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Farmer turns ferryman as river engulfs Syrian hometown

MANBIJ: Charred walls, shattered windows, uncooked kebabs still on the counter — the blast that hit US forces at this small restaurant in northern Syria has left residents fearful for the future. Wednesday’s suicide bombing, claimed by Daesh, was the deadliest to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014. Nineteen people, including…

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Farmer turns ferryman as river engulfs Syrian hometown

MANBIJ: Charred walls, shattered windows, uncooked kebabs still on the counter — the blast that hit US forces at this small restaurant in northern Syria has left residents fearful for the future.

Wednesday’s suicide bombing, claimed by Daesh, was the deadliest to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014.

Nineteen people, including four Americans, were killed in the attack on the grill house in the central market of the flashpoint northern town of Manbij.

“We come to the market but we are afraid. We go to work and we are afraid… we don’t know what could happen,” says Jomaa Al-Qassem, eyeing the shops from his car along with his three-year-old son.

In front of the blackened storefront, armed security forces hustle curious onlookers away and are quick to prevent them from taking photos with their cellphones.

Behind its twisted metal exterior, a clump of raw red meat lies abandoned on a counter, covered with dust. Tables and cookware from the kitchen have been twisted into a tangled mess on the floor.

Run by a Washington-backed town council since the US-led coalition and its ground partners pushed out militants in 2016, Manbij has been a realm of relative quiet. 

The town was considered sufficiently secure that a group of top US military commanders and lawmakers strolled through the same market place without body armor during a tour of the area last summer.

Next to the blast site, Abu Abdel Rahman lifts an armful of red teddy bears out of his storefront display, carefully avoiding the shattered glass.

Just meters away from the restaurant, his shop was also hit by the blast.

But the US military presence in the town has been thrown into question after President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month that he would pull all American troops from Syria, claiming the Daesh had been “largely defeated.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump supporter who was among this summer’s visitors, has been one of the most vocal critics of the president’s decision and was in Ankara for talks with top officials on Friday.

“I was at the door of my shop and saw a fireball come out of the restaurant. Then, there were body parts on the ground,” he told AFP, a red keffiyeh headscarf wrapped around his face to help fend off the cold winter air.

The four Americans killed in the blast were two soldiers, a civilian defense department employee and a Pentagon subcontractor.

The US Defense Department has previously reported only two American personnel killed in combat in Syria, in separate incidents.

The attack came as tensions between Washington’s Syrian Kurdish ground partner and its NATO ally Turkey flare.

Ankara views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a “terrorist offshoot” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened an all-out offensive to clear the group from its border.

At the town’s entrance, security checkpoints manned by forces of the US-backed Manbij Military Council meticulously check vehicles and the IDs of people entering and exiting the town. Regular patrols move through the streets.

But for Malek Al-Hassan, it is not enough.

The 45-year-old was in the market that day to buy books for his children.

“When the explosion happened, I don’t know how we managed to escape,” he says.

“We hope the forces will be more vigilant at the roadblocks, and that they will work hard to prevent these infiltrators from committing these acts of sabotage,” he says.

After sweeping across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the militants’ cross-border “caliphate” has been erased by multiple offensives and is now confined to a tiny embattled enclave in eastern Syria close to the Iraqi border.

But despite the stinging defeats, Daesh has proved it is still capable of carrying out deadly attacks using hideouts in the sprawling desert or sleeper cells in the towns.

One day after the blast, Naassan Dandan’s eyes well up with tears when he remembers the attack.

“I was outside when the explosion happened and was thrown to the ground,” says the man in his 40s, still clearing shards of glass from his nearby photography studio.

On the walls of his shop, child portraits he has taken throughout his career are covered in black dust.

“I saw the bodies — the dead and the wounded,” he says, as two young passers-by stop to lend a hand with the clean up.

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UAE administered 200 vaccine doses per 100 people

The country is going the extra mile, with fully vaccinated residents now getting their booster shots. The UAE crossed a new vaccination milestone on Saturday: the distribution rate is now at 200.67 doses per 100 people. This means the number of Covid jabs administered in the country has reached twice its population. So far, more…

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UAE administered 200 vaccine doses per 100 people

The country is going the extra mile, with fully vaccinated residents now getting their booster shots.

The UAE crossed a new vaccination milestone on Saturday: the distribution rate is now at 200.67 doses per 100 people. This means the number of Covid jabs administered in the country has reached twice its population.
So far, more than 19.8 million doses have already been given across the Emirates, with 71,886 jabs recorded in the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap).
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“This is in line with the ministry’s plan to provide the Covid-19 vaccines to all members of society and part of efforts to reach acquired immunity…which will help reduce the number of cases and control the Covid-19 virus,” added the ministry.
For doctors in the country, the mass vaccination drive has been proving effective as cases have drastically dropped by over 60 per cent last month.
Dr Abdul Aneez, medical director of Medeor Hospital Dubai, said: “It is heartening to learn that the UAE is rapidly vaccinating its people against Covid-19. Today, (Saturday) the nation has achieved yet another milestone. This is a commendable record in the vaccination effort among the world nations.”
The UAE has even gone the extra mile, he said, with people now getting their booster shots.
“It is this step that has bolstered immunity and has significantly contributed to developing herd immunity,” added Dr Aneez.
Sustained vaccination efforts make sure the population develops immunity to combat the disease. “Additionally, we also have evidence from studies that immunity has a waning effect over the months. It is at this point that the booster dose comes into effect, to continue to maintain the level of immunity in the population,” said the doctor.
He praised the UAE leadership, the government, Mohap and all healthcare workers for this great achievement. “This is no less feat when we are fighting an invisible enemy that has brought the world to a grinding halt,” he added.
dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

Dhanusha Gokulan
Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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UAE Cabinet reshuffled: Meet the new ministers

Some of them are serving in the Cabinet for the first time, while others are taking on new roles. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, on Saturday announced the formation of a new UAE Cabinet. Here’s a list of the new…

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UAE Cabinet reshuffled: Meet the new ministers

Some of them are serving in the Cabinet for the first time, while others are taking on new roles.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, on Saturday announced the formation of a new UAE Cabinet.
Here’s a list of the new ministers:
Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
He is the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, the First Deputy Chairman of The Dubai Executive Council and the Chairman of the Ruler’s Court of Dubai.
He holds a number of leadership positions in the city, with responsibilities focused on boosting government performance and promoting the emirate’s economic sector.
He chairs the Board of the Dubai Judicial Council, the Board of DIFC–Dubai International Financial Centre, the Supreme Legislation Committee in Dubai, and the Strategic Affairs Council of the Dubai Executive Council.
Sheikh Maktoum holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the American University in Dubai. He undertook a number of professional development opportunities at Harvard University in the US, as well as the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in the UAE. He was born in Dubai on November 24, 1983.
Mohammed bin Hadi Ahmed Abdullah Al Hussaini

Mohammed bin Hadi Ahmed Abdullah Al Hussaini is now the UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs, succeeding Obaid Al Tayer.
Al Hussaini is an experienced banker with an extensive track record in finance and investment. He serves on the board of directors of the Emirates Investment Authority and the Investment Corporation of Dubai, as well as the Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company PJSC (du) and Emirates NBD.
Born in 1976, he holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in international business from Switzerland.
Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri

Mariam bint Mohammed Saeed Hareb Almheiri — previously Minister of State for Food and Water Security — becomes the Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
Almheiri has been responsible for monitoring national food stocks, investing in food technology, and following up international relations in this area.
Before that, Almheiri was appointed as Minister of State for Food Security following the Cabinet reshuffle in October 2017. Her responsibilities included overseeing the development of the necessary infrastructure that would ensure the country’s food security objectives, in line with UAE Centennial 2071 Plan.
Abdullah bin Muhair Al Ketbi

Abdullah bin Muhair Al Ketbi becomes the Minister for the Affairs of the Federal Supreme Council.
Staff Maj-Gen Al Ketbi served as commander of support units for the UAE Armed Forces from 2012 to 2021, a long military career with the Army.
He has served as the director of the Office of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and was previously director of the Ruler’s Representative Office in Al Dhafra Region of the Capital.
An active participant in a number of international forums, he has also been a prominent member of many preparatory and organisational working groups and committees in Abu Dhabi.
Al Ketbi holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in military sciences from Zayed II Military College and was born on June 6, 1956.
Abdullah bin Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi

Abdullah bin Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi has been appointed the Minister of Justice. He will be succeeding Sultan bin Saeed Al Badi.
Al Nuaimi is an economist specialising in financial management and security. He started his career with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, going on to serve as an economist with the Supreme Council for National Security, and then a director of economic affairs at the council.
He sits on the Board of Directors of the UAE Competitiveness Council and serves in a number of strategic government committees, including the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations; the Strategic Impact Economic Activities Committee; the Supreme Committee for Foreign Aid; and the National Covid-19 Crisis Recovery Management and Governance Committee.
He holds a master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Boston University (BU) in the US. He was born in Al Ain on January 1, 1976.
Dr Abdul Rahman Al Awar

Dr Abdul Rahman Al Awar is now the Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation. He will be replacing Nasser bin Thani Juma Al Hamli.
Al Awar is an experienced executive in both the public and private sectors. He started his business career at Emirates Global Aluminium, going on to work with Dubai Oil. He also held senior management roles at Mubadala Investment, Dolphin Energy Limited, and HSBC.
He was appointed director-general of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources in 2009, and sits on the board of the Emirates National Oil Company, the Supreme Council of the National Defense College, the University of Dubai, and is a member of the Higher Colleges of Technology board of trustees.
Al Awar received his PhD from Colorado School of Mines in the US. He was born on October 21, 1968.
nandini@khaleejtimes.com
Nandini Sircar

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Sign language: Connecting people and cultures

The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf…

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Sign language: Connecting people and cultures

The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf people to have their own languages. The international day coincides with the establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf, founded in 1951.
“Sign language is multicultural and derived from the culture of every country,” said Hamad Al-Marri, President of Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf. Marri, also member of the higher council for the disabled, told KUNA deaf people will be using their hands and other body gestures to express themselves. Every country has a unique sign language depending on its culture, he explained. “There is an international sign language, an Arab sign language and a unique local sign language.”
Arabic days of the week in sign languageMarri said many deaf people have occupied senior positions because they excelled in the use of sign language. He added he proposed to the Civil Service Commission for the appointment of people with sign language expertise in government departments to help the deaf. Marri said HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah instructed Kuwait National Guards personnel, when he was deputy chief of KNG, to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf.
Arabic alphabets in sign languageDr Mohammad Al-Ramzi, a sign language instructor, said sign language “is rich, expressive and complicated just like the spoken language, and it has a grammar framework similar to all human languages”. Speaking to KUNA, Ramzi said Arab countries unified their sign languages in 1999 and a dictionary was published with more than 3,000 signs. Kuwait was the first country in the world to interpret three TV news bulletins. The bulletins were raised to eight per day in 2020, he added.
Ismail Karam, Technical Director at Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf, said he learned sign language at Al-Amal (Hope) School for people with special needs, which he joined in 1960. After spending 12 years at the school, Karam graduated with the ability to write and sign. He then worked at the finance ministry’s printing press where he spent 30 years, during which he joined former classmates to establish the Kuwait Society for Deaf and Dumb in 1975. The society later changed its name to Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf.
Al-Zahraa Al-Tamimi, member of the Deaf Friends team, said team members are teaching hearing-impaired people how to use sign language. The team, she told KUNA, sought to spread the use of sign language on social media, TV channels and public places. Kuwait is the second Arab country to introduce education of the deaf – the ministry of education issued a law in 1965 making it mandatory for people with special needs to get an education. – KUNA
 

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