A fire set off by stored gasoline in a residential building killed 21 people Thursday evening in a refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, the territory's Hamas rulers said, in one of the deadliest incidents in recent years outside the violence stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The blaze erupted on the third floor of a three-story building in the crowded Jabaliya camp, according to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. No one inside the house survived. The Civil Defense in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, attributed the cause of the fire to gasoline that was being stored in the building. It was not immediately clear how the gasoline ignited. Officials said an investigation was underway. Flames were seen spewing out of the windows of the burning floor as hundreds of people gathered outside on the street, waiting for fire trucks and ambulances. Read more: 4 Palestinians killed in flare-up as Israel counts votes Gaza, ruled by Hamas and under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade, faces a severe energy crisis. People often store cooking gas, diesel and gasoline in homes in preparation for winter. House fires have previously been caused by candles and gas leaks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered condolences to the families of the dead and declared Friday a day of mourning. Tor Wennesland, the United Nations’ Middle East peace envoy, expressed “heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families, relatives and friends of those who died in the accident; the Government, and the Palestinian people.” Hussein Al-Sheikh, a senior Palestinian Authority official, called on Israel to open its border crossing with Gaza to allow for the evacuation of those injured who need advanced medical care to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem. It was later confirmed that all in the house had died. COGAT, the Israeli body controlling the Erez Crossing with the Gaza Strip, did not comment. Read more: Israel and Gaza militants exchange fire after deadly strikes But Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent his condolences to the Palestinians, writing on Twitter that “we have offered our assistance in evacuating injured civilians to hospitals via COGAT. The State of Israel is prepared to provide life-saving, medical aid to Gaza residents.”
Turkish police said Monday they have detained a Syrian woman with suspected links to Kurdish militants and that she confessed to planting a bomb that exploded on a bustling pedestrian avenue in Istanbul, killing six people and wounding several dozen others. Kurdish militants strongly denied any links to the bombing. Sunday's explosion hit Istiklal Avenue, a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants that leads to Taksim Square. “A little while ago, the person who left the bomb was detained by our Istanbul Police Department teams,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu announced early Monday. Police later identified the suspect as Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian citizen. Read more: Bomb rocks avenue in heart of Istanbul; 6 dead, dozens hurt The Istanbul Police Department said videos from around 1,200 security cameras were reviewed and raids were carried out at 21 locations. At least 46 other people were also detained for questioning. The suspect allegedly departed the scene in a taxi after leaving TNT-type explosives on the crowded avenue, police said. Sunday’s explosion was a shocking reminder of the anxiety that gripped Turkey when such attacks were common. The country was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017, some by the Islamic State group, others by Kurdish militants who seek increased autonomy or independence. Police said the suspect told them during her interrogation that she had been trained as a “special intelligence officer” by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, as well as the Syrian Kurdish group the Democratic Union Party and its armed wing. She entered Turkey illegally through the Syrian border town of Afrin, police said. Read more: Turkey arrests 1, suspects Kurdish militants behind bombing The Kurdistan Workers Party denied involvement in a statement, saying it did not target civilians. In Syria, the main Kurdish militia group, People’s Defense Units, denied any links to the suspect. The group maintained that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was trying to gather international support for his plans to launch a new incursion into northern Syria ahead of next year’s elections.Soylu said the suspect would have fled to neighboring Greece if she hadn't been detained. Asked about Soylu’s comments, Greek government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou reiterated Greece's condolences and stressed that the government “is steadily against any terrorist act. What happened in Istanbul is abhorrent and condemnable.” Earlier, Soylu said security forces believe that instructions for the attack came from Kobani, the majority Kurdish city in northern Syria that borders Turkey. He said the attack would be avenged. “We know what message those who carried out this action want to give us. We got this message,” Soylu said. “Don’t worry, we will pay them back heavily.” Soylu also blamed the United States, claiming that a condolence message from the White House was akin to “a killer being first to show up at a crime scene.” Turkey has been infuriated by U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish groups. In its message, the White House said it strongly condemned the “act of violence" in Istanbul, adding: “We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO ally (Turkey) in countering terrorism.” Turkish television broadcast footage purporting to show the main suspect being detained at a house where she was allegedly hiding. It said police searching the house also seized large amounts of cash, gold and a gun. The minister told reporters that Kurdish militants had allegedly given orders for the main suspect to be killed to avoid evidence being traced back to them. Istanbul Gov. Ali Yerlikaya said of the 81 people hospitalized in the attack, 57 have been discharged. Six of the wounded were in intensive care and two of them were in life-threatening condition, he said. The six killed in the blast were members of three families and included children ages 9 and 15. Funerals were held Monday for the six victims, including Adem Topkara and his wife, Elif Topkara, who had left their two young children with their aunt and were taking a stroll down Istiklal at the time of the blast. Istiklal Avenue was reopened to pedestrian traffic at 6 a.m. Monday after police concluded inspections. People began leaving carnations at the site of the blast, while the street was decorated with hundreds of Turkish flags. Mecid Bal, a 63-year-old kiosk owner, said his son was caught up in the blast and called him from the scene. “Dad, there are dead and wounded lying on the ground. I was crushed when I stood up" to run, Bal quoted him as saying. Restaurant worker Emrah Aydinoglu was talking on the phone when he heard the explosion. “I looked out of the window and saw people running,” the 22-year-old said. “People were lying on the ground, already visible from the corner of the street (I was in). They were trying to call (for help), whether it was an ambulance or the police. All of them were shrieking and crying.” The Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has fought an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then. Ankara and Washington both consider the PKK a terrorist group, but they diverge on the issue of the Syrian Kurdish groups, which have fought against IS in Syria. In recent years, Erdogan has led a broad crackdown on the militants as well as on Kurdish lawmakers and activists. Amid skyrocketing inflation and other economic troubles, Erdogan’s anti-terrorism campaign is a key rallying point for him before Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections next year. Following the attacks between 2015 and 2017 that left more than 500 civilians and security personnel dead, Turkey launched cross-border military operations into Syria and northern Iraq against Kurdish militants, while also cracking down on Kurdish politicians, journalists and activists at home. “In nearly six years, we have not experienced a serious terrorist incident like the one we experienced yesterday evening in Istanbul. We are ashamed in front of our nation in this regard,” Soylu said. Turkey’s media watchdog imposed restrictions on reporting on Sunday’s explosion — a move that bans the use of close-up videos and photos of the blast and its aftermath. Access to Twitter and other social media sites was also restricted on Sunday.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court has sentenced an anti-government protester to death, and handed down jail terms to five others, state media said Sunday, amid persistent unrest in the country. The ruling likely marks the first death sentence in the trials of those arrested for participating in protests that have swept Iran over the past weeks demanding an end to clerical rule. Mizan, a news website is linked to Iran's judiciary, said the death sentence followed on charges of the protester setting fire to a government building. The five prison terms ranged from five to 10 years and alleged national security and public order violations. Read more: Iran protests: Solidarity rallies held in US, Europe showing int'l support Mizan said separate branches of the Revolutionary Court issued the verdicts but did not share further details of the protesters on trial, who can appeal the decisions. The court was established following the 1979 Islamic Revolutions and is known for meting out harsh punishments to those who oppose Iran's clerical rulers. Iran has already issue indictments for hundreds of detained protesters saying it will hold public trials for them. Anti-government demonstrations have entered their eighth week and were sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained after allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women. Read more: Iran govt now targeting singers, actors, sports stars for supporting protests Judicial authorities have announced charges against hundreds of people in other Iranian provinces. Some have been accused of “corruption on earth” and “war against God,” offenses that carry the death penalty. Security forces, including paramilitary volunteers with the Revolutionary Guard, have violently cracked down on the demonstrations, killing over 300 people, including dozens of children, according to the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights. Iranian authorities say more than 40 security forces were also killed in the nationwide unrest. Although the protests first focused on ending Iran’s mandatory headscarf, or hijab, they have since transformed into one of the greatest challenges to the ruling clerics since the chaotic years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
A bomb rocked a bustling pedestrian avenue in the heart of Istanbul on Sunday, killing six people, wounding several dozen and leaving panicked people to flee the fiery blast or huddle in cafes and shops. Emergency vehicles rushed to the scene on Istiklal Avenue, a popular thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants that leads to the iconic Taksim Square. In one video posted online, a loud bang could be heard and a flash seen as pedestrians turned and ran away. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the blast a “treacherous attack” and said its perpetrators would be punished. He did not say who was behind the attack but said it had the “smell of terror” without offering details and also adding that was not certain yet. Sunday’s explosion was a shocking reminder of the anxiety and safety concerns that stalked the Turkish population during years when such attacks were common. The country was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017, some by the Islamic State group, others by Kurdish militants who seek increased autonomy or independence. In recent years, Erdogan has led a broad crackdown on the militants as well as on Kurdish lawmakers and activists. Amid skyrocketing inflation and other economic troubles, Erdogan’s anti-terrorism campaign is a key rallying point for him ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections next year. Erdogan, who left Sunday for the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, said six people were killed. Vice President Fuat Oktay put the wounded toll to 81, with two in serious condition, and also said it appeared to be a terrorist attack. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told pro-government broadcaster A Haber that investigators were focusing on a woman who sat on a bench by the scene of the blast for about 40 minutes. The explosion took place just minutes after she left. He said her identity was not yet clear, nor was it clear what group might be behind the attack. A manager of a restaurant near where the bomb went off said he heard the explosion and saw people running. The dozens of customers inside his restaurant, including women and children, panicked and screamed. READ: 6 killed in Syria's shelling of tent settlement, monitors say The manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said he closed his restaurant’s shutters, fearing there might be another explosion, and tried to calm the customers down. After about 15 to 25 minutes inside, he saw police on the avenue and organized the customers and his staff to leave in small groups. Numerous foreign governments offered their condolences, including neighboring Greece with which relations are tense. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he was “shocked and saddened by the news of the heinous attack.” Following the attacks between 2015 and 2017 that left more than 500 civilians and security personnel dead, Turkey launched cross-border military operations into Syria and northern Iraq against Kurdish militants, while also cracking down on Kurdish politicians, journalists and activists at home. While the Kurdish militants, known as the PKK, are considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, critics say Erdogan has also used broad terror laws to stifle free speech. Most recently, Turkey enacted a controversial “ disinformation law ” that carries a prison sentence of up to three years for social media users who disseminate false information about domestic or international security, public order or health. Critics have said the wording of the article is so vague, it can be used to stamp out dissent. Police on Sunday said they had identified 25 social media users who shared “provocative content” that could fall afoul of that law. In another example of the country's restrictions on the press, Turkey’s media watchdog also imposed temporary limits on reporting on Sunday's explosion — a move that bans the use of close-up videos and photos of the blast and its aftermath. The Supreme Council of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks and accidents. Access to Twitter and other social media sites was also restricted. French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday noted that the Istanbul attack came exactly seven years after Islamic State extremists killed 130 people at Paris cafes, the Bataclan theater and France’s national stadium. “On such a symbolic day for our nation, as we are thinking of the victims who fell Nov. 13, 2015, the Turkish people were hit by an attack on their heart, Istanbul," Macron said. "To the Turks: We share your pain. We stand at your side in the fight against terrorism.”
Hydrogen cars and vehicles that capture their tailpipe pollutants. Computer mice made from recycled ocean waste plastic. Hundreds of millions of trees planted in the desert. Saudi Arabia's vision of an environmentally friendly future is on display just a short drive from the venue of the U.N. climate summit being held in Egypt. What's not highlighted in the glossy gallery are the earth-warming fossil fuels that the country continues to pump out of the ground for global export. Fossil fuel emissions are the reason why negotiators from nearly 200 countries have gathered at the annual two-week conference, haggling over how pollution can be cut and how fast to do it. In and around the conference, Saudi Arabia is presenting itself as a leader in green energies and eco-friendly practices, with flashy pavilions, glossy presentations and optimistic assessments of technologies like carbon capture, which can remove carbon dioxide from the air but is costly and years away from being deployed at scale. “We have hugely ambitious goals and targets," Saudi climate envoy Adel al-Jubeir said at the two-day Saudi Green Initiative Forum on COP27′s sidelines. “We want to be an example to the world in terms of what can be done." The effort is part of a large push by Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world’s largest reserves of oil and is a leader of the OPEC oil cartel, to make the case that the nation should be part of the transition to renewable energies while holding on to its role as the top global crude oil exporter. That vision is sharply contested by climate scientists and environmental experts, who argue that Saudi Arabia and other countries with large reserves of oil simply want to distract the world to continue with business as usual. The Saudi energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al Saud, announced a raft of new green projects or updates to existing ones, from beefed up tree planting pledges to fresh solar energy energy projects in the pipeline. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched his Saudi Green Initiative at last year's COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, with a target for “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, which he changed to 2050 at the start of this year's meeting. READ: UN climate talks near halftime with key issues unresolved Still, energy exports are the Saudi economy's mainstay, earning $150 billion in annual revenue, despite efforts to diversify revenue as the global transition away from fossil fuel reliance accelerates. At the Saudi forum, officials and invited guest speakers from renewable energy companies held forth on topics like clean hydrogen, greening the desert, and a futuristic desert city project called Neom. State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco's CEO, Amin Nasser, said the world needs more investment in oil and gas, not less, a message at odds with the sentiment among many country delegations and climate experts and activists attending COP27. “I’m concerned because of lack of investment in the oil and gas in particular," said Nasser, touching on a frequent theme. Saudi Arabia has resisted calls to urgently phase out fossil fuels, warning that a premature switch has led to price spikes and shortages. “Yes, there is good investment happening in the alternatives,” such as wind and solar power, he said, adding that the amount of money spent on oil production capacity has fallen to $400 billion a year from $700 billion in 2014. “That is not enough to meet global demand in the mid to long term,” he said. An Aramco spokesman said Nasser wasn't available for an interview. Among the Saudi announcements, there were plans to set up a regional center to “advance emissions reductions” and one to host a regional climate week ahead of next year's COP meeting. There's also a plan for 13 renewable energy projects with a total generating capacity of 11.4 gigawatts, though experts said that's a step back from numbers announced in previous years. Once they’re up and running, the new energy projects will cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 20 million tons a year. Saudi Aramco plans to build the world's biggest carbon capture and storage hub, which will store up to 9 million tons of carbon dioxide when its up and running in 2027. It's all part of the kingdom's pledged to cut emissions by 278 million tons a year by 2030. That's still small compared to about 10 billion metric tons of carbon spewed globally into the air annually. The kingdom also upgraded its tree planting goal to 600 million by 2030, including mangroves, up from its 450 million initial target. Climate experts weren't convinced. “Saudi Arabia would be better placed to focus on cutting emissions rather than relying on carbon capture and storage and questionable reductions from planting trees, the offsets of which would simply allow them to continue increasing emissions from burning fossil fuels," said Mia Moisio, a an energy policy expert focusing on Middle East and North Africa at the New Climate Institute think tank. READ: How Qatar's wealth brought the World Cup to the Middle East “To keep emissions on a 1.5˚C pathway, all governments must focus on cutting fossil fuel emissions, not offsetting them.” The Climate Action Tracker, operated by the institute and its partners, rates Saudi Arabia as “highly insufficient.” The tracker analyzes nations’ climate targets and policies compared to the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement that spells out ideally limiting the Earth's temperature rise to 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). Saudi authorities are promoting what they call a “circular carbon economy” to cut emissions from oil and gas operations, but the tracker says this it “only addresses a fraction of relevant emissions in Saudi Arabia and globally, as most emissions related to oil and gas come from fuel combustion rather than extraction and processing.” Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas assets spew 900 million tons of emissions a year, according to an inventory of top known sources of greenhouse gas emitters compiled by the Climate TRACE coalition and launched at COP27. There's also a plan for a greenhouse gas crediting and offsetting scheme next year, with few details. Carbon credits, which allow countries and companies to pay to reduce their carbon footprints, say by planting trees, have become increasingly controversial, with critics saying they're a license for polluting companies to keep polluting. At least year's talks in Glasgow, Saudi Arabia faced accusations that its negotiators were working to block climate measures that would threaten demand for oil - a charge that the energy minister called a lie. As negotiations on the final agreement head into their second and final week, watchdog groups warned about the influence of so-called petrostates and industry lobbyists. They counted 636 people linked to fossil fuel companies on the meeting’s provisional list of participants, a quarter more than last year's tally. “The Saudis may well be coming to COP27 with a green hat on and extolling the virtues of planting trees, but this is a state that continues to profit wildly from the destructive practices causing the climate crisis," said Alice Harrison, a campaigner at Global Witness, one of the groups that did the count. “Any exhibitions, talks or shows to the contrary are pure greenwashing.”
Qatar is home to some 2.9 million people, but only a small fraction — around one in 10 — are Qatari citizens. They enjoy massive wealth and benefits fueled by Qatar’s shared control of one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. The tiny country on the eastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula juts out into the Persian Gulf. There lies the North Field, the world’s largest underwater gas field, which Qatar shares with Iran. The gas field holds approximately 10% of the world’s known natural gas reserves. Oil and gas have made the 50-year-old country fantastically wealthy and influential. In a matter of decades, Qatar’s roughly 300,000 citizens have been pulled from the hard livelihood of fishing and pearl diving. Read more: Rights groups fear for workers as Qatar World Cup spotlight dims The country is now an international transit hub with a profitable national airline, a force behind the influential Al Jazeera news network and is paying for the expansion of the largest U.S. military base in the Mideast. Here’s a look at Qatar’s economy and how this tiny country was able to spend so much to host the FIFA World Cup: QATAR’S ECONOMIC STRENGTH For most of its existence, the tribes of Qatar relied on pearl diving and fishing for survival. Like other parts of the Gulf, it was a harsh and bare existence. The discovery of oil and gas in the mid-20th century changed life in the Arabian Peninsula forever. While much of the world grapples with recession and inflation, Qatar and other Gulf Arab energy producers are reaping the benefits of high energy prices. The International Monetary Fund expects Qatar’s economy to grow by about 3.4% this year. Despite a massive spending spree to prepare for the World Cup, the country still earned more than it spent last year, giving it a cushy surplus that is continuing into 2022. Qatar’s riches are likely to grow as it expands capacity to be able to export more natural gas by 2025. Its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, manages and invests the country’s financial reserves. QATAR’S WORLD CUP SPENDING Qatar has spent some $200 billion on infrastructure and other development projects since winning the bid to host the five-week long World Cup, according to official statements and a report from Deloitte. Around $6.5 billion of that was spent on building eight stadiums for the tournament, including the Al Janoub stadium designed by the late acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid. Billions were also spent to build a metro line, new airport, roads and other infrastructure ahead of the matches. The London-based research firm Capital Economics said ticket sales suggest that around 1.5 million tourists will visit Qatar for the World Cup. If each visitor stayed for 10 days and spent $500 a day, spending per visitor would amount to $5,000, the research firm said. That could amount to a $7.5 billion boost to Qatar’s economy this year. However, some fans may fly in just for the matches while staying in nearby Dubai and elsewhere. Read more: Qatar's World Cup stadiums won't turn into white elephants QATAR’S LAVISH BENEFITS Like other rich petro-states in the Gulf, Qatar is not a democracy. Decisions are made by the ruling Al Thani family and its chose advisors. Citizens have little say in their country’s major policy decisions. The government, however, provides citizens with vast perks that have helped to ensure continued loyalty and support. Qatari citizens enjoy tax-free incomes, high-paying government jobs, free health care, free higher education, financial support for newlyweds, housing support, generous subsidies that cover utility bills and plush retirement benefits. The country’s citizens rely on laborers from other countries to fill jobs in the service sector, such as drivers and nannies, and to do the tough construction work that built modern-day Qatar. QATAR’S MIGRANT LABOR FORCE The country has faced intense scrutiny for its labor laws and treatment of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, mostly from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and other South Asian countries. These men live in shared rooms on labor camps and work throughout the long summer months, with just a few hours of midday respite. They often go years without seeing their families back home. The work is often dangerous, with Amnesty International saying dozens may have died from apparent heat stroke. Rights groups have credited Qatar with improving its labor laws, such as by adopting a minimum monthly wage of around $275 in 2020, and for dismantling the “kafala” system that had prevented workers from changing jobs or leaving the country without the consent of their employers. Human Rights Watch, however has urged Qatar to improve compensation for migrant workers who suffered injury, death and wage theft while working on World Cup-related projects.
Syrian government forces shelled tent settlements housing families displaced by the country’s conflict in the rebel-held northwest early Sunday, killing at least six people and wounding dozens, opposition war monitors and first responders said. The shelling is the latest violation of a truce reached between Russia and Turkey in March 2020 that ended a Russian-backed government offensive on Idlib province that is the last major rebel-held stronghold in Syria. Read more: 77 migrants killed as boat sinks off Syrian coast The truce has been repeatedly violated over the past two years killing and wounding scores of people. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that government forces fired about 30 rockets toward rebel-held areas, including the Maram camp Sunday morning killing six and wounding 25. It said the dead included two children and one woman. The tent settlement is just northwest of the provincial capital of Idlib. Rebel factions responded by targeting government positions with artillery and missiles in the area of Saraqib, east of Idlib, and the al-Ghab plain, the observatory reported. Read more: Satellite image: Israel attack damaged Syrian airport runway The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, reported that six people were killed, including two children and a woman, and 75 injured in shelling targeting at least six camps west of the capital. The pro-government Sham FM radio station said Syrian government forces shelled positions of the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, the most powerful militant group in Idlib. It said Syrian and Russian warplanes also attacked the areas. Syria’s conflict broke out in March 2011 and has since killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million and left large parts of Syria destroyed.
Israeli forces killed at least four Palestinians in separate incidents on Thursday, including one who had stabbed a police officer in east Jerusalem and three others in Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank. Early Friday, Israeli aircraft struck several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire Thursday evening from the Palestinian enclave. The rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes were the first cross-border violence since a cease-fire ended a round of fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group there in August. The violence flared as Israel completed the counting of votes in national elections held this week, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies capturing a comfortable majority of seats in Israel's parliament. In the West Bank, Israeli troops operating in the Jenin refugee camp, a militant stronghold, killed at least two Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said one of those killed was a local commander. Residents said he was killed while at the butcher, where he was buying meat ahead of his wedding this weekend. Read more: ‘Free Palestine’: Protesters in major US cities decry airstrikes over Gaza The army said Farouk Salameh was wanted in a number of shooting attacks on Israeli security forces, including the killing of a police officer last May. It said that a firefight ensued, Salameh fled and then drew a gun at soldiers who shot and killed him. Late Thursday, Gaza militants fired a rocket into southern Israel, setting off air-raid sirens in the area. The army said the rocket was intercepted, and that three other launch attempts failed and exploded inside Gaza. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but in the past, Islamic Jihad has fired rockets in response to the killings of its members. In response, the Israeli military said it targeted an underground site used by Gaza's Hamas rulers as a rocket-making facility. The airstrikes “will significantly impede” Hamas' rocket capabilities, it said. It also blamed the militant group for attacks emanating from Gaza. There were no reports of casualties. Earlier Thursday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a Palestinian man was killed by Israeli fire in the occupied West Bank. Israeli police said it happened during a raid in the territory and alleged the man threw a firebomb at the forces. In a separate incident Thursday, a Palestinian stabbed a police officer in Jerusalem’s Old City, police said, and officers opened fire on the attacker, killing him. The officer was lightly wounded. The violence came as a political shift is underway in Israel after national elections, with Netanyahu set to return to power in a coalition government made up of far-right allies, including the extremist lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, who in response to the incidents said Israel would soon take a tougher approach to attackers. “The time has come to restore security to the streets,” he tweeted. “The time has come for a terrorist who goes out to carry out an attack to be taken out!” Read more: Israel-Palestine conflict: China calls for UN council action, slams US Israel-Palestine conflict: China calls for UN council action, slams US The violence was the latest in a wave of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that has killed more than 130 Palestinians this year, making 2022 the deadliest since the U.N. started tracking fatalities in 2005. The violence intensified in the spring, after a wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people, prompting Israel to launch a months-long operation in the West Bank it says is meant to dismantle militant networks. The raids have been met in recent weeks by a rise in attacks against Israelis, killing at least three. Israel says most of those killed have been militants. But youths protesting the incursions and people uninvolved in the fighting have also been killed. Also on Thursday, Israel said it was removing checkpoints in and out of the city of Nablus. Israel had imposed the restrictions weeks ago, clamping down on the city in response to a new militant group known as the Lions' Den. The military has conducted repeated operations in the city in recent weeks, killing or arresting the group's top commanders. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and has since maintained a military occupation over the territory and settled more than 500,000 people there. The Palestinians want the territory, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, for their hoped-for independent state.
An ancient Christian monastery possibly dating as far back as the years before Islam spread across the Arabian Peninsula has been discovered on an island off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, officials announced Thursday. The monastery on Siniyah Island, part of the sand-dune sheikhdom of Umm al-Quwain, sheds new light on the history of early Christianity along the shores of the Persian Gulf. It marks the second such monastery found in the Emirates, dating back as many as 1,400 years — long before its desert expanses gave birth to a thriving oil industry that led to a unified nation home to the high-rise towers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The two monasteries became lost to history in the sands of time as scholars believe Christians slowly converted to Islam as that faith grew more prevalent in the region. Read more: What’s the status of women in Qatar, host of 2022 FIFA World Cup? Today, Christians remain a minority across the wider Middle East, though Pope Francis arrived in nearby Bahrain on Thursday to promote interfaith dialogue with Muslim leaders. For Timothy Power, an associate professor of archaeology at the United Arab Emirates University who helped investigate the newly discovered monastery, the UAE today is a “melting pot of nations.” “The fact that something similar was happening here a 1,000 years ago is really remarkable and this is a story that deserves to be told,” he said. Read more: Archaeologists unearth 2,700-year-old rock carvings The monastery sits on Siniyah Island, which shields the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain, an emirate some 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Dubai along the coast of the Persian Gulf. The island, whose name means “flashing lights” likely due to the effect of the white-hot sun overhead, has a series of sandbars coming off of it like crooked fingers. On one, to the island's northeast, archaeologists discovered the monastery. Carbon dating of samples found in the monastery's foundation date between 534 and 656. Islam's Prophet Muhammad was born around 570 and died in 632 after conquering Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia. Viewed from above, the monastery on Siniyah Island's floor plan suggests early Christian worshippers prayed within a single-aisle church at the monastery. Rooms within appear to hold a baptismal font, as well as an oven for baking bread or wafers for communion rites. A nave also likely held an altar and an installation for communion wine. Next to the monastery sits a second building with four rooms, likely around a courtyard — possibly the home of an abbot or even a bishop in the early church. On Thursday, the site saw a visit from Noura bint Mohammed al-Kaabi, the country's culture and youth minister, as well as Sheikh Majid bin Saud Al Mualla, the chairman of the Umm al-Quwain's Tourism and Archaeology Department and a son of the emirate's ruler. The island remains part of the ruling family's holdings, protecting the land for years to allow the historical sites to be found as much of the UAE has rapidly developed. The UAE's Culture Ministry has sponsored the dig in part, which continues at the site. Just hundreds of meters (yards) away from the church, a collection of buildings that archaeologists believe belongs to a pre-Islamic village sit. Elsewhere on the island, piles of tossed-aside clams from pearl hunting make for massive, industrial-sized hills. Nearby also sits a village that the British blew up in 1820 before the region became part of what was known as the Trucial States, the precursor of the UAE. That village's destructions brought about the creation of the modern-day settlement of Umm al-Quwain on the mainland. Historians say early churches and monasteries spread along the Persian Gulf to the coasts of present-day Oman and all the way to India. Archaeologist have found other similar churches and monasteries in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In the early 1990s, archaeologists discovered the first Christian monastery in the UAE, on Sir Bani Yas Island, today a nature preserve and site of luxury hotels off the coast of Abu Dhabi, near the Saudi border. It similarly dates back to the same period as the new find in Umm al-Quwain. However, evidence of early life along the Khor al-Beida marshlands in Umm al-Quwain dates as far back as the Neolithic period — suggesting continuous human inhabitance in the area for at least 10,000 years, Power said. Today, the area near the marshland is more known for the low-cost liquor store at the emirate’s Barracuda Beach Resort. In recent months, authorities have demolished a hulking, Soviet-era cargo plane linked to a Russian gunrunner known as the “Merchant of Death” as it builds a bridge to Siniyah Island for a $675 million real estate development. Power said that development spurred the archaeological work that discovered the monastery. That site and others will be fenced off and protected, he said, though it remains unclear what other secrets of the past remain hidden just under a thin layer of sand on the island. “It’s a really fascinating discovery because in some ways it’s hidden history — it’s not something that’s widely known,” Power said.
The foreign fans descending on Doha for the 2022 World Cup will find a country where women work, hold public office and cruise in their supercars along the city's palm-lined corniche. They've been driving for decades, unlike in Saudi Arabia, where women gained the right just a few years ago. There are Qatari female ambassadors, judges and ministers, even race jockeys. The emir's mother, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser al-Missned, is one of the most famous women in the Arab world. In a region where rulers' wives and mothers keep a low-profile, she behaves like a Western-style first lady — advocating for social causes and grabbing headlines as a style icon. Yet the emirate has for years sat near the bottom of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which tracks gaps between women and men in employment, education, health and politics. Read more: Which Countries have Won FIFA Football World Cup Trophy? It's a traditional society that traces its roots to the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, where an ultraconservative form of Islam known as Wahhabism originated. Rights groups say that the Qatari legal system, based on Islamic law or Shariah, hinders women's advancement. Here's a look at the situation of women in the tiny sheikhdom that has undergone a massive social transformation from a generation ago, when most women kept close to home. RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS Qatar's constitution enshrines equality among citizens. But the U.S. State Department and human rights groups say the Qatari legal system discriminates against women when it comes to their freedom of movement and issues of marriage, child custody and inheritance. Under Shariah law, for example, women can inherit property, but daughters receive half as much as sons. Men can easily divorce their wives, while women must apply to courts from a narrow list of acceptable grounds. Men can marry up to four wives without issue, while women must obtain approval from a male guardian to get married at any age. Under a rule rarely enforced, Qatari women under the age of 25 also must secure a male guardian's permission to leave the country. Husbands and fathers may bar women from traveling. Unmarried Qatari women under 30 cannot check into hotels. Single women who get pregnant face prosecution for extramarital sex. There is no government office dedicated to women's rights. POLITICS Just last year, emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani appointed women to two Cabinet posts, bringing the number of female ministers to three — the highest number in Qatar's history. Prominent Qatari women hold other high-level positions, too. The female deputy foreign minister gained prestige as the spokeswoman for Qatar's critical diplomatic efforts amid the U.S. military and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan. Another powerful woman is Sheikh Tamim's younger sister, the head of the Qatar Museum Authority who has become one of the international art world's most popular figures. Last year, Sheikh Tamim appointed two women to the country's advisory Shura Council. But the legislative elections for the 45-member council were a stark testament to Qatari women’s limited role. Female candidates did not win a single seat. Read more: 5 Host Cities of FIFA Qatar World Cup 2022: A Travel Guide WORKFORCE Laws guarantee the right to equal pay for Qatari women and men. But women do not always receive it. They also struggle to obtain high-level posts in private companies and the public sector, even though more than half of all college graduates are women. There is no law prohibiting gender discrimination in the workplace. Laws ban women from jobs broadly defined as dangerous or inappropriate. Women also must seek permission from a male guardian to work in the government and special institutions. Despite the obstacles, some women have managed to succeed professionally. TRADITIONAL ROLES Traditional roles in Qatar are enshrined in laws that differentiate between women’s and men’s rights and responsibilities. Wives, for instance, are legally in charge of the household and are required to obey their husbands. They can lose financial support if they defy their husband's wishes. Religious and tribal customs mean that conservative families frown on women mingling with unrelated men, even for business. Although women have made major forays in recent years, the world of politics and finance remains male-dominant. With Islam encouraging female modesty, Qatari women typically wear a headscarf and loose cloak known as the abaya. Bedouin women are more conservative and some cover their faces with the niqab veil.