer Katzenstein, who leads a nonpartisan group of women’s organizations.Credit...Maya Alleruzzo/Associated Press

A more recent proposal would let the rabbinical courts determine child support in some circumstances, according to Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, founding director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar Ilan University.

“It’s important to emphasize: The rabbinical courts have only male judges,” Professor Halperin-Kaddari said. “There is no other country in the global north, among states that are considered liberal democracies, that gives formal powers to a system that is totally, completely male and excludes women. Instead of abolishing this, Israel is going in the exact opposite direction and expanding their power.”

A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 13, 2023, Section A, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Women Worry as Israel’s Far Right Pushes Sex Segregation. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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Beirut’s Nightmare Could Become Israel’s Future

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A banner hanging in Tel Aviv during protests against a judicial overhaul says, “In it to oppose the dictatorship.”Credit...Corinna Kern/Reuter

On Sept. 12, Israel’s Supreme Court will consider whether the judicial power grab by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is legal. Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to commit to abide by an adverse decision, so if the court rules against his coalition, Israel will be in full-blown judicial crisis.

The heads of the military, Mossad, Shin Bet and the police will have to decide to whom they are loyal — a political coalition engaged in a judicial putsch or a Supreme Court that preserves its independence.

But even if the court rules that it is powerless to maintain its authority, Israel will still be in a full-blown crisis. Because Netanyahu and his far-right coalition of Jewish supremacists and ultra-Orthodox Jews have already breached the core social contract that has held Israel together for the last 75 years — “live and let live.”

I know a lot about that principle. I lived in two countries in the Middle East from the late 1970s to the late 1980s — Lebanon and Israel — that maintained their stability for years by respecting that principle. Until they didn’t.

Lebanon and Israel have two big features in common: They are really small in geography and incredibly diverse in population — religiously diverse, ethnically diverse, politically diverse, linguistically diverse, educationally diverse.

When your democracy is really, really small and really, really diverse, there’s only one way to maintain stability — all the diverse actors must respect the principle of “live and let live.” Or, as the Lebanese described it each time some faction there breached that principle, plunged the country into civil war and then had to re-establish balance among sects, “no victor, no vanquished.” Everybody has to abide by certain limits on their reach.

Over the last two decades, though, Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Shiite militia, Hezbollah, whose name means “the party of God,” trashed that principle. It used its superiority in arms and warfighters, and the backing of Iran, to impose its authority on all the other Lebanese parties and sects. Instead of “no victor, no vanquished,” Hezbollah imposed the principle often associated with African dictators — “it’s our turn to eat,” meaning democracy be damned, it’s our turn to get more than our fair share of state resources, operating unchecked by any independent authority (such as a judicial system).

For all the many differences between Lebanon and Israel, Netanyahu’s coalition is its own Party of God, and it decided that this was its turn to eat — even though it won last November’s election by a mere 30,000 votes out of 4.7 million cast. So it broke the live-and-let-live principle and immediately began transferring unprecedented amounts of new money to ultra-Orthodox religious schools — without requiring them to teach math, science, English or democratic civics — and appointing ministers with criminal records and pouring government resources into expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank in order to unwind the Oslo peace process. This was all done while trying to neuter the Supreme Court’s ability to stop any of it.

This sort of resource/power grab is unprecedented in Israeli politics, and it is all the more galling when you consider that it is being done, in part, by ultra-Orthodox parties whose members pay the least amount of taxes and serve the least in the military.

Up to now, with occasional exceptions, everyone knew their limits — the secular knew how far to press the Orthodox to open restaurants on the Sabbath, the Orthodox knew how far to press the secular on L.G.B.T.Q. rights. The West Bank settlers hated the Oslo agreement, but they never tried to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the West Bank. Even the Supreme Court had become much more ideologically balanced in recent years between conservatives and liberals, despite Netanyahu’s misleading statements to the contrary.

My friend David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, tells the story of how when his son was born in Jerusalem in 1998, David wanted to be at the side of his wife, Varda. Varda’s obstetrician told him that would be fine — as long as the one ultra-Orthodox delivery room nurse, who would object, was not on duty. The doctor checked on his wife throughout her labor, said David, and managed to time the delivery for right after that religious nurse went off duty.

“That’s when the doctor said to Varda, ‘Time to push,’” David recalled. “That’s how I got to be in the delivery room. It was a microcosm of an Israel where people could hold onto principles, but still find creative ways for coexistence.”

In breaking that live-and-let-live balance by sheer force — thanks to a tiny, transitory political advantage in Parliament — Netanyahu and his coalition have broken something much more important than a law. They have broken the unwritten norm holding Israel together. It is hard to see how the country will ever be the same.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at center, in Parliament.Credit...Amir Cohen/Reuters

If the Supreme Court declares that it doesn’t have the authority to stop Netanyahu’s judicial coup, or if Netanyahu refuses to abide by a ruling against his power grab, the Israeli system — already fracturing because so many army and air force reservists are refusing to serve a government they now consider dictatorial, not democratic — could completely spin out of control.

Here is how Yohanan Plesner, the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank (to which I am a donor) put it in a recent essay on the organization’s website:

An elected government just made a potentially far-reaching constitutional change on narrow partisan lines. Whatever one thinks of the amendment in question, a red line has been crossed. … The fact that this executive power grab was carried out in the face of the largest and most sustained protests in the country’s history, against the will of a majority of the public, and notwithstanding severe warnings from security, law and economic experts, has brought home the magnitude of the threat to millions of Israelis.

From this moment forward, Plesner added — in an analysis that has real echoes for America democracy as well — “every time an Israeli citizen goes to the polls, they will do so with the frightening new awareness that the price of defeat could be their way of life. A religious man will place his ballot in fear that a secular-led government could unilaterally undermine the Jewish character of the state if it chose to do so. A secular woman will cast her ballot trembling at the ramifications of a right-wing victory for her rights.”

Moreover, the rights of Israel’s 1.6 million Arab citizens, for whom the Supreme Court has been a vital protector, could henceforth be totally at the mercy of the Jewish majority if this new law stands. This never, ever should have happened in such a live-and-let-live, diverse nation.

“Elections must not become a winner-takes-all contest, in which the victor seizes everything and the loser risks losing everything,” concluded Plesner. “That is not democracy: It is a recipe for civil war.”

Indeed, I asked the Israeli author and essayist Ari Shavit what he feared most today in his country. It was not, he remarked, that Israel would become “an elective dictatorship — another Hungary, Poland or Russia. That’s because the Jewish-political heritage cannot countenance authority-through-absolutism, and because the radical right in Israel doesn’t have enough power to impose its will on the liberals.”

The true danger, he argued, is that Israel will descend into chaos and disintegrate.

“The looming specter is Lebanon,” Shavit added. “Our neighbor to the north suffered a great rupture when its delicate intertribal order crumbled.” And now, in Israel, “the historic compromise that allowed its highly diverse communities to live together peacefully — with the right controlling political power for most of the last 20 years and the center and left holding sway in the courts, the media and the universities — has collapsed.”

As in the days of the First and Second Temples, Shavit said, “zealotry and factionalism are tearing us apart and threatening to destroy the magnificent nation we built here. So, the nightmare that jolts me awake in the small hours is not Budapest or Warsaw — but Beirut.”

Having personally lived that Beirut nightmare back in the late 1970s, I can confirm that it is all too real a possibility for Israel today. You break it, you lose it — and you can’t get it back. ... 778d3e6de3
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To Escape the Heat in Dubai, Head to the Beach at Midnight

Post by kmaherali »

In a city where weather that would constitute a deadly heat wave in Europe is just a typical summer day, official “night beaches” have become a popular way to cool down.

Toddlers squealed, the sea roared and a portable speaker abandoned on the shore played a love song. Perched on a giant inflatable hot dog, a child paddled through the shallows.

This could have been any beach anywhere on a summer weekend, if you closed your eyes tight enough to shut out the light of the moon. But it was midnight on a recent Monday. The lifeguards were working a night shift, and blazing spotlights were trained on the water, staining it an eerie, luminescent turquoise.

Even at this hour, it was 90 degrees, with 79 percent humidity. That is pleasant, relatively speaking, for summer in Dubai — a city of glistening skyscrapers and bustling ports in the United Arab Emirates, an immigrant hub where citizens are the minority.

“It’s so hot we can’t come to the beach during the day,” said Ramshah Ahmed, 36, a Pakistani teacher who had traveled to Dubai to attend a wedding and spent most of her days inside air-conditioned malls. She was delighted to find a beach open at night so her children could burn off some of their energy; newcomers were still arriving on the sand as she and her son whacked a pink badminton shuttle back and forth.

“I haven’t seen this anywhere else,” she said. “It’s very unique.”

ImagePeople play a colorful board game on a beach at night.
Enjoying a board game in Umm Suqeim. The beach there is one of several that have been designated as “night beaches” by officials in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

People playing in the water. Two children are sitting on two floats.
Splashing around when the sun goes down. In Dubai, where oppressive heat is the norm, some beaches allow visitors to swim 24 hours a day.

Each year, as the suffocating heat of summer creeps in, Dubai’s beaches gradually grow emptier. Weather that would constitute a deadly heat wave in Europe or the United States is the norm in the Arabian Peninsula, and in August, Dubai feels like a steam room. But the coast comes alive long after sunset, when joggers and bicyclists emerge and families set out picnics on folding tables.

At midnight or even 4 a.m. on any given day, the beach in Umm Suqeim — an upscale neighborhood on Dubai’s coast — is busy. It is the favorite of several locations that the Dubai municipality has designated as “night beaches,” where swimming is allowed 24 hours a day and spotlights illuminate the water.

Nocturnal schedules are one of many cultural adaptations to extreme heat that could someday spread to places like Los Angeles and Miami as climate change upends lives around the world. The hosts of this year’s COP28 talks on climate change, the Emirates is a major oil exporter with per capita emissions among the highest in the world. But it’s also one of the most vulnerable places as temperatures rise.

When Kristina Dovhanchyna, 26, moved to Dubai from Ukraine four months ago, the heat stunned her. “It was May and I was dying,” she recalled. She did her best to stay inside as much as she could. Then, as she made new friends from all over the world, she started adjusting to the city’s quirks and rhythms.

When she arrived on the beach that Monday, in the late afternoon, it was almost empty. Now, at night, she was so wrapped in conversation with a friend as she laid back on the sand, leaning on her elbows, that she barely noticed the commotion around her.

People stand near a lifeguard stand on a beach at night. A large floodlight shines nearby.
Lifeguards preparing wheelchair swimming devices at the beach in Umm Suqeim.

People swimming in the ocean at night. Illuminated buildings glow in the distance.
“I feel free when I swim at night,” said Adnan Anwar, a 29-year-old Egyptian real estate agent. “How can I explain it?”

Children called out to their parents over the sound of the waves in Arabic, Urdu, English and Russian. The air smelled of sea salt and cigarette smoke. A five-star hotel shaped like a gigantic sail glowed in the distance, lit up in blue.

“Dubai in the nighttime is very beautiful,” said Mamadoto Momo, 32, a Senegalese lifeguard who works on the beach from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Decades ago, before Dubai metastasized into a sprawling metropolis, Umm Suqeim was a far-off stretch of coast where the town sent its ill to convalesce, Emiratis say. The area’s name roughly translates to “Mother of Disease.” Since the city’s rapid expansion devoured it, the former quarantine has turned into a wealthy neighborhood where aestheticians and plastic surgeons do business alongside gated homes with windows of mirrored glass.

The tidy streets are nearly deserted on summer days, when temperatures of 100 degrees or more combine with high humidity in a dangerous brew. How people cope with the heat depends largely — as it does in the rest of the world — on class.

Migrant workers sweat through their blue jumpsuits and lie down on grassy medians to rest, seeking out precious slivers of shade. The office-bound shield themselves as much as they can, darting between air-conditioned homes, air-conditioned cars and air-conditioned gyms. The rich buy blocks of ice to dunk in their outdoor pools. Many of them simply leave, decamping to London or Europe for weeks or months at a time.

A person emerges from the water. City lights glow in the distance.
A tourist from Pakistan cooling off.

Kristina Dovhanchyna and Aiman bou Nakhle relax on a towel on a beach at night.
Kristina Dovhanchyna, 26, of Ukraine, left, and Aiman bou Nakhle, 28, of Lebanon, enjoying the beach.

Dubai’s extreme heat is not necessarily why the night beaches were created. In a sleek promotional video, the municipality said the government was establishing them because “in a vibrant city,” even the beaches “never sleep.” Officials have described them broadly as an initiative to increase the city’s quality of life.

But heat has become the reason that many residents use them, including Falhad Mohammed, 32, a Somalian who moved to the Emirates as a teenager. Because she works as a supervisor in a girls’ school, she has summers off, and she flips her schedule completely to cope with the heat.

“In the day, it’s all sleep,” said Ms. Mohammed, mocking herself with a loud snoring sound. “And at night, we have the day.”

For others, the beach at night offers a sense of abandon — a space outside the rules and routines of the day.

“I feel free when I swim at night,” said Adnan Anwar, a 29-year-old Egyptian real estate agent. “How can I explain it?”

People play in the water at a beach.
Jumeirah 3 is another beach in Dubai that is open for nighttime enjoyment.

A person swims in the water, illuminated by a bright light in the background.
Some beachgoers head home after a few hours, but many stay all night.

The first time he tried, he was afraid. “You know when you look and it’s nothing — it’s all darkness?” he said. But he loved it. Since he moved to Dubai a year ago, he’s gone to the beach once during the day and more than a dozen times at night, he said.

That same feeling of freedom is what draws Maria Javier, 27, a Filipina domestic worker who comes to the beach almost every night, walking from the Emirati home where she spends her days doing housework.

“We actually escape at night,” she said, smiling cheekily. She and her friend had brought snacks and a thermos of tea and would sit until the morning, just “for fun, releasing stress,” she said.

Some beachgoers head home after a few hours, but many stay all night. By 4:30 a.m., the copper-orange moon, nearly full, hung low over the horizon. A group of friends kicked a soccer ball around. A man laughed uncontrollably as he took pictures of a friend buried in the sand, only his head sticking out. The tide had receded, carving rivulets in the sand. And the heat had finally broken. The temperature was the lowest it would be all day: 87 degrees.

The recitation of Islam’s dawn prayers droned softly from a nearby mosque, and somewhere nearby, a rooster began to crow.

Finally, the sun rose, sending pink streaks across the dusty purple sky. Birds awoke, fluttering over to hop on the sand. Joggers padded by on the boardwalk. For a brief moment, people who had woken at dawn mingled with those who had stayed up all night, enjoying the coolest hour of the day.

A lifeguard stands facing the water at a beach.
The Emiratis’ nocturnal schedules are one of many cultural adaptations to extreme heat that could someday spread to places like Los Angeles and Miami as climate change upends lives around the world.

Vivian Nereim is the Gulf bureau chief. She has more than a decade of experience in the Arabian Peninsula and was previously a reporter for Bloomberg News covering Saudi Arabia. More about Vivian Nereim ... rming.html
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Israel-Gaza Conflict ‘We Are at War,’ Netanyahu Says After Hamas Attacks

Post by kmaherali »

The Israeli prime minister ordered a call-up of reservists after Palestinian militants fired thousands of rockets, invaded several Israeli towns and took hostages. Nearly 300 people have been killed, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Video: ... g_480p.mp4

Here is what to know about the surprise attack on Israel.

Israel battled on Saturday to repel one of the broadest invasions of its territory in 50 years after Palestinian militants from Gaza launched an enormous and coordinated early-morning assault on southern Israel, infiltrating several Israeli towns and army bases, kidnapping Israeli civilians and soldiers, and firing thousands of rockets toward cities as far away as Jerusalem.

By early evening, the Israeli military said fighting continued in at least five places in southern Israel, at least 100 Israelis had been reported dead by emergency medical groups, and Israel had retaliated with huge strikes on Gazan cities. At least 198 Palestinians were killed in either gun battles or airstrikes, the Gazan Health Ministry said.

The Hamas militants behind the attack also took Israelis hostage, the chief spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said.

In an assault without recent precedent in its complexity and scale, the militants crossed into Israel by land, sea and air, according to the Israeli military, leading to some of the first pitched battles between large groups of Israeli and Arab forces on Israeli soil in decades. As of early evening there were the two main battles taking place, near the towns of Ofakim and Beeri, Admiral Hagai said.

All told, the Israeli military said that the militants had entered at least 22 Israeli towns, abducting soldiers and civilians, including an older grandmother. Residents of Israeli border towns told broadcasters that gunmen were moving door to door, looking for civilians. Unverified footage appeared to show Palestinian fighters transporting captured Israeli civilians and bodies through the strip.

“We are at war and we will win it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said in a televised statement, announcing a call-up of Israeli military reservists.

The timing of the assault was striking, hitting Israel at one of the most difficult moments in its history. It followed months of profound anxiety about the cohesion of Israeli society and the readiness of its military, a crisis set off by the government’s efforts to reduce the power of the judiciary. And the violence came 50 years and a day after the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when Israel was also surprised by a complex Arab attack, leading to huge Israeli losses and soul-searching about the state of the country.

The poor coastal enclave of Gaza has been under blockade by Israel and neighboring Egypt for 16 years. Muhammad Deif, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, said in a recorded message that the group had decided to launch an “operation” so that “the enemy will understand that the time of their rampaging without accountability has ended.”

Here is the latest:

President Biden called the attack on Israel an “appalling assault” and said that the United States stands “ready to offer all appropriate means of support” to Israel. The attacks also drew condemnation from several other Western powers, with Hamas singled out for criticism.

The military wing of Hamas, Al Qassam Brigades, described Saturday’s surprise assault on Israel as an operation against the Israeli blockade and “in defense of the Aqsa Mosque,” invoking a dispute around a site that is sacred to both Muslims and Jews and that is among the most deeply contested in the holy land. ... 778d3e6de3
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Post by Admin »

As Received

While there is never any winner in a war, I have never seen Medias or Governments of the Western countries react on the “appalling assault” by the Israelis in Palestine day after day.

When a Nation is backed against the wall for decades, there is nothing else they can do to defend themselves other than attack. I have no doubt, the Palestinian will be exterminated in few days by the Israeli's and Nato's forces but what else can they do, they are already dying everyday of a slow death imposed to them by the same people who now pretend to hold the high moral ground. No one talks of genocide and holocaust of the Palestinian people. No one talks of the holocaust of millions of children who died in Irak, Libya, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Congo, Yemen, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and so many others countries. Can "human beings" not be human anymore? Was it Mandela who was a terrorist, was it Gandhi? or was it Patrice Lumumba?

I am old enough to remembers all these western movies where Indians were depicted as villains, evils and terrorists while cowboy killing the Indians were the saviors, those who brought the civilization to America... I was convinced that the cowboys were the good people, that was the power of Hollywood but one day I went to see a movie named Winetou, in that movie, the Indians were the good people massacred by the cowboy... It did change my perception and I realized that we always have to question those who try to spin the truth in the counter clock direction.
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Across the Mideast, a Surge of Support for Palestinians as War Erupts in Gaza

Post by kmaherali »

The escalation laid bare the limitations of diplomatic deals between Israel and Arab governments as long as the underlying conflict continues. “We told you so,” a Saudi scholar said.

A plume of black smoke on a street.
The National Islamic Bank in central Gaza was bombed on Sunday.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

When the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco announced that they were establishing relations with Israel in 2020, Emirati officials said the deals were symbols of peace and tolerance, while then President Donald J. Trump declared “the dawn of a new Middle East.”

Those words rang hollow to many in the region, though. Even in the countries that signed the deals, branded the Abraham Accords, support for the Palestinians — and enmity toward Israel over its decades-long occupation of their land — remained strong, particularly as Israel’s government expanded settlements in the Palestinian West Bank after the agreements.

On Saturday, when Palestinian gunmen from the blockaded territory of Gaza surged into Israel, carrying out the boldest attack in the country in decades, it set off an outpouring of support for the Palestinians across the region. In some quarters, there were celebrations — even as hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians were killed and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel threatened a “long and difficult war” ahead.

“This is the first time that we rejoice in this way for our Palestinian brothers,” said Abdul Majeed Abdullah Hassan, 70, who joined a rally with hundreds of people in the island kingdom of Bahrain. In the context of the Israeli occupation and blockade, the Hamas operation “warmed our hearts,” he said, calling his government’s deal to recognize Israel “shameful.”

Demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians took place across the region, including in Bahrain, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen, Tunisia and Kuwait. In Lebanon, Hashem Safieddine, head of the executive council for the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, delivered a fiery speech lauding “the era of armed resistance.” And in Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, a policeman opened fire on Israeli tourists, killing two Israelis and an Egyptian.

The ripples spreading from Gaza underscored what many officials, scholars and citizens in the region have been saying for years: The Palestinian cause is still a deeply felt rallying cry that shapes the contours of the Middle East, and Israel’s position in the region will remain unstable as long as its conflict with the Palestinians continues.

Country leaders in suits sign documents at a table outside in front of the White House.
Even in the countries that signed the Abraham Accords, support for the Palestinians remained strong, particularly as Israel’s government expanded settlements in the Palestinian West Bank in the wake of the agreements.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Diplomatic “normalization” agreements between Israel and Arab governments — even with the powerhouse of Saudi Arabia, where American officials have been pushing recently for normalization — will do little to change that, many regional analysts say.

“The current war is a stark reminder that lasting peace and prosperity in the region is only possible after resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Bader Al-Saif, a professor at Kuwait University. “No amount of heavy lifting or acrobatics in dealing with Israel on other files can sidestep or erase this simple fact.”

Many Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, have long insisted that the price of recognizing Israel must be the creation of a Palestinian state. But over the past decade, that calculus has shifted, as authoritarian leaders weigh negative public opinion toward a relationship with Israel against the economic and security benefits it could offer — and what they might be able to get from the United States in return.

The Biden administration has been pressing for a deal that would establish ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia in exchange for significant concessions to the kingdom. Saudi officials have demanded American security assurances and support for a civilian nuclear program.

Last month, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia made his first public reference to the negotiations, saying in a Fox News interview that the talks felt “real” for the first time. And in early October, the kingdom’s newspapers — which operate under limited press freedom — began publishing a spate of columns that were subtly or openly supportive of normalization.

The eruption of violence on Saturday presented a significant challenge to those efforts.

A shirtless man, blindfolded and cuffed, sits on the ground, as two police officers stand nearby. One of them is holding a rifle.
A blindfolded Palestinian prisoner speaking to a member of the Israeli security forces on the border with Gaza, near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, on Sunday.Credit...Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It also made comments by King Abdullah II of Jordan at a conference in New York last month appear prescient: “This belief by some in the region that you can parachute over Palestine — deal with the Arabs and work your way back — that does not work,” he said.

Indeed, some Arab officials and scholars complain that their warnings about normalization deals that do not sincerely address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have fallen on deaf ears.

Watching the events in Gaza feels like hearing Arabs say “we told you so” to the American president, Khalid al-Dakhil, a prominent Saudi academic, wrote on the social media platform X. “Ignoring what’s right in finding a just solution to the Palestinian cause creates a trap for the region and threatens peace,” he said.

//Fighting in Israel and Gaza, in Photos ... pe=Article
//A multipronged surprise attack by Palestinian militants put Israel and Gaza on a war footing. Here are images from the assault and its aftermath.
Oct. 7, 2023

American officials say that normalization is a key step toward a more integrated Middle East, with positive implications for regional security and American defense interests.

//Israel-Gaza War: Live Updates
Oct. 9, 2023, 11:44 a.m. ET25 minutes ago
25 minutes ago
//The European Union is suspending some of its aid to Palestinians while it conducts a review.
//‘Is he dead?’: An Israeli airstrike hits a crowded marketplace in Gaza, killing dozens.
//Schumer tells Xi he is ‘disappointed’ by China’s response to Hamas’s attack in Israel.

“There are really two paths before the region,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “There’s the path of greater integration, greater stability, including, critically, making sure that Israelis and Palestinians resolve their differences, or there’s the path of terror that Hamas is engaged on, that has not improved the lives of a single person.”

He added: “We’ve said from day one that even as we’re working toward normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, that can’t be a substitute for resolving the differences between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Six men climb a mountain of debris from a collapsed building as they inspect the damage.
A building damaged in strikes in Gaza City on Sunday.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

But many in the region say that normalization feels like a betrayal: a triumph of government and business elites over the will of their people.

The Palestinian cause “is something we grew up on as children, and it became a compass to show what is right and just,” said Reem Maraj, 34, who participated in a symposium on Saturday in Bahrain that discussed the outcome of the Abraham Accords, three years later.

“If I had the choice, I would have erased this agreement from the history of my country,” she said.

Polls show that even in Arab countries that have relations with Israel, a majority of citizens view the Abraham Accords negatively.

“We stand fully with the rights of the Palestinian people to free their land,” said Hassan Bennajeh, one of the organizers of protests in Morocco. “We are asking to end the normalization because it doesn’t reflect the opinion of Moroccans.”

The Qatar Foreign Ministry released a statement saying that it holds Israel “solely responsible for the ongoing escalation due to its continuous violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.”

The government of Iran, which for years has been engaged in a shadow war with Israel and has supported Hamas, cheered the group’s attack on Israel on Saturday.

A woman wearing a floral head scarf with a bandage on her cheek hugs a boy in the street.
An injured woman with her child after an Israeli airstrike near their house in the central Gaza Strip on Sunday.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

And Ahmed Abu Zeid, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said on local television last night that his country “has been warning, for months, of the danger of provocative practices” by Israel.

“The ongoing occupation and dehumanization of Palestinians has been on full display for decades and it has shaped the way Arabs view the conflict,” said Mr. Al-Saif, the Kuwaiti professor. “Palestine is the priority of the Arab street.”

Even so, Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, an Emirati political scientist, predicted that a deal between Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel was likely to move ahead.

“I would bet my money on it,” he said. “If the right price comes across from the Americans, I think the Saudis have their national interest as No. 1 priority.”

The violence in Israel “might derail things for a while, but it’s not going to reverse the appetite for normalization with Israel and de-escalating — a new Middle East,” he said.

On Sunday morning, another signal arrived in a major Saudi-owned newspaper, Asharq al-Awsat. In a column, Tariq Alhomayed, the newspaper’s former editor, criticized Hamas and Palestinian factions for waging what he called a “useless war.”

He accused them of trying to sabotage the prospects for Saudi-Israeli normalization — and of serving their Iranian backers at the expense of the Palestinian people.

“Iran does not want to see real peace, or specifically Saudi-Israeli peace,” he wrote. “Because if it happens, it will be the peace that will change the face of the region.”

A motorcycle lies on the side of the road.
A motorcycle used by a Hamas gunman lays on a road near Sderot, Israel, on Sunday.Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

Aida Alami contributed reporting from Asilah, Morocco; Nazeeha Saeed from Berlin, Germany; Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon; and Ahmed Al Omran from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. ... -gaza.html
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Israel Forms Unity Government and Bombs Gaza in the Wake of Hamas Attack

Post by kmaherali »

Following the deadliest assault on Israel in half a century, the country is vowing to crush Hamas, and both sides are bracing for an escalating war.


Palestinians inspecting damage on Wednesday after overnight Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip.Credit...Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

After the deadliest assault on Israel in 50 years, the right-wing government and members of the centrist opposition formed a unity government on Wednesday to navigate the crisis, while its warplanes rained destruction on the Gaza Strip and both sides braced for an escalating war between Israel and Hamas.

The creation of an emergency government came as the devastation of the Hamas incursion that overran dozens of towns and a military base last weekend became clearer: civilians, including children, shot dead in homes, in cars, on streets and in hiding places, with bodies still being recovered and counted. The Israeli government said the toll in the attack had risen to 1,200 people killed, 169 of them Israeli soldiers, almost 3,000 others wounded and an estimated 150 people believed kidnapped and held hostage in Gaza.

Israel’s military forces are carrying out a more intense campaign of airstrikes than in past conflicts with Gaza against Hamas, the group that controls the region, and its allies, killing at least 1,127 people and injuring more than 5,300, according to Gazan health officials, who say most of the casualties are noncombatants, including children. After Israel escalated its 16-year blockade of Gaza to a “complete siege” this week, cutting off fuel, water and food, electricity to the region shut down on Wednesday, and hospitals, already overwhelmed, reported that they would soon be unable to function.

Hamas has threatened to kill hostages if Israel strikes civilian homes without warning.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised news conference Wednesday night that the Palestinians who surged into Israel shot children in the head, burned people alive, raped women and beheaded soldiers.

“Every Hamas member is a dead man,” Mr. Netanyahu said. Equating Hamas to the Islamic State, he added, “It will be crushed and eliminated.”

President Biden, speaking to reporters in Washington after meeting with Jewish leaders, appeared to back reports of a particularly gruesome atrocity — one that the Israeli authorities have not verified. “I never really thought that I would see it and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children,” he said.

Administration officials said later that the president did not actually see any images of beheaded children but was basing his comments on a variety of news reports. The White House cited five examples from CBS News and Israeli outlets quoting Israeli military officers asserting that children had been beheaded.

Soldiers stand behind an armored vehicle and plug their ears against the sound.
An Israeli Army self-propelled howitzer firing rounds on Wednesday near the border with Gaza in southern Israel.Credit...Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli government has called up 360,000 reservists, an immense increase in military forces, amid widespread speculation that it will launch a large-scale ground offensive into Gaza, its first since 2014. At the same time, skirmishing and artillery fire on Israel’s northern border continued on Wednesday, fueling fears of a major clash with the Lebanese group Hezbollah — a far more powerful enemy than Hamas — and a two-front war.

Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whose country has long joined Israel in blockading Gaza, said it would not allow Gazans to flee to its territory.

The deal for an Israeli unity government, between Mr. Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leader of an opposition party, creates an emergency “war management cabinet” composed of the two of them and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Decision-making will largely remain in the hands of the broader security cabinet, according to a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu’s party, Likud.

The agreement infuses the government with far greater military experience, a move that could bolster public trust, which has been battered by months of fighting a proposed overhaul of the judiciary by Mr. Netanyahu’s far-right and religiously conservative governing coalition, and now by the failure of Israel’s vaunted security services to anticipate or quickly defeat the assault from Gaza.

The 14-member security cabinet now includes four lawmakers who had been in the opposition, including Mr. Gantz and Gadi Eizenkot, both of them former army chiefs who bring a wealth of wartime know-how from previous conflicts with Gaza and Lebanon.

“It’s about bringing in people who were chief of staff, and who were not involved in the current disaster,” said Gideon Rahat, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “They are not responsible for it, so they can help to get out of it.”

A boy carries belonging down some stairs.
A child carrying belongings from his family’s house, which was damaged in an Israeli airstrike in Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip.Credit...Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

Public trust in government had ebbed all year, following a huge backlash against the government’s plan to undermine the power of the courts. The Parliament approved the overhaul in July, and it is being reviewed by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Many reservists said earlier this year that they would refuse to serve if the changes were adopted, prompting Mr. Gallant, the defense minister, to say that the plan would undermine national security.

With reservists now being mobilized, “They must know that they have someone to trust in the government,” Professor Rahat said.

Fighting in Israel and Gaza, in Photos
Oct. 7, 2023

The main opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said he would not join a unity government as long as it still included the most extreme figures in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, like Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister. Mr. Ben-Gvir, whose anti-Arab campaigning resulted in a 2007 conviction for inciting racism and supporting a terrorist group, remains in the security cabinet.

The Hamas attack was far larger than anything the group had attempted before, with coordinated destruction of Israel’s network of electronic border surveillance and remote-controlled weaponry, as well as dozens of breaches in the border barrier. The Israeli military, which took days to regain control of the areas affected, has said it recovered the bodies of 1,500 Palestinian gunmen who took part in the assault and were killed.

The terrorists rampaged through towns, kibbutzim and a music festival, among other locations, killing indiscriminately and taking hostages, in an incursion felt far beyond Israel.

Burned out cars and left-behind belongings litter the spot where music festival attendees were attacked.
An aerial view of the camp of the music festival that was overrun by Hamas terrorists on Saturday near Gaza.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

The U.S. State Department said on Wednesday that 22 of the dead were American citizens, up from the 14 cited a day earlier, and officials have said that some of the captives are, as well. John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said that 17 Americans remain unaccounted for but that the number who are hostages is probably “very small, very small, less than a handful.”

The government of Thailand said 14 of its citizens were killed, and France said 10 of its people were dead and 18 still missing.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told reporters on Wednesday, just before he boarded a flight to Israel, that his message for Jerusalem would be that the United States has Israel’s back. “We’ll have it tomorrow, we’ll have it every day,” he said. “We stand resolutely against terrorism.”

Thousands of Israelis have volunteered to dig graves.

In Gaza, on Israel’s southwestern border, conditions rapidly worsened in what local officials and the United Nations described as a humanitarian crisis. The territory’s only power plant ran out of fuel and shut down. It was not clear how long supplies of water and food would last.

Gazans reported that Israeli airstrikes had targeted structures normally considered relatively safe, like schools, hospitals and mosques. Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor living in Gaza, said that previous conflicts started with airstrikes targeting single buildings used as security installations. This time, he said, the attacks had leveled entire neighborhoods.

“Nothing is left in areas, almost everything is bombed,” he said, adding that he had left his home for his brother’s home.

A woman sits atop one body, touching two other bodies, each with one hand, as a man tries to comfort her.
A woman at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday mourning over the bodies of her three brothers, Hassan, Ali and Mohammed, who were killed in an airstrike.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Israel has acknowledged hitting multiple mosques, saying that they were used as staging areas by Hamas and other militant groups.

As of Tuesday, 250,000 people were in Gaza shelters run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Rescuers in Gaza struggled, with inadequate equipment and dwindling fuel, to reach people buried under the rubble from airstrikes.

Al-Shifa Hospital, the area’s largest medical complex, was treating 800 patients with only 500 beds and was running low on supplies, said its director, Dr. Muhammad Abu Salima. “We are treating patients in corridors and on the floor,” he said.

The hospital had enough fuel to power its backup generators for another four days at most, he added, and had already curtailed power use. Without electricity, he said, ventilators, operating rooms, incubators and other gear will simply stop working.

“If electricity stops, our hospitals will become nothing but mass graves,” Dr. Abu Salima said.

“We will sit there and watch the patients die one by one without being able to provide them with medical care,” he added.

Israel Katz, the Israeli energy minister, posted on X, formerly called Twitter, “We will continue to tighten the siege until the Hamas threat to Israel and the world is removed.”

In the north, the Israeli military said it had struck Hezbollah targets in Lebanon with aircraft and artillery on Wednesday, in response to a missile attack by the group. The number of casualties on both sides remained unclear.

Some Israeli villages near the border are deserted, the only sound being the constant buzz of aerial drones. The troop presence in the region was noticeably heavier than usual, with soldiers operating checkpoints along the roads, stopping vehicles.

Soldiers moving past possessions abandoned on a street.
Israeli security forces on Wednesday guarding the city of Sderot.Credit...Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times ... 778d3e6de3
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Thousands Flee Northern Gaza as Israeli Evacuation Order Stirs Panic

Post by kmaherali »

Some residents fear a start of another permanent displacement. Gaza authorities said at least 40 people were killed when Israeli airstrikes hit some vehicles heading south.

Palestinians who left the northern Gaza Strip making their way south.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Panic and chaos gripped the northern Gaza Strip Friday as thousands of people fled south in vehicles piled high with blankets and mattresses along two main roads after the Israeli military ordered a mass evacuation of half of the besieged coastal strip.

But rather than finding safety from a feared ground invasion, at least 40 people were killed along the way when Israeli airstrikes hit some of the vehicles fleeing south, according to the Gazan authorities.

Some Gaza residents said they feared this could be the start of another permanent mass displacement like the one in 1948, when more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes in present-day Israel during the war surrounding the nation’s establishment. But it was too soon to tell.

“As I’m packing my things, I’m wondering: Is this really another nakba?” said Dr. Arwa el-Rayes, a 56-year-old doctor, speaking in the last moments before she left her childhood home in Gaza City in the north. The nakba, which means catastrophe, is how Palestinians refer to the 1948 displacement.

“I’m taking my house key and thinking, will I ever return to my home?” she added.

The majority of Gaza’s population — some 1.7 million of the 2.1 million residents — are among those who were forced to leave their homes in 1948, or are their descendants. In 1948, Palestinians were told they would be allowed to return after a few days or weeks, and they took just a few belongings and the keys to their front doors. But they were never allowed back.

The Israeli military warned the more than one million residents of northern Gaza to move to the south of the densely populated enclave for their own safety, even as the Gazan authorities said airstrikes on the south continued. Those who evacuated would be allowed to return home “only when another announcement permitting it is made,” the Israeli military said. But Israel has not suggested they will never be allowed to go back.

Gaza has been under intense airstrikes for nearly a week, an onslaught unleashed after Hamas, the group that controls the territory, launched a surprise attack on southern Israel over the weekend that killed more than 1,300 people, including civilians and soldiers.

Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 1,800 people in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s health ministry, a toll that has been rapidly rising each day. The Israeli assault persisted even as people were trying to evacuate to safer ground.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said that airstrikes had killed at least 40 Palestinians who were trying to flee the north by car on a main highway — one of the few routes to an area farther south. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.

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Video of the aftermath of one of the strikes, which hit an open-bed truck, showed bloodied and wounded people among suitcases.

Some of those killed as they were trying to flee were left in the road, as no one dared to stop and pick them up, the Gazan authorities said.

Some residents who wanted to leave with their families didn’t have vehicles, and were setting out either on foot, carrying with them what they could, or piling onto others’ trucks. Two men made their way south on a donkey-drawn cart and flashed peace signs as they went.

But the roads were damaged by nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes, and difficult to navigate.

“This is a massive and alarming population transfer,” said Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

A man in a brown shirt and blue jeans carries an injured boy who appears to have burns over much of his body.
An injured child is taken to al-Shifa Hospital after Israeli warplanes bombed the Shati refugee camp, west of Gaza City, on Thursday.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

The Israeli military chief of general staff, Herzi Halevi, warned on Thursday that after the Israeli military assault, “Gaza will not look the same.”

But that was not enough to persuade some people to leave their homes. Some residents in the north said they had decided to stay in their homes, despite the grave danger of an Israeli ground invasion, worried about being permanently displaced. Those old enough to remember the 1948 exodus especially did not want to be part of what could be a repeat.

One woman in her mid 70s had to be carried out of her home in Gaza City by her children because she didn’t want to leave, a relative said.

“She’s got her key on her. All the Palestinians have their keys on them now,” Samah Sabawi, her niece who lives abroad, said after her cousins described the situation to her. “And she was sobbing.”

//Fighting in Israel and Gaza, in Photos ... pe=Article
//Oct. 7, 2023

In Gaza City, the main population center in the territory, many were seeking shelter in city schools and hospitals.

“There is no cease-fire for us to be able to leave,” said Mohammed el-Herbawy, a father of one and the owner of a party center in Gaza City. He and 20 members of his extended family worried about evacuating without a guarantee of safe passage.

But hours later, even though they were terrified the entire way, they too joined the convoy of vehicles heading south, passing Gaza City streets they said they no longer recognized because of the days of airstrikes. Some roads were not passable because of the damage, he said.

Several men and youths comb through the rubble of a bombed building.
Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip combing through the remains of their homes after a heavy night of Israeli shelling and airstrikes, on Wednesday.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

The Palestine Red Crescent said Friday that it didn’t have the means to evacuate the sick and wounded from hospitals, or older people and the disabled.

“There are no safe areas in the whole of the Gaza Strip,” the group said in a statement. It called on the international community to immediately intervene, adding that all of Gaza feels that the world has turned its back on it.

Ms. el-Rayes, the doctor in Gaza City, headed out with her brother, his wife and their five children — the youngest of whom is 4. When they left their home, they took a few changes of clothes, three bottles of water — all they had left from their dwindling supply — and the house key.

Outside on the streets, people were confused about what to do or where to go, and there was a sense of chaos and panic.

Ms. el-Rayes didn’t want to leave.

“But when you see the young children staring at you in fear, you’re forced to flee,” she said.

Along the drive down the coastal highway, one of two main roads connecting northern and southern Gaza, she said she was tormented by thoughts of whether she would ever see her home again. After her family arrived at a friend’s house in the southern city of Khan Younis, airstrikes hit nearby.

“We are thinking of going back home,” she said. “It’s better for us to die in our own home.”

Several men look down at bodies covered in white sheets with bloodstains and Arabic writing on them.
Relatives identify family members at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Friday. They were killed in Israeli airstrikes.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Another Gaza resident, Mahmoud Shurrab, said he saw the warnings to evacuate northern Gaza on Facebook on Friday morning and quickly packed a backpack with important documents. He then began driving with his mother south, seeking safety.

On the way, he said, he saw droves of people lining to fill their gas tanks, and others loading luggage into their cars. He and his mother reached a town just south of the evacuation zone but were staying out on the streets, without shelter.

“We are disoriented,” he said. “We don’t know whether we will return or not. Nobody understands what’s going on.”

The 1948 displacements and others that followed in the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict have left a lasting trauma on many Palestinians. Many of them across the world still keep the keys to the homes they never returned to and pass them down to newer generations — enduring symbols of the hope of one day returning.

In 1967, nearly two decades after the 1948 war, another war erupted in the region, resulting in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In the aftermath, some 400,000 Palestinians were displaced, half of whom were refugees who had been previously displaced in 1948, according to the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a human rights organization.

An influx of hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank over the years and expanding settlements there have driven Palestinians off large swathes of land. In 2001, there were 200,000 Israeli settlers. But by 2021, that number had risen to more than 465,000, according to Peace Now, an Israeli group that monitors settlement activity. About 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.

Iyad Bozm, the spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza, insisted that this would not be a repeat of the exodus in 1948.

“We will return to our land again,” he vowed.

Iyad Abuheweila, Ameera Harouda and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

Raja Abdulrahim is a Middle East correspondent based in Jerusalem covering the Levant. More about Raja Abdulrahim ... s-war.html
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Why Israel Is Acting This Way

Post by kmaherali »

With the Middle East on the cusp of a full-blown ground war, I was thinking on Friday morning about how Israel’s last two major wars have two very important things in common: They were both started by nonstate actors backed by Iran — Hezbollah from Lebanon in 2006 and Hamas from Gaza now — after Israel had withdrawn from their territories.

And they both began with bold border-crossing assaults — Hezbollah killing three and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in 2006 and Hamas brutally killing more than 1,300 and abducting some 150 Israeli civilians, including older people, babies and toddlers, in addition to soldiers.

That similarity is not a coincidence. Both assaults were designed to challenge emerging trends in the Arab world of accepting Israel’s existence in the region.

And most critically, the result of these surprise, deadly attacks across relatively stable borders was that they drove Israel crazy.

In 2006, Israel essentially responded to Hezbollah: “You think you can just do crazy stuff like kidnap our people and we will treat this as a little border dispute. We may look Western, but the modern Jewish state has survived as ‘a villa in the jungle’” — which is how the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak described it — “because if push comes to shove, we are willing to play by the local rules. Have no illusions about that. You will not outcrazy us out of this neighborhood.”

So the Israeli Air Force relentlessly pounded the homes and offices of Hezbollah’s leadership in the southern suburbs of Beirut throughout the 34 days of the war, as well as key bridges into and out of the city and Beirut International Airport. Hezbollah’s leaders and their families and neighbors paid a very personal price.

The Israeli response was so ferocious that Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said in a now famous interview on Aug. 27, 2006, with Lebanon’s New TV station, shortly after the war ended: “We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture [of two Israeli soldiers] would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 … that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not.”

Indeed, since 2006, the Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively stable and quiet, with few casualties on both sides. And while Israel did take a hit in terms of its global image because of the carnage it inflicted in Beirut, it was not nearly as isolated in the world or the Middle East over the short term or long run as Hezbollah had hoped.

Hamas must have missed that lesson when it decided to disrupt the status quo around Gaza with an all-out attack on Israel last weekend. This is in spite of the fact that over the past few years, Israel and Hamas developed a form of coexistence around Gaza that allowed thousands of Gazans to enter Israel daily for work, filled Hamas coffers with cash aid from Qatar and gave Gazans the ability to do business with Israel, with Gazan goods being exported through Israeli seaports and airports.

Hamas’s stated reasons for this war are that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been provoking the Palestinians by the morning strolls that Israel’s minister for national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was taking around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and by the steps that he was taking to make imprisonment of Palestinians harsher. While these moves by Israel were widely seen as provocations, they are hardly issues that justify Hamas putting all its chips on the table the way it did last Saturday.

The bigger reason it acted now, which Hamas won’t admit, is that it saw how Israel was being more accepted by the Arab world and soon possibly by the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Iran was being cornered by President Biden’s Middle East diplomacy, and Palestinians feared being left behind.

So Hamas essentially said, “OK, Jews, we will go where we have never gone before. We will launch an all-out attack from Gaza that won’t stop with soldiers but will murder your grandparents and slaughter your babies. We know it’s crazy, but we are willing to risk it to force you to outcrazy us, with the hope that the fires will burn up all Arab-Israeli normalization in the process.”

Yes, if you think Israel is now crazy, it is because Hamas punched it in the face, humiliated it and then poked out one eye. So now Israel believes it must restore its deterrence by proving that it can outcrazy Hamas’s latest craziness.

Israel will apply Hama Rules — a term I coined years ago to describe the strategy deployed in 1982 by Syria’s president, Hafez al-Assad, when Hamas’s political forefathers, the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, tried to topple Assad’s secular regime by starting a rebellion in the city of Hama.

Assad pounded the Brotherhood’s neighborhoods in Hama relentlessly for days, letting no one out, and brought in bulldozers and leveled it as flat as a parking lot, killing some 20,000 of his own people in the process. I walked on that rubble weeks later. An Arab leader I know told me privately how, afterward, Assad laconically shrugged when he was asked about it: “People live. People die.”

Welcome to the Middle East. This is not like a border dispute between Norway and Sweden or a heated debate in Harvard Yard. Lord, how I wish that it were, but it’s not.

This Israel-Hamas war is part of an evolving escalation of craziness that has been underway in this neighborhood but getting more and more dangerous every year as weapons get bigger, cheaper and more lethal.

Like Biden, I stand 100 percent with Israel against Hamas, because Israel is an ally that shares many values with America, while Hamas and Iran are opposed to what America stands for. That math is quite simple for me.

But what makes this war different for me from any war before is Israel’s internal politics. In the past nine months, a group of Israeli far-right and ultra-Orthodox politicians led by Netanyahu tried to kidnap Israeli democracy in plain sight. The religious-nationalist-settler right, led by the prime minister, tried to take over Israel’s judiciary and other key institutions by eliminating the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to exercise judicial review. That attempt opened multiple fractures across Israeli society. Israel was recklessly being taken by its leadership to the brink of a civil war for an ideological flight of fancy. These fractures were seen by Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah and may have stirred their boldness.

If you want to get just a little feel for those fractures — and the volcanic anger at Netanyahu for the way he divided the country before this war — watch the video that went viral in Israel two days ago when Idit Silman, a minister in Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, was tossed out of the Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tzrifin when she went to visit some wounded.

“You’ve ruined this country. Get out of here,” an Israeli doctor yelled at her. “How are you not ashamed to wage another war?” another person told her. “Now it’s our turn,” the doctor can be heard screaming in a video published on X, formerly known as Twitter, and reported by The Forward. “We are in charge. We will govern here — right, left, a nation united — without you. You’ve ruined everything!”

Israel has suffered a staggering blow and is now forced into a morally impossible war to outcrazy Hamas and deter Iran and Hezbollah at the same time. I weep for the terrible deaths that now await so many good Israelis and Palestinians. And I also worry deeply about the Israeli war plan. It is one thing to deter Hezbollah and deter Hamas. It is quite another to replace Hamas and leave behind something more stable and decent. But what to do?

Finally, though, just as I stand today with Israel’s new unity government in its fight against Hamas to save Israel’s body, I will stand after this war with Israel’s democracy defenders against those who tried to abduct Israel’s soul. ... s-war.html
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Why a Gaza Invasion and ‘Once and for All’ Thinking Are Wrong for Israel

Post by kmaherali »

When The Times’s Israel correspondent Isabel Kershner recently asked an Israeli Army tank driver, Shai Levy, 37, to describe the purpose of the looming Israeli invasion of Gaza, he said something that really caught my ear. It was “to restore honor to Israel,” he said. “The citizens are relying on us to defeat Hamas and remove the threat from Gaza once and for all.”

That caught my ear because, over the years, I’ve learned that four of the most dangerous words in the Middle East are “once and for all.”

All these Islamist/jihadist movements — the Taliban, Hamas, ISIS, Al Qaeda, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Houthis — have deep cultural, social, religious and political roots in their societies. And they have access to endless supplies of humiliated young men, many of whom have never been in a job, power or a romantic relationship: a lethal combination that makes them easy to mobilize for mayhem.

And that’s why, to this day, none of these movements have been eliminated once and for all. They can, though, be isolated, diminished, delegitimized and decapitated — as America has done with ISIS and Al Qaeda. But that requires patience, precision, lots of allies and alternatives that have legitimacy within the societies from which these young men emerge.

And so let me say loudly and clearly what I have been saying quietly in my past few columns: I am with President Biden when he told “60 Minutes” that it would be a “big mistake” for Israel “to occupy Gaza again.”

I believe that such a move could turn Israel’s humiliating tactical defeat at the hands of Hamas, which included unimaginable barbarism, into a long-term moral and military strategic crisis. It’s one that could entrap Israel in Gaza, draw the U.S. into another Middle East war and undermine three of America’s most important foreign policy interests right now: helping Ukraine wrestle free of Russia to join the West, containing China and shaping a pro-American bloc that includes Egypt, Israel, moderate Arab countries and Saudi Arabia, which could counterbalance Iran and fight the global threat of radical Islam.

If Israel goes into Gaza now, it will blow up the Abraham Accords, further destabilize two of America’s most important allies (Egypt and Jordan) and make normalization with Saudi Arabia impossible — huge strategic setbacks. It will also enable Hamas to really fire up the West Bank and get a shepherd’s war going there between Jewish settlers and Palestinians. Altogether, it will play directly into Iran’s strategy of sucking Israel into imperial overstretch and in that way weakening the Jewish democracy from within.

Iran’s No. 1 strategic objective with Israel has always been to ensure that Israel remains enmeshed in the West Bank, gets drawn into reoccupying southern Lebanon and, in Iran’s most fevered dreams, reoccupies Gaza. Such an Israel would be so morally, economically and militarily enfeebled, it could never threaten Iran’s nuclear program and hegemonic ambitions.

What should Israel do to ensure that an attack like the one launched by Hamas never happens again? I don’t know right now. I just know that whatever the answer is, it’s not mobilizing 360,000 traumatized Israeli reservists to launch into an urban war in one of the most densely populated places in the world. This will crush the Israeli economy and its international standing.

All these dilemmas must push Biden to sharpen his stance on the crisis.

Biden must realize that Benjamin Netanyahu is unfit to manage this war as a rational player. After such a colossal defeat, the most powerful and unifying thing Netanyahu could have done was call new Israeli elections in six or nine months — and announce that he would not be running; he is ending his career in politics, and therefore Israelis can trust that whatever decisions he makes about Gaza and Hamas now will have only the Israeli national interest in mind; he will not have in mind his own interest in staying out of jail on corruption charges, which requires his holding on to the right-wing crazies in his government (who actually fantasize about Israel reoccupying Gaza and rebuilding the Israeli settlements there) by chasing some big, short-term military victory that he can take to the Israeli electorate as a compensation for the debacle that just happened.

As one of Israel’s best military writers, Amos Harel of Haaretz, wrote on Friday: “There is an unusual combination of people at the top in Israel. On one hand, there is an unfit prime minister, a nearly Shakespearean figure who is facing the personal danger of an ignominious conclusion to an arguably brilliant career. Facing him are a military brass who are smitten and consumed with guilt feelings (and if only Netanyahu would bother displaying a smidgen of that). That’s not a perfect recipe for considered decision making.”

If Israel were to announce today that it has decided for now to forgo an invasion of Gaza and will look for more surgical means to eliminate or capture Hamas’s leadership while trying to engineer a trade for the more than 150 Israeli and other hostages whom Hamas is holding, it would not only avoid further traumatizing its own society, as well as Palestinian civilians in Gaza; it would also give Israel and its allies time to think through how to build — with Palestinians — a legitimate alternative to Hamas.

Such a move would earn Israel a lot of support globally and enable the world to see Hamas for what it is: the ISIS of the Palestinian territories.

“In today’s world, whatever happens on the battlefield can be overturned in the information realm, so the battle of the story matters as much as the battle on the ground,” said John Arquilla, a retired professor of strategy at the Naval Postgraduate School. “If Israel overreacts in Gaza, it will drain out whatever residual good feelings toward Israel exist, and that is Hamas’s big bet. Israel has built so much, enjoys so much and contributes so much to the world and has so much more to contribute. To risk all that in an act of revenge or rage that will not fundamentally alter its strategic dilemmas is exceptionally unwise.”

But, as I said, if Israel still decides it must enter Gaza to capture and kill Hamas’s leadership, it must only do so if it has in place a legitimate Palestinian leadership to replace Hamas — so Israel is not left governing there forever. If that happens, every day that the sun doesn’t shine in Gaza, the water doesn’t flow, the electricity doesn’t operate and hunger or disease becomes widespread will be the fault of every Israeli and even every Jew in the world. Is Israel ready for that burden?

While Biden is right to support Israel, he must get clear answers from Netanyahu now, before it’s too late: Once Israel topples Hamas, who will govern Gaza? If Israel intends to govern Gaza, will it pay for the rebuilding of the infrastructure that it is destroying? And if not, who will? How long does Israel intend to allow the humanitarian crisis to unfold in southern Gaza? Does Israel plan to build settlements in Gaza? Does Israel respect Gaza’s borders? Does it have a plan to help rebuild the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank?

The West Bank Palestinian Authority, under President Mahmoud Abbas, is weak, corrupt and increasingly illegitimate; it can’t manage the West Bank, let alone Gaza — which is how Netanyahu wanted it, so he could always say he did not have any partner for peace.

But this is not all on Netanyahu. Believe it or not, folks, Palestinians have agency, too, and the corruption that the Palestinian Authority has tolerated, and the fact that Abbas banished the most effective leader it ever had, the former prime minister Salam Fayyad, is also a huge factor — something every friend of the Palestinians should be saying loudly, not just blaming Israel.

But all that said, Israel has to completely rethink how it relates to the Palestinians in the West Bank — and therefore the whole settler movement as well — if it wants to replace Hamas in Gaza. If the settler movement continues to set the terms of what is permissible in Israeli politics, another disaster is looming in the West Bank.

My bottom line? Just ask this question: If Israel announced today that it was forgoing, for now, a full-blown invasion of Gaza, who would be happy, and who would be relieved, and who would be upset? Iran would be totally frustrated, Hezbollah would be disappointed, Hamas would feel devastated — its whole war plan came to naught — and Vladimir Putin would be crushed, because Israel would not be burning up ammunition and weapons the U.S. needs to be sending to Ukraine. The settlers in the West Bank would be enraged.

Meanwhile, the parents of every Israeli soldier and every Israeli held hostage would be relieved, every Palestinian in Gaza caught in the crossfire would be relieved, and every friend and ally Israel has in the world — starting with one Joseph R. Biden — would be relieved. I rest my case. ... a-war.html
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Israeli Tanks Briefly Enter Gaza After Netanyahu Vows Hamas Will ‘Pay the Price’

Post by kmaherali »

The Israeli military said the tank raid was in preparation for the “next stages of combat.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that a ground invasion was likely, but did not give specifics.

Video: ... g_480p.mp4

Here’s the latest on the war.

The Israeli military said on Thursday that it had briefly sent tanks into the northern Gaza Strip overnight as part of preparations for the next stage of fighting, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that a ground invasion of the enclave was likely.

It was at least the second time in the conflict that Israel had conducted a limited ground raid in Gaza, after it said some troops had briefly entered the territory two weeks ago. The military said in a Telegram post that it had hit multiple targets and “operated to prepare the battlefield,” without offering details.

Although details of the incursion remained scarce, a video released by Israel’s military showed Israeli tanks firing inside Gazan territory. The area is immediately next to Gaza’s northern border near the Mediterranean Sea, according to an examination of the footage by The New York Times.

Nearly three weeks after the war began, it remains unclear if or when Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza. In a televised speech on Wednesday evening, Mr. Netanyahu did not offer details on the scope of a possible invasion, but vowed that Israel would exact a price for the Oct. 7 incursion led by the Hamas armed group that killed more than 1,400 people.

The United States has asked Israel to delay a ground invasion of Gaza for a few days to give it more time to provide more protection for American troops at bases in the region, according to U.S. officials. The Biden administration has also been trying to buy more time for hostage negotiations and to allow more aid to enter Gaza. It also wants the Israeli military to refine its military objectives and potentially move away from a grinding urban fight that would incur a large number of casualties.

Israel has been relentlessly bombing Gaza from the air, carrying out more than 250 strikes over the past day, its military said. Israel said it is hitting Hamas targets, but Palestinians accused it of indiscriminately killing civilians. The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry said more than 7,000 people have died. Those figures cannot be independently verified.

Here is what else to know:

Fuel shortages in the Gaza Strip have grown so dire that UNRWA, the U.N. agency that has helped feed, school and shelter Palestinians there for decades, said that it had begun to significantly reduce its operations. It said it had nearly exhausted its reserves of fuel, which it needs to run generators. Israel has blocked fuel from entering Gaza, fearful that it could be used by Hamas for military objectives.

As of Thursday morning, 74 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies had entered Gaza since Saturday, far short of the 100 a day or more that the United Nations said the territory needs. As the U.S.-backed deal between Israel and Egypt falls short of producing a sustained flow of aid, U.N. officials and diplomats attribute the delay partly to Israel’s demands to inspect the trucks at a border checkpoint about 25 miles from the crossing where the vehicles move into Gaza from Egypt.

The United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote Thursday on a resolution calling for a cease-fire in the conflict. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but reflect a wider global view than the U.N. Security Council, which has been deeply divided on a response to the war.

More than 20,000 people have so far been displaced in Lebanon amid continued clashes along the southern border with Israel, according to the U.N. migration agency. Some border towns have been almost completely abandoned, with people taking refuge in retrofitted schools that have been ordered to close. ... on-the-war
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Israel Intensifies Gaza Strikes and Says It Is Expanding Ground Activity

Post by kmaherali »

Cellular and internet service abruptly vanished for much of the territory, stoking fears that a full-scale invasion was imminent — or already underway.

A smoke plume ascending following Israeli bombardments on Friday over the northern Gaza Strip.Credit...Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military launched a particularly intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip late on Friday and said it was “expanding ground activity” there overnight, while cellular and internet service abruptly vanished for much of the territory, raising the possibility that a full-scale invasion was underway or imminent.

It was not clear whether the escalation in Israeli operations signaled a coming invasion, which Israeli officials have hinted at since the deadly Oct. 7 incursion into Israel led by Hamas, the armed militant group that controls Gaza. But the military statements came after two consecutive nights of raids into Gaza by Israeli ground forces — incursions it has described as laying the groundwork for the next phase of the war, whatever shape that may take.

Israeli leaders, who have vowed to remove Hamas from power, had been deliberating how, when — and even whether — to invade, as diplomats conducted back-channel negotiations aimed at freeing hostages held by Hamas. The government says that the Oct. 7 attack killed more than 1,400 people and seized more than 200 captives who are being held in Gaza.

Until this week, the Israeli war effort has relied almost entirely on airstrikes and artillery, a campaign that the Hamas authorities say has killed more than 7,000 people and that aid agencies say has displaced more than a million.

International pressure is growing for a cease-fire and for more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, where conditions are fast deteriorating. But the Israeli government, backed by the Biden administration, so far has shown no openness to a cease-fire, which a White House spokesman said this week “only benefits Hamas.”

Israel was “expanding ground activity” in Gaza during the night, the military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a news briefing on Friday evening, but he did not elaborate on what that would mean, and did not refer to a full-scale offensive.

Israeli tanks performing drills.
Israeli tanks during training maneuvers on Thursday.Credit...Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Hours later, Hamas’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that “violent clashes are taking place on the ground” on the northeastern and eastern edges of Gaza. The Israeli military said some of its troops were fighting in Gaza, but declined to say whether the operation was a small incursion or the start of something larger.

Admiral Hagari confirmed that the Israeli Air Force had intensified its strikes on Gaza Friday evening, saying that it was targeting underground “terrorist infrastructure.” He also said that the territory’s largest medical facility, Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City — where civilians have sought shelter as well as treatment for injuries, was being used to shield Hamas’s headquarters beneath it, an accusation that Hamas has denied.

Two major Palestinian mobile networks, Jawwal and Paltel, said that their phone lines and internet services were down, and most attempts to contact residents from beyond Gaza failed. The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had completely lost contact with its headquarters in the Gaza Strip and is “deeply concerned” about its people’s ability to provide medical services and residents’ ability to call ambulances.

Palestinians who managed to communicate with the outside world said that fear and panic were spreading about what the Israeli military had planned.

People working through the rubble of destroyed buildings.
The aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on Thursday in Khan Younis, Gaza.Credit...Yousef Masoud for The New York Times

Israel says its intense bombardment has been aimed at Hamas, but the group’s people, command posts and depots are deeply enmeshed within — and in tunnels beneath — Gaza’s neighborhoods. Israel has struck sites like apartment buildings, mosques and markets, calling them legitimate targets.

//Israel-Hamas War: Live Updates
Oct. 28, 2023, 8:16 a.m. ET2 hours ago
2 hours ago
‘The anxiety has been devastating,’ says a Gaza resident with rare phone access in the blackout.
Gaza’s tunnels loom large for Israel’s ground forces.
Here is the latest on the war.
Facing a blockade by Israel, with the help of Egypt, civilians and aid groups in Gaza are running critically low on food, water, fuel and medicine. Israeli, Western and some Arab officials say Hamas has ample stockpiles but refuses to put them to humanitarian uses, which a Hamas government spokesman has denied.

Aid officials said on Friday that only 10 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had crossed the border between Egypt and Gaza in the previous 24 hours — far short of the 100 per day they say are needed. The United Nations’ chief aid official for Gaza lashed out at the Israeli blockade that has kept more shipments from getting through.

People lined up in the street and sitting on curbs.
People lining up for bread outside a bakery on Friday in Khan Younis, Gaza.Credit...Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

“The siege means that food, water and fuel — basic commodities — are being used to collectively punish more than two million people, among them, a majority of children and women,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, the U.N. agency providing aid in Gaza, said on Friday.

“We should avoid conveying the message that a few trucks a day means the siege is lifted for humanitarian aid,” he added at a news conference in Jerusalem, according to a transcript released by the agency. “It is not. The current system in place is geared to fail.”

A U.N.-led agreement has allowed some aid trucks into Gaza at the city of Rafah, along the border with Egypt, slightly easing the blockade. But in the first week of the agreement, only 84 trucks made the crossing, with hundreds more waiting on the Egyptian side, so water, food, electricity and medical supplies remain in critically short supply.

Israel insists on thoroughly inspecting every truckload for weapons, rather than trusting U.N. inspections. Aid agencies say that and disorganization by the Egyptian authorities have slowed things down drastically.

Many humanitarian efforts in Gaza are hobbled by lack of fuel, but Israel has refused to allow fuel deliveries, which it says would help Hamas.

The Israeli military said earlier on Friday that it had sent troops into Gaza, backed by aerial drones and warplanes, in a raid that “struck dozens of terror targets” in central Gaza belonging to Hamas. Admiral Hagari said the raid had begun “in the light of day” on Thursday and had “ended successfully in the morning hours” on Friday with no casualties.

American officials have urged Israel to delay any invasion to give time for hostage negotiations and for the United States to better protect its forces in the Middle East. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated this week that an invasion was likely.

On Thursday, the leaders of the 27 European Union countries issued a joint statement calling for pauses in the fighting “for humanitarian needs.”

On Friday the U.N. General Assembly voted 120 to 14, with the United States and Israel in the minority, to approve a nonbinding resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. Several of the countries closest to the United States were among 45 that abstained.

As Israel pummels Gaza, Hamas and its allies have continued firing rockets at Israel, including barrages on Friday that caused minor damage and a handful of injuries.

Emergency workers in a street with damaged cars.
The aftermath of a Hamas rocket strike on Friday in Tel Aviv.Credit...Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Patrick Kingsley and Hiba Yazbek reported from Jerusalem, Ronen B ... hamas.html
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2003 3:01 pm

In Israel, There Is Grief and There Is Fury. Beneath the Fury, Fear.

Post by kmaherali »

Several hundred attended the funeral of Dana and Carmel Bachar, killed on Oct. 7.Credit...Photographs by Ofir Berman for The New York Times

I landed in Israel and went straight to a funeral.

It was at a small cemetery surrounded by cypress trees and flowering bougainvillea. Being laid to rest were Dana Bachar, a kindergarten teacher, and Carmel, her 15-year-old son, who loved the waves. They were murdered by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri, near Gaza. Carmel was buried with his surfboard while his father, Avida, who had lost a leg in the attack and was in a wheelchair, looked on and wept.

Several hundred people were present, friends and strangers alike. The mourners were distinctly secular and, in their dress, casual. Be’eri was well known for its pro-peace sympathies: It had a special fund to give financial help to Gazans who came to the kibbutz on work permits, and kibbutzniks would often volunteer to drive sick Palestinians to an oncology center in southern Israel.

“They were to the left of Meretz” is how one leading Israeli political figure described the kibbutz’s political sympathies, referring to the most progressive political party in Israel. Hamas must have known this. It butchered the people there all the same. The group may have had several objectives on Oct. 7, from derailing an Israeli-Saudi peace deal to getting Hezbollah to open a second front. But not the least of its aims was to kill Jews for its own sake, to instill a sense of terror so visceral and vivid that it would imprint itself on Israel’s psyche for generations. In that, it has succeeded.

Seated mourners before a crowd of standing mourners in a cypress grove. They are all wearing T-shirts. A man in front with one leg amputated weeps in a wheelchair. He is holding hands with a crying teenage girl next to him.
Avida Bachar, who lost a leg in the attack on his family’s kibbutz, with his surviving daughter at the funeral of his wife and son.

A white surfboard over an unstained, plain coffin in a freshly dug grave. Dirt is visible on the surfboard and coffin.
Carmel Bachar’s last wish was to be buried with his surfboard.

What, I wondered, will it take for the country to recover? Surely a decisive military victory over Hamas, for the sake of deterrence if not justice. But any kind of military victory would be far from sufficient.

I have been coming to Israel for 40 years, through good times and bad. I’ve never seen it in a more damaged state than it is in now — a state in which grief competes with fury and where the target of fury is split between the terrorists who committed the atrocities and the political leadership that left the country exposed to attack.

And beneath the fury, fear.

From the funeral, I drove (with a brief roadside stop to take cover from incoming rocket fire) to the morgue at the Shura Army Base, where a forensics team opened trailer-size containers of bagged corpses in cold storage. Even at low temperatures, the smell left no doubt as to what was inside. Gilad Bahat, a police investigator, described examining babies who had been shot and burned, people who had been decapitated after being killed and a gruesome hodgepodge of hard-to-identify arms, skulls and other remains.

A row of white trailer containers along a gravel walking path.
The morgue at the Shura Army Base, made up of trailers storing human remains.

“Never have we seen such a sight,” Bahat said. He’s been on the force for 27 years.

Later, at an army headquarters in Tel Aviv, I was given a private screening of some 46 minutes of footage of the events of Oct. 7, assembled from security cameras, smartphone videos recorded by victims and survivors, and the GoPro footage taken by the terrorists themselves. I watched as one terrorist casually murdered a father with a hand grenade and then raided his fridge while two orphaned boys whimpered in fear. I watched another who tried to behead a wounded Thai field worker with a garden hoe while shouting “Allahu akbar.” I listened to a third who, in a phone call to his parents, boasted, “I killed more than 10 Jews with my bare hands!”

I also visited Kibbutz Nir Oz, which lost a quarter of its approximately 400 members to murder and kidnapping. I saw bedroom floors and bunk-bed mattresses soaked in blood. I saw incinerated homes and graffiti in Arabic taking ownership of the crime: “Al-Qassam Brigade.” I met Hadas Calderon, who lost her mother and her niece on Oct. 7, and whose two children and ex-husband are now, as best as she knows, hostages in Gaza. “The world has to scream,” she said. “Bring the children home now.”

Words such as “evil,” “horror,” “blood bath” and “terror” tend to exist, for most of us, on a conceptual or hyperbolic plane. Not for Israelis. They are under no illusions that had the Hamas terrorists been able to kill 100 or 1,000 times as many of them as they did on Oct. 7, they would have done so without hesitation.

A destroyed chair and charred household items along a white wall.

A shattered mirror on a tiled floor.

That’s a point that needs to factor in to any thoughtful analysis of the Jewish state’s predicament. There’s an asymmetry in this conflict, but it’s not about the preponderance of military power. Israel’s goal in this war is political and strategic: to defeat Hamas as the reigning power in Gaza, even though there will be unavoidable cost in innocent lives, since Hamas operates among civilians. But Hamas’s goal is only secondarily political. Fundamentally, it’s homicidal: to end Israel as a state by slaughtering every Jew within it. How can critics of Israeli policy insist on a unilateral cease-fire or other forms of restraint against Hamas if they can’t offer a credible answer to a reasonable Israeli question: How can we go on like this?

The day after the Bachars’ funeral, I traveled to Camp Iftach, a small military base a few hundred yards north of the Gaza border. It was Oct. 25, a day after Hamas had attempted, unsuccessfully, a seaborne infiltration of the nearby beachside kibbutz of Zikim. The entire area was on high alert.

Getting to the camp meant driving my car at high speed from military checkpoint to checkpoint, tailing an Israeli Army Humvee on sandy roads surrounded by fields burned to ash by falling rockets. The camp itself was a collection of concrete bunkers, with hundreds of shell casings from the pitched battles of Oct. 7 littering the pavement outside.

One of the senior officers on base is Lt. Col. Tom Elgarat, whose careworn face looks much older than his 41 years. When I met him, he was getting his soldiers ready for the ground invasion that would begin a few days later.

“This cannot go on,” he said. “If you have to lose life, if you have to take life, this cannot go on.”

By “this,” Elgarat meant the matzav, the situation, in which Israelis now find themselves. He lives in Tel Aviv, where his wife was trying to hold things together while schools were closed and the kids were home. But he grew up in Nir Oz. One of his cousins there, he says, is “alive by pure chance,” having been barricaded with her family for hours. “I want to look in her face and say, you can go back to your house.” Two of his uncles and one of his best friends are among the hostages.

The issue of Israel’s internally displaced people gets short shrift in most news accounts. But it’s central to the way in which Israelis perceive the war. There are now more than 150,000 Israelis — proportionately the equivalent of about 5.3 million Americans — who were forced out of their homes by the attacks of Oct. 7. Small cities like Sderot, near Gaza, and Kiryat Shmona, near Lebanon, are now mostly ghost towns and will remain that way if the government can’t secure its borders.

Should that happen, sizable parts of Israel’s already minuscule territory would become essentially uninhabitable. That, in turn, would mean the failure of the Jewish state to maintain a safe homeland, presaging the end of Zionism itself. It’s why Israelis think of this war as existential and why they’re willing to put aside their fury at Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers, for a while, to win the war.

A man in a camouflage uniform holding an assault rifle, pointed toward the ground, stands in a dark room. The floor is covered in rubble.
An Israeli soldier in a burned-out room at Kibbutz Nir Oz.

Will they win?

If the question is whether Israel will be able to defeat Hamas, the answer is almost certainly yes: Israeli military planners have been war-gaming an invasion of Gaza for decades and, despite the intelligence blunders of Oct. 7, have tools and tactics that can flush Hamas’s fighters out of their maze of tunnels. Nor is the Israeli public likely to be swayed by civilian casualties into supporting any kind of cease-fire in the military campaign until Hamas is defeated and the hostages are returned. Israelis spent 18 years watching Hamas turn to its military advantage every Israeli concession — including free electricity, cash transfers of Qatari funds, work permits for Gazans, thousands of truckloads of humanitarian goods. Israelis won’t get fooled again.

But while Israelis are still processing the horror from the south, the threat of war looms on every side. Around the world, too many people are showing their true colors when it comes to their feelings about Jews, and darkness in the West has made it feel colder in Israel.

A few days after my visit to Camp Iftach, I drove north to Metula, a picturesque Israeli village on a finger of land surrounded on three sides by Lebanon. Other than a handful of soldiers, it was mostly deserted; it would almost surely be captured by Hezbollah in the early hours of a full-scale conflict, which would make the Gaza front look like child’s play.

In the West Bank, nightly Israeli security raids against Hamas and allied terror cells in cities like Jenin and Nablus are largely what stand in the way between the unpopular and corrupt Palestinian Authority and a Hamas coup. Compounding the tension is a sharp uptick in settler violence, with some seeing the crisis as an “opportunity to vent their spleen with M-16s,” as an Israeli reporter put it to me. Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right finance minister, has even suggested effectively banning the Palestinian olive harvest, ostensibly for security reasons. “That would be like banning the Super Bowl,” the reporter observed. It would guarantee an explosion.

And then there’s the wider world. Vladimir Putin, whom Netanyahu did so much to court over more than a decade, has all but openly thrown his support behind Hamas, in part because of Russia’s deepening alliance with Hamas’s patrons in Iran. In China, state-run and social media have veered sharply into open antisemitism. In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom Israel had been engaged in a careful rapprochement, has reverted to Islamist form. “Hamas is not a terrorist organization,” he told members of his parliamentary group late last month, but a “mujahedeen liberation group struggling to protect its people and lands.”

Just as frightening to many Israelis I spoke with was the turn against Israel in the West, a turn that, increasingly, is nakedly pro-Hamas and antisemitic. It’s visible in more than just the attempted firebombing of a synagogue in Berlin or the chants of “gas the Jews” in Sydney, Australia. It’s also in the sheer indifference among educated elites to Israeli suffering — typified by college-age students tearing down campus posters of kidnapped Israeli civilians.

“The effort on campuses and progressive circles to equate Zionism with all that is evil prepared the ground for the hardening belief that ‘the Jews had it coming,’” Einat Wilf, a Harvard graduate and former member of the Knesset for the Labor Party, told me. To many Israelis, there’s a distinct echo of what happened at German universities beginning about a century ago.

It may be that what started near Gaza will end there, too. But there’s a growing sense among Israelis, as well as many Jews in the diaspora, that what happened on Oct. 7 may be the opening act of something much larger and worse: another worldwide war against the Jews.

Three orange road blocks on a two-lane highway, surrounded by grassy hills.
The entrance to the border city of Metula, near Lebanon, is blocked.

A crowd holds up posters that say “Kidnapped” with images of and information about hostages. The woman in the foreground wears a striped shirt and holds both a poster and a baby dressed in pink, who is looking directly at the camera.
A rally in Tel Aviv for the release of Israeli hostages.

A few days after my visit to Camp Iftach, as Israeli troops prepared to enter Gaza, I got a WhatsApp message from Elgarat: “Tonight is the start of the changing process that will bring Israel to a better place. But for my family and many friends, it is too late. All I can do now is focus on the mission. After this is all done, the time for sorrow and grief will come.”

Elgarat had clarity of purpose. But for many Israelis, what comes next seems much more muddled, especially politically. What can Israelis do about a government whose machinations had already created more turmoil and division than Israel had ever seen, whose incompetence and neglect had given Hamas a free hand, yet seems immovable?

“Toppling Bibi will be harder than toppling Hamas,” Anshel Pfeffer, a journalist and the author of “Bibi,” an acclaimed biography of Netanyahu, told me when I had dinner with him in Jerusalem.

Pfeffer’s view isn’t widely shared among Israeli political analysts, who think that massive protests or defections by Likud lawmakers or their coalition partners will quickly bring down the government once the war ends. My guess is that Pfeffer is right: The government, to adapt a line often attributed to Ben Franklin, will hang together because otherwise it will hang separately. And if one of the Oct. 7 lessons for many Israelis is that a right-wing government failed, another lesson is that right-wing ideology was vindicated, at least insofar as a Palestinian state is concerned. If tens of thousands of Israelis were put at mortal risk when Gaza became a quasi-state after Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, what would it mean to put millions of Israelis at risk along much longer borders if the same process were to be repeated in the West Bank? That’s a thought that will weigh heavily on Israelis’ minds if there’s even a whisper of a chance that Hamas or a similar group might come to power.

Even so, it’s hard to overstate the breadth of public disgust with Netanyahu — not only for his failure to heed loud warnings from his generals before Oct. 7 about the military’s diminished readiness, but even more so for his refusal to take responsibility, much less apologize, for his role in the debacle. Seventy-six percent of Israelis think he should resign, according to a recent poll. Ministers can’t show their faces at funerals, shivas or hospital waiting rooms for fear of being yelled at and chased out.

Perhaps nobody feels this disgust more acutely than Amir Tibon, a correspondent for the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Tibon became internationally famous last month after his family’s rescue, by his 62-year-old father, Noam (a retired general), when his kibbutz was overrun by Hamas terrorists. “Saba higea” — “Grandpa is here,” the words with which Amir’s 3-year-old daughter greeted Noam after 10 hours of terrified silence in their safe room — have since become words of pride and hope to Israelis desperately in need of both.

I went to see Amir in a kibbutz in the north, where he and his family were living with relatives. Amir pointed to his shirt: borrowed from a cousin. His car: also borrowed. His pants: from a giveaway rack collected by volunteers.

A bald man in a black T-shirt looks off. He is standing in front of a big green bush.
“We were trained all our lives to trust the government and trust the military,” Amir Tibon said. “After this, people are going to trust themselves.”

Amir hails from that segment of Israeli society that Netanyahu and his allies had spent the previous year demonizing: “elites,” “Ashkenazim,” “anarchists,” “leftists.” It’s true that by the terms of Israel’s political discourse, he and his neighbors tilted left; they had certainly been at the forefront of efforts to stop Netanyahu’s efforts to destroy the power of the Supreme Court. But it’s also true that on Oct. 7, it was largely his segment of society that became the embodiment of Zionism, as both its martyrs and its heroes.

I asked Amir what needed to change going forward. His first answer: More people would need permits to carry personal sidearms. “We were trained all our lives to trust the government and trust the military,” he said. “After this, people are going to trust themselves.”

His second: “Zero tolerance for semi-corrupt political appointments,” he said, a clear reference to characters such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right nebbish who holds the position of minister for national security. “Israelis are under too many threats and exposed on too many fronts to accept a mediocre, amateurish, self-interested rule by people who are not trustworthy.”

The Tibon family’s story is testimony that on Oct. 7, Israel’s people were far better than its government. Amir told me of sitting with a member of his kibbutz’s security team “who fought this insane battle, underarmed” against the hundred-odd Hamas terrorists who entered the Nahal Oz kibbutz that morning. “You cannot avoid a sense of despair when you see the leadership we have,” he told me. “And you can’t avoid a sense of pride when you see the citizens who saved lives on that day.”

There were other points of hope mixed into the general gloom of Israeli life today. I met reservists who had dropped busy careers and flown in from Chicago, Dubai and Melbourne, Australia, to rejoin their old units. A sergeant on Elgarat’s staff who goes by the nickname Cholo — he was D.J.’ing large parties in Brazil but flew back to Israel immediately after Oct. 7 to serve — was clear about where he stood: “I am not supporting this government, but I will go to the army.”

Not many countries can inspire such a willingness to sacrifice in times of crisis. It’s how Israel pulled through in the past, particularly during the Yom Kippur War of 1973, where a costly victory helped ease the pain of an initial debacle and where an eventual peace redeemed the price of both.

Also hopeful was the willingness of Israelis to acknowledge failure — and to seek to learn from it.

Nobody in Israel, including in the highest echelons of its defense establishment, disputes the military and intelligence sides of the failure. The lessons from it, tactical and strategic, are sure to be digested in the months ahead. Chief among them: Don’t try to answer a strategic problem, such as Hamas’s rule in Gaza, with a purely technogical solution, like the various wonder weapons that were supposed to keep the group in check.

A faint view of an urban skyline and buildings from a distance.
Northern Gaza as seen from Sderot, Israel.

But the country’s long-term fortunes will depend on its ability to recognize and correct the political failures that led to Oct. 7. Over dozens of conversations here, a few core questions emerged:

Will Israelis finally see the danger of electing tough-talking narcissists who practice the politics of mass polarization? And will they understand that politics in a Jewish state — which is as much a family as it is a polity — can’t be conducted by one narrow majority jamming its ideas down the throats of a bitterly opposed minority?

Will they see the folly of dividing themselves into a multitude of separate and mutually antagonistic tribes — Jewish and Arab; Ashkenazi and Mizrahi; left wing and right wing; secular and religious — so that they can tear one another to political pieces in full view of their foes?

Will they recognize that Israel’s single greatest strategic asset is the devoted patriotism that its people feel for their state — a feeling that will inevitably suffer if their government repeatedly comprises freeloaders, bigots, tax cheats and ideological arsonists?

Will they understand that the ultimate purpose of Zionism is self-rule for the Jewish people, not indefinite rule over others? A plausible Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel may be years or even decades away, given the wretched state of Palestinian politics. But Israel also has a long-term responsibility to safeguard the possibility of such a state against attempts to abort it.

Finally, will Israelis remember that the responsibility that falls on them now is a responsibility not for them alone? “I have a premonition that will not leave me,” the philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote in 1968. “As it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish, the Holocaust will be upon us.”

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Dubai is Sinking! Crazy Flooding and Thunderstorm hit UAE, Dubai International Airport flooded

Post by kmaherali »


Flights were disrupted at Dubai International Airport on Friday after heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Emirates.
The wet weather caused 13 inbound flights to be redirected to other airports, while six outbound flights were cancelled, a representative for Dubai Airports said on Friday.
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