It was after the dawn prayer during Ramadan in 2016 that Saleh Zighari spoke with Ghassan Younes for the first time while the latter was cleaning the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque, and he greeted and joked with Zighari and his friends.
Younes, 72, who was from the town of Ara, around 38.5 kilometers south of Haifa, has been going to the sacred mosque on daily basis, from 1971 to 2020.
Palestinians in the courtyards of the mosque always recognized him by his daily activity. He used to feed the birds and cats every morning after finishing his prayers.
Sit-in against PKK terror group grows in SE Turkey
Another family has joined the ongoing anti-PKK sit-in in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakir to bring back their children abducted by the terror group.The protest outside the office of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- which the government accuses of having links to the PKK -- began on Sept. 3, 2019, when three mothers said PKK terrorists had forcibly recruited their children. It has been growing for over 500 days.Vaccination for people over age 85 begins in TurkeyPalestinian devoted to caring for Al-Aqsa cats dies of COVIDAccording to the parents, Nurettin Borak and his wife Fatma, their son Burhan was tricked into joining the terror group in 2015 and they have not heard from him since then."Return home my son," said the weeping mother, calling on him to surrender and lay down his weapons.Father Nurettin said his son was tricked by the terror affiliates while studying at university.In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people including women, children, and infants.*Writing by Ali Murat AlhasUS condemns deadly twin suicide attack in BaghdadAt least 212 irregular migrants held across Turkey
Vaccination for people over age 85 begins in Turkey
Turkey on Thursday began vaccination against COVID-19 for people over the age of 85 and pharmacy workers.Citizens over the age of 85 will be vaccinated at their homes following the evaluation of the Scientific Committee meeting that was held on Wednesday.Additionally, vaccination for pharmacy workers and interns has also started.Last week, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and members of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board received the vaccine.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week.So far, over 1.05 million people, including healthcare workers have been vaccinated against the virus across the country since the beginning of the mass campaign on Jan. 14.The second dose of the vaccine will be administered 28 days apart. Those who recovered from COVID-19 will not be vaccinated in four to six months following their recovery.The first batch of 3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech arrived in Turkey on Dec. 30.Since last month, Turkey has been imposing curfews as part of its efforts to curb the virus's spread.As of Wednesday, Turkey registered a total of 24,487 deaths from COVID-19, while over 2.28 million people have recovered from the disease. There have been over 2.4 million confirmed cases in the country.Since December 2019, the pandemic has claimed more than 2.07 million lives in 191 countries and regions.Over 96.95 million cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries now over 53.50 million, according to figures compiled by the US' Johns Hopkins University.The US, India, and Brazil remain the worst-hit countries in terms of cases.
“When entering the Al-Aqsa courtyards, the cats and birds were coming together around him. I had been seeing him since I was a child less than 8 years old," said Zighari, 23, a photographer from Jerusalem.
Younes' pockets were always filled with candy he used to distribute for the worshipers at the mosque.
“He was very kind to all people, a benevolent person with the animals and people,” Zighari added.
The elderly Palestinian became well known locally and regionally from the videos that were taken of him over the years at the mosque and spread on social media.
“Many times I was traveling between countries, and once people learned I was from Jerusalem, they asked about him, about his kindness and gifts. They thought he was an official, and they were always surprised that his caring for the animals was completely voluntary,” Zighari added.
US condemns deadly twin suicide attack in Baghdad
The US condemned twin suicide bombings Thursday in Baghdad that killed at least 32 people."We condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s terrorist attacks in Baghdad," Acting Secretary of State Daniel Smith said in a statement. "They were vicious acts of mass murder and a sobering reminder of the terrorism that continues to threaten the lives of innocent Iraqis."The bombers detonated explosives in an area near al-Tayaran Square that left 110 others wounded, according to the Iraqi News Agency.The top diplomat extended the US's "deepest condolences to the families of the victims and hope for a speedy recovery of those wounded."No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.Biden warns dark days ahead as he outlines COVID planIsrael concerned over Biden’s stance on Iran, Palestine"This attack is a reprehensible act of cowardice that underscores the dangers of terrorism that millions of Iraqis continue to face," the US Embassy in Baghdad said on Twitter.Iraqi President Barham Salih said, “dark groups” aimed to target national achievements and the peace and future of the Iraqi people with the attacks.“We firmly stand against these attempts to destabilize our country,” he said.Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesperson Khaled Mehanna told a local television station that the ISIS/DAESH terror group was behind the attack."Although Daesh does not claim responsibility for the explosion, it still wanted to convey the message that it still exists," he said.Vaccine inequalities may expose world to ‘immunity gap’Turkey, Sri Lanka have 'completely friendly' relationsCanada’s governor general, secretary resign
At least 212 irregular migrants held across Turkey
The Turkish security teams held 212 irregular migrants in eastern Bitlis, northwestern Canakkale provinces and the Aegean Sea, local authorities said Thursday.Twenty irregular migrants were held in a fishing boat off Besik Burnu in Ezine district, the Coast Guard Command said in a statement.As a result of joint efforts with local Gendarmerie Station Command, another 184 migrants, having links to those on the boat, were caught in the district.After routine checks, the migrants were taken to the Ayvacik migration authority.US condemns deadly twin suicide attack in BaghdadBiden warns dark days ahead as he outlines COVID planSeparately, the governor's office in Bitlis said eight irregular migrants were held by security teams in Tatvan district.Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.Earlier in 2020, the country opened its gates to irregular migrants seeking to reach Europe and accused the EU of failing to keep promises under a 2016 migrant deal.Turkey hosts nearly 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from AnkaraIsrael concerned over Biden’s stance on Iran, PalestineVaccine inequalities may expose world to ‘immunity gap’
The Israeli authorities detained Younes many times and on many occasions issued expulsion orders banning him from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Hanady Halawni recalled that the last time she met Ghassan, he gave her some bracelets for her daughter on his last visit to Jerusalem.
“He was loved by all people. He would always give me gifts for my sons and daughters. Even after my daughter turned 21, he still sent me gifts,” she said.
Halawni was meeting Younes on daily basis when she was a Quran teacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque before she was banned from entering it.
“When he was going back to his town, I met him several times at the bus station, which is near my house. He was buying ice cream for everyone on the bus as a gift to them on their trip from Jerusalem to Haifa."
Younes was infected with COVID-19 around three months ago. His health deteriorated and he died on Jan. 19.
Biden warns dark days ahead as he outlines COVID plan
US President Joe Biden rolled out his national strategy Thursday to bring America out of the nadir of its grim coronavirus pandemic, warning that even with his efforts the worst is yet to come.Biden inherited a pandemic raging out of control when he took office Wednesday with the US tallying an excess of 140,000 daily cases since December. Daily deaths meanwhile hit a near all-time high on the day Biden took the oath of office when 4,377 fatalities were recorded by Johns Hopkins University.The only other time that number was surpassed was about a week ago when 4,462 deaths were tallied Jan. 12. In all, 408,011 known deaths have been liked to the virus since the US outbreak began about a year ago, according to Johns Hopkins.Vaccine inequalities may expose world to ‘immunity gap’Turkey, Sri Lanka have 'completely friendly' relations“Let me be very clear, things are going to continue to get worse before they get better,” Biden said at the White House, warning the death toll will likely exceed 500,000 in February. "We didn't get into this mess overnight, and it is going to take months for us to turn things around. But let me be equally clear, we will get through this. We will defeat this pandemic."To expedite the recovery Biden issued a spate of executive orders that establish a wide gamut of measures to thwart the spread, including ordering masks be worn on all mass interstate travel, including on buses, trains, and airplanes, and he mandated that all visitors to the US test negative before departing and quarantine upon arrival.In addition, the president's fiats seek to bolster COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, direct FEMA to establish vaccination centers with the goal of setting up 100 by the end of February and will fully reimburse states for the use of their National Guard troops that assist with relief efforts.Canada’s governor general, secretary resignSouth Africa reports 647 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hoursIt will also establish a health equity task force that will be tasked with increasing public confidence in coronavirus vaccines and fighting "disinformation campaigns that are already underway" as the administration seeks to vaccinate 100 million people in Biden's first 100 days."I know these bold, practical steps will not come cheaply, but failing to do so will cost us so much more dearly," Biden said. "We are in a national emergency, and it is time we treat it as one."Biden previously ordered masks be worn on all federal property and moved to re-establish the global pandemic office in the National Security Council, which former President Donald Trump dismantled before the pandemic began.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's leading infectious disease expert, is expected to brief the media later Thursday.Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan sign deal on Caspian hydrocarbon fieldAlbanian group composes song for Turkey's ErdoganUS to seek extension of nuclear arms treaty with Russia