Syrian regime troops on high alert

The regime has invited the international chemical weapons watchdog to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the gas attack in Douma. Getty Images
Updated 10 April 2018

Syrian regime troops on high alert

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces were on high alert and taking precautionary measures on Tuesday at military positions across the country amid fears of a US strike in the aftermath of an apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Syria on Tuesday invited the international chemical weapons watchdog to send a fact-finding mission to investigate the poison gas attack in a rebel-held town over the weekend. The Foreign Ministry said Syria will help the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate the alleged attack, which opposition activists say killed 40 people.
President Donald Trump has threatened military action, vowing to respond “forcefully” to Saturday’s attack on civilians in the town of Douma and warning that Russia — or any other nation found to share responsibility — will “pay a price.”
Trump on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to South America later this week, choosing to stay in the US to manage the response to the events in Syria. The decision marks the first time an American president has not attended the Summit of the Americas. Vice President Mike Pence will travel in Trump’s place.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that he was outraged by the reported attack, and that the use of chemical weapons would be a violation of international law. He also reaffirmed his support for an OPCW investigation.
A senior Russian lawmaker said Tuesday that Moscow is willing to help arrange an OPCW visit to the site of the suspected attack. Yevgeny Serberennikov, from the defense committee at the Federation Council, told the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is eager for the OPCW to “finally start carrying out the functions it was created for.”
Asked in Berlin whether she supports the idea, German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded unenthusiastically, saying that “the evidence that chemical weapons were used there is very, very clear.”
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that as of Monday night, troops have been on a 72-hour alert and are fortifying their positions. The observatory’s chief, Rami Abdurrahman, said the alert includes all army positions and bases from the southern province of Sweida all the way to Aleppo province in the north, the Mediterranean coast in the west to Deir Ezzor province in the east, along the Iraqi border.
The Sound and Picture Organization, an activist collective in eastern Syria, said that Iranian fighters and members of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have evacuated their positions in the Boukamal area.


Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

Updated 19 October 2019

Lebanese celebrities join Beirut protests as anger rises over tax reforms

  • A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut
  • In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands

BEIRUT: Lebanese celebrities joined thousands of protesters on the streets of Beirut on Saturday to voice their anger at the country’s ruling elite.
Singers, actors and playwrights were among a host of high-profile artists who backed demands for action over government corruption and to counter Lebanon’s spiralling economic crisis.
Beirut has been shrouded in smoke for three days following widespread protests and rioting over government tax plans.
A video emerged on social media showing actress Nadine Al-Rassi preparing to set fire to a car tire in downtown Beirut and crying inconsolably about her financial state.
The actress, wearing jeans and her face blackened, told protesters: “I am Nadine Al-Rassi. I was hungry for seven days. I have debts. Banque du Liban (Lebanon’s central bank) seized my house and I am unable to rent a home. Corrupt people should be held responsible.”


In a series of tweets, Lebanese recording artist Elissa, who is abroad, supported the protesters’ demands, saying: “This is the first time I wish I were in Lebanon. My heart is with you.”
In another tweet, the high-profile singer, one of the Middle East’s best-selling performers, said: “I proudly follow the news of Beirut and its citizens ... who are demanding a decent life. It is time for people to get back their dignity.”
Meanwhile, singer and composer Ragheb Alama expressed his dismay at a Council of Ministers plan to impose a daily fee on WhatsApp calls.
“The people’s misfortunes are not funny. Why don’t you tax the polluted air people breathe? It is a great idea that brings money to your fathers’ treasury, too,” he wrote.
Alama accused the Parliament of responsibility for the country’s dire economy: “Why do deputies receive money, privileges and overheads, and what have they done? They covered up for looting and stealing for decades. They are responsible for destroying the economy and the country.”
Nancy Ajram, one of the Arab world’s most popular singers, wrote on Twitter: “My heart goes out to my country every moment and with every heartbeat. We are a people who deserves to live and it is our right to live with dignity. May God protect Lebanon.”
Singer and actress Haifa Wehbe tweeted: “There is nothing better than the Lebanese people when they stand in unity and under one slogan, without any political affiliation. We are all for our country.”
Comedian and prime-time TV host Hisham Haddad was among celebrities who joined protesters at Riad El-Solh Square, near the Prime Minister’s office, site of the biggest centralized demonstrations.
Actress Maguy Bou Ghosn, singer Moeen Shreif, actors Abdo Chahine, Badih Abou Chakra and Junaid Zeineldine, playwright Ziad Itani and musician Ziyad Sahhab also joined the protests.
Actor Wissam Hanna called on Twitter for protesters to close the Beirut Airport road to stop corrupt officials fleeing the country.
“I am all for closing down the airport road to stop thieves from fleeing. I am all for recovering stolen funds. Lebanon rises, revolts and it is time to hold them accountable,” he wrote.
Actress Gretta Aoun said: “We have to take to the streets. They must know the extent of our pain.”