Saudi corruption crackdown could raise $800bn

Saudi Arabia’s anti-corruption crackdown may see the government seize up to $800 billion in cash and assets according to a new report in the Wall Street Journal.

The US business newspaper quoted unnamed sources in claiming that the government was planning to seize up to $800 billion on the basis that they were amassed through corruption.

Since the launch of the crackdown Saudi Arabian banks have frozen more than 1,200 accounts belonging to individuals and companies in the Kingdom.

The most prominent of those held against their will in the Ritz Calton Hotel in Riyadh include the Kingdom’s best-known international investor, Al-Waleed Bin Talal who is thought to be worth $16.7 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has said that any wealth acquired through corruption will be nationalised.

Read: Is Saudi’s Bin Salman tackling corruption or making money?

Critics however have called the cull further proof that Bin Salman is eradicating any opposition, ensuring his succession and gaining overall control of the country.

Salman’s motives have also been questioned in light of the fact that his vision for the country is facing financial hurdles. The young prince requires cash to fund the government’s investment plans, which have been hampered by declining oil prices.

Saudi authorities are expected to make further arrests following the three-year-long investigation into corruption practices in the Kingdom. Officials have also prohibited a large number of people from leaving the country, including hundreds of royals and individuals connected to the already arrested people.

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30 killed in Saudi offensive against Yemen’s Houthis

Saudi Arabia targeted the Houthi territory in north Yemen today, killing civilians including women and children, reported Al Jazeera.

The air strikes targeted a village in Hiran, located in the Hajjah region in the north of the country. Thirty people died in the strikes, Hussain Al-Bukhaithi, a Yemeni-based journalist told Al Jazeera.

Air strikes began at midnight and continued for five hours, according to locals on the ground.

The first strike targeted Sheikh Hamdi’s family home, a Houthi loyalist, killing him and his family. The strikes prevented rescue workers and the relatives of those injured or killed from accessing the site to rescue those affected, Al-Bukhaithi said.

Read: Houthis threaten to target ports, cities of Saudi coalition members

Ten paramedics were killed in the strikes.

None of the claims can be verified.

Yemen has been subject to air strikes since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition entered the civil war to stop the Houthis from capturing territory from internationally recognised President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

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Sudan, Egypt review visa, residency agreement

The joint Sudanese-Egyptian Consular Committee yesterday reviewed the implementation of previous decisions and recommendations concerning immigration issues such as residency permits, visas and following-up on issues concerning citizens of both countries.

The Sudanese foreign ministry said in a statement that it had hosted at its headquarters in Khartoum the third session of the Sudanese-Egyptian Consular Committee on 5-7 November.

“The committee has also discussed a number of consular issues which aim to remove the obstacles facing the citizens of both countries,” the statement added.

According to the statement, the committee meeting was co-chaired by the Sudanese Undersecretary of the Foreign Minister, Ambassador Abdul-Ghani Al-Naeim, and Egypt’s Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs, Ambassador Khaled Yusri Rizg.

The officials are due to meet again in Cairo in April 2018.

Read: Egypt and Sudan hold high-level military talks in Cairo

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PA resumes security ties with Israel

Palestinian Authority today said it had resumed security coordination with Israel in the occupied West Bank, frozen in July as a result of Israel’s increased surveillance around Al-Aqsa.

Police chief Hazem Attallah told foreign reporters in a briefing that the suspension of ties had ended two weeks ago.

“Security coordination between Palestinian and Israeli services have resumed as it used to be before it stopped,” Attallah said, adding that he was referring to joint efforts to prevent militant attacks, as crime-fighting police cooperation between the sides had never stopped.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas halted security coordination with Israel on 21 July, demanding it remove metal detectors it had installed outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Amid mass protests across the world and a Palestinian refusal to pass through the detectors, Israel dismantled the barriers two weeks later and said it would install less obtrusive security measures. Earlier this week, Israeli police began placing cameras at gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque to monitor Palestinians as they entered and exited the holy site, Safa News Agency  reported.

Read: PA takes control of Gaza crossings

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Yemen’s Houthis will provide asylum to Saudi princes

The Houthi armed group has offered Saudi princes political asylum in Yemen after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrested 11 last Saturday, Al Jazeera reported.

Sources close to the Houthi leadership told the news site that Saudi princes or any national seeking refuge would be “welcomed” by Yemen.

“We are ready to offer sanctuary to any member of Al Saud family or any national that wants to flee oppression and persecution,” said the source.

Dozens of Saudi nationals were detained on Saturday in an alleged anti-corruption crackdown, including billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, Saudi Arabia’s richest businessman and investor.

Read more: Is Saudi’s Bin Salman tacking corruption or making money?

“To our fellow Al Saud royals, to anyone in the ruling family, to any employee or person who feels targeted by the regime – we’re ready to welcome you with open arms to reside with us as our oppressed brothers,” Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi wrote on Twitter.

A Saudi royal decree responsible for the crackdown said it was executed in a response to “exploitation by some of the weak souls who have put their own interests above the public interest, in order to, illicitly accrue money”.

Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia’s Attorney General said the individuals detained have been questioned and “a great deal of evidence” had been gathered.

Those detained have had their assets frozen until further investigation.

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Daesh blast kills more than 75 in eastern Syria

At least 75 displaced civilians have been killed after a car bomb exploded in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor on Saturday, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attack, which took place one day after the Syrian army wrestled control of most of the region, also injured some 140 refugees gathering on the east side of the Euphrates River. The blast took place between the Conoco and Jafra energy fields; an area controlled by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Daesh is currently battling both the Russian allied Syrian regime, and the SDF in separate offensives in the region.

Whilst the group has lost vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in recent months, the scale of the incident indicates that it still has the ability to mount deadly attacks.

Read: Rights group: 1,000 civilians killed in Syria last month

The Syrian army launched its attack against Daesh fighters in Deir Ez-Zor in September, fighting alongside Iran-backed militias and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and backed by Russian air strikes.

Daesh held most of the city since 2014, except for one large pocket where Syrian regime troops and 93,000 civilians had been fighting from for three years.

Fighting across the Deir Ez-Zor province has sent thousands of civilians fleeing for their lives, some forced into the desert as they try to escape the violence. International NGO Save the Children estimates that some 350,000 people have fled the oil-rich province, half of whom are children.

Despite being driven out of large parts of Deir Ez-Zor, Daesh still controls over a third of the area with many of its fighters being deployed on the eastern side. The US-led coalition estimates that around 1,500 jihadists are still in the region.

Read: Russia mercenaries operate in Syria alongside army

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Algeria: 6 jailed for attacks on teachers

Five students and a security guard have been sentenced to between 12 and 18 months in prison by a court in Bir Mourad Rais in a case of the aggression against teachers in the Algiers 3 University earlier this year.

In February, teachers from the Faculty of Political Science and Information in the Algiers 3 University were targeted by a number of students which included interrupting the National Council of Higher Education Teachers (CNES)’s meetings and physically assaulting teachers.

“We were between professors debating issues relating to our job, we suspected nothing, things quickly deteriorated when this group of criminals landed in the room,” one of the teachers explained.

Read: Algerian Professor beaten unconscious by university students

Teachers have openly accused Rector Rabah Cheriet of involvement in the aggression and have since held regular strikes to protest the “barbaric acts”. The cases of aggression were linked to a case of falsification of the results of the doctoral study competition in “European Studies” in which the director was implicated.

After being postponed, the verdict against the assailants was delivered yesterday by the administrative court of Bir Mourad Rais.

According to the representative of the faculty of political science, three students were sentenced to 18 months in prison in absentia, while the other two were sentenced to one year in prison each.

A security officer was also charged in the case and given a suspended one year prison sentence.

Teachers have also reportedly filed a case to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for administrative sanctions against the students.

One of the teachers explained: “It’s a fourth-degree fault that involves the immediate dismissal of the student, so the university has to make some arrangements.”

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Egypt: Tourism revenues to rise 105% this year

Tourism revenue in Egypt will rise 105 per cent by the end of the year, taking it to $7 billion, Deputy Tourism Minister, Adela Ragab, said.

According to Tariq Amer, governor of the Egyptian Central Bank, Egypt’s tourism revenues amounted to $3.4 billion in 2016.

During an interview with Al-Shorouk, Ragab said: “The number of tourists coming to Egypt may exceed 7.5 million by the end of this year.”

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation predicts that eight million tourists will have visited Egypt this year.

Some 5.9 million tourists visited Egypt between January and September this year, compared to 3.8 million during the same period the previous year, figured from the Ministry of Tourism show.

Read: No recovery in Egypt tourism industry 2 years after Russia plane crash

A number of European countries have lifted travel restrictions on Egypt over the past two years. These had been imposed after a plane carrying Russian tourists crashed shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in October 2015. All those onboard died as a result.

The expected increase in tourist numbers falls far short of the previously attained record of 14.7 million in 2010.

Tourism, which has sharply declined since the country fell into unrest as a result of mass protests calling for the ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, over the past period, is one of Egypt’s most important sources of foreign currency.

#SisiEra

The decline in tourist numbers, along with the mismanagement of government funds have forced the government to look for new forms of revenue including taking out a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In July, Egypt increased domestic electricity prices by between 18 and 42.1 per cent for the current fiscal year 2018/2017. The government in Cairo also increased fuel prices for the second time at the end of June by between 5.6 and 100 per cent. It has been implementing an economic reform programme since last year, including the adoption of value-added tax, cuts in energy subsidies and floating the Egyptian pound in order to revive the economy.

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Egypt’s judiciary announces review into notorious Scorpion prison

Egypt’s judiciary has decided to review one of the country’s most notorious prisons, according to the Associated Press.

The 12-page document indicates that the State Commissioners’ Committee reportedly ordered Cairo University to put together a team of medical and human rights specialists in order to assess whether the infamous “Scorpion” prison is suitable to hold prisoners.

The Scorpion prison, linked with the Tora prison complex in Cairo, has become notorious for being one of the main jails where political prisoners are often sent and where abuse has become prevalent.

According to the document, the interior ministry declined to provide prison records of visits by prisoners’ families and other documents that show how the prison was constructed and furnished.

Read more: Copts call for action over church closures in southern Egypt

Once the proposed evaluation is complete, officials will deliver a nonbinding verdict on whether the prison is fit for human habitation. The move is believed to be in response to a complaint by one of the prisoners’ families and continued calls by NGOs urging the government to shut down the prison.

According to rights lawyer Doaa Moustafa, the move was “a positive step in order to ease the dire conditions” inside the prison. However, prison authorities were still filling the prison with more prisoners in overcrowded cells and cutting off access to families and lawyers and blocking medical treatment.

Human rights groups have accused Egyptian authorities of regularly torturing prisoners and detaining suspected activists or Islamists without reporting their arrests as well holding mass trials for hundreds of political prisoners.

The government has however denied systemic torture with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi denying last month there were any political prisoners in the country.

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Algerians obsessed with having a “male” child

According to established science, a foetus’ gender is determined at conception by chromosome carried by the male’s sperm. However, this message has clearly not sunken in for many fathers of daughters in Algeria.

According to some men, it is their wives that is cause. In fact, many men become so disgruntled that they may seek divorce or marry a second wife. This is the height of injustice and patriarchy.

A woman in Ein Bassam (governorate of Bouira) recently reported that this happened to her, while speaking in a court. She recounted details of her life to the judge after her husband refused to pay for food to her six daughters.

“My husband divorced me more than a year ago because I refused to continue giving birth to children.” She went on to tell her husband that she was not a “rabbit” and he immediately divorced her.

However, the young man turned to him and said: “whoever guarantees me that the second wife will give birth to a male child?”. To this the Sheikh said: “This is the will of Allah.” So the young man answered: “So leave it to the will of Allah. Even my first wife can have a male child.”

Read More: Is Saudi’s Bin Salman tackling corruption or making money?

But God forgave my mother, who slaughtered a sheep for you and you ate its meat, which made you forget that Allah is over all things competent, and instead of seeking refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan, I seek refuge with Allah from you and from the evil and from the evil of the women!

Such divorces because women have a female, rather than a male, child is a new trend, though it is less likely to affect an educated couple.

Two examples demonstrate this problem. A young man divorced his wife to marry another woman in order to have children after 3 years of marriage. Sources said that the young man had been in love with his wife for 4 years, considering her his dream woman. After marriage, they lived a life of intimacy and love, until 3 years passed and she did not have children. The mother of the young man began to incite him to marry again so that he can enjoy the blessings of fatherhood, but his wife did not bear the situation and chose to withdraw because she felt offended for not being childless.

Another young man decided to break away from his wife after five years of happy marriage because of not having children. The sad story of the young man began when his father’s health deteriorated as he suffered from cancer and the doctors informed him that he would die soon. So, he whispered to his son that his only dream is to hear the word of “grandfather” from his grandson. Therefore, the young man decided to sacrifice his happiness in order to realize his father’s dream to see his “male” grandchildren, and agreed with his wife to separate and then to marry another woman in order to have children.

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