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.


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.”

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

Workers disinfect Qom’s Masumeh shrine, which is visited by a large number of people, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 26 February 2020

Coronavirus: 16 killed in Iran, 95 infected

  • Six Saudi women recovering in Bahrain as Kingdom warns against travel to Italy and Japan

DUBAI: Two more people infected with the new coronavirus have died, taking the toll in Iran to 16, a Health Ministry official told state TV on Tuesday.

Iran has the highest number of deaths from coronavirus outside China, where the virus emerged late last year.
“Among those who had been suspected of the virus, 35 have been confirmed and two died of the coronavirus infection,” said Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour. He said 95 people had been infected across Iran.
The Health Ministry urged Iranians to stay at home.
Iran said on Monday 900 cases were suspected, dismissing claims by a lawmaker from Qom who said 50 people had died in the city, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Iran, which confirmed its first two deaths last week in Qom, has yet to say how many people it has quarantined, but the semi-official Mehr news agency said 320 people had been hospitalized.
Iraj Harirchi, Iran’s deputy health minister, has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now under quarantine.
Six Arab countries have reported their first cases of coronavirus, with those infected all having links to Iran. Kuwait said the number of infected people there had risen to eight.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry said 15 more people, including six Saudi women, had tested positive for the virus after returning from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah. The new cases were carried by Bahraini and Saudi nationals who arrived at Bahrain International Airport from Iran via Dubai or Sharjah.
The Saudi Ministry of Health said that it was coordinating with Bahraini health officials for the treatment of the Saudi women who had visited Iran. They will remain in Bahrain until they are fully recovered. The Kingdom has advised citizens and residents to avoid traveling to Italy and Japan.
Iranian authorities have ordered the nationwide cancellation of concerts and soccer matches and the closure of schools and universities in many provinces.
The head of Qom’s Medical Science University, Mohammad Reza Ghadir, expressed concern over “the spread of those people infected by the virus across the city,” adding the Health Ministry had banned releasing figures linked to the coronavirus.
Many Iranians took to social media to accuse authorities of concealing the facts.
Rouhani called for calm, saying the outbreak was no worse than other epidemics that Iran has weathered.
The sight of Iranians wearing masks and gloves is now common in much of the country.
Sales of masks, disinfectant gels and disposable gloves have soared in Tehran and other cities, with officials vowing to prevent hoarding and shortages by boosting production.
Iran has shut schools, universities and cultural centers until the end of the week in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The UAE has banned all flights to and from Iran. The UAE, home to long-haul carriers Emirates and Etihad, remains a key international transit route for Iran’s 80 million people.
Emirates, the government-owned carrier based in Dubai, flies daily to Tehran. Its low-cost sister airline, FlyDubai, flies to multiple Iranian cities, as does the Sharjah-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia.
The announcement came after Bahrain said it would suspend all flights from Dubai and Sharjah.
Kuwait raised the number of its infected cases to eight, after earlier raising the number to five. It said the three latest cases involved Kuwaiti citizens just back from Iran, without giving more details. The five previously reported cases were passengers returning on a flight from the Iranian city of Mashhad, where Iran’s government has not yet announced a single case of the virus.
Kuwait had halted transport links with Iran over the weekend and said it was evacuating its citizens from Iran.
An Iraqi family of four who returned from a visit to Iran tested positive for the coronavirus, the first Iraqis known to have caught the disease.
The four cases in Kirkuk province brought Iraq’s total to five after it reported its first case on Monday, an Iranian theology student in Najaf. Iraq is deeply concerned about its exposure to the Iranian outbreak, as it has deep cultural and religious ties with its neighbor and typically receives millions of Iranians each year.
The Iraqi government, which has already banned all travel from China and Iran, added Italy, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan to its travel ban list on Tuesday. Returning Iraqi citizens are exempt, as are diplomats.
Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr suspended a call for his followers to hold a “million-man” protest, saying he had decide to forbid the events “for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else.”
“I had called for million-man protests and sit-ins against sectarian power-sharing and today I forbid you from them for your health and life, for they are more important to me than anything else,” he said in a statement. It was not immediately clear how the government’s call on citizens to avoid public gatherings would affect the strength of anti-government protests, and the response of security forces.
A Turkish Airlines plane flying from Iran was diverted to Ankara on Tuesday at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request and an aviation news website said one passenger was suspected of being infected by coronavirus.
Turkey’s Demiroren news agency broadcast video showing ambulances lined up beside the plane, with several personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
The plane was flying from Tehran and had been scheduled to land in Istanbul. Turkey shut its borders to Iran on Sunday and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Oman’s Khasab port has suspended the import and export of goods to and from Iran from Feb. 26.