Four dead in Israel as severe weather sweeps Middle East

Updated 09 January 2013
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Four dead in Israel as severe weather sweeps Middle East

JERUSALEM: Extreme weather, including torrential rains and heavy winds, killed four people in Israel and the Palestinian territories on Tuesday, as widespread flooding swept the Middle East.
A man was killed and two others injured after their car was swept away by heavy rain in the West Bank town of Attil.
Another three people died in the early hours of the morning after their car was blown to the side of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and dozens were injured in weather-related accidents across Israel.
In northern Jordan, relief workers distributing aid to Syrian refugees were injured in a “stampede” in a camp where hundreds of tents have been destroyed by heavy rains.
Snowfall made roads unusable in the Syrian capital, and floods forced roads and schools to shut in Lebanon, while Egyptian authorities closed the port of Alexandria for a third straight day due to severe winds.
Israeli army helicopters rescued six Israeli Arabs from the roof of their car in Taibeh, and another 15 were evacuated in the same manner from the roof of their flooded home in Baqa Al-Gharbia.
Medical officials said they were being treated for hypothermia.
Jerusalem braced for possible snowfall Wednesday and Thursday and Israel’s met office said this winter was set to be the wettest in a decade.
In Jordan, torrential rains swept through the country for a second straight day, forcing the closure of most road tunnels and gridlocking traffic, as flash floods overwhelmed the capital’s drainage system.
Elsewhere, refugees at the Zaatari camp on the border with Syria “started to push each other as they ran toward aid workers. They hurled stones at each other and there was a stampede” that injured several workers, Anmar Hmud, a government spokesman, told AFP.
“At least one of the aid workers was taken to hospital,” he added.
The incident occurred as aid workers were helping some of the 62,000 Syrians sheltering in the camp, where two days of heavy rains have destroyed hundreds of tents.
Syria’s met office predicted abundant rainfall for the next two days, as heavy rains and wind hit several parts of the country, and a buildup of snowfall in Damascus made some roads unusable, the interior ministry said.
In neighboring Lebanon, a day after a six-month-old baby was swept away when a flash flood hit a Bedouin encampment, storms continued across the country.
Roads in Beirut were flooded and schools were closed nationwide on Tuesday and will also be on Wednesday.
The Damascus-Beirut road was forced to shut and rains caused widespread damage to farmland.
“Lebanon hasn’t seen a storm like this in a dozen years,” said Abdel Karim Damaj, a weather expert at Beirut’s international airport.
Egypt closed the port of Alexandria for a third day in a row as a precaution, as high winds battered the Mediterranean city after torrential rains caused power cuts.
Further west, 10 fishermen were reported missing off the coast of the desert town of Marsa Matruh, and searches to find them were being hampered by the weather conditions, local media reported.


Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

Updated 25 April 2018
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Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

  • Lebanon's independent Sabaa party talks about exploitation of positions and money.
  • Several young men from the Sabaa party demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior.

BEIRUT: Sectarian and partisan polarization resulting from fierce competition for parliamentary seats in Lebanon has led to the first armed clash between two rival Druze parties.
Machine guns were used in the clash between the Progressive Socialist Party, led by MP Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Democratic Party, led by Talal Arslan, which took place on Sunday evening in the city of Choueifat, about 5 km south of Beirut.
The two parties’ leaders acted quickly to calm their supporters.
“When politicians plant seeds of hatred and grudges among people, they commit a crime against citizens who have been breaking bread together for centuries,” Jumblatt said in a tweet.
In a joint statement, the two parties stressed “the need to avoid any steps that could provoke anger among supporters or disturb citizens who look forward to freely exercising their right to vote in an atmosphere of democratic competition.”
The two parties, alongside other parties with supporters in Choueifat, such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Amal Movement, have agreed on “disowning anyone who breaches security, requesting that the security forces intensify their presence in Choueifat, identifying fixed locations until the elections are over, and restraining from carrying out provocative processions.”
Campaigning lasts 24 hours before polling and has seen various kinds of violations of the electoral law.
Several young men from the Sabaa party — a group of independent activists — demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior, carrying banners questioning the ministry’s role in election-related issues.
“Serious violations are taking place because the country is out of control; many are exploiting their positions and pouring (in) their money, and conflicts are happening at grassroots level — people are tearing down photos of candidates and individuals are fighting with one another,” said Gilbert Hobeish on behalf of the demonstrators.
He added: “This is unacceptable, and the minister of interior must take responsibility.”
Hobeish criticized the Electoral Supervisory Commission, saying “it only oversees the civil society or change candidates.”
“We reject this in toto,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a candidate on the Shbaana Haki electoral list (who was assaulted last Sunday by Hezbollah supporters in the town of Shaqra because he hung his photo outside his house), held a press conference in the town of Nabatiyah Al-Fawqa and renewed his protest against “the tyranny that silences voices, oppresses liberties and acts on its own will and temperaments, making us feel as if we were in the law of the jungle era.”
He said that “resistance isn’t anyone’s property nor is it one party’s ownership.”
He also called on “the free people of the south to decide which life they wanted and to which homeland and identity they belonged.”
Campaign fever is rising in Lebanon 48 hours before the elections are held for the first time for Lebanese communities in several Arab countries. These elections are to be held 11 days before parliamentary elections take place inside Lebanon.