Lebanon vows to restore security after deadly shootout

Saleh al-Gharib, the state minister for refugee affairs, whose two bodyguards were killed yesterday in what he termed an attempted assassination, sits with Talal Arslan, a Druze politician, during a news conference, in Khaldeh, near Beirut, Lebanon July 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 01 July 2019

Lebanon vows to restore security after deadly shootout

  • Lebanon's Supreme Defence Council said it had taken "decisive" measures to restore security to the area

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government vowed on Monday to restore security to an area of a deadly shooting that has stirred fear of renewed strife in the Chouf Mountains, one of the bloodiest theatres of the 1975-90 civil war.
Two aides of government minister Saleh al-Gharib, the state minister for refugee affairs, were killed on Sunday in the incident in the Aley region in what he termed an attempted assassination.
Lebanon's Supreme Defence Council, which includes the president and security chiefs, said it had taken "decisive" measures to restore security to the area and bring to justice those involved.
"This is to bury strife, safeguard the prestige of the state and to spare innocent blood," the council said in a statement, adding that the decisions would remain secret.
No arrests have been announced yet.
The incident spiralled as supporters of Walid Jumblatt, Lebanon's main Druze leader, protested against a planned visit to the area by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a Maronite Christian and Jumblatt adversary. He ultimately cancelled the visit, saying he wanted to avoid any security problem.
Gharib, a Druze politician, is politically aligned with Bassil and backed by Jumblatt's Druze rival Talal Arslan.
Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) has accused Gharib's bodyguards of opening fire on the protesters, leading to an exchange of fire in which two PSP supporters were also wounded.
Arslan, in a televised news conference, said the state must act. "If the state does not strike with an iron fist there will be negative repercussions in more than one area," he said.
The historic rivalry between Arslan and Jumblatt has surfaced on numerous fronts of late, including the tussle for Druze cabinet posts in Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri's national unity government.
The families of the men killed on Sunday have said they will not bury them until the perpetrators are handed over.
The Chouf witnessed years of fighting between Christian and Druze militias in the civil war, leading to the displacement of the Christian population. Some have returned under government-backed "reconciliation" agreements.


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 18 August 2019

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”