Major exercise tests Lebanon’s response to chemical attack

Lebanese security forces take part in a drill, simulating a chemical weapons attack in Kfar Falous on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2019

Major exercise tests Lebanon’s response to chemical attack

  • More than 200 employees in 80 hospitals were trained, including doctors and nurses, and provided with equipment to prevent contamination

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s military and security forces, medical and relief workers took part in a major exercise to test the country’s ability to respond to a chemical, biological or radiological attack.
The simulated exercise, described as the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever to take place in the country, was staged in the southern Lebanese town of Kfarfalous, and involved 932 members from the army and other security services, hospitals, civil defense, ambulance, fire, relief agencies and NGOs.
“With the beginning of the Syrian crisis and the rumors of the use of chemical weapons, the Lebanese Ministry of Health in 2012-2013 began intensive training for hospitals on ways to deal with possible chemical injuries,” said Lebanese Health Minister Jamil Jabak.
The exercise was the culmination of months of training conducted under the auspices of the country’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).
“More than 62 million people in the world have been injured by the use of deadly weapons,” said Iman Shankiti, WHO representative in Lebanon. “The WHO’s work is to carry out activities aimed at preparing for all dangers, and its role is to train teams of health workers in all Lebanese governorates.”
Jabak added: “After Lebanon signed the International Health Regulations for 2010, the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the WHO, began work on a health plan to combat biological, chemical and radiological threats.

SPEEDREAD

• The simulated exercise, described as the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever to take place in the country, was staged in the southern Lebanese town of Kfarfalous.

• The exercise involved 932 members from the army and other security services, hospitals, civil defense, ambulance, fire, relief agencies and NGOs.

“In 2015, the Ministry of Health began to develop a core of medical teams to combat biological and radiological threats in all Lebanese regions, with more than 230 emergency doctors and nurses trained in government and private hospitals, the military health system, civil defense, the Red Cross, and NGOs.
“In February, the ministry continued its training in the south and Nabatieh governorates, with more than 150 people trained. It has concluded with this exercise involving all trained teams, the first of its kind in Lebanon.”
Around 300 civilians participated in the role of casualties from a town hit by a chemical attack. Medics, dressed in protective gear and chemical masks, dealt with the injured according to their severity of their condition.
More than 200 employees in 80 hospitals were trained, including doctors and nurses, and provided with equipment to prevent contamination.
An official in the internal security forces told Arab News: “The security services carry out routine training on how to deal with disasters. These disasters need preparing for and there are no real threats to Lebanon to carry out such exercises.
“The security services in Lebanon are receiving continuous training in this regard in accordance with international police standards.”


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.