Suspect arrested in murder of British diplomat in Beirut

Rebecca Dykes, a British woman employed at the UK embassy in Lebanon, who has been found murdered, a senior official said on Dec. 17, 2017. (File photo/AFP)
Updated 18 December 2017
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Suspect arrested in murder of British diplomat in Beirut

BEIRUT: The information department of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) has arrested a male suspected of killing British Embassy employee, Rebecca Dykes.
The arrest took place within 48 hours of Dykes’ body being found by the side of a highway in Mount Lebanon early on Saturday.
The suspect, a taxi driver for Uber, reportedly picked Dykes up at midnight on Friday from the Gemmayze district of Beirut, where she had been having dinner with friends.
The suspect has been named as Tariq H., a native of Beirut, born in 1988.
“Dykes was used to requesting Uber’s services,” a security source told Arab News. “The driver she called on the night of the tragedy was supposed to drive her to her house in Ashrafieh, which was only a few minutes from where she was dining, but instead, he took her to an area between Dekwaneh and Nabaa, where he parked his car and (sexually assaulted) her.
“He then strangled her and took her body to the Metn expressway to conceal his crime, and he dumped her belongings in a waste dump,” he said.
The security source explained that the ISF information department tracked the suspect through Dykes’ mobile phone, which showed that the last call she made was to Uber, and revealed the driver’s name and photo.
“The suspect’s car was also captured on roadway surveillance cameras,” the source said.
Security forces arrested the suspect in an underground hideout in the Ashrafieh district in Beirut.
According to the same security source, “the suspect has a history of drug abuse.”
Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk called the British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, and offered his condolences.
Machnouk said the suspect’s motive was purely criminal, not political. He personally followed up on the matter with ISF Director-General Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, who called President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri to brief them on the outcome of the investigation.
UK Ambassador Shorter visited Othman in the General Security Directorate and hailed the efforts of the information department and the speed with which the suspect was arrested.
On Sunday night, Shorter issued a statement saying how shocked and saddened the entire staff of the embassy was by Dykes’ death.
Her family said in a statement: “We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Rebecca. We are doing all we can to understand what happened. We request that the media respect our privacy.”


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 19 October 2018
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.