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Tough choices for Hamas over Israeli annexation plans

GAZA CITY: Hamas has warned that Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank would be a “declaration of war,” but the Islamist group must weigh the cost of a new fight, analysts say.Recent weeks have seen almost daily protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.The proposals envisage…

GAZA CITY: Hamas has warned that Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank would be a “declaration of war,” but the Islamist group must weigh the cost of a new fight, analysts say.Recent weeks have seen almost daily protests in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip against US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan.The proposals envisage Israel annexing its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 and located around 50 km from the enclave of Gaza.The Israeli government is expected to decide from July 1 on the implementation of the Trump plan. As the clock ticks, Hamas, which has fought three wars against the Jewish state since 2007, is seeking to define its strategy in the face of the latest challenge.“There is no doubt that Hamas’ options are complex because any response to the annexation will have consequences for the Gaza Strip,” said Palestinian analyst Adnan Abu Amer.Despite a 2018 truce, Hamas and Israel still trade fire from time to time, with rockets or incendiary balloons launched from Gaza and reprisal strikes by Israel.“Tensions at the border fence may resume, with the launch of incendiary and explosive devices,” said Mukhaimar Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University.But he ruled out “the option of military activities” against Israel by Hamas, which rules over a territory already impoverished and under a crippling Israeli blockade.The movement “does not want Gaza to pay the price, and wants to wait to see what is going on, organize popular protests and not have to engage in confrontation with Israel,” he added.On Friday Israeli air force jets struck Hamas positions in Gaza after rockets were fired from the territory toward Israel for the first time since early May.The previous day, Hamas’s military wing had warned that annexation would prompt a war.

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As the clock ticks, Hamas, which has fought three wars against the Jewish state since 2007, is seeking to define its strategy in the face of the latest challenge.

“The resistance considers the decision to annex the West Bank and the Jordan Valley to be a declaration of war on our people,” said spokesman Abu Ubaida.And an official told AFP that Hamas was in talks with other factions in the coastal enclave to “coordinate the resistance and resume the ‘return marches’.”On Sunday the deputy head of Hamas’s political wing, Khalil Al-Hayya, said that “total resistance and armed struggle (were) necessary to face the enemy’s plan,” calling for a “Day of Rage” on July 1.In March 2018, the Palestinians launched weekly protests along Gaza’s border with Israel to demand “the right of return” for Palestinians who were chased out or fled from their lands when Israel was created in 1948.They also demanded the lifting of the strict Israeli blockade imposed over a decade ago on Gaza purportedly to contain Hamas.Attendance at the rallies waned late last year, then restrictions related to the new coronavirus pandemic added further complications.If Israel goes ahead with its annexation plan, Hamas may take a “more pragmatic” attitude and perhaps allow other factions to fire rockets at Israel or engage in clashes along the border, said analyst Abu Amer.But it would do everything to prevent a major response from Israel, he added.Abu Amer said that Hamas wants armed attacks against Israel in the West Bank instead, in order to spare the Gaza Strip.But for that, there would need to be a dialogue between Hamas and the rival Fatah party of West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas.The two parties have been at loggerheads since the Islamist movement wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the PA in 2007 after a near-civil war, a year after winning parliamentary elections.Since then, all efforts at inter-Palestinian reconciliation have failed.In mid-June, a senior Hamas official, Salah Al-Bardawil, called for Palestinian political unity.“We call on our people to turn this ordeal into an opportunity to get the Palestinian project back on track,” he said.Abu Amer, however, said an agreement between the PA and Hamas is very slim, even “impossible, because of the lack of confidence” on both sides.“The Palestinian Authority continues to hunt down and arrest Hamas activists in the West Bank on a daily basis,” fearing Hamas will resume operations in the West Bank and oust it, as it did in Gaza, he said.

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Pakistan research body chief urges virus vigilance for Eid Al-Adha holiday

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity.  The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop…

LONDON: Two of the world’s most promising studies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 have said subjects in their trials have shown early signs of immunity. 

The trials, run by teams at Oxford University in the UK and pharmaceutical company Moderna in the US, have both received significant government funding in their bids to develop their vaccines before the end of the year.

The Oxford vaccine, being manufactured by AstraZeneca, based in Cambridge, England, has already had millions of doses mass-produced in the event of the trials proving a success. The team behind it says it is “80 percent confident” of it being available by September. 

It works by injecting altered COVID-19 genetic material, attached to a similar but benign virus called an adenovirus, which causes common colds, into the body, in a process known as recombinant viral vector vaccination. 

The aim is to facilitate an immune system response by mimicking COVID-19 itself, and training antibodies to attack the spike proteins on the virus’s exterior that it uses to attach itself to human cells.

When faced with COVID-19, in theory the immune system should then act in the same fashion.

The Oxford vaccine is currently in its second, expanded trial stage, featuring 8,000 people in the UK and up to 6,000 people in Brazil and South Africa.

Though no official results have been formally published, subjects exposed to the vaccine in its early phase were found to have developed antibodies and a certain type of white blood cell, called T-cells, which help fight infection

“An important point to keep in mind is that there are two dimensions to the immune response: Antibodies and T-cells,” a source at Oxford told ITV News in the UK.

“Everybody is focused on antibodies, but there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the T-cells response is important in the defense against coronavirus.”

Prof. Sarah Gilbert, the Oxford team leader, earlier this month said the vaccine could provide protection for several years at a time.

She told UK MPs on the House of Commons’ science and technology select committee: “Vaccines have a different way of engaging with the immune system, and we follow people in our studies using the same type of technology to make the vaccines for several years, and we still see strong immune responses.”

She added: “It’s something we have to test and follow over time — we can’t know until we actually have the data, but we’re optimistic based on earlier studies that we’ll see a good duration of immunity, for several years at least, and probably better than naturally acquired immunity.”

Moderna, meanwhile, reported that all 45 volunteers in its early phase had developed immune responses after receiving its vaccine, though with more than half its subjects experiencing mild or moderate side effects including headaches, fatigue and muscle pain.

Its vaccine, called mRNA-1273, uses ribonucleic acid to program human cells to make proteins similar to the spike proteins of COVID-19 cells, training the body’s immune system to identify and attack them.

Its initial studies found that higher doses of mRNA-1273 in the human system corresponded with higher levels of immunity in subjects, by injecting people with doses of 25, 100 or 250 micrograms of the vaccine in two instalments over 28 days.

Moderna will begin a second trial of 30,000 people later this month. The US government has so far pledged nearly half a billion dollars in funding for the Moderna vaccine.

The director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said: “No matter how you slice this, this is good news.”

Vaccines, though, are not the only potential route in the quest to find a solution to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trials have already begun for an antibody treatment, manufactured by AstraZeneca, that would see patients given a three-minute infusion of COVID-19 antibodies that could provide protection for up to six months.

This would be a potential solution if the vaccine proves less effective in some people (especially the elderly), for those who suffer adverse reactions, or for people taking immunosuppressant drugs or undergoing chemotherapy.

Sir Mene Pangalos, head AstraZeneca’s research into respiratory diseases, said: “There’s a population who are elderly that (may not) get a particularly good immune response to the vaccine.

“In those instances you might want to prophylactically treat those patients with an antibody to give them additional protection.”

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Mass testing, government support keep Covid-19 death rate low in UAE: Doctors

Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19. The UAE on Wednesday, July 15, declared that not a single Covid-19 death was reported across the emirates in 24 hours, an update that sent a wave of hope…

Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

The UAE on Wednesday, July 15, declared that not a single Covid-19 death was reported across the emirates in 24 hours, an update that sent a wave of hope among residents amid the pandemic. Health experts attributed the achievement to the outstanding crisis management and proactive steps taken by the country’s leaders.
Dr Syed Nadir, who has been treating a number of Covid-19 patients, thanked the UAE government for its full support in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.
“It is indeed a big achievement and I think it was made possible due to the collaborative effort of the frontliners, volunteers and proactive thinking of the UAE leaders,” said Dr Nadir, acting head of internal medicine at Adam Vital Hospital in Dubai.
Thanks to mass testing, contact-tracing, isolation of patients and awareness drives, the UAE’s Covid mortality rate (0.6 per cent) is considerably lower than the global average (which is around 4.3 per cent), he said.
‘Screenings helped massively’
Mass testing, in particular, has been crucial in flattening the curve, doctors said. More than four million PCR tests have so far been carried out nationwide, with the UAE ranking first globally in the number of Covid-19 screenings done per capita.
“Screenings have been instrumental in identifying asymptomatic patients. This has helped the nation ensure that treatment is provided before a patient’s condition worsens. The time for recovery of these patients was shorter,” said Dr Nabeel Debouni, group medical director at VPS Healthcare.
Dr Nadir added that regular updates and guidance from the authorities have also been a big help for front-liners. “The health authority has been guiding us on the best, evidence-based practices. This helped us keep the situation under control.”
All hospitals in the country have followed these guidelines and found them ‘very helpful’ in managing and treating Covid-19 patients, Dr Debouni said. “Most of the patients have recovered completely.”
Timely management
Calling the UAE a role model for the world, Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital, said the timely management of the outbreak ultimately helped the country keep the death rate low.
“UAE leadership was quick to identify the threat and understood that a comprehensive testing and screening will be the perfect strategy to contain the spread of Covid 19 and we are continuing with the drive. All this became possible because of the visionary leaders of the country,” he said.
“Multi-language awareness programmes, country-wide sterilisation drives, and stringent safety measures have also ensured that the country remained ahead in the fight against Covid-19.”
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Indians, other teams pressured after Redskins drop nickname

CLEVELAND: The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians. Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity. Along with the…

CLEVELAND: The spotlight for change is shining on the Cleveland Indians.

Now that the NFL’s Washington Redskins have retired their contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection and amid a nationwide movement calling for racial justice, the Indians appear to be the next major sports franchise that might assume a new identity.

Along with the Indians, who recently announced they are in the early stages of evaluating a name change for the first time in 105 years, the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are among those facing backlash along with the potential of sponsors pulling their financial support. For some, the time has come for widespread changes to sports nicknames, mascots and symbols as the country reckons with its legacy of racism.

“I understand people aren’t willing to change or so quickly, or they’re hoping this moment is going to pass. It’s not,” said activist Frances Danger, who is Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole from Oklahoma. ”And now that we’ve gotten what we needed on the Redskins side, we’re going to start working on the rest of them. We’re not going to let up.”

On Monday, Washington announced it was dropping a nickname that had been in place since 1933 and had grown into an embarrassing scar for the NFL franchise. The team buckled under financial pressure from sponsors including FedEx, the shipping giant and naming rights holder to the teams’ stadium, as well as other groups.

While the debate over the Redskins’ nickname waged for years, the drastic change came just two weeks after owner Dan Snyder, who once said he would never change the team’s moniker, said the franchise would undergo a “thorough review” before its next move. Cleveland’s situation is different from Washington’s on several fronts.

First, the Indians are not feeling heat from any corporate sponsors. At least not publicly.

When the Redskins announced their review earlier this month, the Indians released a statement within hours of Washington’s that said, “we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

The Indians didn’t promise to change their nickname. But it would be hard to imagine them going through a detailed evaluation and deciding to stick with a nickname that Native American groups have condemned for years as degrading and racist. 

Cleveland showed a willingness to rebrand itself when it pulled the highly debated Chief Wahoo logo off its game jerseys and caps. 

While the red-faced, toothy caricature remains a presence on some team merchandise, its reduced status and removal from the diamond and signage around Progressive Field was applauded as a positive step.

Even if the Indians decide to drop the nickname, there are numerous other layers — trademark contracts, new logos, Major League Baseball’s approval — to work through before the change could take effect.

While the Indians seem open to a new identity, the Braves aren’t budging.

They have no plans to change their nickname, telling season-ticket holders in a letter last week that “we will always be the Atlanta Braves.” However, the team said it will review the team’s ”tomahawk chop” chant — a tradition borrowed in the early 1990s from Florida State’s powerful football program.

The Blackhawks, too, have no plans for change, saying their name honors a Native American leader, Black Hawk of Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. The NHL team said it plans to work harder to raise awareness of Black Hawk and “the important contributions of all Native American people.”

“We’re trying to honor the logo and be respectful,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “There’s certainly a fine line between respect and disrespect, and I think we want to do an even better job. I think the most important thing is to be clear that we want to help educate. … I think we’ve done a good job, but we want to do a better job. And I think we’re committed to that as we go forward.”

Part of Atlanta’s insistence to keep a nickname the franchise brought from Milwaukee in 1966 is due to the the team’s “cultural working relationship” with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and other tribal leaders it collaborates with regularly.

But as teams look to make changes, Danger will continue to push them to abandon any connection with Native Americans, who have been portrayed as mascots for generations.

“We’re being paraded around without a say in how we’re seen,” she said. “It’s a less bloody continuation of that, of us being a sideshow. It’s not hard to choose the right side of history, so I hope these teams will take that step with us, side by side, as we all work together to change the world.”

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