Turkish foundation aids 200 Palestinian families in Jerusalem

February 25, 2018

A Turkish foundation provided aid to 200 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem on Saturday.

Enes Erbas, board member of Sadakatasi, said the aid included electric blankets and winter clothing.

The distribution was organized by the Jerusalem Zakat Committee.

“We have been working in Palestine for the last eight years and strive to heal the wounds of our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” he said.

Hamza Kasisi, an official from Jerusalem Zakat Committee, thanked the Turkish people and the foundation for its support.

The foundation has previously helped several families living under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180225-turkish-foundation-aids-200-palestinian-families-in-jerusalem/.

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Jordan and Turkey get cozy

Osama Al Sharif

February 27, 2018

Jordan and Turkey are bolstering ties in a bid to unify positions toward regional challenges where the two countries share mutual interests, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Syrian crisis. King Abdullah II hosted Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Gen. Hulusi Akar, the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces, on separate visits to Amman over the course of two days, Feb. 19 and 20, respectively.

Cavusoglu met with the Jordanian monarch to review bilateral relations and the latest regional developments, according to a Royal Court statement. The king stressed his “keenness to continue coordination on issues of concern to the Islamic nation and enhance security and stability of the region.” Moreover, the two sides discussed economic cooperation and bilateral trade. Cavusoglu announced that his government “would revise the Jordanian-Turkish free trade agreement to facilitate the entry of Jordanian exports to Turkey.” He also said Turkey was looking into using the “Aqaba port as a regional hub for Turkish exports to various markets, including Africa,” the Jordan Times reported. A day later, Abdullah and Akar discussed bilateral military cooperation and the fight against terrorism, according to the Royal Court.

During a meeting with Turkish nationals in Amman on Feb. 18, Cavusoglu said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to visit Jordan in the near future. Erdogan last visited the kingdom in August 2017, and Abdullah had traveled to Ankara on Dec. 6, the day US President Donald Trump announced his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Erdogan shares Abdullah’s opposition to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. On Dec. 13 in Istanbul, the king attended a special session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, where they rejected Trump’s proclamation.

The promotion of Jordanian-Turkish bilateral ties comes at a time when Amman and Ankara are recalibrating their positions in the wake of recent regional developments and in anticipation of the possible fallout of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which is expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The two countries are yet to react to the news that the US State Department had sped up moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, now scheduled for May 2018.

Abdullah is a strong supporter of the two-state solution as the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he is committed to his role as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem. Both issues could be affected by Trump’s peace plan and Israel’s far right coalition government.

Abdullah’s pivot toward Turkey comes at a time when Jordan is worried that some key Arab states might be ready to embrace Trump’s plan even if it rejects the two-state option. There is a belief in Jordan, supported by anti-Iran statements from the Saudis, that Riyadh considers the issue of Iran as a regional threat to be more important and pressing than the Arab-Israeli conflict. Egypt’s position is unclear but will be crucial in determining the fate of the US peace plan.

It is no secret that relations between Amman and Riyadh have further cooled since Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. According to local analysts, the Saudis resisted calls by Amman to hold an emergency Arab summit on Jerusalem after the US announcement. In addition, Saudi Arabia was not satisfied with Jordan’s reaction to its moves beginning last June to pressure and isolate Qatar.

Amman did not cut ties with Doha, choosing instead to only downgrade diplomatic relations and close Al Jazeera offices. Other reasons for the cooling in bilateral relations concerns Amman’s position on the war in Yemen — Jordan’s participation in the Saudi-led coalition was symbolic and short-lived — and courting of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has representation in the Jordanian parliament.

Jordan is keen to avoid being seen as joining regional blocs or coalitions. Despite Amman’s historically close relations with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, Abdullah has always followed an independent policy that shuns polarization. This is demonstrated in Amman maintaining low-key diplomatic relations with Tehran, despite its rejection of Iran’s controversial role in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Abdullah was the first Arab leader to warn of a Shiite crescent, going back to 2004.

Given Abdullah’s approach to foreign policy, Jordan’s growing closeness to Turkey, which has sided with Qatar in the Gulf dispute, will be carefully managed. The two sides have shared interests in the outcome of the Syrian crisis, and they both back Palestinian rights and the two-state solution. Turkey’s strong support for the Hashemite’s role in East Jerusalem is of important moral value.

Yet according to Jordanian political analyst Amer al-Sabaileh, both Jordan and Turkey are affected by “the damaging US regional policies.” In this regard, he told Al-Monitor, “[For] Jordan, it is the peace process and Trump’s derailing of the two-state solution, and for Turkey, it is the US backing of Syria’s Kurds and the uncertainty over the latest Turkish incursion into northern Syria.”

In addition to deeper political coordination, Jordan, which has suffered economically as a result of the crises in Syria and Iraq in the past few years, stands to benefit from better commercial ties with Turkey. Former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Jawad Anani told Al-Monitor that the Turkish economy is around the 15th largest, and Turkey’s political and economic standing in the region is beyond dispute.

“The boosting of ties comes at a crucial time for Jordan, since Turkey represents a huge market for Jordanian goods, as well as a source of incoming tourists,” Anani said. “After Cavusoglu’s visit, Turkey exempted over 500 Jordanian goods from customs duties, which is a major opportunity for local industries.” He added that Turkish products and TV dramas are popular in Jordan, and Turkey is the No. 1 tourist destination for Jordanians.

Erdogan, however, remains a contentious figure among Jordanians. Many admire him for standing up to Israel and the United States, and for dialing back Turkey’s secular culture, but others view him as a demagogue and a political opportunist. Ironically, Abdullah’s view of Erdogan has not always been positive. In April 2003, The Atlantic reported the king as perceiving the then-Turkish prime minister as “merely promoting a softer-edged version of Islamism” and saying that Erdogan had told him that democracy is like “a bus ride” — “Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off.” Since that time, the two leaders appear to have realized that they are better off working together to offset common challenges in their troubled region.

Source: al-Monitor.

Link: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/jordan-turkey-boost-relations-face-regional-challanges.html.

Turkey ‘concerned’ over Haniyeh terror listing

February 2, 2018

Turkey on Friday expressed concerns over the US decision to add Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s name to its terrorist blacklist.

In a written statement, Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey is “concerned that this decision of the US Administration, which disregards the realities on the ground, could undermine the Middle East Peace Process, including the efforts for intra-Palestinian peace and reconciliation.”

“We also hope that the decision will not have a negative impact on our country’s humanitarian assistance and economic development activities towards Gaza,” Aksoy said.

“It is obvious that this decision, which overlooks the fact that Hamas is an important reality of Palestinian political life, cannot make any contribution to the just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

On Wednesday, the US government dubbed Haniyeh a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed a raft of sanctions against him.

On its website, the US State Department said Haniyeh had “close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, also added Haniyeh to its sanctions list, essentially freezing any US-based assets he might have.

The designation also bans individuals and companies from engaging in financial transactions with the Hamas leader.

Haniyeh has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump’s decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a move that drew widespread condemnation and protests from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Washington’s recent policy decisions, Haniyeh said after the US move, had served to confirm that “the US Administration can no longer be considered an honest broker… in the so-called peace process.”

On Wednesday evening, Hamas slammed the US decision to add Haniyeh’s name to the terror blacklist, saying the move had revealed the “depth” of Washington’s longstanding bias towards Israel.

“This decision reveals the depth of US bias towards Israel, which has reached the level of a partnership in the aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The move, he added, “specifically targets the Palestinian resistance.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180202-turkey-concerned-over-haniyeh-terror-listing/.

UNICEF: 85% of Syrian children in Jordan live in poverty

February 26, 2018

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 85 per cent of Syrian refugee children in Jordan live below the poverty line.

In a statement released yesterday, the UN body said Syrian families are struggling to meet their basic needs, including feeding, educating and protecting their children.

According to the study, 94 per cent of Syrian children are under five years old and suffer from “multidimensional poverty”, meaning that they are deprived of a minimum of two out of the following five basic needs: education, health, water and sanitation, child protection and child safety.

Four out of ten Syrian families in host communities in Jordan are food insecure while 26 per cent are vulnerable to food insecurity.

“Forty-five per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have adequate health services, including vaccination,” it said.

UNICEF’s study revealed that 38 per cent of Syrian children are not enrolled in formal education or have dropped out of school because of distance, cost, lack of space or being bullied.

Moreover, 16 per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have birth certificates, which will present them with additional challenges and risks in the future.

It is estimated that Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrians, only half of whom are registered refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-unicef-85-of-syrian-children-in-jordan-live-in-poverty/.

Syria militias dissolving due to lack of funds

February 26, 2018

Syrian paramilitary groups fighting alongside the regime are being dissolved due to lack of funds, according to Syrian news agencies.

The Syrian Observer reported that thousands of Syrians fighting alongside militias loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad left their groups and joined regime forces because they were not getting paid. It’s believed that members of the militia groups have not received their salaries for six months.

A separate Syrian news agency reported over the weekend that as many as 10,000 fighters have not been paid for six months, and that about half of them have joined the regime’s army in the last few weeks.

Reports mentioned that the National Defense militia operating in eastern Homs countryside had been dissolved, leaving a very small number stationed at the checkpoints surrounding Al-Houla area and the northern Homs countryside.

A Syrian source commenting on the development learned that large numbers of these fighters who had joined the Syrian army were affiliated with the militia groups belonging to businessman Rami Makhlouf.

One disgruntled fighter who was a former member of the National Defense militia said: “I lost vision and half my hearing in the battles, my right arm was amputated, my body was splintered, I fought on most fronts until I was paralyzed, but I did not receive my salary for six months, and there is no income for me and my children except for the salary.”

A report by Syrian news agency Zaman Al Wasl claims that the problem around payment of militia groups was due to a combination of sharp differences between the leader and their founder in Homs and the expected end to the conflict which has seen fighting against opposition forces reduced with missions drying up for militia groups.

Regime loyalists are said to be demanding accountability of the leaders of the militias who stole millions of Syrian pounds while others paid with their lives to defend them and the Assad regime.

Some 5,400 troops are said to have joined the army over the past two months, mostly from the paramilitary forces in the eastern Homs countryside. The Syrian government opened offices in two centers is Homs to attract former militias.

Citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the report claimed that since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 119,000 pro-regime forces have been killed, including 62,000 troops, tens of thousands of loyalist militiamen, and 1,556 fighters from Hezbollah.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-syria-militias-dissolving-due-to-lack-of-funds/.

Gaza’s first ‘child friendly school’ opens to students

March 1, 2018

Gaza got its first ever “child friendly school” yesterday on the ruins of Jamal Abdul Nasser School which was completely destroyed during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Serving 800 pupils, the new school was built by a Qatari education foundation and UN bodies with design input from children and the local community.

The school was opened by Al Fakhoora, a program of the Qatari funded initiative, Education Above All (EAA) Foundation. It was completed in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Donors of the project are confident that Jamal Abdul Nasser School can now also serve as an emergency shelter for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict. In its press release, the EAA said that the new building is designed to be “environmentally friendly, child-centered and fully accessible for all students. Renewable energy is provided by solar panels, the design incorporates a double wall system, double-glazed, shatter-proof windows, and thermal insulation in the ceiling and floor.”

There are a number of distinctive additions to the school’s multi-purpose halls. “Features of the multipurpose buildings include: flexible learning spaces, an extensive library, IT facilities, breakout spaces, a multi-purpose sports facility and an on-site health facility, providing crucial psychosocial support and child protection services,” said EAA. “The halls are also specially designed to serve as emergency shelters for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict, with gender-sensitive accommodations, emergency power and water networks, and improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities”.

Representatives from UNDP, UNICEF and EAA Foundation were all present at the school opening, as well as returning students from Al Fakhoora’s “Dynamic Future’s scholarship program”. EAA applauded the returning students who have previously completed their education as a result of Al Fakhoora funding.

“We are extremely proud to be part of building this innovative school in Gaza for a community who deserves the highest quality of education facilities. Education is a fundamental human right, one that is crucial to the future of the Palestinian state. By investing in their future, we enable these young people to play a key role in rebuilding their communities, unlocking their full potential,” Farooq Burney, executive director of EAA Foundation’s Al Fakhoora program, said.

The UN was equally effusive in its remarks. Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, said: “UNDP welcomes the opening of the first child-friendly school in Gaza. We are confident that the school, with the support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Al Fakhoora, and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, will become a positive example of ensuring appropriate conditions for education. Most importantly, this model will ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all children and adolescents, with a focus on those left behind.”

UNICEF Special Representative Genevieve Boutin added: “The completion of work at the Jamal Abdul Nasser School is an opportunity to reflect on how this project has helped not only rebuild schools, but also catalyze additional investments in children and young people across Gaza, thanks to generous support from Al Fakhoora, a program of the Education Above All Foundation, and the Qatar Fund for Development.”

Boutin applauded the contributions of children in Gaza in the “design of a safer and more child-friendly school” adding: “We also supported the training of 400 school counselors and 10,000 teachers to provide students with crucial psychosocial support and child protection services, and help them develop life skills and peaceful conflict resolution techniques. All these efforts have contributed to a more positive learning environment, giving us all hope in a better future.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180301-gazas-first-child-friendly-school-opens-to-students/.

US plans May opening for embassy in Jerusalem

February 24, 2018

The US plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem in May, the State Department said on Friday. This will coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) and the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine.

“We are excited about taking this historic step, and look forward with anticipation to the May opening,” said State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “The embassy will be gradually expanded in existing consular facilities in the Arnona neighborhood, while the search for a permanent site has already begun for a longer-term undertaking.”

Nauert added that the interim embassy will have office space for the ambassador and a small staff. An annex on the Arnona compound will be opened by the end of next year.

Trump administration officials said that Congress has been notified of the impending move. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

According to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, though, the US move shows a “determination to violate international law, destroy the two-state solution and provoke the feelings of the Palestinian people as well as of all Arabs, Muslims and Christians around the globe.”

Izzat Al-Reshiq of the Hamas Political Bureau said that this move “needs an urgent and strong Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response.” He called upon the PLO and Arab and Islamic states which recognize Israel “to withdraw their recognition immediately.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180224-us-plans-may-opening-for-embassy-in-jerusalem/.

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