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Dubai’s biggest developer Emaar halts new construction work

Alabbar did not say when the firm would resume construction projects.

Dubai largest listed developer Emaar Properties has halted new building work after a construction boom in recent years led to oversupply in the Gulf city, its chairman said on Monday.

Dubai’s real estate market, where supply has outstripped demand for much of the past decade, has come under additional pressure this year from the coronavirus crisis.

“We as a group have stopped supply,” Chairman Mohamed Alabbar told a UAE-Israel conference in Dubai, adding that demand was improving but the market remained oversupplied.

It was not immediately clear when Emaar, which counts Dubai’s state fund as a major shareholder, had ceased new building work, although sources had told Reuters in April that Emaar had suspended work on major new projects.

Alabbar did not say when the firm would resume construction projects.

Emaar developed some of Dubai’s most popular and expensive neighbourhoods and major projects such as the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa. – Reuters

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Brother of Manchester bomber admits role in attack

The brother of a man who detonated a suicide bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in the English city of Manchester more than three years ago has admitted to playing a full part in planning the attack, an inquiry was told on Monday.

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Hashem Abedi was found guilty in March of murder, for encouraging and helping his brother Salman to blow himself up at the Manchester Arena as parents arrived to collect their children at the end of a May 2017 show by the US pop singer.

Among the 22 killed were seven children, the youngest aged just eight, while 237 people were injured in what was Britain’s deadliest attack since 2005.

Hashem had denied involvement but offered no evidence in his trial. A jury concluded he was as guilty as his brother of murder.

However on Monday, an independent public inquiry into the bombings was told he had now acknowledged his role during an interview with its lawyers.

“On the 22nd of October… Hashem Abedi admitted that he had played a full part, and a knowing part, in the planning and preparation for the arena attack,” lawyer Paul Greaney, who is counsel to the Manchester Arena Inquiry, said.

Abedi was jailed for life in August and told he must serve at least 55 years behind bars.

The brothers, born to Libyan parents who emigrated to Britain during the rule of late leader Muammar Gaddafi, had plotted the attack at their home in south Manchester, shortly before they returned to Libya in mid-April 2017.

Hashem remained in Libya while his 22-year-old brother carried out the bombing, but police said he persuaded acquaintances to buy chemicals to make the explosives and had sourced metal drums used to build prototype devices.

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Brother of Manchester suicide bomber sentenced for role in 2017 concert attack

Brother of 2017 UK Manchester suicide bomber found guilty of murder: Report

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Explosion at Hezbollah base in southern Lebanon: Report

An explosion occured at a Hezbollah outpost in Jbaa, in the Al Tuffah region in southern Lebanon at 4:04 pm on Monday, according to Al Hadath News.

Read more: As Lebanon subsidy crunch looms, two UN agencies warn of social catastrophe

In September, an arms cache belonging to the Iranian proxy group blew up in Lebanon due to a technical error, Reuters reported at the time.

An explosion shook a Lebanese Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon, sending thick gray smoke billowing over the village.

The blast occurred in the southern village of Ain Qana, above the port city of Sidon. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

An official with Lebanese Hezbollah confirmed there was an explosion but declined to give further details.

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Syria’s foreign minister goes to Iran for first visit abroad

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday hosted his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in Tehran, in the top diplomat’s first official visit abroad.

Read more: Iran confirms nuclear scientist Fakhrizadeh killed by satellite-controlled gun

During their meeting, the two discussed “bilateral, regional and international issues, as well as the joint fight against terrorism,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Zarif emphasized the “necessity of vigilance and consultation” between Iran and Syria due to the “recent regional developments and condition,” it added.

Mekdad arrived in Tehran on Sunday night and is expected to meet Iran’s top officials in the next few days, according to the ministry.

He succeeded Wallid Muallem as Syria’s foreign minister on November 22, after the veteran diplomat died days before.

Iran has been a staunch supporter of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war that has ravaged the country since 2011.

Read more: Any new Iran deal must prevent Tehran from having nuclear weapons: GCC chief at IISS

The conflict has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than half of Syria’s pre-war population.

“Iran stands alongside the people and government of Syria in the fight against terrorism,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a tweet.

“A political solution is the only possible choice to end the current crisis,” he added.

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UAE announces 1,148 new COVID-19 cases, 579 recoveries, and 2 deaths in last 24 hours

ABU DHABI, 7th December, 2020 (WAM) — The Ministry of Health and Prevention, MoHAP, announced that it conducted 87,635 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, using state-of-the-art medical testing equipment.

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry stressed its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.

As part of its intensified testing campaign, MoHAP announced 1,148 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 177,577.

According to the Ministry, the infected individuals are from various nationalities, are in a stable condition, and receiving the necessary care.

MoHAP also announced 2 deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 594.

The Ministry expressed its sincere condolences to the family of the deceased and wished COVID-19 patients a speedy and full recovery. It called on all members of the society to cooperate with health authorities, adhere to the instructions and physical distance to ensure the health and safety of all.

MoHAP also noted that an additional 579 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 159,711.

WAM/Rasha Abubaker

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As Lebanon subsidy crunch looms, two UN agencies warn of social catastrophe

The removal of subsidies in Lebanon without guarantees to protect the vulnerable would amount to a social catastrophe, two UN agencies said on Monday, warning there is no parachute to soften the blow.

With Lebanon deep in financial crisis, the central bank has been subsidizing basic goods by providing hard currency to importers at the old exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar even as the currency fell by 80 percent from the peg.

Central bank governor Riad Salameh said last week the subsidies could be kept for only two more months, urging the state should come up with a plan.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Though Lebanon faces the gravest crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, policymaking has been crippled by old rivalries between fractious politicians. Saad Hariri was nominated to form a new government in October but one has yet to be agreed.

“The impact of removing price subsidies on the country’s most vulnerable households will be tremendous and yet there is almost nothing in place to help soften the fall,” the UNICEF’S Lebanon country representative and the ILO’s regional director wrote in an op-ed.

“It is critical to realize that for Lebanon to fly off another cliff now, without first putting in place an inclusive system of social guarantees, would be to inflict a social catastrophe on the country’s most vulnerable people, sacrificing their wellbeing, and that of the country as a whole, for many years to come,” they wrote.

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As Lebanon’s central bank audit crumbles, the worst is yet to come

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The universal way in which Lebanon has been subsidizing basic goods including fuel, wheat and medicine has been widely criticized, including by senior politicians from ruling parties, because it does not target those most in need.

A rough analysis shows up to 80 percent of the subsidies may actually be benefiting the wealthiest 50 percent with only 20 percent going to the poorer half, UNICEF Representative Yukie Mokuo and ILO Regional Director Ruba Jaradat wrote in their op-ed.

The caretaker government is due to meet Salameh on Monday to discuss the subsidies.

The World Bank has said poverty is likely to continue to worsen and engulf more than half the population by 2021.

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200 Israeli tourists stranded at Dubai airport allowed entry

Several Israeli tourists have been coming to the UAE since passenger services between the two countries started last month.

Around 200 Israelis who were stranded at the Dubai airport on Monday morning have been allowed entry, Khaleej Times can confirm.

The passengers from Israel, who landed at Dubai International Airport on a flydubai flight from Tel Aviv, was denied entry due to some “misunderstanding”, and it has been resolved, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat told Khaleej Times.

“The issue was addressed by the highest authorities of both the UAE and Israeli Foreign Ministry. (The tourists) filled out the electronic visa form and was allowed to enter the country,” said Haiat.

He said approval was also received for the additional flights from Israel to the UAE, which are expected to take off soon.

The UAE and Israel have agreed on visa-free travel for their citizens after the two countries normalised relations by signing the Abraham Accords in September.

Last week, the UAE announced that tourists shall be issued for Israeli citizens until the agreement for mutual visa exemption comes into force. The country has started issuing these tourist visas through airlines and travel and tourism companies.

Comments from the UAE authorities are awaited.

There has been a flood of Israeli tourists coming to Dubai since passenger services between the two countries started last month.

Read on: Israel expects 100,000 tourists from UAE by 2021, says minister

Flydubai has been operating two daily services between Dubai and Tel Aviv since November 26. Israeli carriers Israir and Arkia have also launched daily flights to Dubai.

Several flights packed with Israeli tourists and businessmen have already landed in the emirate in the past week. Direct flights are also expected to be launched between Tel Aviv and Bahrain, the second Gulf country to normalise relations with its Jewish neighbour.

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Turkey court orders release of Russian reporters

A Turkish court on Monday ordered the release of two Russian journalists detained in Istanbul after they were accused of filming near a facility manufacturing drones without authorization, an official said.

Journalist Alexei Petrushko and cameraman Ivan Malyshkin from Kremlin-friendly NTV channel were arrested by police in Istanbul on Thursday morning.

Read more: France urges Russia to clear up Turkey’s role, ‘ambiguities’ in Nagorno-Karabakh deal

A Turkish foreign ministry source said on Friday they were detained while filming near a facility for manufacturing drones and were working without accreditation.

The journalists appeared before Istanbul’s main court in Caglayan on Monday, the official Anadolu news agency reported, identifying them as A.P. and I.M.

A Turkish official, contacted by AFP, confirmed the news reports that the pair were released, without providing any details.

Hours before the court ruling, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin hoped the journalists would be released as soon as possible.

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Coronavirus: Cybercrime rockets in Middle East as fraudsters exploit COVID-19

Beirut experiences a historical hailstorm, leaving a white blanket for hours

Mystery illness hospitalizes more than 140 people in India’s Andhra Pradesh

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Coronavirus: Cybercrime rockets in Middle East as fraudsters exploit COVID-19

Cybercriminals are finding increasingly innovative ways to defraud customers during the COVID-19 crisis, experts have warned, as new figures show cyber fraud cases rocketed during the height of the pandemic across the Middle East and North Africa region.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

According to Anoop Das, a cybersecurity expert at the regional cyber resilience company Mimecast Middle East, said the pandemic led to a “significant increase in cybercrime, with threat actors continuously looking to exploit vulnerabilities for financial gain.”

Das said according to the Mimecast Threat Intelligence center, one of the cyber fraud scams that have reported a significant increase is ‘business email compromise’ (BEC).

“Attackers use this method to impersonate an executive and convince employees to wire money to fraudulent accounts,” Das told Al Arabiya English.

“This has been an attractive attack method as significant numbers of individuals have been working from home or are isolated from their peers and other support.”

Mimecast researchers saw a massive 751 per cent increase in unsafe clicks during the first three months of year in the MENA region – many of which were likely used for financial gain. They also found a staggering 30 per cent jump in impersonation globally from January to April 2020.

“During times of heightened disruption there is often a general escalation in cybercriminals’ activity,” said Mr Das. “Increases in coronavirus-related spam and impersonation attack campaigns are exploiting the vulnerability of users working at home, taking advantage of their desire for information about the coronavirus pandemic to entice them to click on unsafe links.”

“Our Threat Intelligence center picked up 115000 COVID-19-related registered spoof domains in the first three months of the pandemic, many of these sites were being used to offer fake or non-existent goods such as protective masks or COVID-19 cures. The general fear and uncertainty of this year has offered criminals the perfect opportunity to exploit vulnerable people.”

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Das said another example picked up by Mimecast’s Threat Intelligence center early in the pandemic was a flight-refund phishing email, which attempt to exploit individuals who were potentially seeking genuine recompense for holidays booked. The landing page requested personal details including payment details.

However, Das said regional organizations are growing increasingly wary of criminals exploiting their brands to target their customers, partners or the general public.

According to the Mimecast State of Email Security Report 2020, 74 per cent of organizations in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are concerned about a web domain, brand exploitation or site spoofing attack.

“Organizations can register lookalike domains and launch sophisticated attacks impersonating trusted brands that are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing,” said Das.

“It’s become common for malicious actors to use well known and trusted banks to trick people into handing over money or sensitive information.”

“The research showed that the UAE and KSA were on high alert with 54 per cent and 52 per cent of respondents’ organizations respectively, expecting web and email spoofing attacks to increase in the coming year.”

In October Mimecast ran an analysis of some of the UAE’s major banks and found the log in pages of two of them had been duplicated, said Mr Das.

“Several suspicious domains were uncovered for both of the bank’s URLs and they each had at least one live attack.”

“Banking customers that clicked on the malicious links were redirected towards another website impersonating the bank, that looked exactly like the real thing.”

“Criminals made use of homoglyphs, so the fake website URL was hard to tell apart from the legitimate one. The landing page also looked exactly the same. In these attacks, the ‘log in’ page is used to gather customer credentials, including the information they fill and their passwords. This information can be used by criminals to log into the user’s bank account.”

Clever tactics, human error

Another tactic used by criminals to ensure they can make several payments over a long period of time is to capitalize on times when the customer is out of the country, said Das.

“They can see when a customer is traveling abroad, either through social engineering, or by analyzing their banking transactions.

“The criminals know that if they choose to make the fraudulent transactions at this time, the account owner won’t receive notifications so the fraud will go undetected until they either check their bank statement or arrive back in the country.”

“Only then will they contact the call center at which time it’s too late. And with the downscaling of many call centers, it’s often difficult to get through to freeze any accounts, giving criminals extra time to wreak havoc. With all of this in mind, it’s becoming increasingly important for banks to protect their brands and ultimately their customers.”

Another key trend that continues to be relevant is human error, said Das.

“It’s involved in more than 90 per cent of security breaches.”

“Most organizations invest in a multitude of cybersecurity solutions to protect their corporate environments but don’t focus enough on their last line of defense – the human firewall.”

“With a distributed workforce and an abundance of scams doing the rounds, the cost of human error escalates, so organizations need to take steps to adequately prepare employees to spot these threats.

“Frequent, consistent, engaging content that humanizes security is an effective way to reduce risk inside the network and organization.”

Read more:

UAE, Israel cyber chiefs discuss uniting to combat common threats

Saudi enterprises need a new approach as cybercrime rises

Iran’s ‘cyber attacks’ can pose unconventional warfare threat against US

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Abu Dhabi Media, Israel-based i24News sign MoU

ABU DHABI, 7th December, 2020 (WAM) — Abu Dhabi Media, the UAE’s leading public service broadcaster, and i24NEWS, an international news network based in Israel that broadcasts in Arabic, English and French from studios in Jaffa Port, the US and Europe, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will see both media companies collaborate on multiple fronts including shared reporting and library content, as well as production exchange.

The MoU is in line with the aim of Abu Dhabi Media and ‘i24NEWS’ to deliver innovative, audience-centric content while enhancing and expanding the digital offering.

AbdulRaheem Al Bateeh Al Nuaimi, Acting General Manager at Abu Dhabi Media said, “Abu Dhabi Media is always keen to work with media agencies and television service providers who seek to offer diverse and quality content with the highest levels of professionalism. This agreement is a reflection of our commitment towards the UAE vision as well as its ambitions by establishing strong and solid relationships with various institutions and media organisations on a regional and global level.”

He added, “The media industry requires strong strategic alliances to achieve sustainability, creativity as quality content that is engaging to our audiences. Our collaboration with i24NEWS will enable us to strengthen our respective production capabilities and provide distinctive media content.”

The MoU will enable both media organisations to provide shared news reporting through correspondents in UAE and Israel, with a focus on Arab language news reports and interviews. The two entities will also exchange content such as national reporting, documentaries and archival materials, in addition to technical cooperation in the field of news and television broadcasting technology.

Frank Melloul, CEO and founder of i24NEWS, said, “As an international news network, we aspire to expand collaborations with platforms around the world. This is another step that will enable the expansion of our activities and we especially welcome it, as Abu Dhabi Media is a leading partner in the Middle East, a region which we are covering extensively. This partnership between i24NEWS and Abu Dhabi Media illustrates the many possibilities that have opened up to us in the wake of the Abraham Accords. Such collaboration between two media outlets will benefit first and foremost with viewers around the world, who will receive comprehensive coverage and diverse voices that together optimally reflect the events in the new Middle East.”

This partnership takes place after the signed peace agreement between UAE and Israel.

Launched in July 2013, i24NEWS is part of the Altice Group, owned by businessman Patrick Drahi and since its inception has been led by CEO Frank Melloul.