Aoun backs Hariri as ‘strongest Sunni leader’

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri remains the strongest Sunni leader despite a decline in his political power, according to Lebanese President Michel Aoun. (Reuters)
Updated 01 November 2018
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Aoun backs Hariri as ‘strongest Sunni leader’

  • Lebanese President Michel Aoun: Saad Hariri remains the strongest Sunni leader despite a decline in his political power.
  • Aoun’s comments came two days after differences emerged blocking a deal over a new national unity government.

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri remains the strongest Sunni leader despite a decline in his political power, according to Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
“The prime minister, whether it is Hariri or anyone else, must be strong and should not be weakened,” Aoun said.
Aoun’s comments came two days after differences emerged blocking a deal over a new national unity government.
The disagreement centers on a demand by Hezbollah for one of its Sunni allies to be given a portfolio in the 30-seat Cabinet to reflect gains the group made in the May 6 elections.
In a televised interview broadcast by all Lebanese channels on the second anniversary of his becoming president, Aoun described Hezbollah’s demand as “a type of political tactic that is hurting our overall strategy because any delay will reflect on Lebanon.”
He said: “The group that now demands a representation in the government amounts to individuals, not a bloc. We represent blocs according to certain criteria. They have formed a group, so can they have a Cabinet post when each of them has a different political orientation?
“What are they going to do? We do not want to weaken the prime minister as he has responsibilities that require him to be strong without anything to shake him.”
Aoun reiterated his previous comments about the representation of independent Sunni MPs. “This is a message. They may hear it if they wish to, and, if not, I cannot interfere more than I already have. I have stepped out of my reserved stance because the situation is not easy, and I do not know if everyone understands it like I do.”
He said that “resorting to a de facto government does not serve Lebanon. We are building a government through mutual understanding and solidarity, and this is not possible through unilateralism and conditions.”
On the possibility of the emergence of a Sunni-Shiite division, Aoun said: “Every side must understand that they should not expose national unity to any gap that can be exploited by someone.”
Aoun’s stance drew praise through Twitter from Hariri, who described the president’s words to the Lebanese people as “the epitome of honesty, frankness and responsibility.
“With you, we will not retreat from our march toward the advancement of Lebanon,” Hariri said.
The comments by Aoun and Hariri coincided with a warning by the interior minister in the caretaker government, Nohad El-Machnouk, over Hezbollah’s demand.
Machnouk said that “the large reservoir that is called the national responsibility of the Sunnis has begun to run out after it has been drained — I do not wish to say blackmailed. We are not the only ones responsible for and concerned with the covenant.
“Every day they lay a new mine and create new standards which they apply selectively ... yet contradict them elsewhere. Enough is enough. Things have reached a point where we can no longer observe quietly and where we must reconsider all the rules that have been fabricated. Despite that we have confirmed that we are the people of one state and a shared life,” he said.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 23 May 2019
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Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

  • Israel reduced the fishing limit to 10 nautical miles
  • The countries agreed to 20 nautical miles in the Oslo accords of 1990s

JERUSALEM: Israel reduced the offshore fishing limits it imposes for vessels operating out of Gaza from Thursday after Palestinians floated balloons fitted with incendiaries over the border, officials said.
The cut came just two days after Israel restored the limits to those set in April ahead of an Israeli general election.
“A decision was taken this Wednesday evening to reduce the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip to 10 nautical miles until further notice,” said COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees such regulations.
“The decision was taken after the launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel,” it added.
Palestinians in Gaza have frequently floated balloons fitted with firebombs over the border to damage Israeli property and have in the past succeeded in setting fire to large areas of farmland.
Israel banned fishing completely when two days of deadly violence erupted earlier this month, but lifted the ban with a restriction of up to 12 nautical miles following a truce.
The 15-nautical-mile limit that had been restored on Tuesday was the largest allowed in years by Israel, which has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in the enclave and has blockaded it for more than a decade.
But human rights activists note that it still falls short of the 20 nautical miles agreed under the Oslo accords of the 1990s.
Israeli authorities have not said whether the 15-mile limit was one of the understandings reached as part of the May 6 cease-fire in Gaza but Israel media reported on Monday that it was.
The additional nautical miles are important to Gaza fishermen as they bring more valuable, deeper water species within reach.
Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in this month’s exchanges across the border.