Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks

Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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AN Photo/Tariq Keblawi
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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Lebanese anti-government protesters march with signs against sectarianism, calling for more jobs, and refusing negotiations wit hthe government, as they shout slogans in the northern port city of Tripoli on November 5, 2019. ( AFP )
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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Lebanese anti-government protesters march with signs against sectarianism, calling for more jobs, and refusing negotiations wit hthe government, as they shout slogans in the northern port city of Tripoli on November 5, 2019. (AFP)
Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
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Lebanese men ride horses near the clocktower in the northern port city of Tripoli on November 5, 2019. ( AFP )
Updated 06 November 2019

Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks

Army reopens roads as protesters target Lebanese public institutions and banks
  • In most places, protesters withdrew peacefully as the troops moved in
  • Moody’s ratings agency downgraded the government of Lebanon’s issuer ratings to Caa2

BEIRUT: Lebanese protesters on Tuesday changed tactics with sit-ins outside public services buildings after soldiers moved in to remove demonstration roadblocks set up in towns and cities throughout the country.

The new approach by anti-government protesters came as the Lebanese judiciary took steps toward combating corruption by revealing it would be taking legal action against former minister, Fayez Shukr, over allegations of “job negligence.”
Financial prosecutor, Judge Ali Ibrahim, made the announcement after lawyers of the civil society Muttahidun (United) filed a claim against Shukr last July for allegedly “receiving huge compensation” from the National Social Security Fund.

 

 

The society alleged that Shukr, who served as a minister of state in the government of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from 1995 to 1996, was registered as an observing doctor for more than 15 years but never practiced, his name did not appear on doctors’ lists for hospitals or medical centers, and no fund users ever saw him.
Pro-Syria Shukr had been secretary-general of the Ba’ath Party in Lebanon since 2006 and rejected a decision by the party’s leadership in Damascus in 2015 to dissolve the Lebanese national secretariat due to a crisis between the Ba’athists.
Meanwhile, the civil movement in Lebanon against the country’s political elite on Tuesday entered its 20th day with protesters calling on President Michel Aoun to set a date for parliamentary consultations to assign a new prime minister to head a government composed of non-politicians.
Following the resignation last week of Premier Saad Hariri, demonstrators are demanding parliamentary elections be held as soon as possible.

 

Opinion

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On Tuesday morning crowds again blocked roads, causing traffic chaos and leaving motorists stranded for hours. However, the Lebanese army moved in to remove obstacles on highways and tents set up in streets and on roundabouts.
Commando forces were deployed in the Jal El-Dib and Zouk Mosbeh areas, which link Beirut to northern Lebanon and Mount Lebanon. Despite some resistance there were no reports of violence, although security forces arrested a number of protesters and confiscated audio equipment.
With roads open again, demonstrators resorted to sit-ins outside official institutions and private companies operating state services. One of their first targets was the headquarters of Touch, one of two mobile telecoms and data operators in Lebanon, based in the center of Beirut. Dozens of protesters sat in front of the entrance and raised banners demanding a reduction in the cost of services.
The nationwide protests which have crippled Lebanon were sparked on Oct. 17 after the government proposed an increase in charges for use of the WhatsApp service as part of efforts to ease Lebanon’s financial crisis.
 

 

 

Elsewhere in the capital, protesters set up camp outside a bank on Hamra Street, while in the northern city of Tripoli they forced the closure of public institutions, official bureaus and banks.
The Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) protested against an attempt by activists to undermine a memorial on a roundabout in the predominantly Druze town of Baakleen.
Meanwhile, a date for binding parliamentary consultations on the naming of a new prime minister for Lebanon had still not been confirmed.
OTV, which is affiliated to the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), said there had been no statement on the outcome of a meeting held on Monday between Hariri and FPM leader Gebran Bassil, although the TV station did say “the trend is for a techno-political government with no more than 24 ministers.”
In a statement on similar lines, Mustafa Alloush, a member of the political bureau of the Future Movement, said: “The technocratic government option is logical.”
Former Lebanese premier, Fouad Siniora, said: “The president’s consultations with the parliamentary blocs on the nature of the new government, its form and membership, is a violation of the letter and the spirit of the constitution.

BACKGROUND

Following the resignation last week of Premier Saad Hariri, demonstrators are demanding parliamentary elections be held as soon as possible.

“It is also a violation of the constitutional authority of the prime minister-designate. President Aoun should speed up the timing of consultations because Lebanon no longer has the luxury of time and waiting.”
Sethrida Geagea, a member of the Lebanese Forces (LF) parliamentary bloc, said after her visit to the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi that the LF wanted “a government composed of independents or we will face a human explosion.”
She added: “Regardless of whether Prime Minister Saad Hariri will accept his mandate or not, but we, the LF, will not participate in a political government, and will not accept any external side to interfere in the formation of the government.
“I ask the president of the republic to open the door for parliamentary consultations as soon as possible because the situation is intolerable.”


Morocco’s navy rescues 368 migrants bound for Spain

Morocco’s navy rescues 368 migrants bound for Spain
Updated 50 min 47 sec ago

Morocco’s navy rescues 368 migrants bound for Spain

Morocco’s navy rescues 368 migrants bound for Spain
  • Migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued between Tuesday and Friday
  • 2,087 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea during 2021’s first six months

RABAT: The Moroccan navy this week rescued 368 migrants including three children as they were trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Spain, the official MAP news agency said Friday.
It said the migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were rescued between Tuesday and Friday when their makeshift boats, including rubber dinghies and kayaks, ran into difficulty.
Last week Morocco’s navy reportedly rescued 344 migrants in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.
Migrants in the North African country often try to reach the Spanish mainland via the Mediterranean, while in the Atlantic Ocean they make for Spain’s Canary Islands.
A total of 2,087 migrants died trying to reach Spain by sea during the first six months of 2021, roughly the same number as during all of last year, a migrant rights group said earlier this month.
Spanish interior ministry figures show that between January 1 and June 30, a total of 12,622 migrants arrived in Spain by sea, almost twice as many as those who made the crossings last year.


Over 140 Palestinians hurt in clashes with Israel troops: medics

Over 140 Palestinians hurt in clashes with Israel troops: medics
Updated 23 July 2021

Over 140 Palestinians hurt in clashes with Israel troops: medics

Over 140 Palestinians hurt in clashes with Israel troops: medics
  • The Israeli army said two soldiers were also "lightly injured" in the violence
  • Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Beita to protest against the nearby outpost of Eviatar

BEITA, Palestinian Territories: More than 140 Palestinians were hurt Friday in clashes with Israeli troops in the flashpoint West Bank village of Beita, medics said, during protests against an illegal Israeli settlement outpost.
The Israeli army said two soldiers were also “lightly injured” in the violence.
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Beita, located in the north of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to protest against the nearby outpost of Eviatar, an AFP correspondent said.
The area has seen regular demonstrations against settlement expansion on Palestinian land.
The Israeli army said that “over the last several hours, a riot was instigated in the area of Givat Eviatar outpost, south of Nablus.”
“Hundreds of Palestinians hurled rocks at IDF (army) troops, who responded with riot dispersal means,” it said in a statement, adding that the two “lightly injured” soldiers were taken to hospital.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 146 Palestinians were hurt during the clashes, including nine by live fire, 34 by rubber-coated bullets and 87 by tear gas.
Jewish settlers set up the Eviatar outpost in early May, building rudimentary concrete homes and shacks in a matter of weeks.
The construction came in defiance of both international and Israeli law, and sparked fierce protests from Palestinians who insisted it was being built on their land.
But following a deal struck with nationalist Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new government, the settlers left the outpost on July 2, while the structures they had built were to remain under army guard.
Israel’s defense ministry said it would study the area to assess whether it could, under Israeli law, be declared state land.
Should that happen, Israel could then authorize a religious school to be built at Eviatar, with residences for its staff and students.
Around 475,000 Jewish settlers now live in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.


Abu Dhabi crown prince receives call from Israeli PM

Abu Dhabi crown prince receives call from Israeli PM
Updated 23 July 2021

Abu Dhabi crown prince receives call from Israeli PM

Abu Dhabi crown prince receives call from Israeli PM
  • The crown prince congratulated Bennett on assuming the position of Israeli PM
  • Bennett congratulated Sheikh Mohammed on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha and wished him continued health and happiness

DUBAI: The crown prince of Abu Dhabi received a call from the prime minister of Israel on Friday during which they discussed cooperation between the two countries.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Naftali Bennett also discussed regional and international issues of common interest and efforts to achieve peace and prosperity regionally and internationally.
Bennett congratulated Sheikh Mohammed on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha and wished him continued health and happiness, and the UAE and its people further progress and prosperity.
Sheikh Mohammed thanked the prime minister and expressed his hopes that peace and prosperity prevail for all of mankind.
The crown prince also congratulated Bennett on assuming the position of Israeli prime minister and expressed his aspiration that the UAE and Israel would work together toward peace, stability and development for the benefit of the region and the world.


Iran’s Khuzestan protests: Water was the trigger, anti-Arab discrimination is the reason

Protesters, rights groups and activists say the water demand by Ahwazi Arabs is part of wider discontent over historic and systematic racial discrimination. (Screenshots/Social Media)
Protesters, rights groups and activists say the water demand by Ahwazi Arabs is part of wider discontent over historic and systematic racial discrimination. (Screenshots/Social Media)
Updated 23 July 2021

Iran’s Khuzestan protests: Water was the trigger, anti-Arab discrimination is the reason

Protesters, rights groups and activists say the water demand by Ahwazi Arabs is part of wider discontent over historic and systematic racial discrimination. (Screenshots/Social Media)
  • ‘There are accumulations of injustice, persecution and racism against Arabs,’ protester tells Arab News
  • Despite being rich in oil, the province’s Arabs are one of the most deprived communities in the country

 

LONDON: Iran’s Arab population has been on the frontline of water-shortage protests across cities in Khuzestan province this week.

Protesters, rights groups and activists say the water demand by Ahwazi Arabs is part of wider discontent over historic and systematic racial discrimination. 

“The reasons for the protests are many. In fact, there are accumulations of injustice, persecution and racism against Arabs,” a protester told Arab News on condition of anonymity. 

Among the reasons are “oil and gas, and now the regime stole the waters of the rivers and dried up their lands,” the protester said, adding that Ahwazi Arabs “face many problems with unemployment and the obliteration of Arab identity.”

The protester said: “The demands are clear and legitimate: Provide agricultural water, restore rivers to their streams, open dams, employ Arabs in oil and gas companies, give freedom of expression and appoint officials from our governorate to feel our pain and concerns.

“Ahwaz hasn’t witnessed an Arab official since 1925. All officials are chosen from the center. They drain the governorate’s money then leave after stealing its wealth.” 

Videos shared on social media show water buffalos and fish lifeless on the ground due to dehydration in Ahwazi-Arab marshlands and villages.

Arabs in these areas rely on raising their cattle to get by, and water supply is essential for them to be able to make a living from agriculture. 

Khuzestan MP Abdollah Izadpanah blamed the water shortages on “mistakes and unjustified decisions,” including the extraction of water from Khuzestan’s rivers to other provinces. 

Among Iran’s Arab community, it is believed that the drying up of marshlands and the diversion of water are part of a state-led effort to displace them and change the province’s demography.

In a viral video released earlier this month, a local Arab sheikh tells officials: “We aren’t going to leave this land. You brought us floods and drought to make us migrate. We won’t leave. This is our ancestral land.”

US-based human rights advocate Rahim Hamid told Arab News: “Many Ahwazi activists have asserted that the state’s ongoing river-damming and diversion projects are part of a demographic change policy intended to force the indigenous Arab people from their lands.”

He added: “Protesters have voiced loud opposition to any such demographic change, chanting ‘no, no to displacement’ and ‘we protect Ahwaz with our blood and soul’.”

In his spring 2021 report, the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on Iran, Javid Rehman, noted “reports of forced evictions in ethnic minority areas” impacting Ahwazi Arabs.

Amnesty International has so far reported eight people killed by security forces during the protests.

Among them was teenager Hadi Bahmani, reportedly a Bakhtiari, who like others from that community joined the Khuzestan protests in solidarity with Ahwazi Arabs. 

Hamid said Tehran is “maligning the protesters as separatist extremists, with regime officials and media adding insult to injury by using their customary racist anti-Arab language in their desperate efforts to delegitimize the protesters’ calls for fundamental human rights.”

Protesters have constantly assured Tehran that the demonstrations are peaceful and that their demands are not tied to separatism.

Instead, they want the regime to address both the water crisis and the multi-layered discrimination that Arabs in the country face.

Despite the oil-rich province, which is Iran’s largest source of foreign revenue, being Ahwazi Arabs’ home, they are one of the most deprived communities in the country and face abject poverty. 

In January, Mohsen Haidari, a senior cleric representing Khuzestan in the Assembly of Experts — the deliberative body empowered to appoint Iran’s supreme leader — publically spoke of anti-Arab discrimination being rife in employment. 


Lebanon water system on verge of collapse, says UNICEF

French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo speaks to crew members at Beirut port as a ship unloads humanitarian aid offered by the French government to Lebanese customs. (AFP)
French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo speaks to crew members at Beirut port as a ship unloads humanitarian aid offered by the French government to Lebanese customs. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 45 sec ago

Lebanon water system on verge of collapse, says UNICEF

French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo speaks to crew members at Beirut port as a ship unloads humanitarian aid offered by the French government to Lebanese customs. (AFP)
  • Fuel crisis threatens to close hospitals, bakeries and supermarkets
  • Lebanese life 'has returned to the Stone Age,' activists quipped on social media

BEIRUT: Shortages and the currency crunch in Lebanon could lead to a collapse of the main water supply in Lebanon within weeks, UNICEF has warned.

“More than 4 million people, including 1 million refugees, are at immediate risk of losing access to safe water in Lebanon,” it said.

Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Lebanon, said the water sector was being “squeezed to destruction by the current economic crisis.”

“A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs.”

Officials believe the water sector was “unable to function due to the dollarized maintenance costs, water loss, the parallel collapse of the power grid and the threat of rising fuel costs.”

With the rapidly escalating economic crisis and shortages of funding, fuel and supplies such as chlorine and spare parts, UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks.

It fears that if the public water supply system collapses water costs could rise by 200 per cent a month to secure water from alternative or private water suppliers.

The UNICEF warning comes at a time when diesel supplies have reached an all-time low.

Protesters have blocked public roads because of diesel shortages, which might threaten health services and food supplies.

The shortages could lead to protests in vital sectors that depend on diesel for generating electric power.

Generator owners meeting in Greater Beirut announced that “they will shut down their generators until they can secure diesel fuel at the official price.”

People were subjected to darkness recently when the owners of the generators began harsh generator cuts due to diesel shortages.

Lebanese life “has returned to the Stone Age,” activists quipped on social media.

Since the end of 2019, Lebanon has faced an unprecedented economic collapse, which the World Bank classifies as “among the worst in the world since the mid-19th century.” More than half of Lebanon’s population is below the poverty line.

Lebanon is experiencing a shortage of essential fuel as the Banque du Liban’s dollar reserves are depleted, although it has lifted subsidies on dozens of items. The bank also delayed the opening of import credits.

For nearly a year, political parties have not been able to agree on the formation of a government that can save the country through reforms required by the international community to help the country.

The Directorate General of Oil affiliated to the Ministry of Energy urged fuel companies on Friday to “allocate quantities of their diesel stocks to meet the needs of hospitals to prevent any humanitarian disaster.”

The directorate called on the central bank to have mercy on the country and citizens and speed up the opening of diesel oil credits with gasoline and diesel levels reaching red zones.

The Lebanese Army gave hospitals some of their diesel stockpiles last week.

“The diesel crisis is very big and opening credits is no longer enough to cater for the market’s needs,” said George Brax, a member of Gas Station Owners’ Syndicate.

He stressed that the solution would be to remove subsidies once and for all, as has happened for some medicines and industrial goods.

Brax feared reaching a stage when “we will not be able to import fuel anymore.”

Residents of buildings in upscale neighborhoods in Beirut told Arab News that they had resorted to buying diesel on the black market so that they could light their homes and refrigerators even if this was at great cost.

However, some decided to reduce energy consumption so that diesel stocks could last longer.

The Supermarket Owners’ Syndicate warned against “diesel outages because many food items need refrigerators and relatively low temperatures. Power outages will inevitably harm food safety.”

Hani Bohsali, head of Syndicate of Food Importers in Lebanon, feared that “people will resort to eating cereals and canned food only because we have already reached rock bottom.”

The Syndicate of Bakery Owners warned that resorting to the black market for diesel supplies would raise the price of the bread.

It called on the General Directorate of Oil to avoid the crisis and secure diesel for bakeries before Monday. Otherwise, the bakeries would be forced to close their doors, the syndicate said.

The growing black market, without any effective official sanction, has spread to medicine as well, as pharmacies intermittently strike to protest against the failure to import medicines.

The importers in turn are waiting for the central bank to settle the previous bills with pharmaceutical companies abroad.