Medics protest economic crisis in Lebanon

Protesters chant slogans as as they demonstrate outside Lebanon's central bank during ongoing anti-government protests in Beirut, Lebanon Nov. 11, 2019. (REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares/File Photo)
Updated 16 November 2019

Medics protest economic crisis in Lebanon

  • Hospitals warn of ‘a health nightmare that the country has never seen before’

BEIRUT: Protesting over Lebanon’s economic crisis, doctors and nurses on Friday raised placards that read “we are on the verge of collapse and our situation is critical” in front of hospital entrances.

Medical staff were protesting to warn of “a health nightmare that the country has never seen before, even in the most heinous days of the civil war,” said the president of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, Suleiman Haroun.

“Importers can’t import medical supplies due to the lack of liquidity, as hospitals are facing a financial crisis and banks continue to impose restrictions on dollar transfers abroad, even for importation.” 

Lebanese authorities are “facing a real crisis as a result of their failure to find solutions or to form a government to save the country,” Haroun said.

Ziad Abdel Samad, a civil society activist, told Arab News: “We’re still not sure how serious the leaks are about nominating … Mohammed Safadi as prime minister.”

His name circulated in the media on Thursday after caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri received a response from representatives of the alliance of the president, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement approving of Safadi.

Safadi is a supporter of Hariri, who resigned on Oct. 29 amid mass protests in Lebanon. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, votes for Safadi were in favor of Hariri’s electoral list. Safadi’s wife, Minister Violette Khairallah, is among the ministers who supported Hariri in the government.

The country is facing a real crisis. People in power must come up with a solution, but not one political party is capable of doing so, including Hezbollah.

Ziad Abdel Samad, civil society activist

Following the news about Safadi potentially becoming the next prime minister, protesters in his hometown Tripoli gathered in front of his house and social center to chant against him.

Abdel Samad said: “The country is facing a real crisis. People in power must come up with a solution, but not one political party is capable of doing so, including Hezbollah.”

During the past 24 hours, the army arrested protesters in various regions for trying to block roads. 

Ghassan Hajjar, managing editor at An-Nahar newspaper, tweeted: “It seems like the authority has become an expert in turning people against it.”

Released protesters said they were severely beaten. Lawyers gathered in front of the Palace of Justice to object to the arrests and the prevention of those arrested from contacting a lawyer before the interrogations.

State Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat met with a delegation of lawyers and told them that those still under arrest will be released.

Iran’s top leader praises attack on US bases in Iraq

Updated 17 January 2020

Iran’s top leader praises attack on US bases in Iraq

  • Iran’s supreme leader delivered a Friday sermon in Tehran for the first time since 2012

DUBAI: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a Friday prayers sermon that Iran’s missile strikes on US targets in Iraq showed it had divine support in delivering a “slap on the face” to a world power.

Making the main weekly sermon in Tehran for the first time since 2012, with Iran and its clerical rulers under pressure at home and abroad, Khamenei also said that US sanctions imposed in a row over its nuclear program would not make Iran yield.

Thousands had gathered inside a large prayer hall in central Tehran and packed the area and streets outside the building, chanting “Death to America.”

The sermon was delivered after Iran’s rulers faced days of often violent protests after the military admitted to mistakenly shooting down an airliner in the tense hours after the missile strikes, which were in turn launched in retaliation for the US killing on Jan. 3 of a top Iranian commander, close to Khamenei.

“The fact that Iran has the power to give such a slap to a world power shows the hand of God,” Khamenei, saying the US killing of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, showed Washington’s “terrorist nature.”

US President Donald Trump, who pulled Washington out of a nuclear deal with Iran in 2018 and ratcheted up tension by reimposing US sanctions, had ordered the drone strike that killed Soleimani, who built up proxy militias across the region.

After days of denying a role in the plane crash, the Revolutionary Guards, a parallel military force answering directly to Khamenei that acts as guardian of Islamic Republic, finally admitted on Jan. 11 that one of its air defense operators mistakenly shot down Ukraine Airlines International flight 752.

Vigils for the 176 victims swiftly turned into protests against Iran’s rulers. “Death to Khamenei” was chanted at protests and spray painted on walls of Tehran and other cities. Such public criticism can result in a jail term in Iran.

Khamenei described the crash as a tragedy and a very sad incident that was used by Iran’s “enemies,” used to describe the United States and its allies, to overshadow the killing of Soleimani, whose funeral drew huge crowds onto the streets.

In the demonstrations after the downing of the airliner, police launched a sometimes crackdown and deployed riot police outside universities, where many students had protested.