Protesters block roads in Beirut, other parts of Lebanon

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Protesters struck some individual poses in largely peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. (AN Photo)
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Protesters struck some individual poses in largely peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. (AN Photo)
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Protesters struck some individual poses in largely peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. (AN Photo)
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Protesters struck some individual poses in largely peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. (AN Photo)
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Protesters struck some individual poses in largely peaceful demonstrations on the streets of Beirut. (AN Photo)
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Demonstrators unload sand and stones from a truck to block a road during ongoing anti-government protests in Tripoli, Lebanon November 4, 2019. (Reuters)
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Army soldiers remove tents in an attempt to open a road that was blocked by demonstrators during ongoing anti-government protests in Tripoli, Lebanon November 4, 2019. (Reuters)
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A woman holds a Lebanese flag as she stands at a roadblock during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon November 4, 2019. (Reuters)
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Anti-government protesters read books as they block a main highway in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (AP)
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Anti-government protesters stand atop a road sign and flash the victory sign as other block a main highway in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2019

Protesters block roads in Beirut, other parts of Lebanon

  • Schools shut for third week
  • Worst economic crisis since 1975-90 civil war

BEIRUT: Protesters blocked roads in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon on Monday, pressing a wave of demonstrations against the ruling elite that have plunged the country into political turmoil at a time of acute economic crisis.
The nationwide protests, which were ignited on Oct. 17 by a government proposal to tax WhatsApp calls, led Saad Al-Hariri to resign as prime minister last week. Formal consultations over the formation of a new cabinet have yet to begin.
After Hariri quit, protests had ebbed, roadblocks were lifted and banks reopened for the first time in two weeks on Friday.

But in the early hours of Monday, new roadblocks emerged on in Beirut and around the country, snarling major traffic arteries including the main seaside highway north and south of the capital. Schools called off plans to reopen and are now in their third week of closure.
“The slogan is ‘this revolution doesn’t know sleep, form the government today’,” said Hashem Adnan, one of several dozen protesters blocking the Ring Bridge in Beirut, demanding a new cabinet independent of the political elite which protesters accuse of corruption and steering Lebanon into economic crisis.
“People are continuing because you know you can’t trust this regime, any part of it,” he said.
In the northern city of Tripoli, demonstrator Rabih Al-Zein said protesters had escalated again because they do not trust the ruling elite to meet demands for a new administration that will act against corruption.

“We want technocrats (in government) and we want judges to fight corruption, recover stolen money and hold the government accountable,” he said.
Lebanon is grappling with the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. With growth around zero percent, a slowdown in capital inflows has led to a scarcity of US dollars and pressure on the pegged Lebanese pound.
Lebanon is one of the world’s most heavily indebted states and is widely seen to be in need of urgent moves that would narrow the government’s gaping deficit and revive confidence.
Though no formal capital controls were announced, customers encountered new restrictions on withdrawals of US dollars and transfers abroad when the banks opened on Friday.
Protesters in the southern city of Sidon mobilized outside government-run agencies and commmercial banks on Monday, forcing them to close, a witness said.
Hariri, who is aligned with Western and Gulf Arab states, continues in a caretaker capacity until the formation of a new government.

The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim under the Lebanese sectarian system of government and President Michel Aoun must designate the politicians with most support among MPs.
Aoun, a Maronite Christian allied to the powerful, Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah, has yet to begin the formal consultations with MPs to designate the next prime minister.
On Saturday, the presidency said he was working to resolve “complications” first and would start the consultations soon.
Supporters of Aoun staged a big rally near the presidential palace on Sunday, followed by large anti-government protests in Beirut and other parts of the country later in the day.


Trump's Middle East plan forges unexpected unity in Palestinian ranks

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speak to the press on the West Wing Colonnade prior to meetings at the White House in Washington, DC, January 27, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 22 sec ago

Trump's Middle East plan forges unexpected unity in Palestinian ranks

  • Reactions of rivals to Palestinian president's call for a meeting spark hopes of a unified response
  • No Palestinian official was present at the launch ceremony in the White House on Tuesday

AMMAN: US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan appears to have produced an unexpected result: It has forged a tenuous unity among Palestinian politicians.
Local media reports suggested that both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group accepted a call by President Mahmoud Abbas for a meeting of the Palestinian leadership at the presidential compound in Ramallah, in the West Bank, on Tuesday night.
No Palestinian official was present at the launch ceremony in the White House on Tuesday. Palestinian leaders had rejected the plan in advance, saying it aimed to impose permanent Israeli rule over the West Bank.
There was no immediate reaction from Abbas, but a spokesman for his Fatah party said Trump’s plan “will go to the trash (heap) of history.”
Hussein Hamayel told Palestine TV that Trump was trying to “shift focus from his impeachment in the US,” but “neither Trump, nor anyone other than Trump can end the Palestinian cause.”
Reacting to the formal unveiling of the White House plan's political framework, Sami Abu Zuhri, an official of Hamas, the Palestinian group in control of the Gaza Strip, said: “Trump’s statement is aggressive and it will spark a lot of anger.
“Trump’s statement about Jerusalem is nonsense and Jerusalem will always be a land for the Palestinians. ... The Palestinians will confront this deal and Jerusalem will remain a Palestinian land.”
On Sunday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The US administration will not find a single Palestinian who supports this project.
“Trump’s plan is the plot of the century to liquidate the Palestinian cause.”
Hagai El-Ad, executive director of B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, said: “What the Palestinians are being offered right now is not rights or a state, but a permanent state of Apartheid. No amount of marketing can erase this disgrace or blur the facts.”


Equally scathing was the statement of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington D.C., which said: “With this new plan, there is uncertainty in what the future holds for Palestinians.”
Other reactions were more measured. Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said: “Jordan supports every genuine effort aimed at achieving a just and comprehensive peace that people will accept.”
He said the only path to a comprehensive and lasting peace was the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 lines and with East Jerusalem as its capital.
A spokesperson for Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, said: “The leaders discussed the United States’ proposal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which could prove a positive step forward.”
The Arab League has said it will convene an urgent meeting on Saturday.
Trump presented his long-awaited plan, promising to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.
Standing alongside Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, at the White House, Trump proposed a two-state solution and said no Israelis or Palestinians would be uprooted from their homes.


The blueprint was drawn up under the stewardship of Jared Kushner, Trump's Middle East adviser and son-in-law.
Earlier in the day, the Israeli military deployed reinforcements in the occupied West Bank and thousands of Palestinians protested in the Gaza Strip.
Hani Al-Masri, executive director of Masart, a think-tank in Ramallah, said the semblance of Palestinian political unity is welcome but not sufficient.
“This is a positive move but what is needed is a holistic strategy in which all are involved,” he told Arab News.
Al-Masri called for a leadership-level meeting of all sectors of Palestinian society.
“We need political faction leaders, civil society leaders, leaders of women and youth groups to meet in order to agree on a comprehensive plan, not simply a one-time reaction to the latest Trump plan.”
Kayed Ma’ari director of the Witness Center for Citizens Rights in Nablus, told Arab News that President Abbas is trying to convey the message that there is a unified, not isolated, Palestinian rejection of the Trump plan.
“This call shuts all the cracks in the internal Palestinian wall that is facing up to the deal of the century,” he said, adding that “this will strengthen the efforts to show publicly this Palestinian rejection.”
However, Ma’ari warned that it is important “to build on this decision so that it is not an isolated reaction.”


Hamas politburo member Khalil Hayeeh said the group would join the Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah. “We welcome the call by Abu Mazen (Abbas) and we declare our full support to this call,” he said.
Ayman Daraghmeh, a former Hamas legislator, said he received a phone invitation from Fatah central committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad, who conveyed the invitation in the name of President Abbas to all former members from Hamas of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Khaled Batsh, head of the national relations committee of Islamic Jihad, said that the group would participate in the evening meeting in Ramallah on Tuesday.
“This meeting is not an alternative to a much wider meeting on the national level, which will agree on a national strategy to face up to the challenges confronting Palestinians,” he said.
Fahmi, a political analyst from Gaza, told Arab News that the Palestinian leadership and Hamas both need each other at present.
“This meeting doesn’t seem to be based on a change of attitude or thinking, he said, “but it is clearly a response to the fact that both sides are facing an existential crisis and therefore are clutching each other (for support).”