Lebanese army ‘strengthening positions’ against Daesh

Lebanese army ‘strengthening positions’ against Daesh
A man watches Lebanese army soldiers ride on a military tank in Labwe, at the entrance of the border town of Arsal, in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on July 27, 2017. (REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)
Updated 28 July 2017

Lebanese army ‘strengthening positions’ against Daesh

Lebanese army ‘strengthening positions’ against Daesh

BEIRUT: The Lebanese army says it is currently strengthening its positions against Daesh following skirmishes with militants close to the Syrian border.
A military source stated that the army had exchanged fire on Thursday with fighters attached to Daesh, which controls a barren mountainous area in northeastern Lebanon.
The official Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) reported that “Daesh militants fired at the Lebanese army which in turn responded.”
A Lebanese military source confirmed to Arab News that “skirmishes between the Lebanese army and Daesh militants take place on a regular basis and cannot be considered as new military operations.”
The source added: “No negotiations with Daesh are currently taking place. We are strengthening our positions in preparation for any possible incident. According to the given data and conditions on the ground, we will determine if we will wage a battle against Daesh.”
Meanwhile, areas close to those controlled by Daesh were calm at 6 a.m. on Thursday, following the announcement of a cease-fire by Hezbollah, after its battle against Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, in the Jaroud Arsal area.
According to the NNA, “the General Security Head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim led successful negotiations in order to achieve this cease-fire.”
After his visit on Wednesday to the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, Ibrahim confirmed that the “terms of the cease-fire are confidential.”
He continued: “All I can say is that there is a real cease-fire in effect. Militants and civilians can go to Idlib in an organized manner under the supervision of the Lebanese authorities; the Lebanese Red Cross will oversee logistical matters. This is all I can disclose now, and I believe that the terms of the agreement will be shown by concrete actions. There is no time limit for the agreement but it will be achieved in a matter of days.”
Hezbollah will be handed three of its fighters who were kidnapped by the JFS, according to the NNA. They were reportedly detained in the town of Al-Eis in the Aleppo countryside between 2015 and 2016. The JFS shared a video clip two days ago showing the hostages, calling on Hezbollah’s leadership to stop the war or they would pay the price with their lives, it was reported.
A Lebanese military source confirmed to Arab News that the JFS was in control of “barren areas between Lebanon and Syria” but that “the Lebanese barren areas will be under Lebanese army control after the implementation of the cease-fire.” As for the areas under the control of Daesh, “they are completely (within) Lebanese territory and their fate is in the hands of the Lebanese army.”
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Tuesday night that Hezbollah has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations that are currently carried out by Lebanese authorities. Hezbollah also announced the names of 26 men who died during six days of battles against the JFS.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday discussed the developments in Jaroud Arsal with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk.
He stated after the meeting that “the battles took place on disputed lands, as there is a disagreement over the possession of these lands between Lebanon and Syria.”
He responded to Hezbollah’s accusations directed against those who objected to the battles saying, “we only want the Lebanese army to be in control; we are not attacking others.”
“Years ago, we discussed the strategic defense initiative and the role of the resistance, but the discussions were stopped. We call on the president to restart the discussions,” Machnouk said.
He also stressed that there was a “new army commander who is fulfilling his role perfectly.”


Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
Updated 28 min 30 sec ago

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
  • Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy

BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets.

The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.”

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.”

Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials.

One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.”

The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. 

Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.

The protests spiralled out of control and turned into riots that ended with dozens of arrests. Several army personnel were deployed to control the situation in Al-Nour Square and its vicinity. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it brought in six ambulances as 41 people were injured during the protests. The organization transferred 12 people to hospitals, while 29 were treated at the scene.

In support of the Tripoli protests, dozens gathered at the Ring Bridge in central Beirut.

Activists gathered in Sidon’s Elia Square for a vigil, amid security measures. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the political authority’s arbitrary decisions, which they argue worsened the economic collapse. 

Some protesters said that 60 percent of the poor people in Lebanon are suffering because of these decisions, which were not accompanied with support for people who were laid off due to lockdown measures.

The protests extended to Taalbaya in the Bekaa and the coastal town of Jiyeh. The protesters moved from the poor neighborhoods of Beirut to Corniche el Mazraa and blocked the road, but the riot police reopened it.

Bechara Al-Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, told Arab News: “Things are heading toward chaos, and the authorities’ decisions are ill-considered. When forcing people to stop working, it is important to give them incentives and compensation. There are 120,000 daily workers impacted by the closure, which has come amid a severe economic crisis.”

He added: “They must exempt the factories that suspended production so that they can survive and not lay off their workers if the closure results in stopping operation. 

“What can the factories that have agreements with clients abroad do to deliver their products? This is the only sector that is bringing Lebanon fresh money and giving people jobs.”

Al-Asmar said that aid provided by the government “covers 47,000 families, and a further 8,000 taxi drivers have been added to them. This is a small percentage compared to the need among the general population.”

He continued: “Employees are now receiving half a salary or a very meager salary if they don’t lose their jobs as employers prefer shutting down their businesses to continuous losses.”

Bechara added: “We are facing a major social crisis. The daily workers are complaining of their inability to put bread on the table, while the state is unable to hold coordination meetings, so how can it provide compensation for those affected?”