Lebanese security forces pepper spray demonstrators outside US Embassy

Lebanese demonstrators pull on a barbed wire as they take part in an demonstration against the US peace plan proposal, near the US embassy in Awkar, northeast of the capital Beirut on February 2, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 02 February 2020

Lebanese security forces pepper spray demonstrators outside US Embassy

  • The protesters called on all Arabs to take to the streets and stressed that “this deal will fall before the will of the Palestinian people as did the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration before, and Palestine will remain for all Palestinians

BEIRUT: Angry Lebanese and Palestinian protesters staged a sit-in on Sunday outside the US Embassy to protest the “deal of the century,” which US President Donald Trump announced last week.
The Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces set up a perimeter using barbed wire and iron barriers on the Dbayeh Highway leading to the US Embassy in Awkar, 11 km north of Beirut.
The protesters raised Palestinian flags as well as the flags of Lebanese parties, including the Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. They chanted in support of Palestine and in denunciation of the deal.
Protesters shouted: “Down with the deal of disgrace. All Palestine is for the Palestinians, their children, and grandchildren.”
The protesters called on all Arabs to take to the streets and stressed that “this deal will fall before the will of the Palestinian people as did the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration before, and Palestine will remain for all Palestinians.”
The sit-in became violent when the protesters attempted to remove the barbed wire to reach the perimeter.

They threw stones at the security forces. The military responded by using pepper spray, leading to protesters fainting and suffocating.
Ghassan Ayoub, a representative from the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Arab News: “The Palestinian factions did not participate in the sit-in as the call for the sit-in was Lebanese, and the Palestinian participation was symbolic.”  He said that the Palestinian camps in Lebanon have been in a state of anger since Trump announced his deal.
“Palestinian refugees express their anger by staging sit-ins inside their camps and holding seminars that explain to the refugees the disadvantages and risks of the deal to the Palestinian people,” he added.
The US Embassy warned its employees 24 hours before the sit-in to avoid the area of ​​the demonstration.

HIGHLIGHT

The sit-in became violent when the protesters attempted to remove the barbed wire to reach the perimeter.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced during a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday that “the Palestinian Authority decided to cut all ties with the US and Israel, including security relations, after rejecting the US Middle East peace plan.”
Trump’s plan, endorsed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state under near-total Israeli security control. It also calls for the US recognition of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and of Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel.
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said on Sunday: “Trump and Netanyahu must know that the resisting Palestinian people and the peoples of the region will not let this deal pass and will not allow Israel to occupy and legitimize its occupation at the same time.
“Palestine is on all the soil of Palestine, from the sea to the river, and the capital is Jerusalem, east and west, not East Jerusalem alone. This is what we believe in, and we believe it is possible to achieve it. It requires some sacrifices and time.”
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi said: “The deal of the century is a slap to the Palestinian cause and the decisions of the UN and the Security Council taken successively since 1948.”
Al-Rahi expressed his fear that the implementation of this deal would lead to “a new conflict that would increase destruction and bloodshed, and as usual Lebanon would not be spared the outcomes.”


Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 17 min 47 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”