Return of Israeli agent to Lebanon angers former Khiam prisoners

Return of Israeli agent to Lebanon angers former Khiam prisoners
A man formerly detained by the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia reacts towards a poster depicting former SLA member Amer Fakhoury, during a demonstration denouncing his return and entry outside the Justice Palace in the Lebanese capital Beirut on September 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2019

Return of Israeli agent to Lebanon angers former Khiam prisoners

Return of Israeli agent to Lebanon angers former Khiam prisoners
  • Fakhouri, 56, was the commander of a military battalion guarding the notorious Israeli detention camp Khiam
  • Social media buzzed with the news of Fakhouri’s return

BEIRUT: The return of Israeli agent Amer Elias Fakhouri to Lebanon has sparked off heated debate about the Lebanese who fled to Israel during and after the Israeli occupation of the south of the country.
The depth of feeling aroused was demonstrated in the social media exchanges and the protests that have been taking place.
Fakhouri, 56, was the commander of a military battalion guarding the notorious Israeli detention camp, Khiam, in southern Lebanon during the 22-year Israeli occupation.
In 1998, two years before the Israeli troops pulled out of Lebanon, Fakhouri left Lebanon, going via Israel to the United States after a disagreement with his superiors.
He was sentenced in absentia to 15 years’ imprisonment with hard labor in 1998. He was convicted of working for Israel, as well as arresting and torturing Lebanese citizens by order of the Israeli occupation forces, which supervised and ran the detention camp through the South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia, led by Antoine Lahad.
Judicial sources told Arab News: “Fakhouri arrived at Rafic Hariri International Airport a few days ago and was received by a Lebanese officer. He used his American passport to enter, and the officer accompanying him facilitated his passage at the Lebanese General Security checkpoint.”
According to a security source, “the security officer in charge of checking the passports of those arriving in Beirut noticed that Fakhouri was wanted for arrest. However, when the matter was looked into, it was found that the judicial arrest decision had been withdrawn, preventing the Lebanese General Security Directorate from arresting him, but the security checkpoint seized his passport for further scrutiny.”
Social media buzzed with the news of Fakhouri’s arrival, which was shared under the hashtag “Jazzar Al-Khiam”— the butcher of Khiam. Activists expressed outrage at Fakhouri being allowed to return to Lebanon without being arrested. This prompted the General Security to interrogate him and refer him to the military prosecutor.
The General Security Directorate declared that, after interrogation, Fakhouri confessed to working for Israel. He also confessed that after he had fled into occupied Palestine he obtained an Israeli identity card and an Israeli passport, under which he left the occupied Palestinian territory.
Two views prevailed in Lebanon regarding the arrest of Fakhouri, judicial expert Katia Toa told Arab News. “The first view is that the sentence in absentia is 20 years old, so it was dropped with time. Therefore, he has a right to return to Lebanon in a normal manner.
“The second view is that Fakhouri’s offense is a persistent offense, and thus it cannot be dropped with time. He must be tried again to determine his legal status in Lebanon.”
On Friday, 34 lawyers and 10 freed prisoners filed a complaint with the Public Prosecution Office against Fakhouri.
Toa said: “The military court does not take into account individual complaints. This complaint is included in the original file, and if Fakhouri is to be tried, it would be for having acquired Israeli citizenship. But that offense is judicially classified as a misdemeanor, not a felony, and it has a reduced sentence.”
An investigation is also being carried out to find out who requested the assistance of the officer who accompanied Fakhouri at the airport.
Dozens of former Khiam prisoners and their families gathered outside the military court building in Beirut to demand that Fakhouri be punished for his crimes.
MP Qassem Hashim, who participated in the protest, criticized the leniency in dealing with agents, arguing that “it may lead in the future to an easier view of treachery and communicating with Israel.”
Jihad Hassan Hammoud, a former Khiam prisoner, said: “Fakhouri was responsible for torturing Lebanese citizens and he came up with many creative torture methods. He must be tried for his crimes.”
The process of clearing Fakhouri’s record reminded some of a statement by the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Minister Gebran Bassil, who a few months ago talked of implementing a law for the return of Lebanese fugitives to Israel. However, this had aroused controversy among the political parties in Lebanon.
The Lebanese parliament approved a draft law submitted in 2011 by the Free Patriotic Movement to address the situation of Lebanese citizens in Israel, but no implementing decree was issued.
An estimated 7,500 Lebanese citizens, most of whom were from Christian villages, fled to Israel after the withdrawal of the occupying forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. The majority left for Europe and the United States, while 3,000 remained in Israel.
Those trying to return to Lebanon through the Naqoura border crossing in coordination with UNIFIL are subject to investigation. Some of them have received lenient sentences while others have been acquitted.
Toa pointed out that the fugitives known to the Lebanese judiciary have been sentenced in absentia to 10-15 years in prison. A new generation was born in Israel, and these are not affected by the sentences, except for the charge of obtaining Israeli citizenship.

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
This picture shows the Dome of the Rock at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Jerusalem's Old City on July 27, 2018, after the site was reopened. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2021

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs

Israeli police prevent Dome of the Rock repairs
  • Council set to denounce action that is ‘violation of understandings’

AMMAN: Israeli police have stopped workers from the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf from renovating the Dome of the Rock for two consecutive days, raising tensions in the old city.

Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf department in Jerusalem, informed Jordan’s Ambassador in Tel Aviv Ghassan Majali and Minister of Waqf in Amman Mohammed Khalaileh of the news.

Israeli officials claim the decision was made after an individual tried to renovate the ceiling of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque, which Israel has demanded Muslims to vacate, without reason.

The Jerusalem Waqf Council is expected to issue a strong statement denouncing the Israeli action, calling it a violation of understandings.

Bassam Hallaq, the Waqf engineer in charge of the renovation, said that Israeli police stopped work on the gold-plated Dome of the Rock on Saturday and Sunday, and prevented urgent electric work, too.

Israel insists that any renovation or repair must be pre-approved. The renovation is not structural.

Arab News has learned that the Israeli actions on Saturday and Sunday followed the efforts of an unknown Palestinian whose face was covered, who climbed the roof of the Bab Al-Rahmeh mosque in order to apply cement to stop leaks.

Israel has forbidden any repair work on the mosque.

Hallaq said that all repair work in the entire Al-Aqsa compound has also been suspended by Israel.

The mosque’s engineer insists that the Waqf has no cement materials inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and that Friday was a holiday when staff did not work.

Sheikh Omar Kisswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told reporters that repairs to the entire 144 dunum Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa mosque compound were the right of the Islamic Waqf and that the Israeli police have no right to interfere in their work.

A spokesman for the Israeli police told Arab News that the “subject isn’t under the responsibility of the Israeli police.”