Lebanese parliament re-elects Berri as speaker

The only candidate was incumbent Berri, a savvy politician from the southern city of Nabatiyeh who has served as speaker since 1992. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2018
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Lebanese parliament re-elects Berri as speaker

  • After his re-election as speaker, Berri called for a new government to be formed as soon as possible
  • Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement and has been allied with Hezbollah since the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war

BEIRUT: Shi'ite politician Nabih Berri, a close ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, was re-elected as speaker of Lebanon's parliament for the sixth time since 1992 on Wednesday, securing the backing of 98 out of 128 lawmakers.
The new parliament was sitting for the first time since the May 6 general election, Lebanon's first since 2009. After his re-election as speaker, Berri called for a new government to be formed as soon as possible.
Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement and has been allied with Hezbollah since the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.
He was unopposed for the post, reserved for a Shi'ite under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Outgoing Sunni prime minister Saad al-Hariri, an opponent of Hezbollah, had declared support for his re-election.
Berri's office issued a statement urging supporters to avoid celebratory gunfire.
Another Hezbollah ally, Elie Ferzli, is a leading candidate to be elected as deputy speaker, reflecting a shift in the political landscape in favour of Hezbollah since the 2009 vote.
Ferzli, like Berri and Hezbollah, has close ties to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Parties and individuals who back Hezbollah's possession of arms won at least 70 of parliament's 128 seats. The last time Lebanon held an election, an anti-Hezbollah alliance led by Hariri and backed by Saudi Arabia won a majority.
The deputy speaker position, reserved for a Greek Orthodox Christian, has been held by a Hezbollah opponent since 2005, the year Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon after the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, Saad's father.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.