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Saudi Arabia announces first day of Ramadan 2021

The moon-sighting committee said that the crescent moon had not been sighted

(Asian News Hub) – The first day of Ramadan will be April 13, Tuesday, the moon sighting committee in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday evening. The committee added that the crescent moon had not been sighted.

Accordingly, Monday, April 12, will be the last day of Shaban 1442 Hijri.

Sunday marks the 29th day of Shaban, the month before Ramadan according to the Islamic calendar. Ramadan lasts for one complete moon cycle, which is usually 29 or 30 days. The moon sighting determines the duration.

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Saudi Arabia says Hajj to be limited to 60,000 in kingdom

(Asian News Hub) – Saudi Arabia announced Saturday this year’s hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the kingdom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement by the kingdom comes after it ran an incredibly pared-down pilgrimage last year over the virus, but still allowed a small number of the faithful to take part in the annual ceremony.

A statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted the kingdom’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry making the announcement. It said this year’s hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to those ages 18 to 65.

Those taking part must be vaccinated as well, the ministry said.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honored to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries,” the statement said.

In last year’s hajj, as few as 1,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the hajj. Two-thirds were foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the hajj. One-third were Saudi security personnel and medical staff.

Each year, up to 2 million Muslims perform the hajj, a physically demanding and often costly pilgrimage that draws the faithful from around the world. The hajj, required of all able-bodied Muslims to perform once in their lifetime, is seen as a chance to wipe clean past sins and bring about greater humility and unity among Muslims.

The kingdom’s Al Saud ruling family stakes its legitimacy in this oil-rich nation on overseeing and protecting the hajj sites. Ensuring the hajj happens has been a priority for them.

Disease outbreaks have always been a concern surrounding the hajj. Pilgrims fought off a malaria outbreak in 632, cholera in 1821 killed an estimated 20,000, and another cholera outbreak in 1865 killed 15,000 before spreading worldwide.

More recently, Saudi Arabia faced danger from a different coronavirus, one that causes the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. The kingdom increased its public health measures during the hajj in 2012 and 2013, urging the sick and the elderly not to take part.

In recent years, Saudi officials also instituted bans on pilgrims coming from countries affected by the Ebola virus.

Saudi Arabia had closed its borders for months to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since the start of the pandemic, the kingdom has reported over 462,000 cases of the virus with 7,500 deaths. It has administered some 15.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to the World Health Organization. The kingdom is home to over 30 million people.

AP

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Egypt invites Israel and Hamas for direct talks in Cairo, Israel accepts

(Asian News Hub) – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the latest developments between Israelis and Palestinians reaffirmed the need for direct talks between the two sides with Washington’s involvement.

Egypt invited Israel and Gaza to Cairo to discuss the return of captives and the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip, Kan News reported. “Israel’s delegation is expected to arrive in Egypt in the beginning of next week,” Galatz, Israel’s army radio tweeted in response to the invitation.

“The goal- to come to an understanding regarding the ceasefire and possibilities for helping the [Gaza] Strip,” it added.

Blinken visited Cairo for several hours on Wednesday as part of a Middle East tour aimed at shoring up a ceasefire that ended the worst fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants.

He then went on to visit Jordan in the last leg of his Middle East tour.

Washington and Cairo agreed to strengthen their coordination in consolidating the ceasefire and launching the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian presidency said in its statement. 

REUTERS

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Israel warned about actions against Palestinians in Jerusalem

(Asian News Hub) – Palestine has warned Israel about actions against Palestinians, especially in East Jerusalem, noting they may lead to more tension in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The warning was issued by Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh here on Sunday after social media activists published short videos of Israeli police forces attacking Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The Israeli government is fully responsible for sabotaging the efforts of ending the Israeli aggression,” Abu Rudeineh said.

Renewing the measures against the Palestinians in East Jerusalem “would sabotage the international and Arab efforts to reconstruct what had been destroyed in the Gaza Strip”, he added.

Abu Rudeineh called on the US “to immediately intervene to stop the provocative Israeli actions and measures”.

On May 10, the Israeli police restricted Arab worshippers’ movement in and around Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, stirring up tension and violence that soon expanded to the entire West Bank and Gaza.

Later, militant groups in Gaza fired barrages of rockets toward Israel.

In response, Israeli fighter jets carried out dozens of airstrikes on the Palestinian coastal enclave.

The trade of fire that lasted 11 days and ended on May 31 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire killed 248 Palestinians and 12 Israelis, according to official figures from the two sides.

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