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Hope for Kerala Mother as Son Nears Release from Saudi Prison

It’s been an 18-year wait for the mother, whose prayers have been finally answered….reports Asian Lite News

It’s an unprecedented state of excitement at the house of elderly Fatima in Kerala’s Kozhikode, whose son, Abdul Rahim, a death row convict in Saudi Arabia, is set to return home after securing a pardon.

It’s been an 18-year wait for the mother, whose prayers have been finally answered.

The return was made possible through a massive fund collection drive for Rs 34 crore which was given as blood money on the orders of a Saudi Arabian court. The court had ruled that in case the money was not given Rahim would be executed.

The money was handed over in April. The court yielded after the Saudi family accepted the money which enabled the legal proceedings for his release.

Rahim’s mother cannot hide her excitement, and on Friday she said she wants to see her son as soon as possible.

“Even though he calls me, that’s not enough, I just cannot wait any longer to see my son and wish he come at the earliest,” said Fatima.

Rahim’s nephew is also excited and said that the Saudi Arabian court has asked Rahim’s lawyer to be present on Sunday.

“The lawyer has told us, that on Sunday we will know when Rahim will be finally released. And once released, he will be put on a flight back home, for which the entire village is waiting,” said the nephew.

“After the orders of his release came, every minute now seems like hours,” added the nephew.

An auto driver here, Rahim was drawn to the Gulf to make more money. He reached Saudi Arabia in 2006 and got a job as a personal driver-cum-caretaker of a 15-year-old physically challenged boy, who also had a medical ailment where he breathed through an external device connected to his body.

The boy, according to Rahim, misbehaved with him one day while he was driving. As he was trying to quieten him, his hand accidentally touched the external medical device which got disconnected and the boy died.

A court in Saudi Arabia sentenced him for murder and the appeal court upheld this verdict in 2022. The decision was later confirmed by the country’s Supreme Court.

Then following numerous discussions with the Saudi family, they settled for blood money and the doors for Rahim’s freedom were finally opened.

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Germany, France condemns Israeli strikes on Gaza schools

France also condemned Israel’s recent deadly air strikes on schools sheltering displaced Palestinians in Gaza, declaring such tactics “unacceptable.”…reports Asian Lite News

Germany said Wednesday that a deadly Israeli strike on a school in southern Gaza being used as a shelter was “unacceptable” and called for a rapid investigation into the incident.

“People seeking shelter in schools getting killed is unacceptable. Civilians, especially children, must not get caught in the crossfire,” the foreign ministry posted on X. “The repeated attacks on schools by the Israeli army must stop and an investigation must come quickly.”

France also condemned Israel’s recent deadly air strikes on schools sheltering displaced Palestinians in Gaza, declaring such tactics “unacceptable.”

“We call for these strikes to be fully investigated,” the foreign ministry said, highlighting a strike on Tuesday on a school near the southern city of Khan Younis.

Since Israeli forces returned to the northern Gaza area of Shejaya, where Hamas is trying to reestablish itself, troops have killed more than 150 terrorists and destroyed six “significant” tunnels, the Israel Defence Forces said on Wednesday.

Soldiers from the Paratroopers Brigade and Yahalom, an elite combat engineering unit, have been fighting above and below ground in Shejaya since June 27.

According to the army, soldiers have killed more than 150 terrorists in close-quarters combat, destroyed booby-trapped buildings, and seized weapons and intelligence documents.

Six significant tunnels running about six kilometers long have been destroyed and soldiers are continuing their searches. In some of the tunnel branches, hideouts, command and control centers, weapons and intelligence documents were found.

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 116 remaining hostages, more than 30 are believed dead.

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Saudi launches geographical survey for renewable energy sites

The project will also primarily contribute to achieving the optimal energy mix targets for electricity production, with renewable energy sources comprising about 50% of the energy mix by 2030…reports Asian Lite News

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia launched the Geographic Survey Project for Renewable Energy sites and awarded contracts to Saudi companies to install 1,200 stations for measuring solar and wind energy across all regions of the Kingdom, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Monday.

In a statement on the signing of the project’s contracts, Prince AbdulAziz bin Salman bin AbdulAziz Al Saud, Minister of Energy, stated that this project, which is a part of the National Renewable Energy Programme, is globally unprecedented in terms of geographical coverage. He noted that the project will include all regions of the Kingdom by surveying over 850,000 square kilometres, excluding populated areas, sand dune areas, and airspace restrictions. He clarified that this area is equivalent to the land area of entire countries, such as approximately the areas of the UK and France combined, or Germany and Spain combined. He indicated that no other country in the world has previously conducted a geographic survey of this kind on such an area scale.

The minister also explained that solar energy measurement stations, equipped with advanced measurement devices at ground level, will record Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI), Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI), Diffuse Horizontal Irradiance (DHI), dust and pollutant deposition rates, ground-reflected radiation (albedo), ambient temperature, rainfall levels, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure.

Meanwhile, wind energy measurement stations, which will be installed at different heights, up to 120 meters, will record wind speed and direction, ambient temperature, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity.

The project will also primarily contribute to achieving the optimal energy mix targets for electricity production, with renewable energy sources comprising about 50% of the energy mix by 2030, and to achieving the goals of the Liquid Fuel Displacement Programme by reducing dependence on liquid fuel in electricity generation.

He added that starting this year, 2024, the Kingdom will tender new renewable energy projects with a capacity of 20 gigawatts annually, aiming to reach between 100 and 130 gigawatts by 2030, depending on electricity demand growth.

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8th Saudi-US trade & investment meeting held in Washington

Key agenda items at the council included discussions on trade and investment policies…reports Asian Lite News

The eighth meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the United States kicked off on Sunday in Washington DC.

The delegation, headed by General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT) Deputy Governor for International Relations, Abdulaziz bin Omar Al-Sukran, included representatives from 20 government entities.

The TIFA Council, a pivotal platform for enhancing bilateral trade and investment, focuses on expanding economic cooperation and addressing barriers to trade flows between Saudi Arabia and the United States. It aims to create a conducive environment for economic growth and development.

Key agenda items at the council included discussions on trade and investment policies, market access facilitation, intellectual property rights protection, data governance, and capacity building initiatives.

Alongside the main sessions, the Saudi delegation participated in various meetings and workshops. Highlights included a workshop titled “Trade Opportunities between the Middle East and the United States,” featuring U.S. ambassadors from Gulf countries. Additionally, they attended the opening session of the Select USA Investment Summit, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Further engagements included the fifth GCC-U.S. Trade and Investment Dialogue Forum, focusing on Saudi investments in technology, and the U.S.-Saudi Forum themed “Investing in Our Shared Future.” The delegation also participated in the GCC-U.S. Roundtable and the Saudi-U.S. Roundtable, engaging private sector representatives from both nations.

In 2023, bilateral trade between Saudi Arabia and the United States reached approximately $34 billion. Saudi Arabia’s exports primarily included mineral products and fertilizers, while imports from the U.S. featured machinery, mechanical appliances, spare parts, and automobiles.

The TIFA Council meeting underscores Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fostering robust economic ties with the United States, promoting mutual prosperity and sustainable economic growth.

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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid…reports Asian Lite News

Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.

More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”

“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.

The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”

Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.

“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”

But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.

It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.

With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

Israeli strikes kill at least 42 in Gaza

At least 42 people were killed in Israeli attacks on districts of Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave on Saturday, the director of the Hamas-run government media office said.

One Israeli strike on houses in Al-Shati, one of the Gaza Strip’s eight historic refugee camps, killed 24 people, Ismail Al-Thawabta said. Another 18 Palestinians were killed in a strike on houses in the Al-Tuffah neighborhood.

The Israeli military released a brief statement saying: “A short while ago, IDF fighter jets struck two Hamas military infrastructure sites in the area of Gaza City.”

Exchanges of fire across the Lebanese border between Israel and the powerful Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah have also escalated in recent weeks, raising fears of an even wider war.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the cross-border hostilities must not turn Lebanon into “another Gaza,” warning of the risk of triggering a catastrophe “beyond imagination.”

His warning came as Israel stepped up its strikes in the Gaza Strip, where one hospital in Gaza City reported at least 30 dead on Friday.

And in the city’s Zeitun neighborhood, Israeli helicopters fired at militants, witnesses said. The Israeli military meanwhile said troops continued to carry out operations in central Gaza “eliminating several armed terrorists and dismantling terrorist infrastructure in the area.”

“Fighter jets and additional aircraft struck numerous terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including armed terrorists, weapons storage facilities, and additional terrorist infrastructure,” it added.

In southern Gaza, the ICRC on Friday said 22 dead and 45 wounded people were taken to a Red Cross field hospital after shelling with “heavy calibre projectiles” near its Gaza office.

“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures puts the lives of civilians and humanitarians at risk,” the ICRC said on X.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run territory blamed the shelling on Israel, saying there were 25 killed and 50 wounded in the southern coastal Al-Mawasi area, where thousands of displaced people have been sheltering in tents.

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No normalization with Israel soon, says Saudi envoy to UK  

The ambassador bemoaned how little global coverage the Saudi position on the crisis received, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent Hajj address, in which he reiterated calls for an immediate halt to attacks in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabia will not normalize ties with Israel at the expense of Palestinian statehood, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the UK said on Thursday.

Speaking at Chatham House’s London Conference, Prince Khalid bin Bandar said that normalization remained important to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region because it would ensure peace, stability and security.
He admitted that “compromises would have to be made” to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, which he said affected the world in a way other conflicts did not.

“If what is happening (in Gaza) keeps happening, we are going to go down a path that is irreversible,” Prince Khalid said.

“The further we get away from finding a solution, the more people lose hope, the more we’re at that point, it’s going to spread to a regional conflict. It’s important for everyone to recognisze the danger of what lies ahead. The conflict will not remain regional, it will become international very quickly,” he said.

But Prince Khalid said that normalization would be “irrelevant” until the plight of Palestinians was resolved.

“We believe in the creation of a Palestinian state and a solution to the conflict,” he said. “If it was easy, we’d have done it by now but without that, normalization is irrelevant. There is no point having normalization because we would still have conflict and conflict is the problem, not normalization. There is no point in discussing everything else until we find a solution. Once we do that, everything is on the table.”

Prince Khalid said that the Kingdom was “one of the most important countries in the region,” which had “leverage” in opening up the Arab and Muslim world to Israel and for it not to play a role in brokering a solution would be “silly.”

But he added for that to happen, Israel “needs to play ball as well,” adding that the price for finding a solution was an independent Palestinian state.

The ambassador bemoaned how little global coverage the Saudi position on the crisis received, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent Hajj address, in which he reiterated calls for an immediate halt to attacks in Gaza.

“It’s important to recognize our position, which has never changed, despite people never listening to us,” Prince Khalid said.

“The crown prince’s positon, Saudi Arabia’s position, his majesty (King Salman)’s position, the government’s position and the will of almost every Saudi I know is we need a Palestinian state.

“The offer was made in the Arab Peace Initiative; on 1967 borders, a Palestinian state, a two-state solution and everyone lives happily ever after. It goes back to 1982, King Fahd presented the same offer, it has not been taken up, I find it mystifying.

“The crown prince stated very clearly, we need a ceasefire, an irreversible solution for the Palestinians and then there’s peace everywhere, it wasn’t even reported.

“It’s annoying and frustrating for us because the world assumes something totally different and that’s not helping the situation,” he said.

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Pilgrims depart Makkah after completing spiritual journey

Departing pilgrims expressed their deep gratitude for the exceptional organization and services provided….reports Asian Lite News

Makkah witnessed the departure of pilgrims who successfully completed their Hajj rituals. They were transported by buses provided by the General Syndicate of Cars, equipped with modern amenities.

 This year’s Hajj was a success thanks to the combined efforts of the Saudi government’s authorities, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi government has implemented massive expansions in the Grand Mosque and holy sites to ensure a smooth and secure Hajj for all.

 Departing pilgrims expressed their deep gratitude for the exceptional organization and services provided.

 They offered heartfelt thanks to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and HRH the Crown Prince for their unwavering support. Pilgrims were particularly impressed by the exceptional facilities, dedicated services, and warm treatment they received throughout their journey.

 They concluded by praying for the continued well-being of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and HRH the Crown Prince, seeking divine reward for their service to Islam and Muslims.

Following the completion of Hajj rituals, many pilgrims embarked on a journey to Madinah to visit the Prophet’s Mosque and other mosques and historical landmarks deeply connected to the Prophet’s life.

 Among these cherished destinations is the Quba Mosque, which holds immense significance as the first mosque established by the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

41 Jordanians die amid soaring heat

At least 41 Jordanians have died due to heatstroke during the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Jordan officials said on Tuesday, as temperatures soared in recent days.

The authorities are following the procedures for burying the Jordanian pilgrims in Mecca who died due to heatstroke. Search operations are continuing for the missing pilgrims.

On Monday, Saudi authorities issued warnings to pilgrims to avoid the sun and urged them to postpone the rituals till after 4 p.m. (local time).

Islam’s holiest city recorded 51.8-degree Celsius on Monday, while other nearby holy sites recorded 48-degree Celsius maximum temperature.

Some 1.8 million pilgrims took part in this year’s Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, which began in Mecca on Friday evening amid the blistering heat.

Buses and trains are used to help transport the many worshippers to the holy sites, but the large crowds and intense heat still pose a challenge for the pilgrims and law enforcement officers.

In recent decades, there have also been several major tragedies with hundreds of deaths due to crowding.

Saudi begins preparations for next Hajj season

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Makkah, in cooperation with the Pilgrim Experience Program, celebrated the successful conclusion of the Hajj season with a prestigious “Misk Closing Ceremony” on Tuesday. Individuals and organisations who excelled in providing exceptional services to pilgrims were honoured during the ceremony.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah outlined plans for the upcoming Hajj and Umrah seasons. He said preparations for the start of Umrah season on 14th of Dhu al-Hijjah and for Hajj season 1446 AH officially commenced. Dr. Al-Rabiah also unveiled a new platform, “Nusuk Masar,” designed to streamline services for worshippers performing Umrah and Hajj. This platform aims to create a unified and efficient experience for all stakeholders involved in serving pilgrims.

 For the second year in a row, Hajj Affairs offices, starting from Tuesday, will receive preliminary arrangements documents outlining pilgrim quotas well in advance of the season for better planning and resource allocation, he said.

 To ensure consistent quality, service providers will be required to offer three-year contracts, with fixed allocations for camps and catering services bundled into the service package. Additionally, Hajj Affairs offices will be mandated to partner with Ministry of Health-licensed medical providers, guaranteeing comprehensive medical care for pilgrims.

 Dr. Al-Rabiah expressed gratitude for the collaborative spirit that made this year’s Hajj season a success. He said: “Thanks to Allah, and through the unwavering support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the close follow-up of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, we were able to have this success”.

 He also acknowledged the vital contributions of various sectors, agencies, and international Hajj Affairs offices that collaborate to provide a seamless and spiritually enriching experience for all pilgrims.

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Hajj pilgrims perform Tawaf Al-Ifadah

The pilgrims performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah (circumambulation) yesterday amid a system of services inside the Grand Mosque.

Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that the General Presidency of the Care of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs and other concerned authorities organised pilgrims’ entry to the Grand Mosque through specific doors for each group of pilgrims to perform the Tawaf around the Holy Kaaba, which contributed to the flow and facilitation of pilgrims’ movement.

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Over 1.5m Hajj pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia

A breakdown of the arrival data revealed that 1,483,312 pilgrims arrived via air, while 59,273 pilgrims entered through land ports. Sea ports received a total of 4,710 pilgrims….reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports announced that around 1.55 million pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom for the Hajj season of 1445 AH. This figure comprises all pilgrims entering the Kingdom through air, land, and seaports until the end of Monday, 4th of Dhu Al-Hijjah 1445 AH (10th June, 2024), Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.

A breakdown of the arrival data revealed that 1,483,312 pilgrims arrived via air, while 59,273 pilgrims entered through land ports. Sea ports received a total of 4,710 pilgrims.

The directorate emphasised its commitment to facilitating the entry process for all pilgrims. The authorities have deployed the latest technologies at international ports alongside a team of highly qualified multilingual personnel to ensure a smooth experience for pilgrims.

Animal sacrifice

Meanwhile, Saudi authorities have taken all measures to ensure that sacrificial animals offered to Hajj pilgrims are healthy and safe.

The Makkah region branch of the National Centre for the Prevention and Control of Plant Pests and Animal Diseases (Weqaa) has inspected around 400,000 heads of livestock before their entry into Makkah. This inspection took place from 23rd May 2024, to 9th June, 2024, to ensure the animals are healthy and free from contagious diseases for the Hajj season.

Director-General of Weqaa’s Makkah branch Dr. Ghaleb Al-Saedi highlighted that all imported and local livestock undergo daily physical inspection by epidemic disease control teams. These teams are supervised by the branch’s animal health department.

Al-Saedi added that the teams also investigate animal diseases in importers’ pens, issue health certificates for healthy livestock, and promptly isolate any suspected cases. Furthermore, the epidemic disease control teams continue their inspections and issue necessary clearances at the entry points surrounding Makkah city.

The efforts of the field teams have resulted in the clearance of nearly 400,000 livestock for entry into Makkah. Additionally, they have conducted 1,591 rounds of disease vector surveillance and control, along with 403 rounds of monitoring in markets and slaughterhouses.

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Iran, Saudi Agree to Bolster Ties

The Saudi Foreign Minister, for his part, said the two countries managed to resume ties and reach a stage of strong bilateral cooperation…reports Asian Lite News

Iran’s acting Foreign Minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, have reiterated their nations’ dedication to enhancing bilateral relations and collaboration.

In a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, the two sides also highlighted the necessity to ensure sustainable stability and security in the region, according to a statement released by the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

Bagheri Kani said bilateral ties were reflecting a progressing trend, expressing confidence that Iran and Saudi Arabia were determined to strengthen all-out relations with each other, Xinhua news agency reported.

He stressed that the two countries’ determination to develop bilateral ties had impacted all areas of their relations.

He added that greater interaction and solidarity between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be in the two countries’ interests and help ensure sustainable stability and security in the region.

IRAN SAUDI ARABIA

The Iranian diplomat also condemned the intensification of Israeli attacks in Gaza, especially in Rafah, calling for “coordinated and consensus-based” actions by Muslim states to show their vigilance and sensitivity in that regard and about Gaza.

The Saudi Foreign Minister, for his part, said the two countries managed to resume ties and reach a stage of strong bilateral cooperation and interaction during the tenure of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

He added his country remained committed to continuing talks and cooperation with Iran, pledging more efforts to strengthen the bilateral ties, which are inducive to regional security and stability, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

In April 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia declared the resumption of diplomatic relations in Beijing after years of estrangement.

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