Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life

Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said he senses a ‘plot to target his life’ in his resignation statement. (Reuters)
Updated 04 November 2017

Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life

Lebanon PM Saad Al-Hariri resigns, cites threats to his life

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri announced his resignation on Saturday, taking the Lebanese people, especially the politicians, by surprise.
Al-Hariri accused Iran and Hezbollah of dominating Lebanon, adding: “We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik Al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life.”
In the speech, which was broadcast by Lebanese TV channels, Al-Hariri told the Lebanese that the nation was “living under tragic circumstances caused by external interferences.”
He said that “groups that do not want anything good for you dominated you, supported from outside the borders. These groups sowed sedition among the people of one country, threatened the authority of the state, established a state within the state and ended up by controlling it and having the upper hand and the final say in the affairs of Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”
Al-Hariri attacked Iran directly, saying: “I refer explicitly and unequivocally to Iran, which sows sedition, devastation and destruction in any place it settles in, as proven by its interferences in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Yemen, driven by a deep hatred of the Arab nation and an overwhelming desire to destroy and control it.
“Unfortunately, it found among the sons of these countries some people who put their hands in its hand, openly declaring their loyalty to it, and their will to kidnap Lebanon, with the values and ideals it represents, from its Arab and international surrounding. I mean Hezbollah, the Iranian arm, not only in Lebanon but also in the Arab countries.”

Al-Hariri stressed that “Over the past decades, Hezbollah has unfortunately managed to impose a fait accompli in Lebanon by the force of its weapons, which it alleges is a resistance weapon. This weapon is directed to our Syrian and Yemeni brothers, in addition to the Lebanese. I do not need to list these interventions. 
“Their magnitude appears daily and we suffer from it, not only on the Lebanese internal level but also on the level of our relations with our Arab brethren, and the latest example of that is Hezbollah's cell in Kuwait. Lebanon and the great Lebanese people became in the eye of the storm and subjected to international condemnations and economic sanctions because of Iran and its arm, Hezbollah.
“We all read what the head of the Iranian regime pointed to,” Al-Hariri added, “that Iran controls the fate of the countries in the region and that Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, North Africa and the Arab Gulf cannot take any decisive step without Iran, and I responded to that at the time. I want to tell Iran and its followers that they are losing in their interferences in the Arab nation affairs.
“Our nation will rise just as it did before and the hands that want to harm it will be cut, and just as Bahrain and Yemen responded, each and every part of our precious nation will do the same and evil will go back to its sender.”
Al-Hariri noted that when he accepted the responsibility of being the prime minister, he was seeking “the unity of the Lebanese, to end political division and restore the sovereignty of the Lebanese people. This caused me harm and I did not reply, for the sake of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. But unfortunately, this pushed Iran and its allies toward more interference in our internal affairs, violation of the state authority and imposition of fait accompli.”
The resignation came as a shock to political parties in Lebanon.
In a statement, the Lebanese presidential office said that President Michel Aoun was informed by Al-Hariri in a phone call “from outside the country” of his resignation, adding that the president now awaits Al-Hariri’s return to the country to clarify the circumstances of his resignation and proceed accordingly. Aoun, who was supposed to start an official visit to Kuwait on Sunday, has postponed it.

Mustapha Allouch, a Lebanese politician and member of the Future Movement, told Arab News that the resignation of Al-Hariri was “a surprise but not strange,” adding that “the resignation was discussed long time ago as a choice.”
Allouch stressed that “the resignation is not just linked to the possibility of assassination, but also to the refusal of Hezbollah, which is  an Iranian-affiliated militia, to change over the years, despite all the settlements which Al-Hariri offered in the past few years.”
Allouch expected a “reshuffle of cards in the short run, and the situation depends on the way of confronting Hezbollah on the regional and international levels.”
Former Lebanese President Michel Suleiman tweeted: “We have entered a tunnel which requires all officials to close their ranks. Lebanon and its people deserve sacrifice.”
“Lebanon is too small and weak to bear the economic and political burden of the resignation,” said Walid Jumblatt, leader of the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party. “I will continue to be among those who call for dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran despite all difficulties.”
Antoine Zahra, the leader of the Lebanese Forces bloc in the Lebanese Parliament, believes that “Al-Hariri was politically and administratively embarrassed to the point of no return.” 
Zahra added that there has been “an accumulation of positions and attempts to lay hands on the general policies of the government as well as the Lebanese policies in order to annex Lebanon to the Iranian axis.”
Zahra said that the “crisis of forming the government will continue for months.”
Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, called upon all “officials, ministers, members of Parliament, and leaders in the movement to keep silent and refrain from commenting on Hariri's resignation at the moment.”
The resignation caused some concern about the value of the Lebanese pound. However, the Lebanese Minister of Economy, Raed Khoury, assured in a statement that there is “no fear on the Lebanese pound and that the financial, economic and security situation is stable.”
Khoury added that “Lebanon went through greater crises and preserved its stability.”


Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
Updated 11 min 24 sec ago

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list

Philippines, Egypt added to Oman’s travel ban list
  • Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule

DUBAI: The Philippines and Egypt were the latest inclusion in Oman’s list where travelers from the said countries are banned from entering the Sultanate.

The decision was issued by the Supreme Committee, which takes lead in the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and took effect on Friday, May 7.

Travelers from Egypt and the Philippines, and those who transited in any of the said countries during the 14 days, are particularly affected by the travel restriction a report from Times of Oman said.

Omani citizens, diplomats, health workers and their families are excluded from the latest rule but are subject to the procedures adopted upon entering the Sultanate, the report added.

Oman earlier added India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the travel ban list, joining Sudan, Lebanon, South Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom where their residents have been barred from entering since February 24.


UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
Updated 47 min 3 sec ago

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours

UAE reports 1,766 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths in last 24 hours
  • The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began

DUBAI: UAE health authorities reported 1,766 new coronavirus cases after conducting 211,462 additional COVID-19 tests over the past 24 hours, as well three deaths fatalities from the contagious disease.

The total number of recorded cases in the UAE is now at 532,710 since the pandemic began, with 1,607 confirmed deaths, a report from state news agency WAM said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention reiterated its call for residents to adhere coronavirus protocols and maintain social distancing to ensure public health and safety.

Meanwhile, 141,283 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been provided during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of doses provided to residents and citizens to 11,048,547.

The rate of vaccine distribution now stands at 111.71 doses per 100 people.


US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
Updated 37 min 8 sec ago

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions

US calls on Israelis, Palestinians to ‘deescalate’ tensions
  • US State Department: Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations"

WASHINGTON: The United States called Friday for de-escalation in annexed east Jerusalem, and warned against carrying out a threatened eviction of Palestinian families that has sent tensions soaring.
"The United States is extremely concerned about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem... which have reportedly resulted in scores of injured people," a statement from State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan."
He said Washington was calling on Israeli and Palestinian officials to "act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence."
And he warned it was "critical" to avoid any steps that could worsen the situation — such as "evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism."
An earlier State Department statement said Washington was concerned in particular about the "potential eviction of Palestinian families in Silwan neighborhood and Sheikh Jarrah," two areas of east Jerusalem where tensions have been running high.
It noted that some Palestinian families targeted for eviction have "lived in their home for generations."
The comments came as more than 160 people were wounded after Israeli riot police clashed with Palestinians at Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound late Friday, capping a week of violence in the Holy City and the occupied West Bank.
Earlier Friday, Israeli security forces killed two Palestinians and wounded a third after the trio opened fire on a base in the occupied West Bank, police said.
The unrest came on Al-Quds Day — named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem — an annual day of pro-Palestinian rallies held by Iran, the arch-enemy of Israel.
The nation's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Israel "not a country, but a terrorist base," and in a televised speech said that fighting the Jewish state was "everyone's duty."


Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
Somali opposition soldiers pose for a photograph in Mogadishu as they move to their barracks after reaching an agreement with the prime minister. (Reuters)
Updated 08 May 2021

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes

Opposition forces leave Somali capital after deadly clashes
  • Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three

MOGADISHU: Opposition fighters withdrew from the Somali capital on Friday, ending a tense standoff with pro-government troops after a dispute over delayed elections triggered the country’s worst political violence in years.
Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.
Under a deal reached by the warring sides this week, opposition troops began leaving their positions in the capital, and key roads sealed off with sandbags and machine guns were opened once more.
“We are sending our forces back to the frontline position to defend the country and its people,” said Mahad Salad, an opposition lawmaker, at a camp outside Mogadishu where troops assembled after pulling out of the city.
Mogadishu had been on edge since February, when President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed’s term ended before elections were held, and protesters took to the streets against his rule.
But a resolution in April to extend his mandate by two years split the country’s fragile security forces along all-important clan lines.
Soldiers loyal to influential opposition leaders began pouring into the capital, where clashes broke out with pro-government troops, killing three.
The fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians from their homes and divided the city, with government forces losing some key neighborhoods to opposition units.
Under pressure to ease the tension, Mohammed abandoned his mandate extension and instructed his prime minister to arrange fresh elections and bring together rivals for talks.
“These forces came to the rescue of the people, and have taught a new lesson which will be remembered in future. They refused a dictatorship, and have forced the democratic governance process to continue,” opposition lawmaker Salad said.

FASTFACT

Hundreds of heavily armed gunmen pulled out of strongholds in Mogadishu they had occupied since late April, when a long-running political crisis turned deadly with clashes erupting between rival factions of the security forces.

Indirect elections were supposed to have been held by February under a deal reached between the government and Somalia’s five regional states the previous September.
But that agreement collapsed as the president and the leaders of two states, Puntland and Jubaland, squabbled over the terms.
Months of UN-backed talks failed to broker consensus between the feuding sides.
In early May, Mohammed relaunched talks with his opponents over the holding of fresh elections, and agreed to return to the terms of the September accord.
Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble has invited the regional leaders to a round of negotiations on May 20 in the hope of resolving the protracted feud and charting a path to a vote.
The international community has threatened sanctions if elections are not held soon, and warned the political infighting distracted from the fight against Al-Shabab, the militants who control swathes of countryside.
Maj.-Gen. Ali Araye Osoble told opposition troops outside the capital that it was time to return to duty.
“I order that you return to your positions and fulfil your commitments in the fight against Al-Shabab,” the opposition commander said.


Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
People wearing protective face masks walk in Tunis, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Tunisia, April 29, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 May 2021

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis

Tunisia orders lockdown amid ‘worst’ ever health crisis
  • Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed

TUNIS: Tunisia ordered a partial lockdown from Sunday for the week-long Eid Al-Fitr holidays, warning that any further increase in coronavirus infections could overwhelm specialist care facilities.
Announcing the measure on Friday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history.”
Mosques, markets and nonessential businesses will be closed under the new restrictions, which come as Muslims mark the end of the month of Ramadan, said Mechichi.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” Mechichi said, adding that medics were stretched to the limit, with around 100 people a day dying of COVID-19.
More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, an unprecedented number that has required medics to set up field hospitals, and the North African country is struggling to meet the demand for oxygen.
Under new rules, travel will be banned between regions, gatherings and celebrations prohibited, and a 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew imposed.
Tunisians are encouraged to leave their homes only for what is strictly necessary, government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane said.
The Mediterranean country, with a population of around 12 million, has recorded more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 11,200 deaths.
Tunisia’s economy has lurched from one crisis to another since the country’s 2011 revolution, with GDP estimated to have contracted by a record 8.2 percent last year.
Mechichi had said several times in recent weeks that Tunisia is unable to afford to repeat the restrictions put in place in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.