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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

Middle East

Iran’s President-elect Raisi vows to do his best to solve people’s living problems

(Asian News Hub) – Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that the new government will make every effort to solve the country’s problems, particularly the living problems of the people.

He made the remarks speaking to reporters after a meeting with Iranian Parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Qalibaf went to congratulate Raisi on Saturday after preliminary results of the Friday election showed that Raisi was so far ahead of his rivals that left no doubt that he will be the next Iranian president after Hassan Rouhani leaves office in early August.   

Raisi said that he will consult with the Iranian parliament speaker and other Members of Parliament, as well as all experts, to form a government which could maintain the trust of the people.  

Raisi also told reporters after a meeting with President Rouhani that he will make use of the experiences of the incumbent government.

The president-elect expressed hope that his government will be able to carry out the heavy burden of the duty that the people placed on his shoulder.

IRNA

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Middle East

Al-Hassan: The best young volunteer in the Middle East

(Asian News Hub) – Al-Hassan Al-Fakih, has done different types of volunteer work year after year. Actually, he has become the first person in the world to provide humanitarian aid to a thousand people through humanitarian initiatives and campaigns, community service initiatives, initiatives to prepare and qualify university students, educational initiatives in remote areas, and initiatives to reconstruct damaged houses.

Al-Hassan has around seven thousand hours of volunteer work under his belt, and his passion to help others led him to do amazing things! He started by launching the Yadan Biyad “Hand in Hand” initiative which aimed at reconstructing damaged houses in remote areas in Yemen and Jordan. This initiative helped reconstruct fifty houses, and also distributed two hundred school bags to two hundred less fortunate students aged between four and seven.

Al-Hassan, twenty-one years old, also established a youth foundation in 2019 which aimed at preparing university students for the labor market. The foundation actually held various workshops to train, empower, qualify, and prepare around 180 university students for life after graduation.

All that was not enough for Alhassan! Therefore, he established the Intilaqat Khair (Spread of Goodness) initiative in Yemen to support families affected by war in remote areas there. This initiative managed to hand out around three hundred food parcels to three hundred families in different governorates of Yemen, and it also helped twenty needy people there to find jobs!

Alhassan Al-Fakih is the first person in the Middle East to provide humanitarian aid to a thousand people through seven thousand hours of volunteer work!

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Middle East

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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