A Palestinian boy looks at the Turkish and Palestinian flags fluttering at the site of a monument (unseen) built to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of nine Turks, who were shot dead last May when Israeli naval commandos seized a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla trying to break the Gaza blockade.  Mahmud Hams / AFP Photo
A Palestinian boy looks at the Turkish and Palestinian flags fluttering at the site of a monument (unseen) built to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of nine Turks, who were shot dead lasShow more

Author Alice Walker among dozens of Americans planning to join Gaza flotilla



WASHINGTON // Dozens of Americans, among them a Pulitzer Prize winner and a prominent social activist, are planning to board an American ship called The Audacity of Hope bound for the Gaza Strip.

They will be among an estimated 500 to 600 people taking part in Freedom Flotilla II. It will be the second attempt by activists to penetrate the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza and its organisers are under intense pressure to call it off.

The activists will sail on 10 ships and represent 22 countries. They are expected to sail from Greece tomorrow or Sunday. The ship The Audacity of Hope is named as a reference to the book by the US president, Barack Obama, written just before he stood for the presidency.

Israel said on Wednesday it has warned the UN that the flotilla could result in "dangerous consequences".

Israel's new UN ambassador, Ron Prosor, said: "Israel calls on all nations to do all in their power to prevent the flotilla from occurring and to effectively caution their citizens about the risks associated with participating in such harmful provocations.

"Launched under the false pretext of providing humanitarian assistance, this provocation is clearly designed only to serve an extremist political agenda and holds the potential for dangerous consequences," he said in a letter to the UN Security Council and to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon.

Israel has made clear it will prevent the pro-Palestinian flotilla from reaching Gaza. A year ago, nine Turkish activists, including one with dual US-Turkish nationality, were killed in an Israeli raid on a similar convoy.

Israel, together with Egypt, tightened a blockade on the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized it from forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.

UN and Israeli officials announced on Tuesday that Israel had approved the building of new homes and schools in Gaza worth $100 million. That means Israel will allow building materials to be imported, undercutting the need for a flotilla.

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has urged flotilla organisers to call it off and use approved land routes to get aid to Gaza.

Mr Prosor said in his letter that many of the groups participating in the new flotilla "maintain ties with extremist and terrorist organisations, including Hamas".

Washington is advising activists to refrain from participating in the voyage. "We've maintained for the past year that groups or individuals that seek to enter Gaza by sea are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety", a State Department official said.

The US on Wednesday updated a travel warning urging Americans to refrain from travelling to Gaza by sea and emphasising risks.

The new State Department travel warning for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, said Americans could face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by Israel. "The Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek 10-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea," the notice said.

Nonetheless, dozens of Americans intend to participate in the flotilla.

Among them will be Alice Walker, the Pulitzer-winning author of The Color Purple, and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, an anti-war group.

In a letter addressed to Barack Obama, the US president, this year's activists contend that "the blockade has impoverished the people of Gaza."

The US supports the blockade because Washington wants to break Hamas's control in Gaza, said Lazar Berman, programme manager for defence and policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank: "I know that the American policy is to see Hamas out. However that happens is the question, but certainly this blockade is seen as weakening Hamas and making it harder for them to rule."

Activists, however, argue that the primary concern should be the lives and livelihoods of innocent civilians caught up in the conflict.

Ms Benjamin said that on her five previous trips to Gaza, the sheer scope of the devastation brought her to act.

She said she was in Gaza soon after Israel invaded the territory in the winter of 2008 and "I was heartbroken to see the devastation, and the name of 'made in USA' on many of the weapons that were used to kill hundreds of innocent people. I feel a responsibility. I met people that I have great affection for and I know that they don't want to live as beggars from UN handouts."

Not only is there an economic impetus to act, Ms Benjamin said, but the blockade has severely infringed upon basic human rights, namely, freedom of movement.

Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, agreed. "It is a blockade that has not only produced a great deal of material suffering among the population of the Gaza Strip, but deprives them of their most basic freedoms, the freedom of movement."

Moreover, Mr Abunimah argues that the flotilla is a response to the support that various governments, including the US, have given to the blockade.

This week's Israeli-Un announcement that Israel has approved huge construction projects in Gaza has not impressed the activists.

The Israeli government, keenly aware of the impending flotilla, allowed in “238 truckloads of goods and gas” to Gaza on Monday according to the IDF spokesperson’s twitter account, and approved two major United Nations Relief and Works Agency housing projects.

Such loosening of the spigot does not allow Gazans to rebuild an economy devastated by war and isolation, Ms Benjamin said. "While Israel says it's letting hundreds of trucks in a day, it's not nearly enough to rebuild and reinvigorate the economic activity in Gaza."

Mr Abunimah quoted Ms Walker, who likened the flotilla to the actions of ordinary Americans who engaged in civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s to call attention to the discrimination African-Americans suffered then. “They were met with lynchings, attacks, with extreme violence, with imprisonment, with torture by the authorities. What was the response of the Kennedy administration?  It was to tell the Freedom Riders that they were being irresponsible and provocative.”

*With additional reporting from Reuters

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Directors: Amit Joshi and Aradhana Sah

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Dharmendra, Dimple Kapadia, Rakesh Bedi

Rating: 4/5

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Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

yallacompare profile

Date of launch: 2014

Founder: Jon Richards, founder and chief executive; Samer Chebab, co-founder and chief operating officer, and Jonathan Rawlings, co-founder and chief financial officer

Based: Media City, Dubai 

Sector: Financial services

Size: 120 employees

Investors: 2014: $500,000 in a seed round led by Mulverhill Associates; 2015: $3m in Series A funding led by STC Ventures (managed by Iris Capital), Wamda and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority; 2019: $8m in Series B funding with the same investors as Series A along with Precinct Partners, Saned and Argo Ventures (the VC arm of multinational insurer Argo Group)

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Directed by: Todd Phillips

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

Rating: Five out of five stars

Company profile

Company name:+Dharma

Date started:+2018

Founders:+Charaf El Mansouri, Nisma Benani, Leah Howe

Based:+Abu Dhabi

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Investors:+Convivialite Ventures, BY Partners, Shorooq Partners, L& Ventures, Flat6Labs

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Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
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Company Profile

Name: Neo Mobility
Started: February 2023
Co-founders: Abhishek Shah and Anish Garg
Based: Dubai
Industry: Logistics
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Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
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3. Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes 222

4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull 177

5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari 138

6. Max Verstappen, Red Bull 93

7. Sergio Perez, Force India 86

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Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

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1. Labour productivity is lower than the average of the developed economies, particularly in the non-tradable industries.
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Living in...

This article is part of a guide on where to live in the UAE. Our reporters will profile some of the country’s most desirable districts, provide an estimate of rental prices and introduce you to some of the residents who call each area home.

Ruwais timeline

1971 Abu Dhabi National Oil Company established

1980 Ruwais Housing Complex built, located 10 kilometres away from industrial plants

1982 120,000 bpd capacity Ruwais refinery complex officially inaugurated by the founder of the UAE Sheikh Zayed

1984 Second phase of Ruwais Housing Complex built. Today the 7,000-unit complex houses some 24,000 people.  

1985 The refinery is expanded with the commissioning of a 27,000 b/d hydro cracker complex

2009 Plans announced to build $1.2 billion fertilizer plant in Ruwais, producing urea

2010 Adnoc awards $10bn contracts for expansion of Ruwais refinery, to double capacity from 415,000 bpd

2014 Ruwais 261-outlet shopping mall opens

2014 Production starts at newly expanded Ruwais refinery, providing jet fuel and diesel and allowing the UAE to be self-sufficient for petrol supplies

2014 Etihad Rail begins transportation of sulphur from Shah and Habshan to Ruwais for export

2017 Aldar Academies to operate Adnoc’s schools including in Ruwais from September. Eight schools operate in total within the housing complex.

2018 Adnoc announces plans to invest $3.1 billion on upgrading its Ruwais refinery 

2018 NMC Healthcare selected to manage operations of Ruwais Hospital

2018 Adnoc announces new downstream strategy at event in Abu Dhabi on May 13

Source: The National

Company Profile

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