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Gaza incendiary balloons are ‘distress signals’ | News



Gaza City – For the past two weeks, a group of seven Palestinian men have camped close to the buffer zone separating the Gaza Strip from Israel in the early hours before dawn.

But this is no ordinary camping trip. Among their supplies are gas cylinders, small inflammable cubes, balloons and Guy Fawkes masks, which they wear to conceal their identity.

The Palestinians call themselves the Barq (Lightning) Unit – one of several groups involved in floating “fire” balloons and kites into Israel.

Hiding between the bushes and olive trees, the men fill the balloons with helium, group them in a bundle, and then attach a small incendiary object to their tail.

Once the wind direction is right, they launch the objects discreetly in the direction of empty areas within Israel that are close to the buffer-zone fence.

Israel closes Gaza fishing zone over balloon bombs

The balloons, which Israel has described as “arson attacks”, have been causing large fires on some agricultural land.

While no Israelis have been hurt, the airborne devices have prompted Israel to bombard the Gaza Strip for 10 consecutive days – targeting Hamas field training facilities and monitoring points without causing any Palestinian casualties.

‘Fiery message’

“We came here to send a fiery message to the Israeli occupation that we in the Gaza Strip can no longer tolerate the blockade that’s been taking place for 13 years,” Abu Yousef, the spokesman of the Barq Unit, told Al Jazeera.

“We would like to send a message that we deserve a decent life to our families and loved ones,” the 24-year-old added.

The most senior group member, who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Obaida, said they turned to these tools to challenge the blockade because they increasingly feel “nobody is looking at Gaza” and resorted to this tactic seeking to “alleviate the miserable situation on Gaza”.

“The world is looking the other way,” the 35-year-old father of five said. “We don’t have any enmity with the Jewish people. Our battle is against their government that has been besieging us for 13 years.”

In addition to the nightly air raids on the blockaded coastal enclave, Israel has undertaken a series of punitive measures it says is a response to the incendiary balloons.

Last week, Israel closed Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), Gaza’s main commercial crossing. Then on August 17, Israel closed down Gaza’s fishing zone.

The following day, Gaza’s sole power plant halted its services as a result of Israel cutting Gaza’s fuel imports on Thursday, which brought down the city’s electricity intake from eight-12 hours to only three-four hours per day.

Despite the increased measures of collective punishment on the Gaza Strip, the Lightning Unit is adamant it will continue its activities, which members say is a means of pressuring Israel to lift the devastating blockade on Gaza.

Members say they see their efforts as legitimate amid Israel’s crippling blockade [Mahmoud Walid/Al Jazeera]

Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, generally tolerate the fire balloon floaters despite the violent reprisals by Israel.

“The Palestinian people have a right to resist the Israeli occupation and to raise their voices in any way against the blockade of the Gaza Strip,” Hamas official Bassem Naim told Al Jazeera.

He accused Israel of ignoring agreements mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations.

“The result is that the people in Gaza are now living in unprecedented miserable conditions,” said Naim. “This is what has pushed some young people to undertake popular resistance actions such as the incendiary balloons, because all other methods to draw attention to what is happening in the Gaza Strip have failed to result in any change.”

Harsh conditions

According to the United Nations, Gaza’s blockade was expected to render the besieged city uninhabitable by 2020. The enclave suffers from a severe scarcity of drinkable water, where water contamination has reached 97 percent.

Nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s population receives some kind of aid, according to the World Bank, while nearly 53 percent has fallen below the poverty line.

The harsh economic conditions have driven the Barq Unit to challenge the status quo, the members said. While they all have university degrees, they are all unemployed – as part of what the World Bank has described as the highest unemployment rate – 45.5 percent – in the world.

“I’m married with three children, but I’m unemployed,” Abu Yousef, another member, told Al Jazeera.

“My children deserve a decent and dignified life. I’m here today because when I look into their eyes, I can only see that I cannot provide for them.”

Gaza’s power station shuts down as Israel cuts off diesel imports

Abu Yousef said he cannot afford to buy the basic necessities for their school, and had to borrow used uniforms from neighbours.

“We are not terrorists as Israel claims,” Abu Obaida said. “We don’t want to burn anything or hurt anybody. I recently graduated in public relations and marketing with top marks but couldn’t find a job afterwards.

“We deserve to have employment opportunities and electricity. My children deserve to find food on the table,” he added.

Risks and dangers

The fire-balloon squads in Gaza were all participants in the “Great March of Return” rallies that began in 2018, when Palestinian refugees gathered peacefully near the fence with Israel in an attempt to return to their pre-1948 homes.

But after Israel brutally put down the demonstrations, the marchers sought other ways to highlight the plight of Gazans. 

The Barq Unit stressed its activities are a legitimate response to Israel’s crippling blockade.

“We’re not asking for astronomical demands but basic rights,” Abu Obaida said. “We will continue to use the balloons and kites until Israel complies with our legitimate right to lead a normal life and provide for ourselves.”

Another member, Abu Hamza, chimed in: “Our message to the world is to see Gaza for what it is. It is an occupied territory where two million people are living under a suffocating siege. Israel has no right to maintain this situation.”

Gaza's incendiary balloons

The group is adamant it will continue its activities to pressure Israel to lift the devastating blockade on Gaza [Mahmoud Walid/Al Jazeera]

The Barq Unit recognises its activities come with enormous risks to their lives.

“The danger we’re facing every day is that the occupation is shooting live fire towards us,” Abu Yousef said. “The skies above us are always full of drones. Of course we feel fear, but life as it is in Gaza is more terrible.”

He said all Gazans want is a decent life with no blockade, adding, “Until then, Gaza will remain a thorn in the occupation’s throat.”

“Whoever thinks that we will continue to accept the bleak life that is forced upon us in Gaza is delusional,” said Abu Yousef.

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

Source –

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