Egypt: Imam dies shortly after performing Eid Al Fitr prayer

Dubai: An Egyptian imam died shortly after performing the Eid Al Fitr prayer and giving the sermon at a mosque located in Beni Suef Governorate, local media reported.

As soon as the Imam finished the prayer and sermon, he headed to his house and fell unconscious suddenly. He was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead upon arrival.

The reason behind his death is not known.

Meanwhile, in a seperate incident, an Egyptian officer died while praying at a mosque in Alexandria.

According to local media, Amr El Demerdash was performing the night-time (Isha) prayer at a local mosque when those around him noticed that he had not gotten up from his prostration (sajda) for a long time.

He was immediately taken to hospital but also pronounced dead upon arrival.

Egypt: Son commits suicide by jumping in front of train after mother succumbs to COVID-19

Dubai: Unable to bear the loss of his mother, a 21-year-old Egyptian man committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train, local media reported.

The Egyptian mother passed away one month ago after battling COVID-19.

In a heart-touching Facebook message shared before his death, the deceased said: “If you no longer hear anything about me, then just pray for me. Forgive me… pray for me.”

One of the man’s closest friends also died days before his mother’s death, which caused the man to sink into depression. 

“May Allah rest your soul in eternal peace Mum. Your death has completely broken my heart. I was living for you only. Your Eid is paradise,” the young man wrote on his social media accounts.

Israeli airstrike in Gaza destroys building housing Associated Press bureau

Gaza City: An Israeli air strike has destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press’ offices in the Gaza Strip.

The air strike Saturday came roughly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the building. There was no immediate explanation for why the building was targeted.

The building houses The Associated Press, Al Jazeera and a number of offices and apartments.

Earlier, an Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza City killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, early Saturday in the deadliest single strike of the current battle with Gaza’s Hamas rulers. Both sides pressed for an advantage as cease-fire efforts gathered strength.

As India’s COVID-19 crisis rages, its neighbours brace for worst

Members of Nepal Army in personal protective equipment (PPE) carry a body of a person, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the crematorium, in Kathmandu, Nepal May 11, 2021.
Members of Nepal Army in personal protective equipment (PPE) carry a body of a person, who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the crematorium, in Kathmandu, Nepal May 11, 2021.
Image Credit: Reuters

Kathmandu, Nepal: Most of Nepal is under lockdown, its hospitals overwhelmed. Bangladesh suspended vaccination sign-ups after promised supplies were cut off. Sri Lanka’s hopes of a tourism-led economic revival have collapsed.

As India battles a horrific surge of the coronavirus, the effects have spilled over to its neighbours. Most nearby countries have sealed their borders. Several that had been counting on Indian-made vaccines are pleading with China and Russia instead.

Same risk factors

The question is whether that will be enough, in a region that shares many of the risk factors that made India so vulnerable: densely populated cities, heavy air pollution, fragile health care systems and large populations of poor workers who must weigh the threat of the virus against the possibility of starvation.

Although the countries’ outbreaks cannot all be linked to India, officials across the region have expressed growing dread over how easily their fates could follow that of their neighbour.

‘World war’

“I feel like it’s a world war situation,” said Dr. Rajan Pandey, a physician in Banke, a Nepalese district along the India border, who said he was turning away 30 patients asking for hospital beds every day.

“If lockdown was enforced two weeks ago, borders were closed and migrant workers returning from India were quarantined better, this situation could have been avoided,” he said.

As is, he added, “we are still waiting for the worst.”

Nation of 30 million

Nepal shows most clearly how the crisis has rippled. After an initial wave last year, cases in the Himalayan nation of 30 million had plunged by January. Residents gathered for Nepalese New Year celebrations last month, and hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returned to India, where they go each year in search of jobs.

But as the new surge began raging across India, many of those workers returned across the porous, 7.600km border. With them came the virus.

In the border district of Kanchanpur, more than 1,500 Nepalis come back from India each day. About one-fifth of them test positive, said Ram Kumar Mahato, the chief district officer there.

In Banke, as many as 9,000 workers returned last week, said Rajesh Saru Magar, a UNICEF worker. Only about 20 per cent are being tested because of a lack of capacity, Magar said. Of those, 30 per cent were positive.

Yet even now, Nepal’s government has closed only 22 of its 35 border checkpoints, a decision that officials have said is necessary to ensure that citizens can return. Until late April, Nepal also allowed passengers from India to transit through the capital, Kathmandu, a possible loophole for those seeking to get around other countries’ bans on travel from India.

Now Nepal is recording as many as 9,000 infections per day, with more than 40 per cent of tests coming back positive. More than 4,200 people had died by Wednesday evening. Experts say the cases are likely being undercounted.

Still, imported cases are not the only reason for the crisis engulfing Nepal.

As in India, the government did not expand health facilities when coronavirus cases appeared to be under control last year, and it was slow to enforce social distancing restrictions when it became clear that they were not.

Critics have pointed to huge, maskless rallies in India hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even as infections rose. Likewise, both the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal held large political gatherings after the prime minister dissolved Parliament in December.

“Because of this, the virus reached every corner of the country,” said Dr. Krishna Prasad Paudel, director of the public health and disease control division at Nepal’s health ministry.

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli told CNN on Saturday that Nepal’s situation was “under control” but acknowledged that “political instability” had led to “some mistakes.” On Monday night, Oli lost a vote of no confidence in Parliament, throwing Nepal into further turmoil.

Aid workers have warned that the parallels between Nepal and India may continue as hospitals turn all but the most critically ill patients away. With medical oxygen supplies running short, as they did in India, Nepal’s government has imposed quotas for each hospital that doctors say are far from adequate. Reports of patients dying from insufficient oxygen have spread.

“What is happening in India right now is a horrifying preview of Nepal’s future if we cannot contain this latest COVID surge,” Dr. Netra Prasad Timsina, chair of the Nepal Red Cross, said in a statement last week.

Vaccines are unlikely to help immediately. Nepal paid for 2 million doses from India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest producer of vaccines. But as India’s crisis has escalated, its government has essentially halted exports, leaving Nepal 1 million doses short.

India’s pause has also scrambled vaccination plans in Bangladesh. Late last month, authorities there announced that they would temporarily stop accepting new registrations for shots after supplies from the Serum Institute were cut off.

Bangladesh

Now Bangladesh is short roughly 1.5 million of the doses it needs to administer second shots, let alone first ones. It has turned to China and Russia for new supplies.

Despite the shortfall, Bangladesh has otherwise fared better than many of its neighbours. Numbers have dropped rapidly since an April surge, even though Bangladesh, like India, has many crowded slums and impoverished laborers who continued to work through lockdowns.

Still, officials warn that its luck may not hold. On Saturday, authorities announced that they had detected Bangladesh’s first case of a variant that was first discovered in India.

“If India’s present COVID-19 infection and death situation happens in Bangladesh, our situation will be like falling trees during a heavy storm,” Anwarul Iqbal, a Bangladeshi public health expert, said.

Bhutan

Cases are also rising along Bhutan’s border with India, even though the country of about 750,000 has at least partially vaccinated 95 per cent of its eligible population. Bhutan last month suspended entry for foreign workers after experts cited concerns about labourers coming from India.

Pakistan

The border between Pakistan and India was closed even before the pandemic because of political tensions. But in Pakistan, too, cases are rising. Asad Umar, the official leading its coronavirus response, cited the fact that “the entire region is exploding with cases and deaths” to explain new lockdowns.

Even in countries where a spring surge has not been directly linked to the Indian outbreak, the ripple effects have created fresh pain.

Experts have attributed Sri Lanka’s new wave, which has brought its highest daily numbers yet, to domestic holiday travel last month. But the crisis in India led to the suspension of travel between the two countries, dashing hopes that a planned air travel bubble would revive Sri Lanka’s flailing tourism industry. In 2019, India was the country’s largest source of tourists, accounting for nearly one-fifth of arrivals.

In Nepal, as staggering as the new numbers are, experts have said the surge will likely take more than a month to peak. Nepal’s health care system is even more strained than India’s; when the government released its coronavirus response plan last May, it estimated that local facilities would be insufficient if there were more than 5,000 active cases at once. Now there are more than 100,000.

UAE reports 1,321 new coronavirus cases, 3 deaths

Dubai: UAE announced on Saturday that 1,321 new coronavirus cases were detected in the last 24 hours, based on the results of 161,182 tests conducted over the past few days.

This update pushes the total number of COVID-19 infections to 544,931, the Ministry of Health and Prevention added.

Three more fatalities from the novel virus have been also confirmed, taking the country’s death toll to 1,629.

The ministry also announced the full recovery of 1,302 new cases after receiving the necessary treatment, taking that number up to 525,080 of total recovered patients.

It expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and wished a speedy recovery to all patients, calling on the public to cooperate with health authorities and comply with all precautionary measures, particularly social distancing protocols, to ensure the safety and protection of the public.

Five-year-old Indian expatriate boy in Dubai sets record

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Ranesh Vrishin, studying in KG2 at Delhi Private School (DPS) Dubai, has set a record for reading a book upside down.
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A five-year-old Indian expatriate boy in Dubai has set an Indian record. Ranesh Vrishin, studying in KG2 at Delhi Private School (DPS) Dubai set a record for reading a book upside down. His name has been recorded in the India Book of Records for reading the story book The Gingerbread Man upside down.

Speaking to Gulf News, his mother Sumitra said her son set the record on March 30 while he was enjoying his spring break.

During the spring break holidays, Ranesh was playing with “Tricky words yardstick”, a reading tool given to him by his school. “My son was reading the story upside down for some reason. I realised he had a rare talent. So I gave him a little practice to read a whole book upside down. And he did it. It took him four days to achieve this feat without a mistaken. In fact he read 12 pages of ‘The Gingerbread Man’ book, all of it upside down in four minutes and 21 seconds.

‘Excited to hear the news’

Ranesh said: “My mother shot a video of me and sent it to the India Book of Records. After a week we got the confirmation that I have set a new record. My parents and I were excited to hear the news,” said the little star.

The five year-old boy showed clarity of thought of speech. “I loved the whole experience. There were some words which were difficult to read upside down. But I did it. Luckily I had school holidays and I could practice well enough for this.”

Ranesh is said to be an academically bright child as well. “He scored A plus last year at school.”

Surprisingly Ranesh has never experienced school life according to his mother. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, he has been doing his studies through e-learning. I stay full time with him to help him with his studies. He has gained lot of communication between his peers and teachers, all virtually though.”

Other interests

Ranesh is a car enthusiast and Dodge is his favourite brand. “He always plays with cars and car games online. His favourite shows are Paw patrol, Peppa Pig, Ryan’s world, Blippi in you tube,” said his mother.

He has his own You tube channel “Raising Ranesh” for the benefit of children kids about reading story books and other entertaining videos. He likes to read books, drawing, cycling and online games.

Sumithra said her son has the habit of drawing alphabets all the time whether on water or his food. He is fascinated with letters and alphabets. “I cannot wait to see where this rare talent will take him in the future,” she said.

Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and family celebrate Eid in Dubai

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Sanjay Dutt with wife Maanayata Dutt and their twin children
Image Credit: Instagram.com/maanayata/

Even though the Eid Al Fitr celebrations are winding down in the UAE, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and his family are still in the festive mood as they mark the occasion in Dubai.

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Sanjay Dutt with wife Maanayata Dutt and their twin children celebrate Eid in Dubai
Image Credit: Instagram.com/maanayata/

The actor’s wife Maanayata Dutt posted pictures of the family celebrating Eid in their home in Dubai, with Sanjay and his twins dressing up for the occasions, while winding down the festivities with a cake and cupcakes to boot.

Maanayata, who’s birth name is Dilnawaz Shaikh, has spent much of the pandemic in Dubai with their children, Shahraan and Iqra. The images on her Instagram Story revealed that Dutt had also landed here before the flights from the UAE to India had shut down on account of the COVID-19 surge in the country.

In the images, Sanjay is seen wearing a white tunic and pajamas, while Maanayata is dressed in a white and yellow ethic dress. The couple’s children are also colour coordinated in pink.

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Sanjay Dutt with son Shahraan Dutt
Image Credit: Instagram.com/maanayata/

Sanjay, who was last seen in the Netflix film ‘Torbaaz’ will be seen next in KGF: Chapter 2’. Sanjay has a few projects lined up that include ‘Shamshera’ with Ranbir Kapoor, ‘Prithviraj’ with Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn’s ‘Bhuj: The Pride of India’.

Sanjay and Maanayata, who celebrated 13 years of marriage in February, have had a tumultuous few months after the former was under treatment for cancer last year. It appears he is on the mend and the actor has been sharing on social media that he is regaining his muscles and working out again.

Sanjay Dutt in KGF 2
Sanjay Dutt in KGF 2
Image Credit: Supplied

Family of 10 killed in latest Israeli strike on Gaza, including 8 children

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Relatives of the Abu Hatab family mourn over the bodies of their family members in Al Shifa Hospital, after an Israeli air strike struck their house located in Al Shati Refugee Camp without warning during the night, in Gaza City early on May 15, 2021. Te members of the family were killed, including 8 children.
Image Credit: AFP

Gaza: A family of 10 were killed ein an Israeli air strike on the western Gaza Strip early Saturday. It was the deadliest single strike in Israel’s campaign. Both sides pressed for an advantage as cease-fire efforts gathered strength.

An air strike on a three-story house in a refugee camp in Gaza City killed eight children and two women from an extended family.

Mohammed Abu Hatab told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid Al Fitr holiday with relatives. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old is missing. Only his 5-month-old son Omar is known to have survived.

The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.

The spiralling Israeli attacks has raised fears of a new Palestinian ‘intifada’, or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. Palestinians were set to mark Nakba (Catastrophe) Day on Saturday, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who fled or were driven from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.

US diplomat Hady Amr arrived on Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the UN Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 126 people have been killed, including 31 children and 20 women in Israel, seven people have been killed, including a 6-year-old boy and a soldier.

Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble of Abu Hatab’s house, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.

“There was no warning,” said Jamal Al Naji, a neighbour living in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?” he said, addressing Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!”

Shortly afterward, Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the air strike.

A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to UN-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.

Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad miitant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.

Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents’ misery. The territory’s sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.

The UN said Gazans are already enduring daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.

The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property.

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The strikes on Gaza have been brutal and relentless. Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Image Credit: AFP

In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other towns and cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the Gaza campaign and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they trucked in tires that they set up in burning barricades and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier at a military position.

In east Jerusalem, online video showed young Jewish extremists firing pistols as they traded volleys of stones with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, which became a flashpoint for tensions over attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes.

On Israel’s northern border, troops opened fire when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed. One Lebanese was killed. Three rockets were fired toward Israel from neighbouring Syria without causing any casualties or damage. It was not immediately known who fired them.

The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli police measures at Al Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.

Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the frontier. US President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.

Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defences, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.