King Salman on the Occasion of Fitr: We Pay Great Attention to Bolstering World’s Security

Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman

Jeddah – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz said that the world is suffering from terrorism, the plague of this era, adding that he pays great attention to bolstering security and stability in the world.

King Salman underlined Saudi efforts to serve pilgrims, the holy places, Islam and Muslims.

In a speech delivered by Minister of Culture and Information Awad bin Saleh al-Awad, the Custodian addressed citizens and Muslims everywhere on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

The speech highlighted joy and happiness of all after the completion of the month of Ramadan and the coming of Eid.

In keeping with the royal custom of communicating with the leaders of Islamic countries, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, sent cables of congratulations to leaders of Islamic countries on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr this year.

They prayed to the Almighty Allah to accept good deeds from all and return this precious occasion with the Islamic nation enjoying dignity, security, and stability.

Taiz Residents Break Fast on Militias’ Canons

A boy walks near the rubbles of houses destroyed during fighting between tribal fighters and Houthis militias in Taiz, Yemen.

Taiz- “Ramadan is not the same anymore. Since the coup of Houthi and Saleh militias against the legitimate government has taken place, we no longer feel the same way about Ramadan Holy month. Instead of hearing the Ramadan cannon at the iftar, we only hear the canons of the militias all the time that daily kill and injure innocent civilians, including women and children,” this is what Taiz resident Abdullah Ahmed Abduh, an employee who works in the public sector, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Ramadan is about to end and the militias are still here taking revenge from Taiz residents who reject their coup and from the progress made by the army,” Abduh said.

He pointed out that people in Taiz are happy with the army’s victories and are praising them, but their hearts are broken and are suffering from a harsh humanitarian situation in light of the suspension of the salaries of the employees working in public and private sectors, who can not cheer their children in this holiday.

This comes at a time when the militias escalate their continuous shelling on the neighborhoods of Taiz using various types of weapons from the positions it has taken on the outskirts of the city to commit daily massacres.

“Three civilians were killed and six others were injured in addition to the material losses in the city due to the hysterical shelling on a neighborhood in Taiz,” military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat as they were sitting the latest crimes committed by the militias.

The son of National Army Commander Colonel Yahya al-Rimi was also killed after being hit by shrapnel from a shell fired by the militias.

Philippines Launches Offensive to Recapture Marawi from Militants

Debris and fire is seen after OV-10 aircraft released bomb during airstrike in Marawi

Philippine aircraft and troops launched on Tuesday a renewed push against Islamist militants entrenched in a southern city, with the aim of clearing the area by the weekend Eid festival, a military spokesman said.

The offensive came amid worry that rebel reinforcements could arrive in the city after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Fighting in Marawi City has entered a fifth week, and nearly 350 people have been killed, as indicated by an official tally. Fleeing residents have said they have seen scores of bodies in the debris of homes destroyed in bombing and cross-fire.

“We are aiming to clear Marawi by the end of Ramadan,” said military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla, as army and police commanders met in nearby Cagayan de Oro city to reassess strategy and operations against the militants, who claim allegiance to ISIS.

But he added: “We are not setting any deadlines knowing the complexity of the battle. We are doing our best to expedite the liberation of Marawi at the soonest time possible.”

The capture of Marawi and the dogged fight to regain control of it has alarmed Southeast Asian nations which fear ISIS – on a backfoot in Iraq and Syria – is trying to set up a stronghold in the southern Philippines that could threaten the whole region.

Padilla said the military aimed to prevent the conflict from escalating after Ramadan ends.

“We are closely watching certain groups and we hope they will not join the fight,” Padilla said.

Some Muslim residents of Marawi said other groups could join the fighting after Ramadan.

“As devout Muslims, we are forbidden to fight during Ramadan so afterward, there may be new groups coming in,” said Faisal Amir, who has stayed on in the city despite the battle.

THE BATTLE

The battle was intense early on Tuesday as security forces made a push to drive the militants, holed up in Marawi’s commercial district, south towards a lake on the edge of the city.

Planes dropped bombs while on the ground, automatic gunfire was sustained with occasional blasts from bombs and artillery. Armored vehicles fired volleys of shells while the militants responded with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Fighting later died down as heavy rain fell.

Military sources said troops were attacking the militants from three sides and trying to box them toward the lake.

“We’re gaining ground and we’re expanding our vantage positions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jo-Ar Herrera, another military spokesman, although he declined to comment on specifics.

“We are moving towards the center of gravity,” he added, referring to the militants’ command and communications center.

An army corporal near the front line told Reuters soldiers were tagging houses and buildings that had been cleared.

“We still have to clear more than 1,000 structures,” he said, adding infantry units were left behind at “cleared” areas to prevent militants from recapturing ground they have lost.

As of Tuesday, the military said 258 militants, 65 security personnel, and 26 civilians had been killed. Hundreds of people are unaccounted for, with many believed to be hiding in the basements of the city.

Aqsa Witnesses Fiercest Tension since Months

Palestinians climb over a section of the controversial Israeli barrier as they try to make their way to attend the second Friday prayers of Ramadan in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, near Ramallah

Ramallah, Tel Aviv- Al-Aqsa Mosque and its surrounding have turned into a conflict zone on Sunday with outbreak of clashes between worshipers and Israeli occupation forces – these clashes included siege, conflicts, arrests and attempts to raid Al-Qibli Chapel, causing a huge destruction in the building in the fiercest tension witnessed by the mosque since months.

Clashes started when worshipers confronted settlers who insisted on breaking into the mosque in the early morning hours, so the Israeli Police sent a huge special force inside the mosque to arrest worshipers who took the chapel as a shelter.

Director of Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar Kiswani said that some 250 Israeli soldiers had allowed Jewish worshipers to enter the mosque to provoke fasting worshipers, in a violation of all international agreements and pledges.

Israeli forces violently beat some young people and also fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas, causing three injuries and cases of suffocation, Kiswani added.

Israeli Police stated that it had detained two worshipers suspected of attacking its members, adding that they would be sent to court to consider extending their arrest duration.

The city residents and sellers said that usually during the last days of Ramadan markets boom but the occupation procedures have paralyzed the city getting prepared to Eid-Al-Fitr.

The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab citizens of Israel denounced the assault on Aqsa Mosque in a statement issued on Sunday.

Munir al-Jaghoub, head of Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, said that the suffering of residents of Jerusalem show the racist facade of Israel and refute its claims of respecting rights of religious people to access sacred Islamic and Christian sites.

Belgian King Shares Iftar with Muslim Family

Brussels- King Philippe of Belgium shared Iftar with a Muslim family in the city of Ghent on Monday, making headlines in the Belgian media, which published the king’s pictures while saluting the family members and eating Moroccan meals with them.

According to the Belgian media, the king wanted to partake in a Ramadan meal. The king chose a regular family, the Benhaddous who live in Evergem near Ghent, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium.

Khalid Benhaddou, one of eight sons in the family, said: “This is a very honorable event for which we are very grateful.” King Philippe joined three generations of family for the event, which Benhaddou views as a sign of coexistence and commitment.

The king took his time to meet all the family members and hear them explain the meaning of Ramadan. The conversation also turned to various social challenges facing the Muslim community in Belgium.

The king started the meal with dates and milk before he moved to the dishes selected from the traditional Moroccan cuisine.

Lebanon Enters Guinness Record Book with Longest Iftar Table

Ajialouna

Beirut – Lebanon bagged a new entry in the Guinness book of world records by organizing the longest Ramadan iftar table in the world at 2,184 meters, beating the former record held by Ghana at 1,928 meters.

Under the theme, “Ramadan in the heart”, the “Ajialouna” charity organization prepared the event under the patronage of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in a message of peace and love from Lebanon to the world to show the spiritual meaning of the holy fasting month.

The record-breaking iftar table brought together 5,400 people from all over Lebanon, who gathered at the wooden heart-shaped table at Beirut’s Waterfront.

Ajialouna’s Chairwoman Lina Zaim al-Dada (dentist) said that the event was not prepared with the aim of breaking the record, but it only sought to project the real image of Islam.

She told Asharq Al-Awsat that Ajialouna cooperated with many charities in order to bring together as many people to break their fast.

Some 640 people worked hard around the clock on June 9, the day of the event to ensure its success, she added.

All participants took their seats within 20 minutes, impressing Guinness’s representative, who said he did not see such organization in Alexandria and Ghana, which both staged the same event last year, al-Dada revealed.

The food was donated by various restaurants and food organizations.

Asked if Ajialouna plans to hold similar events in the future, al-Dada replied: “During the holy month, we provide iftar meals for 500 people every day, which is a tradition we have adopted for many years. We are definitely planning other projects that fulfill the same charity goal.”

The event was attended by people from orphanages, charity foundations and poor families, who were driven for free in buses to the location. Some 1,000 people arrived from Tripoli and the North, 1,000 from Aley and the surrounding region, 1,000 from Sidon and 2,000 from Beirut.

Served by 600 volunteers, they were treated to a meal of 10,000 roasted chickens, 5,600 meat pastries, 15,000 dates, as well as salads, rice dishes and the traditional “maamoul” dessert.

Egyptian Family Preserves Craftsmanship of Handmade Lanterns

Cairo, London- As Cairo’s busy street markets and shops fill up with colorful lanterns for Ramadan, one Egyptian family is working to preserve the tradition of handmade lantern-making. From their small Cairo workshop, Hussein Sayed and his two children make hundreds of traditional steel lanterns with colorful glass panes, which go on sale each year during Ramadan.

The ancient craft was passed down through generations and Sayed hopes to keep it alive for many more generations to come. But, while he believes traditional lanterns will always be included in Ramadan festivities, he fears the trade is dwindling.

Sayed said very few craftsmen still make lanterns, and even fewer craft them with the technique he inherited from his father. Sayed said: “To preserve the continuity of this craft, my father taught my brother. My brother taught me, and I will teach my children.”

Sayed spends most of the year making lanterns with his family, taking a break during Ramadan before resuming work after Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month. The family makes around ten lanterns a day and sells its products to wholesalers for 15-50 Egyptian pounds ($1-$3), depending on their size.

At a local market, shoppers search through the selection of multicolored lanterns put on display, seeking out Ramadan decorations for their homes.

Shopper Naglaa al-Yamamy preferred traditional-shaped lanterns like Sayed’s creations to modern designs, as they brought back good memories of holiday seasons.

Yamany said: “These lanterns are traditional… I brought my children and convinced them to buy from these lanterns, because old traditions have left great memories.”

As long as the demand for traditional lanterns remains, the Sayed family will continue to spend the year perfecting and preserving its craft.

Houthis Ruin Ramadan Spirituality among Yemenis

Yemen

Riyadh – Houthi militias have replaced a number of clergy and orators in several mosques with others who are affiliated with them and banned the Taraweeh prayers in most of Sanaa mosques which ruined Ramadan’s spirituality for Yemenis.

Thousands of those in Yemen suffering under Houthi and Saleh’s militias were forced to leave towns to villages, rural areas and abroad.

Minister of Endowment and Guidance, Ahmed Attiyah has warned the coup militias of the consequences of continuing to impose ideas on the Yemeni society that are not accepted by its people. He called mosques to avoid being involved in sectarian and partisan conflicts.

Attiyah stressed that militias changed the message of the mosques and linked them with Iranian references to impose them on Yemenis.

Militias prevented worshipers from performing Taraweeh prayers in mosques, according to the minister, and later assaulted the worshipers while they removed them from mosque by force of arms.

The militias also kidnapped several worshipers in a clear violation of the sanctity of mosques and a disruption of the social fabrics and coexistence of Yemenis.

A citizen from Sanaa, Abdallah Abdul Bari stated that Houthis have prevented citizens from performing Taraweeh prayer, which ruined the spirituality of Ramadan and the rituals Yemenis were used to do every year during the Holy month.

“I am used to going out with my friends to visit many places in Old Sanaa and see some of my relatives. This year however, each one has their own problems and many of our coworkers and friends are in prisons. Ramadan this year is totally different,” he said.

Abdul Bari also stated that usually, citizens would buy their Ramadan essentials before the month begins, but they weren’t able to do so this year because Yemeni employees didn’t receive their salaries.

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed had presented an initiative to find practical ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nationwide. But his attempts were faced with rejection from Houthi and Saleh militias.

According to the U.N. statement, Ould Cheikh Ahmed discussed ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to Yemeni civil servants who complain that salaries have not been paid on time since Hadi ordered, last year, the move of the central bank from Sanaa to the southern port city of Aden.

The initiative stated that Houthi and Saleh militias will send state revenues from Sanaa and other areas under their control like Hodeidah port, taxes and oil revenues to an independent fund that is impartial and ensures public servants salaries are paid. The government will also transfer its revenues from Aden and other areas to the fund.

Observers believe that the initiative aims to organize the withdrawal of militias from Hodeidah governorate and the formation of the committee of financial and economic experts to help the government reach the suitable and swift mechanism to pay the salaries.

Yemeni sources reported that the suggestion resulted from great efforts of experts during their meeting with the UN delegation, ambassadors of permanent members of the UN, and EU officials. It states that the port should be handled by officials who are currently managing the port under the supervision of UN.

Port incomes are deposited in the Central Bank, Hodeidah branch.

At the end of his visit, the Special Envoy expressed his deep concern regarding the attack on his convoy while traveling from the airport to the UN compound on May 22.

The Special Envoy reminded the parties that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure the safety of all U.N. personnel in the country and urged them to investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and prevent any such incidents in the future.

Ould Chiekh indicated that the incident increased his determination to continue with his efforts to find a negotiated political settlement that serves the best interests of the Yemeni people.

Sources confirmed that Houthis and Saleh militias are continuously trying to prolong war and destruction in the country while getting rich on the expense of Yemenis.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malik al-Mekhlafi reiterated that insurgents must redirect the incomes and revenues of official institutions to the Central Bank in Aden and other governorates to salary payments. He pointed out that the insurgents use institutions’ incomes to finance their war.

In related news, dozens of Yemeni civil servants are protesting daily calling for the payment of the salaries.

Demonstrators protested before the Minister of Interior under militias’ control calling for the departure of the insurgents and release of wages.

Protests announced they’d continue until their rightful requests have been met.

Yemeni sources reported that the demonstrators are being attacked by Houthi supporters.

There are about 1.2 million civil servant in Yemen, with one million in Sanaa and other areas under Houthi control.

They have no received wages for eight consecutive months. Whereas employees in the legitimacy areas are no more than 200 thousand and have been receiving their salaries on regular basis.

Syrian Refugees Experience Ramadan in Jordan’s Zaatari Camp

Zaatari

Amman, London – In Jordan’s Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, the markets become crowded before the iftar meal that breaks the fast of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The camp, which used to be a desert area, now resembles an unorganized city that hosts over 85,000 refugees, who fled the war that is tearing apart their country.

Even though it is hard to spend the fasting month away from their country and relatives, many refugees said they have started to adapt to their new life in Jordan.

Amjad, who left his house in Daraa five years ago, said: “Ramadan in our country was better, because we had houses and electricity. We have adapted to the camp’s conditions and the holy month gets better each year.”

The conditions the refugees have to endure are still difficult. The latest statistics released by the UNHCR in 2016 showed that 93 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan live under the poverty line, earning $88 per month.

Ziad Rustom, a Syrian refugee and father of six, has been living in the Zaatari camp for five years.

He formed a band for weddings and celebrations in the camp and during Ramadan, he prepares traditional post-iftar juices.

Rustom told Reuters: “Ramadan here and in Syria are the same. Thankfully, we have seen a great turnout. In Syria, I worked in preparing juice for 24 years.”

He explains that he fills over 400 bags of juice per day, and sells each for less than a dollar.

He then distributes the remaining bags to the poor refugees.

Aisha Sayyad, Rustom’s wife believes that it is very hard to adapt to life in the camp.

Jordan currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees. Most of them live in urban areas, while over 100,000 live in camps.

Jordan closed its borders with Syria in May 2013 to prevent more refugees from entering the kingdom because of the insufficiency of water and economic resources.

Citizens in Jerusalem Celebrate Ramadan around Giant Lantern

Ramadan

London – Palestinians gather in the old city of Jerusalem to light a giant lantern on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.

The traditional Ramadan lantern is 10 meters in height, making it the biggest in the holy city.

One of the organizers of the event said that it aims to bring people together to celebrate the holy month.

He told Reuters TV: “Today, this activity has a cultural goal which is the enhancement of the Palestinian identity here in Jerusalem. We all know that the lantern is one of Ramadan’s symbols, therefore, we hoped to revive these traditions.”

“We decided to prepare a number of lanterns and to gather young women and men so that we can revive our culture.”

Families gathered around the lantern to take photos and selfies and to partake in the celebrations.

Nasser Qoss, a Palestinian citizen from the old city brought his children to see the lantern.

He said: “First, we teach our kids the meaning of Ramadan. Then we teach them about the lantern, which the symbol of Ramadan.”

“These children are enjoying their freedom as the occupation is oppressing them. They breathe through these events that are organized by Jerusalem institutions.”

The lantern lightning event is among many cultural activities organized in the East Jerusalem during the fasting month.

The giant lantern, funded by the UNDP, was made with the participation of many local charity foundations in cooperation with many volunteers.