Lebanon: 4,450 Registered Jewish Voters Will Not Take Part in Sunday’s Polls

Maghen Abraham, Beirut's synagogue, is seen in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 29, 2018. (Reuters)
Maghen Abraham, Beirut's synagogue, is seen in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 29, 2018. (Reuters)
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Lebanon: 4,450 Registered Jewish Voters Will Not Take Part in Sunday’s Polls

Maghen Abraham, Beirut's synagogue, is seen in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 29, 2018. (Reuters)
Maghen Abraham, Beirut's synagogue, is seen in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 29, 2018. (Reuters)

Jewish voters in Lebanon only exist on paper in the country because the majority of them live abroad. Some one hundred Lebanese Jews, most of them elderly, are currently present in Lebanon and they often abstain from voting in elections.

Lebanon will hold parliamentary elections on Sunday, the first since 2009 when only five Jews voted.

Jews in Lebanon account for 0.13 percent of the registered voters in Sunday’s polls. They total 4,704, the majority of whom vote in Beirut’s second electoral district, where 4,453 are registered.

The majority of these voters, however, do not live in Lebanon.

Researcher at Information International Mohammed Shamseddine told Asharq Al-Awsat that Jews are registered in Beirut’s Wadi Abu Jamil and Minet al-Hosn areas.

In 2009, the five voters, a male and four females, voted in Minet al-Hosn in favor of the March 14 camp. He predicted a similar low turnout for Sunday’s elections.

Lawyer at the Jewish religious authority in Lebanon Bassam al-Hout confirmed the low turnout, saying the Lebanese Jews living abroad constantly visit their home country, “but they do not care about the elections.”

He denied claims of a Jewish boycott of the vote over a lack of a representative at parliament, saying that such an objection was “not realistic.”

Lebanese law does grant minority sects in Beirut, including Jews, a seat in parliament. The minorities representative is currently Mustaqbal Movement MP Nabil de Freij, an Evangelical Christian, which is another of Lebanon’s minority sects.

Since the establishment of the Lebanese republic, no Lebanese Jew has ever occupied a seat at parliament.

Jews had a municipal representative in Minet al-Hosn. The last known such representative was Saad al-Minn, who immigrated from Lebanon in 1975 after the eruption of the civil war.

Jews in Lebanon have representatives, the most prominent of whom is Jewish Community Council president Isaac Arazi.

New York France and Brazil were the main destination of immigrant Lebanese Jews. The largest immigration wave took place in 1984, which left Beirut with a few hundred Jews.

Hout said: “Lebanese Jewish expatriates visit their home country from time to time because they love Lebanon.”

The young generation often visits Beirut and the cities of Aley and Bhamdoun. They travel to tourist spots and the graves of their ancestors, he explained.

“They do not deny that they are Lebanese,” he added.

Despite the predicted low turnout, Hout remarked that Lebanese expatriate voting, a first in the country’s history, will encourage the Jews to vote in the future.

“Nothing is hindering their return to Lebanon where they have a history and properties,” he said.

Moreover, Beirut’s Maghen Abraham Synagogue recently underwent a renovation process, but it has yet to be officially opened.



Do Tensions in the Red Sea Affect Egyptian-Iranian Rapprochement?

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Iran meet in Geneva. (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Iran meet in Geneva. (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
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Do Tensions in the Red Sea Affect Egyptian-Iranian Rapprochement?

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Iran meet in Geneva. (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)
The foreign ministers of Egypt and Iran meet in Geneva. (Egyptian Foreign Ministry)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday on the sidelines of the high-level meetings of the Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva.

The two ministers met as part of efforts to continue rapprochement between their countries. They discussed bilateral relations and developments related to Israel’s war on Gaza.

Shoukry conveyed Cairo’s “deep concern over the expansion of military tensions in the southern Red Sea region, and the direct harm to the interests of a large number of countries, including Egypt,” according to a statement by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.

The statement raises questions about the extent the impact the tensions in the Red Sea will have on rapprochement efforts between Cairo and Tehran.

The attacks in the Red Sea are being carried out by the Houthi militias in Yemen that are backed Iran.

A number of official Egyptian-Iranian meetings have taken place recently, including talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi on the sidelines of the joint Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh in November.

Regarding the ongoing war in Gaza, Shoukry told Abdollahian that tensions in the Red Sea have resulted in an unprecedented threat to international shipping navigation in the Suez Canal, leading to direct harm to the interests of a large number of countries, including Egypt.

He emphasized the need for cooperation to support stability and peace and eliminate hotbeds of tension and conflicts, according to the Ministry statement.

In January, Bloomberg reported that navigation traffic in the Suez Canal declined by 41 percent from its peak in 2023, amid escalating tensions in the Red Sea due to the Houthis’ targeting of ships as part of what they say is support to Gaza.

The official spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said Shoukry and Abdollahian underscored their countries’ determination to restore the normal bilateral relations.

Expert in Iranian affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Mohammed Abbas Naji told Asharq Al-Awsat that despite the Egyptian-Iranian rapprochement, Cairo was for now monitoring Iran’s behavior in the region, which does not seem to have changed.

He expressed Egyptian reservations and fears over Tehran’s approach in the region and the ongoing threats posed by its proxies in the Red Sea.

These concerns were also voiced in the official Ministry statement following the meeting between Shoukry and Abdollahian.

In May, the Iranian president requested his country’s ministry of Foreign Affairs to take the necessary measures to strengthen relations with Egypt. The two countries had severed diplomatic relations in 1979. They were reestablished after 11 years, but at the level of Chargé d’Affaires.


Gazans Count the Cost of War as Death Toll Nears 30,000

 Palestinians pray by the bodies of relatives who were killed in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, at Rafah's Najjar hospital on February 27, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue. (AFP)
Palestinians pray by the bodies of relatives who were killed in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, at Rafah's Najjar hospital on February 27, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue. (AFP)
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Gazans Count the Cost of War as Death Toll Nears 30,000

 Palestinians pray by the bodies of relatives who were killed in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, at Rafah's Najjar hospital on February 27, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue. (AFP)
Palestinians pray by the bodies of relatives who were killed in overnight Israeli air strikes on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, at Rafah's Najjar hospital on February 27, 2024, as battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continue. (AFP)

Palestinian teacher Iman Mussallam says she is struggling to come to terms with the Gaza war's death toll nearing 30,000 after almost five months of conflict between Israel and Hamas.

But with many victims still trapped under the rubble of flattened buildings, the displaced Gaza woman says she is certain "the real number is greater than that".

"We don't know how many martyrs there will be when the war ends," added the 30-year-old, who has taken refuge at a crowded United Nations shelter in Gaza's far-southern city of Rafah.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war, sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, has brought a litany of horrors to the Palestinian territory of 2.4 million people.

The death toll is exponentially higher than that of the four previous Gaza wars combined.

Cemeteries are full, stocks of body bags have run short, and one bereaved farmer reported having to bury his three brothers and their five children in a citrus grove.

Some 1.5 million people gathered in Rafah are desperately hoping for a ceasefire, fearing yet more bloodshed if Israel launches its threatened ground assault on the city.

On Tuesday, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said at least 29,878 people had been killed so far, and another 70,215 had been injured.

The toll highlights "the extent of the suffering of the Palestinian people" during the war, the effects of which "will remain for generations to come", said Ahmed Orabi, a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza.

The war erupted with Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israeli border communities that claimed the lives of 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel has also been gripped by the desperate plight of about 250 hostages who were taken back to Gaza during the attack, as well as the fate of the estimated 130 still being held.

That attack unleashed an Israeli military offensive of unrelenting scale in a bid to hunt down the Hamas fighters who took part in the assault and the group's leaders.

A 'death zone'

Since the start of the war, the health ministry in Gaza has been tasked with the grueling job of accounting for each of the dead and injured in the 40-kilometre (25-mile) sliver of land on the Mediterranean Sea.

The Hamas government is quick to point out that women and children account for some 70 percent of the death toll.

It has not given the number of militants killed in the fighting. The Israeli army says some 10,000 Hamas fighters have been killed so far.

The Gaza health ministry also breaks down the figures into medical workers, members of the civil defense forces and journalists covering the conflict.

As of February 24, the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists said at least 88 media workers had been killed since the war began.

Israel questions the accuracy of the Hamas government figures, and denies deliberately targeting civilians, medical workers or journalists.

Gaza -- described by the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as a "death zone" -- has become a place of perpetual mourning.

Not a day has gone by without a funeral in Gaza, though harsh wartime conditions have forced residents to improvise even as they grieve.

Overworked staff at under-equipped hospitals have had to use alternative forms of refrigeration before burials, including an ice-cream truck.

Elsewhere, a mass grave was dug at a dirt football field.

Bodies have been transported by donkey carts because of a lack of fuel.

Even the dead are not totally at peace, with Israel admitting it has exhumed some bodies from cemeteries as part of its efforts to identify hostages who may have been killed in the war.

"Bodies determined not (to) be those of hostages are returned with dignity and respect," the military has said.

Some 31 hostages are believed to have been killed, according to Israeli figures.

Mussallam called what has happened in Gaza "the largest massacre in modern history", but also blamed Hamas for carrying out the attack then retreating to its tunnels under Gaza.

With civilians largely paying the price, she asked, "how is it our fault?"


A Gazan Woman Crafts Warm Clothes for Displaced Children 

Displaced Palestinian woman Shehnaz Baker knits wool clothes which she hands out to displaced people for free to stay warm in winter, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinian woman Shehnaz Baker knits wool clothes which she hands out to displaced people for free to stay warm in winter, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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A Gazan Woman Crafts Warm Clothes for Displaced Children 

Displaced Palestinian woman Shehnaz Baker knits wool clothes which she hands out to displaced people for free to stay warm in winter, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinian woman Shehnaz Baker knits wool clothes which she hands out to displaced people for free to stay warm in winter, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. (Reuters)

Shehnaz Baker spends most of her day with yarn and a needle in her hands, making hats, gloves and socks for Palestinian children sheltering in a makeshift camp for the displaced in Rafah, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip.

Baker, 65, who fled her home in Gaza City, said she couldn't bear to see young people in the camp without enough warm clothes, so she sent her son to buy second-hand clothes from the market, which she unraveled and transformed into new winter items.

"When I see the smile of a child wearing a hat and smiling at me, (saying) 'thank you auntie, God bless you auntie,'... this is worth all the money in the world to me," she said.

More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have taken refuge in Rafah, most sleeping rough in makeshift tents or public buildings.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas killed 1,200 people in Israel and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, by Israeli tallies, triggering a ground assault on Gaza, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Gaza health authorities.


Biden, Trump Will Face Tests in Michigan’s Primaries That Could Inform November Rematch 

Early voting takes place at the Warren City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Warren, Mich. (AP)
Early voting takes place at the Warren City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Warren, Mich. (AP)
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Biden, Trump Will Face Tests in Michigan’s Primaries That Could Inform November Rematch 

Early voting takes place at the Warren City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Warren, Mich. (AP)
Early voting takes place at the Warren City Hall, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Warren, Mich. (AP)

While Joe Biden and Donald Trump are marching toward their respective presidential nominations, Michigan's primary on Tuesday could reveal significant political perils for both of them.

Trump, despite his undoubted dominance of the Republican contests this year, is facing a bloc of stubbornly persistent GOP voters who favor his lone remaining rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and who are skeptical at best about the former president's prospects in a rematch against Biden.

As for the incumbent president, Biden is confronting perhaps his most potent electoral obstacle yet: an energized movement of disillusioned voters upset with his handling of the war in Gaza and a relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that critics say has been too supportive.

Those dynamics will be put to the test in Michigan, the last major primary state before Super Tuesday and a critical swing state in November's general election. Even if they post dominant victories as expected on Tuesday, both campaigns will be looking at the margins for signs of weakness in a state that went for Biden by just 3 percentage points last time.

Biden said in a local Michigan radio interview Monday that it would be “one of the five states” that would determine the winner in November.

Michigan has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation, and more than 310,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry. Nearly half of Dearborn’s roughly 110,000 residents claim Arab ancestry.

It has become the epicenter of Democratic discontent with the White House’s actions in the Israel-Hamas war, now nearly five months old, following Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attack and kidnapping of more than 200 hostages. Israel has bombarded much of Gaza in response, killing nearly 30,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Palestinian figures.

Democrats angry that Biden has supported Israel's offensive and resisted calls for a ceasefire are rallying voters on Tuesday to instead select “uncommitted.”

The “uncommitted” effort, which began in earnest just a few weeks ago, has been backed by officials such as Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and former Rep. Andy Levin, who lost a Democratic primary two years ago after pro-Israel groups spent more than $4 million to defeat him.

Abbas Alawieh, spokesperson for the Listen to Michigan campaign that has been rallying for the “uncommitted” campaign, said the effort is a “way for us to vote for a ceasefire, a way for us to vote for peace and a way for us to vote against war.”

Trump won the state by just 11,000 votes in 2016 over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and then lost the state four years later by nearly 154,000 votes to Biden. Alawieh said the “uncommitted” effort wants to show that they have at least the number of votes that were Trump’s margin of victory in 2016, to demonstrate how influential that bloc can be.

“The situation in Gaza is top of mind for a lot of people here,” Alawieh said. “President Biden is failing to provide voters for whom the war crimes that are being inflicted by our US taxpayer dollars – he’s failing to provide them with something to vote for.”

Our Revolution, the organizing group once tied to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has also urged progressive voters to choose “uncommitted” on Tuesday, saying it would send a message to Biden to “change course NOW on Gaza or else risk losing Michigan to Trump in November.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Biden backer who held several meetings and listening sessions in Michigan late last week, said he told community members that, despite his disagreements over the war, he would nonetheless support Biden because he represents a much better chance of peace in the Middle East than Trump.

“I also said that I admire those who are using their ballot in a quintessentially American way to bring about a change in policy,” Khanna said Monday, adding that Biden supporters need to proactively engage with the uncommitted voters to try and “earn back their trust.”

“The worst thing we can do is try to shame them or try to downplay their efforts,” he said.

Trump has drawn enthusiastic crowds at most of his rallies, including a Feb. 17 rally outside Detroit drawing more than 2,000 people who packed into a frigid airplane hangar.

But data from AP VoteCast, a series of surveys of Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, reveals that his core voters so far are overwhelmingly white, mostly older than 50 and generally without a college degree. He will likely have to appeal to a far more diverse group of voters in November. And he has underperformed his statewide results in suburban areas that are critical in states like Michigan.

Several of Trump’s favored picks in Michigan's 2022 midterm contests lost their campaigns, further underscoring his loss of political influence in the state. Meanwhile, the state GOP has been riven with divisions among various pro-Trump factions, potentially weakening its power at a time when Michigan Republicans are trying to lay the groundwork to defeat Biden this fall.

Both Biden and Trump have so far dominated their respective primary bids. Biden has sailed to wins in South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, with the latter victory coming in through a write-in campaign. Trump has swept all the early state contests and his team is hoping to lock up the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination by mid-March.

Nonetheless, an undeterred Haley has promised to continue her longshot presidential primary campaign through at least Super Tuesday on March 5, when 15 states and one territory hold their nominating contests.

As Haley stumped across Michigan on Sunday and Monday, voters showing up to her events expressed enthusiasm for her in Tuesday’s primary -- even though, given her losses in the year’s first four states, it seemed increasingly likely she wouldn’t win the nomination.


Bird-feed Loaf and a Date Wrapped in Gauze: What Children Eat in Gaza

Palestinian woman Warda Mattar feeds her newborn dates, instead of milk, amidst food scarcity and lack of milk, at a school where they shelter in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Doaa Ruqqa
Palestinian woman Warda Mattar feeds her newborn dates, instead of milk, amidst food scarcity and lack of milk, at a school where they shelter in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Doaa Ruqqa
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Bird-feed Loaf and a Date Wrapped in Gauze: What Children Eat in Gaza

Palestinian woman Warda Mattar feeds her newborn dates, instead of milk, amidst food scarcity and lack of milk, at a school where they shelter in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Doaa Ruqqa
Palestinian woman Warda Mattar feeds her newborn dates, instead of milk, amidst food scarcity and lack of milk, at a school where they shelter in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip February 25, 2024. REUTERS/Doaa Ruqqa

After surviving on bitter loaves made from animal feed instead of proper flour, three young brothers who fled their home in Gaza City for a tent further south were tucking into a tub of halawa, a sweet crumbly paste.
Seraj Shehada, 8, and his brothers Ismail, 9, and Saad, 11, said they had run away in secret to take refuge with their aunt in her tent in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, because there was nothing to eat in Gaza City.
"When we were in Gaza City, we used to eat nothing. We would eat every two days," said Seraj Shehada, speaking as the three boys ate the halawa straight out of the tub, with a spoon.
"We would eat bird and donkey food, just anything," he said, referring to loaves made from grains and seeds meant for animal consumption. "Day after day, not this food."
Food shortages have been a problem across the Palestinian enclave since the Oct. 7 start of the war between Israel and Hamas, but are particularly acute in northern Gaza, where aid deliveries have been rarer for longer.
Some of the few aid trucks to reach the north have been mobbed by desperate, hungry crowds, while aid workers have reported seeing people thin and visibly starving with sunken eyes.
In central Gaza, the situation is marginally better, but still far from easy, Reuters reported.
At Al-Nuseirat refugee camp, just north of Deir al-Balah, Warda Mattar, a displaced mother sheltering in a school with her two-month-old baby, was giving him a date wrapped in gauze to suck on, for lack of any milk.
"My son is supposed to have milk as a newborn, be it natural milk or formula milk, but I wasn't able to get him milk, because there is no milk in Gaza," said Mattar.
"I resorted to dates to keep my son quiet," she said.
'ONE SMALL LOAF EVERY TWO DAYS'
In the tent in Deir al-Balah, the three brothers said they had lost their mother, another brother and several aunts in the war. They were left with their father and grandmother, and almost nothing to eat apart from loaves made from animal feed, said the eldest brother, Saad Shehada.
"It was bitter. We didn't want to eat it. We were forced to eat it, one small loaf every two days," he said, adding that they drank salty water and got sick, and there was no way to wash themselves or their clothes.
"We secretly came to Deir al-Balah. We did not tell our father," he said.
The boys' aunt, Eman Shehada, was caring for them as best she could. Heavily pregnant, she said she had lost her husband in the war and was left alone with her daughter, a toddler.
"I am not getting the nutrition needed, so I feel tired and dizzy," she said.
She cannot afford even to buy a kilo of potatoes.
"I don't know how to manage our affairs with these three kids, my daughter, and I am pregnant, I can give birth at any moment."


Syrians Vital in Turkish Local Elections

Syrian-owned shops in Türkiye were subjected to acts of vandalism by Turkish nationals due to incitement by the opposition during the May elections (Archive Photo)
Syrian-owned shops in Türkiye were subjected to acts of vandalism by Turkish nationals due to incitement by the opposition during the May elections (Archive Photo)
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Syrians Vital in Turkish Local Elections

Syrian-owned shops in Türkiye were subjected to acts of vandalism by Turkish nationals due to incitement by the opposition during the May elections (Archive Photo)
Syrian-owned shops in Türkiye were subjected to acts of vandalism by Turkish nationals due to incitement by the opposition during the May elections (Archive Photo)

As Türkiye gears up for local elections on March 31, Syrians living in the country are making their mark in the political scene.

Since last year’s elections, where they played a significant role, they’ve become essential in shaping political strategies.

This phenomenon, which initially gained traction during the previous local elections in 2019 when the opposition successfully seized key strongholds of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), continues to shape Türkiye’s political discourse and strategy.

On the government’s side, plans are underway to employ migrants, particularly Syrians, in sectors facing labor shortages.

According to reports from the pro-government newspaper “Sabah,” this initiative draws inspiration from the “guest worker” model previously implemented, benefiting primarily Turkish interests.

This move aims to tackle illegal migration and meet workforce demands. Inspired by past initiatives, this plan involves cooperation with migrants’ home countries under Türkiye’s supervision.

Türkiye’s 2024 budget has stirred controversy with its inclusion of measures concerning foreign employment, particularly targeting Syrians. This move has drawn criticism from the opposition, who view it as entrenching the presence of Syrians in Türkiye and preventing their return home.

Meanwhile, right-wing parties have intensified their rhetoric against Syrians.

Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist Good Party, pledged tough actions in neighborhoods with large numbers of refugees, including removing non-Turkish signs.

At a rally for her party’s local election campaign, Akşener also announced plans to carry out urban transformation projects in refugee-inhabited neighborhoods, which would involve demolishing their homes and relocating them elsewhere.

Akşener's comments come after previous remarks by Ümit Özdağ, leader of the Victory Party, who is known for his anti-foreigner stance, especially targeting Syrians.

Özdağ promised tough measures against Syrians, including treating them as “guests” in municipalities won by his party, imposing special rates for utilities, and closing down Syrian businesses.

Despite opposition efforts focusing on the Syrian refugee issue in recent elections, they didn't achieve the desired results, leading to tensions in Turkish society.

Syrians, however, are aware of the situation. Mohammed, who runs a bakery in the Syrian-populated “Esenyurt” area, said they’ve faced increased hostility during elections but are abiding by government decisions to avoid trouble.

Despite the political rhetoric, statistics show Syrian integration into Turkish society is progressing, with more Syrians marrying Turkish nationals in recent years.


Woman Killings Surge in Lebanon: 21 Wives Killed by Husbands in 2023

An initiative by women’s rights organizations in Lebanon titled ‘Enough is Enough’ (KAFA Society)
An initiative by women’s rights organizations in Lebanon titled ‘Enough is Enough’ (KAFA Society)
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Woman Killings Surge in Lebanon: 21 Wives Killed by Husbands in 2023

An initiative by women’s rights organizations in Lebanon titled ‘Enough is Enough’ (KAFA Society)
An initiative by women’s rights organizations in Lebanon titled ‘Enough is Enough’ (KAFA Society)

“After enduring a decade of suffering with her husband, my sister decided to leave him - and he killed her,” Umm Ali told Asharq Al-Awsat, encapsulating the tragic story of Lebanese national Amira Moughnieh, who was murdered by her husband in Australia last June.

“My sister got married at 19 and moved to Australia with her husband. For years, she faced various pressures, including being isolated at home. When she asked for a divorce, he refused, and even mediation failed,” Umm Ali added.

“Finally, when she decided to leave and live elsewhere with her kids, he became threatening and refused to support them. But we never imagined it would end in murder,” she explained.

After Moughnieh initiated divorce proceedings, her husband killed her upon receiving a court notification. Now, he’s in custody awaiting investigation, still denying his actions.

This story, however, is sadly not unique.

In 2023, 21 Lebanese women were killed by their husbands, with more cases reported this year.

This violence against women is exacerbated by societal reactions, often minimizing crimes committed by men while sensationalizing those by women.

Zoya Jreidini, director of anti-violence organization “KAFA”, attributed the rise in such crimes to economic and social instability, compounded by laws that favor male dominance in families.

She emphasized the need for greater awareness and attention to these crimes, which are now being discussed more openly in society and on social media.

Jreidini highlighted the troubling cases of suicide among women in Lebanon, often attributed solely to mental health issues.

However, she noted a positive shift in Lebanese society, with more women seeking help from organizations after experiencing abuse.

Jreidini pointed out a problem in the legal system, where cases of violence against women face delays. She insisted on the need for specialized family courts to deter such crimes.

Regarding legal representation, Jreidini explains that it varies depending on the victim’s family’s choice. Some opt to work with KAFA’s lawyers, while others prefer private attorneys, and some decide not to pursue further legal action.


Dead Horses, Scraps, Leaves: Gaza’s Hungry Get Desperate

A Palestinian girl carrying a plate of lentil soup provided by volunteers in Rafah. (AFP)
A Palestinian girl carrying a plate of lentil soup provided by volunteers in Rafah. (AFP)
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Dead Horses, Scraps, Leaves: Gaza’s Hungry Get Desperate

A Palestinian girl carrying a plate of lentil soup provided by volunteers in Rafah. (AFP)
A Palestinian girl carrying a plate of lentil soup provided by volunteers in Rafah. (AFP)

At the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, Abu Gibril was so desperate for food to feed his family that he slaughtered two of his horses.

“We had no other choice but to slaughter the horses to feed the children. Hunger is killing us,” he said.

Jabalia was the biggest camp in the Palestinian territories before the war, which began after Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, leaving some 1,160 dead, based on Israeli figures.

Gibril, 60, fled there from nearby Beit Hanun when the conflict erupted. Home for him and his family is now a tent near what was a UN-run school.

Contaminated water, power cuts and overcrowding were already a problem in the densely populated camp, which was set up in 1948 and covers just 1.4 square kilometers.

Poverty, from high unemployment, was also an issue among its more than 100,000 people.

Now food is running out, with aid agencies unable to get in to the area because of the bombing — and the frenzied looting of the few trucks that try to get through.

The World Food Program this week said its teams reported “unprecedented levels of desperation” while the UN warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.

On Friday, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said a two-month-old baby died of malnutrition in hospital in Gaza City, 7 km away from Jabalia.

In the camp, bedraggled children wait expectantly, holding plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food is available.

With supplies dwindling, costs are rising. A kilo of rice, for example, has shot up from seven shekels ($1.90) to 55 shekels, complains one man.

“We the grown-ups can still make it but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” he said angrily.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF has warned that the alarming lack of food, surging malnutrition and disease could lead to an “explosion” in child deaths in Gaza.

One in six children aged under two in Gaza was acutely malnourished, it estimated on Feb. 19.

Residents have taken to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves to try to stave off the growing hunger pangs.

“There is no food, no wheat, no drinking water,” said one woman.

“We have started begging neighbors for money. We don’t have one shekel at home. We knock on doors and no one is giving us money.”

Tempers are rising in Jabalia about the lack of food and the consequences. On Friday, an impromptu protest was held involving dozens of people.

One child held up a sign reading: “We didn’t die from air strikes but we are dying from hunger.”

Another held aloft a placard warning “Famine eats away at our flesh,” while protesters chanted “No to starvation. No to genocide. No to blockade.”

Over the weeks and months, Israel’s relentless bombardment has left Gaza largely a place of shattered concrete and lives.

Gibril kept the radical decision to slaughter his horses to himself, boiling the meat with rice, and giving it to his unwitting family and neighbors.

Despite the necessity, he said he was still wary of their reaction. “No one knows they were in fact eating a horse.”


Economy Another Victim of War in Impoverished Sudan

Destruction in Gaza caused by Israeli airstrikes (AP)
Destruction in Gaza caused by Israeli airstrikes (AP)
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Economy Another Victim of War in Impoverished Sudan

Destruction in Gaza caused by Israeli airstrikes (AP)
Destruction in Gaza caused by Israeli airstrikes (AP)

Before the Sudanese army and paramilitary fighters turned their guns on each other last year, Ahmed used to sell one of Sudan's main exports: gum arabic, a vital ingredient for global industry.

Now he's out of business, and his story encapsulates the broader economic collapse of Sudan during 10 months of war.

Since combat between two rival generals began on April 15, Ahmed has been at the fighters' mercy.

"When the war began, I had a stock of gum arabic in a warehouse south of Khartoum that was intended for export," Ahmed told AFP, asking to use only his first name for fear of retaliation.

"To get it out I had to pay huge sums to the Rapid Support Forces," the paramilitaries commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Daglo who are at war with the Sudanese Armed Forces led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

"I had to pay multiple times in areas under their control, before my cargo got to areas controlled by the government," Ahmed said.

But the government -- loyal to the army -- "then demanded I pay taxes" on the product, an emulsifying agent used in everything from soft drinks to chewing gum.

When the trucks finally made it to Port Sudan for export on the Red Sea, "authorities again asked for new taxes, and I had to pay storage fees six times more than before the war", Ahmed said.

His gum arabic -- like many other Sudanese products -- never made it onto a ship. According to Sudan's port authorities, international trade fell 23 percent last year.

The finance ministry, which didn't set a national budget for 2023 or 2024 and has foregone quarterly reports, recently raised the exchange rate for imports and exports from 650 Sudanese pounds to 950.

But that is still far below the currency's real value.

With most banks out of service, the only exchange rate that matters to ordinary Sudanese is on the black market, where the dollar currently goes for around 1,200 Sudanese pounds.

"It's a sign of the destruction of the Sudanese economy," former Sudanese Chamber of Commerce head al-Sadiq Jalal told AFP.

To make matters worse, a communications blackout since early February has hampered online transactions -- which Sudanese relied on to survive.

The war has led industries to cease production. Others were destroyed. Businesses and food stocks have been looted.

The World Bank in September said "widespread destruction of Sudan's economic foundations has set the country's development back by several decades".

The International Monetary Fund has predicted that even after the fighting ends, "years of reconstruction" await the northeast African country.

Sudan suffered under a crippled economy for decades and was already one of the world's poorest countries before the war.

Under the regime of strongman Omar al-Bashir, international sanctions throttled development, corruption was rampant, and South Sudan split in 2011 with most of the country's oil production.

Bashir's ouster by the military in 2019 following mass protests led to a fragile transition to civilian rule accompanied by signs of economic renewal and international acceptance.

A 2021 coup by Burhan and Daglo, before they turned on each other, began a new economic collapse when the World Bank and the United States suspended vital international aid.

More than six million of Sudan's 48 million people have been internally displaced by the war, and more than half the population needs humanitarian aid to survive, according to the United Nations.

Thousands of people have been killed, including between 10,000 and 15,000 in a single city in the western Darfur region, according to UN experts.

Now the indirect death toll is also rising.

Aid agencies have long warned of impending famine, and the UN's World Food Program is "already receiving reports of people dying of starvation", the agency's Sudan director Eddie Rowe said in early February.

The Sudanese state "is completely absent from the scene" in all sectors, economist Haitham Fathy told AFP.

Chief among those is agriculture, which could have helped stave off hunger.

Before the war, agriculture generated 35-40 percent of Sudan's gross domestic product, according to the World Bank, and employed 70-80 percent of the workforce in rural areas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development said.

But the war has left more than 60 percent of the nation's agricultural land out of commission, according to Sudanese research organization Fikra for Studies and Development.

In the wheat-growing state of al-Jazira, where RSF fighters took over swathes of farmland south of Khartoum, farmers have been unable to tend their crops. They saw their livelihoods wither away.

From the wheat fields to Ahmed's gum arabic warehouse, the story is the same.

His savings spent, his stock gone and his future bleak, Ahmed -- like much of Sudan's business class -- has closed up shop.


In Third Year of War, Why Ukraine’s Fate Hinges on West

People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP)
People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP)
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In Third Year of War, Why Ukraine’s Fate Hinges on West

People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP)
People stand at the memorial site for those killed during the war, near Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP)

As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, the conflict will be determined not just on the battlefield but also in Western capitals and other places far from the front lines.

With Ukrainian forces on the back foot, short of ammunition and forced to retreat in some areas, Kyiv's ability to repel Russia's invasion depends heavily on Western military, financial and political backing.

Here are some of the factors that may influence Western support for Ukraine in the year ahead:

US aid package in Congress

A bill stuck in the US Congress that includes some $60 billion in aid for Ukraine - much of it military - is vital for Kyiv's forces, Western and Ukrainian officials say.

"Every week we wait means that there will be more people killed on the frontline in Ukraine," NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg told a major security conference in Munich last weekend.

The US Senate passed the bill, which also includes aid for Israel and Taiwan, on Feb. 13. But it faces strong resistance from Republicans close to ex-President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives. House Speaker Mike Johnson has resisted pressure from the White House to call a vote on the bill.

European officials said they were somewhat more positive about the legislation's prospects after discussions with US lawmakers at the Munich conference but expected it would still take some time before the measure passes, if it does at all.

Ammunition supply

Much of the war has descended into grinding artillery battles, with both sides firing thousands of shells every day.

Ukraine could fire more shells than Russia for much of 2023 but the tables have turned as Moscow has ramped up production and imported rounds from North Korea and Iran, analysts say.

Michael Kofman, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think-tank, estimates Russian artillery is firing at five times the rate of Ukraine's.

A vital factor for Kyiv this year will be "whether Western partners can catch up to Russian artillery production and supply Ukraine with the shells and barrels they need", said Professor Justin Bronk, a researcher at British defense think tank RUSI.

Weapons decisions

Ukrainian leaders have also been pushing their Western counterparts to deliver new weapons systems, above all longer-range missiles to strike further behind Russian lines, such as US ATACMS and Germany's Taurus.

"We can't increase the production of ammunition overnight. But we can take decisions immediately to deliver to the Ukrainians weapons they really need," said former NATO boss Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a close ally of the Ukrainian government.

The US has supplied only older, medium-range ATACMS but the Biden administration is now working towards delivering newer longer-range weaponry. However, any such move may depend on approval of the aid bill currently held up by the House.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has resisted entreaties from Kyiv and some NATO allies to supply the highly advanced Taurus system. German officials have cited concerns that the missiles could escalate the war inside Russian territory and could be seen as more direct German involvement in the conflict.

War in the Middle East

The war in Gaza, triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, means Western leaders have had less time and political energy to devote to Ukraine. If it deteriorates further or escalates into a regional war, that will be even more the case.

Also, leaders in the Global South have accused the West of double standards over its attitudes to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, making it more difficult for Kyiv and its allies to rally support for a summit in support of Ukraine's peace blueprint.

"Russia is definitely benefiting from those developments," said Vsevolod Chentsov, Ukraine's ambassador to the European Union.

"We work with the Global South, we try to engage them as much as possible in our efforts ... We keep working on that, it's a difficult issue."

NATO summit, Washington July 9-11

The summit may not directly affect the battlefield but could affect the political mood and morale in Ukraine.

Ukraine and some of its supporters continue to push NATO to invite Kyiv to join the military alliance - whose members pledge to treat an attack on one of them as an attack on all - or at least bring the country closer to membership.

But the United States, NATO's predominant power, and Germany are among those resisting such a step, arguing it could draw the alliance closer to a direct conflict with Russia, diplomats say.

Rasmussen, the former NATO boss, is working with the Ukrainian government and a group of international figures on a proposal that would set out a clear path to membership, with the aim of influencing the outcome of the Washington summit.

US presidential election

Trump was a fierce critic of NATO as president, repeatedly threatening to pull out of the alliance. He cut defense funding to NATO and frequently said that the United States was paying more than its fair share.

On Russia's war in Ukraine, Trump has called for de-escalation and complained about the billions spent so far, although he has put forward few tangible policy proposals.

President Joe Biden, 81, made the controversial decision to run for a second term in large part because he was convinced he would face Trump, 77, and because he thinks he is the Democrat who can beat him in the November election.

But public opinion polls show him tied with Trump and Americans continue to worry about high prices and question his age, his economic plans and his policies on the border and in the Middle East.

Trump has held a commanding lead against his rivals for the Republican nomination despite his mounting legal troubles. However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll earlier this month showed that one in four self-identified Republicans and about half of independents responding said they would not vote for Trump if he was convicted of a felony crime by a jury.