FAA allows US civilian flights to resume over Arabian Gulf

The FAA said it made the decision because Iran has de-escalated its military posture, reducing the danger to US civil aviation operations. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 February 2020

FAA allows US civilian flights to resume over Arabian Gulf

  • FAA made the decision because Iran has de-escalated its military posture
  • The organization stopped flights from flying over the area as a precaution to prevent civilian aircraft from being confused for ones engaged in armed conflict

DUBAI: The US Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that American civilian flights can resume operations over much of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman region, loosening restrictions announced five weeks ago amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.
The FAA said it made the decision because Iran has de-escalated its military posture, reducing the danger to US civil aviation operations.
The FAA had barred American pilots and carriers from flying in areas of Iraqi, Iranian and some Arabian Gulf airspace since early January. The move was precautionary in nature to prevent civilian aircraft from being confused for ones engaged in armed conflict.
The FAA announcement said “there is sufficiently reduced risk of Iranian military miscalculation or misidentification that could affect US civil aviation operations in the overwater airspace above the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.” Those areas cover much of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
However, the agency said it still advises operators to exercise caution and avoid operating on air routes nearest to the Tehran Flight Information Region, an area understood to cover the airspace over Iran. The FAA said “the situation in the region remains fluid and could quickly escalate if circumstances change.”
At the height of recent US-Iran tensions, Iranian forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet over Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. The Jan. 8 shootdown followed Iranian ballistic missile strikes on two Iraqi bases that house US troops. The Iranian attack was in retaliation for a US airstrike in Iraq that killed a senior Iranian commander.
The downing of the Ukrainian jet was a grim echo of when US navy forces accidentally shot down an Iranian passenger jet over the Arabian Gulf in 1988.
Dubai International Airport has been the world’s busiest for international travel for the past six years.


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”