Lebanese PM declares Hezbollah battles in Arsal illegitimate

Armed men stand guard as a convoy of Syrian refugees leaves the Lebanese eastern border town of Arsal heading towards the Syrian region of Qalamoun, in this July 12, 2017 photo, as part of a deal that was negotiated by Syrian rebels in the camps and Lebanon's Hezbollah group. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2017
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Lebanese PM declares Hezbollah battles in Arsal illegitimate

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s attacks on Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS) militants have continued in Arsal on the Syrian-Lebanese border for a fifth day, with leading Lebanese parties refusing to provide it with political cover.
The Future Movement, led by Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, confirmed in a statement his party’s “commitment to the Lebanese army, which is the legitimate security force and the only one that is entrusted with defending Lebanon and the Lebanese people and protecting the country’s borders.”
The statement said: “If Hezbollah’s approach of incitement and treason during the ongoing battles in the eastern mountain ranges is aimed at legitimizing its participation in the Syrian war, and other ongoing wars in Lebanon and abroad, we will not be party to this national sin, regardless of the threats… against those opposing the policies of Hezbollah.”
Al-Hariri’s party said terrorism is a threat to Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic worlds, and “must be uprooted.”
But it added that fighting terrorism should not be used as a pretext “to trample upon the state and its constitutional institutions to participate in Arab civil wars, interfere in the internal affairs of Arab states or organize cells that threaten their peace and security.”
The Lebanese Forces party, in a statement by Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi, also rejected Hezbollah’s actions in Arsal, saying: “We only care about decisions taken by the Lebanese government and implemented by the legitimate security institutions.”
The Kataeb Party affirmed “the role of the Lebanese army in combatting terrorism and preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty, security, stability and in protecting its borders.”
President Michel Aoun was briefed by army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun and top security officials on security developments in Arsal.
In a statement, the president praised the “preparedness of the army to repel any attack on Lebanese territories and protect the residents and the displaced people.”
Hezbollah said it is making progress in areas controlled by JFS, while areas controlled by Daesh have not yet witnessed clashes.
Hezbollah said it is in “full control” of Wadi Al-Khail, which it described as “the bastion” JFS. Hezbollah reported “a state of collapse and chaos” among JFS ranks.
Hezbollah urged all militants in Arsal “to hand themselves over with a guarantee of their safety and protection, as the battle appears to be on the verge of ending.”


Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN

Updated 42 min 33 sec ago
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Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN

UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinians are protesting the US refusal to grant visas to six experts from the prime minister’s office to come to the United Nations to present a report on Palestinian implementation of UN goals for 2030.
The Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told two reporters Wednesday that Israel “complicated the matter” by refusing to allow several of the experts to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem where the US Consulate is located to check on their visas.
“We condemn this action,” Mansour said.
He said it violates the UN agreement with the United States as host country of the world organization, which requires the US to facilitate UN work and allow delegates to attend UN meetings.
Mansour said he plans to send a letter of protest to the General Assembly committee dealing with host country relations.
The US Mission said it was looking into the complaint. Israel’s UN Mission did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Since the experts couldn’t attend the high-level meeting taking place this week at UN headquarters, Mansour said he and his team “were able to improvise” and presented the Palestinian report on Tuesday. He said it “received a long applause from the participants.”
Mansour said he started the presentation by “condemning the fact that they were denied visas, and the work of our delegation was obstructed in violation of the headquarters agreement.”
The high-level meeting is hearing what nearly 50 countries are doing to implement the UN goals to combat poverty, promote development and gender equality, and preserve the environment by 2030.
The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November 2012 to upgrade the Palestinians’ status from a UN observer to a non-voting observer state, enabling it to make a voluntary report.
Mansour said that although the Palestinians are trying their best to fulfill the different UN goals by 2030, “the overriding issue influencing our effort to accomplish these objectives is the negative effect of occupation” by Israel.
In spite of that, he said, “we almost have 100 percent of education for our kids, our illiteracy is close to zero, there’s improvement in the medical field, but there’s need and challenges.”
Mansour said the Palestinians need more hospitals, more schools in east Jerusalem and elsewhere, and more housing.
“In terms of food security, we don’t have people who are starving although 1.2 million of the population in the Gaza Strip rely on food program assistance and help from UNRWA,” which is facing a funding crisis after major US cuts.