Lebanon confusion: Uneasy calm descends on Beirut amid ‘fear of what is to come’

A boy fishes from a breakwater in Antelias, Lebanon November 20, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 21 November 2019

Lebanon confusion: Uneasy calm descends on Beirut amid ‘fear of what is to come’

  • Life in Beirut returned to normal 35 days after activists took to the streets

BEIRUT: More than a month after bitter demonstrations erupted across the country, Lebanese protesters, just like warriors in battle, appear desperate for a rest.

On Wednesday, 35 days after activists took to the streets to demand an end to government corruption and mismanagement, life in Beirut returned to normal.

Students went back to their schools and universities, banks opened their doors to unprecedented numbers of customers, roadworks restarted on some streets and TV channels resumed regular schedules.

However, behind the appearance of calm, many residents remain nervous and fearful.

Taxi driver Abu Omar said: “The roads are no longer blocked by protesters, but people are still in shock. They fear what is to come. There have been no solutions, which means it is not over.”

Madeleine, shopping on Hamra Street with a friend, said: “We have had enough of sitting in front of the TV all day, watching the news. People in the street were right to protest and their demands must be met. Employees were told two days ago that their salaries will be cut in half.”

Another said: “We might lose our jobs at any moment. They told us that last month the company suffered enormous losses and might not be able to continue. I do not think that the protests are the cause, but the economic stagnation that began before the protests has got worse.”   

Away from the capital, protesters are still setting up roadblocks, but the Lebanese army’s decision to open major roads between towns has been unopposed.

In the north of Lebanon, roads were blocked in Akkar, while life in Tripoli returned to normal and the main protest squares were closed.

In Saida, in the south of the country, public facilities, schools and universities reopened. But protesters called for money exchange and transfer shops to be closed amid anger at the outlets’ high pricing of the US dollar while banks still have strict limits on providing customers with US currency.

According to a final review by Lebanon’s Central Bank, more than $3.2 billion was withdrawn from banks at the start of the financial crisis.

Alia Abbas, general director of economy and trade at the Lebanese Economy Ministry, said that prices of some products have risen by up to 11 percent.

President Michel Aoun, caretaker prime minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri have failed to reach a formula to form a new government since Oct. 29.

One activist, who declined to be named, said that he fears Aoun will name someone other than Hariri to form a government of both experts and politicians since the former PM is insisting on a technocrat government.

“Naming Hariri to form a techno-political government is a good thing, as familiar faces will be replaced with experts, but this will not be well received by the protest movement,” he said.

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UN calls for ‘two state’ solution to be respected in Middle East

Updated 25 February 2020

UN calls for ‘two state’ solution to be respected in Middle East

  • “All parties should refrain from undermining the viability of the two states solution in order to maintain the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace”

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council made a rare show of unity Monday when it called on all parties to maintain their support for a two state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
“Council Members reiterated their support for a negotiated two state solution ... where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,” said a statement released by Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency, and supported by all 14 other members, including the United States.
“All parties should refrain from undermining the viability of the two states solution in order to maintain the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the statement added, an allusion to Israel’s recent threat to build thousands more homes in East Jerusalem, in an area claimed by the Palestinians.
The council also “stressed the need to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues” and expressed “grave concern about acts of violence against civilians.”
The statement came after two days of rising tensions in the region after the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israel, following the killing of three of its members in the Gaza Strip and Syria.