Lebanese demand civil marriage on home soil

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Lebanese demonstrators carry placards during a gathering against the ongoing ban on civil unions outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital Beirut on February 23, 2019. (AFP)
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Lebanese demonstrators carry placards during a gathering against the ongoing ban on civil unions outside the Ministry of Interior in the capital Beirut on February 23, 2019. Arabic writing on placard reads:"I want civil marriage in Lebanon because I have a phobia of flying." (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Lebanese demand civil marriage on home soil

BEIRUT: Dozens of protesters rallied in the Lebanese capital Beirut on Saturday, calling on the government to recognise civil marriages carried out on home soil.
The demonstrators gathered in front of Lebanon's interior ministry, days after recently-appointed Interior Minister Raya al-Hasan said she is willing to engage in "serious and profound dialogue" over the issue.
The minister's comments prompted a backlash from religious bodies, including the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, and stirred debate on social media.
Lebanon has 15 separate personal status laws for its recognised religions but no civil code covering issues such as marriage.
Many Lebanese couples travel to neighbouring Cyprus to tie the knot in a civil ceremony, because Lebanese authorities recognise such unions only if they have been registered abroad.
Hasan, the first female interior minister in Lebanon and the Arab world, touched on the issue of civil unions in an interview with Euronews last week.
She said she would "personally endorse" attempts to establish a framework to govern civil marriages in Lebanon.
"I will try to open the door for serious and profound dialogue on this issue with all religious authorities and others, with the support of Prime Minister Saad Hariri," she said.
Dar al-Fatwa, the highest Sunni authority in Lebanon, issued a response the day after Hasan's interview was published, saying it "categorically rejects" civil unions conducted on Lebanese soil.
Such unions "violate the provisions of Islamic law" and "contravene the provisions of the Lebanese constitution" regarding the authority of religious courts over personal status issues, it said.
The highest Shiite authority in the country also expressed opposition.
"The Lebanese constitution recognises that every sect has its own personal status laws," deputy head of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council said Friday.
"We strongly oppose civil marriage because it violates the constitution," he said.
The head of Lebanon's Maronite church, Beshara Rai, however, said he was "not against civil unions" conducted on Lebanese territory.
In 2013, the interior ministry took the unprecedented step of registering a civil marriage conducted in Lebanon.
However, only a handful of civil marriages have been recognised since the landmark decision, campaigner Lucien Bourjeily told AFP on Saturday.
Former president Elias Hrawi in 1998 proposed a civil marriage law, which gained approval from the cabinet only to be halted amid widespread opposition from the country's religious authorities.


Israel cuts Gaza fishing limit after fire balloons

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago
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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.