Maronite patriarch invited to Saudi Arabia

Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi
Updated 03 November 2017
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Maronite patriarch invited to Saudi Arabia

BEIRUT: Waleed Bukhari, the Saudi chargé d’affaires in Lebanon, said he handed Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi an invitation on Wednesday to visit Saudi Arabia and meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“It will be one of the most important official visits to the Kingdom. It will be historical,” Bukhari said, adding that it will take place in the next few weeks.
Lebanese daily An-Nahar wrote: “The timing and content of the invitation were surprising, as it will be the first visit by a Maronite patriarch to Saudi Arabia, a country that has no Christian churches and parishes.”
Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, who returned from the Kingdom on Wednesday, said during a Cabinet meeting on Thursday: “Saudi Arabia is very keen on Lebanon’s stability.”
Lebanese MP Boutros Harb, who is close to Al-Rahi, welcomed the invitation. “It’s an attempt to strengthen Lebanese-Saudi relations and Christian-Saudi relations,” Harb told Arab News.
“It shows that Saudi Arabia ignores all sectarian differences and wants to establish new ties between King Salman and the Maronite patriarchate.”
The mufti of Tripoli and northern Lebanon, Sheikh Malik Al-Shaar, also hailed the invitation. “Saudi Arabia is the first Arab country to embrace all Arab countries,” he told Arab News.
“The Kingdom is taking care of Lebanon with all its religions and communities, as well as the Lebanese cause and internal civil peace. It supports every step that comes within the framework of uniting Lebanese communities and groups.”
The invitation “confirms that Saudi Arabia has opened its arms to all parties, communities and active actors in Lebanon,” Al-Shaar said.
“It’s now time to meet and discuss everything related to Lebanon in order to preserve the Christian presence in the East.”
Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said: “The visit has been in preparation for the past four or five months.”
Ali bin Saeed Al-Awwad Asiri, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, who is close to Al-Rahi, reportedly played a major role in arranging the visit. Sources said the invitation reflects greater openness in the Kingdom.
During the visit, Al-Rahi will convey a vision of “a united Lebanon with both its Christian and Muslim populations,” the NNA said.


War fears mount despite cease-fire between Gaza and Israel

Updated 22 July 2018
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War fears mount despite cease-fire between Gaza and Israel

  • Any further escalation will deepen humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip: UN chief
  • Before the truce, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters

GAZA CITY: After seven chaotic and violent hours, quiet returned to the Gaza Strip Friday night. Yet on Saturday, civilians in the Palestinian enclave and Israel remained fearful of the potential for a new war.
The fatal shooting by a Palestinian sniper of an Israeli soldier during protests along the border on Friday sparked a widespread wave of Israeli bombing, with three fighters from Hamas killed and dozens of targets struck.
After intensive indirect mediation by the UN and Egypt, a truce came into force at midnight, yet both populations remained on high alert of another all-out conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“War is coming. I know that the (Israeli) occupation is carrying out raids to pave the way with their home base,” Somaya Rabaya, 21, from Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, said.
While the cease-fire deal included an end to rockets and mortars, it didn’t include a commitment by Hamas to stop what Israeli media have dubbed “terror kites,” a senior Hamas source said.
In a brief statement on Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and UN officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation and called on both sides to step back from the prospect of another devastating conflict. “Any further escalation will endanger the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, deepen the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and undermine current efforts to improve livelihoods,” he said.
On Saturday morning in Gaza, 17-year-old Wissam was with a number of other youths fitting kites with small bottles full of diesel, while sheltering behind a sandbank for fear of Israeli strikes. “This morning, they bombed a Hamas observation post near here. I was afraid they would hit us with a missile,” he said.
Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying the incendiary devices into Israel.
On Friday, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters.
“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’ training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”