Inside the Middle East
August 12, 2012
Posted: 854 GMT

Remember the story about the world's most expensive cupcake in Dubai?

Bloomsbury’s, a boutique cafe in Dubai, made headlines earlier this year for selling a chocolate cupcake – the 'Golden Phoenix' – for around $27,000.

Since the cupcake first made its debut, the store has reportedly only sold two.  And now, the shop's owner has said that part of the proceeds on sales will be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme, according to local newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Here's the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper on the cupcake:

The creators of the world's most expensive cupcake now say they will donate 50 per cent of the profit from it to the World Food Programme.

Ashraf Hamouda, of the World Food Programme, pointed out that the income from a single cupcake could feed at least 1,850 children.

He described Bloomsbury's charitable gesture as "formidable generosity".

"This unique partnership is evidence that behind the biggest talents and business ideas, you often find the bigger hearts," Hamouda told the National. "As I would put it, a golden heart behind every Golden Phoenix."

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Culture •Dubai •Economic crisis •General •Health •Inside The Middle East •UAE •United Nations

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October 29, 2010
Posted: 1726 GMT

Ultra-Orthodox Jews praying at Rachel's tomb (Getty Images).
Ultra-Orthodox Jews praying at Rachel's tomb (Getty Images).

A UN agency's decision to identify a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as a mosque  and define it and another shrine as Palestinian has prompted cries of bias and distortion from Israel.

"The attempt to separate the nation of Israel from its cultural heritage is absurd," said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement released Friday.

"It is unfortunate that an organization that was established with the goal of promoting the cultural preservation of historical sites around the world, is attempting due to political reasons to uproot the connection between the nation of Israel and its cultural heritage."

The harsh words stem from a decision earlier in the week by the executive board of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which read:

"The Palestinian sites of al-Haram, al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law..."

It was, according to UNESCO spokeswoman Susan Williams, the first time the U.N. agency's executive board had referred to the religious site in Bethlehem as a mosque . The one vote against came from the United States.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: General •Islam •Israel •Judaism •Palestinians •Religion •United Nations •West Bank

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June 1, 2010
Posted: 926 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - A day after Israeli forces stormed a flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies in a fatal raid, independent information on what transpired remained scant Tuesday.

The death toll of nine killed came from the Israelis, who did not release the names of those who died.

The Free Gaza Movement, one of the groups that organized the convoy of ships, said the fatalities numbered higher, but did not offer an exact number.

The surviving passengers themselves were being held incommunicado by Israeli authorities.

Of the foreigners who were taken into custody, none have been placed under arrest, the Israeli police said Tuesday.

The foreigners who have identified themselves were being taken to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv to be flown back to their native countries, police said.

Those who have refused to identify themselves to Israeli immigration authorities have been transferred to a prison in Beer Sheva in southern Israel where they are being temporarily held as they undergo security checks, police said.

A police spokesman said that the process involved in deporting these latter protesters is more complicated as it requires the involvement of foreign diplomats.

Early Tuesday morning, the U.N. Security Council said it regretted the loss of lives on the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza and condemned the actions that led to the deaths.

"The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza," the council said in a statement. "The council in this context condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and expresses condolences to the families."

The 15 member-nations of the council requested the immediate release of the seized ships that made up the flotilla, as well as the civilians who were taken into custody following the raid.

And it called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent" investigation into the incident. Read full story and Q&A on Israel's Gaza blockade.

Filed under: Gaza •Human Rights •Israel •Palestinians •Turkey •United Nations

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September 24, 2009
Posted: 814 GMT
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January 15, 2009
Posted: 1303 GMT


A central storehouse for relief supplies is ablaze right now in Gaza city.

The fire left black smoke hanging over Gaza City, and there was no way to control the fire, said John Ging, the head of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

"It's a very big fire, and we're not able to get it under control at the moment," he said. With gun battles going on around the facility, "the emergency services are not able to get to us."

The compound was hit by shrapnel and tank fire during clashes Thursday morning, Ging said. Three workers were hurt, and the compound's warehouse and workshop were burning out of control within an hour and a half, he said.

"What we've had all night and into this morning is a relentless bombardment of this area by artillery fire, which is coming from kilometers away, and by tank fire," he said. He said staffers identified the source of the fires as white phosphorous shells, whose use is restricted under international law.

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Filed under: Gaza •Israel •United Nations

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January 13, 2009
Posted: 1254 GMT


GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) - Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza City from two directions early Tuesday after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on both sides in the conflict to "just stop."

Ban heads to the Middle East today to try to get both sides to adhere to a ceasefire.

The Israeli military reported several clashes between its troops and Hamas fighters and said at least 30 Palestinian combatants were killed or wounded.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes and helicopter gunships struck 60 targets overnight, the Israel Defense Forces said.

"We are tightening the encirclement of the city," Brig. Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the Israeli offensive, told a small group of reporters brought in to Gaza to observe the deployment.

Filed under: Gaza •Hamas •Israel •United Nations

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January 10, 2009
Posted: 429 GMT

The United Nations today said it would re start transporting aid into Gaza.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees suspended food delivery operations Thursday to 750,000 Palestinian refugees after strikes by Israel killed one of its drivers and wounded another. The U.N. said the aid workers "had received Israeli clearance."

U.N. officials attended a high-level meeting at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Friday. There, "the U.N. received credible assurances that the security of U.N. personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected," a U.N. statement said

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Filed under: Gaza •Israel •United Nations

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January 8, 2009
Posted: 1903 GMT


GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) - Israeli forces fired on a U.N. aid convoy Thursday in Gaza, killing two aid workers, during a three-hour truce that Israel set up to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

"Since the conflict began 13 days ago, four UNRWA local staff have been killed," according to a statement from Ban's representative referring to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

"The U.N. is in close touch with the Israeli authorities about a full investigation of this and other incidents, and about the need for urgent measures to avoid them in the future."

As a result of Thursday's fatal attack on its aid convoy, the U.N. relief agency will suspend activities in Gaza until the Israeli military can guarantee the safety of its staff, said the agency's chief spokesman, Chris Gunness, in Jerusalem.

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Filed under: Gaza •Israel •United Nations

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Posted: 1530 GMT

GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) - The U.N.'s main humanitarian aid group in Gaza has suspended its activities in the Palestinian territory.


The announcement comes after Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the U.N Relief and Works Agency, told CNN that a UNRWA aid truck driver was killed by an Israeli tank shell near the Erez crossing.


 UNRWA chief spokesman Chris Gunness said the agency will suspend its activities until the Israeli military can guarantee the safety of its staff.

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Filed under: Gaza •Israel •United Nations

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January 6, 2009
Posted: 2240 GMT


CNN has confirmed that Israel will set up "Humanitarian corridors to transport essential supplies to the people of Gaza.

The office of acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly accepted an idea first floated by the United Nations.

The plan could include the suspension of fighting in certain parts of Gaza to allow the circulation of goods.


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Filed under: Gaza •Israel •United Nations

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