Modest Eid celebrations take place in Lebanon amid coronavirus restrictions

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A boy walks as he holds balloons for sale, ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Sidon, Lebanon on May 23, 2020. (Reuters)
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Muslims worshippers take part in a morning prayer to celebrate the Eid Al-Fitr holiday while wearing protective masks and maintaining social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, at Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque in the Lebanese capital Beirut’s downtown district on May 24, 2020. (AFP)
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A security guard sits at an empty amusement park, on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the city of Sidon, southern Lebanon, May 24, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 May 2020

Modest Eid celebrations take place in Lebanon amid coronavirus restrictions

  • Movement in Beirut was limited to family visits, with parks and other entertainment facilities remaining closed
  • Eid prayers were held in mosques, and the number of worshippers varied region-wise

BEIRUT: Eid prayers were held in Lebanon’s mosques, as people celebrated the end of Ramadan amid measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Movement in Beirut was limited to family visits, with parks and other entertainment facilities remaining closed. Most people refrained from visiting restaurants because of the ongoing economic crunch. Families with properties in the mountains preferred to spend their Eid holidays there in order to protect themselves against the virus.
Eid prayers were held in mosques, and the number of worshippers varied region-wise. Mosques abided by the decision of the Islamic Dar Al-Fatwa to maintain distance between worshippers, ensure that everyone wore masks, have worshippers bring their own prayer mats, and prevent handshakes and hugging. 
Doctors expressed fears that social mixing during the holidays might boost the number of infections. On Sunday the Health Ministry confirmed 17 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number to 1,114.
But economic concerns overshadowed other worries during Eid, and shopkeepers complained of a significant drop in purchasing activity.
“Business activities in markets before Eid remained minimum due to a decline in people’s purchasing power and the pandemic,” Tony Eid, head of the Beirut Traders Association, told Arab News. “Reopening markets gradually is better than continuous closure. We are facing several issues such as banks not issuing US dollars, and forex dealers are still on a strike forcing us to resort to devious ways to buy dollars. If we don’t do that the commercial sector will suffocate.”

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The third phase of the repatriation of Lebanese expatriates ended on Sunday. Citizens arrived on Sunday at Rafik Hariri International Airport from Riyadh, Frankfurt, Paris, Brussels, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and London. On Saturday night, flights from Moscow, London, Abidjan, and Mozambique arrived. The government is currently not planning to start the fourth phase of the operations. The next phase will be based on the pandemic situation.
According to the Ministry of Health, the total number of COVID-19 cases among those coming from abroad is 193, while 6,393 people are in quarantine centers.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab offered Eid prayers at the Al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut. Former prime ministers, who oppose the current government, were absent from the scene.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri participated in Eid prayers at Imam Ali Mosque in Beirut’s Jdeideh Road district, which is loyal to the Future Movement. Many of the district’s people came out to greet Hariri and expressed their support for him.
In his Eid sermon Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian criticized “the destruction and sabotage of public institutions” and called on the government to stop the country’s financial, banking, and economic collapse.
“Where have the billions (of liras) gone?” he said. “These should have been spent on safeguarding the interests of citizens, supplying them with power and water, on addressing the waste crisis, improving communications, and promoting agriculture, industry, and services. Why has the country accumulated public debt of $90 billion, $50 billion of which were wasted on electric power that is always out? Who is responsible for holding the depositors’ money? The ones who drained this money inform us every day that it has been lost forever.”
He said Lebanon should reach out to its Arab brothers, who were keen on the country’s safety, stability, and prosperity. “We will not abandon our Arab nationalism,” he added.
Sheikh Hassan Merheb, assistant general inspector at Dar Al-Fatwa, criticized those attempting to undo the policies of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He said Beirut would remain faithful to him and to those following in his footsteps.
Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan said that the Lebanese formula, which was established on a “sectarian and tyrannical basis to serve the colonial and monopoliztic project,” had ended.
He also said that what the post-independence president, Bechara El-Khoury, and former Prime Minister Riyad Al-Solh did was no longer suitable for a state of citizenship because the country had collapsed due to the “corrupt constitution.”
He said that Lebanon must not listen to “the lying international community” and that “the International Monetary Fund is neither a charity nor independent from politics.”
The Lebanese head of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, used his Sunday sermon to condemn attempts to involve Lebanon in the region’s wars. He said these destroyed Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, or turned it into a battlefield.
He declared his refusal for “changing the face and heart of Lebanon and its pluralistic characteristic in order to preserve our identity.”


Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

In this file photo taken on December 04, 2018, Marc and Debra Tice, the parents of US journalist Austin Tice (portrait L), who was abducted in Syria more than six years ago, speak at a press conference in Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2020

Trump wrote to Assad about journalist missing in Syria, says Pompeo

  • In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump personally wrote to his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad about the case of journalist Austin Tice, who has been missing since 2012, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.
“The US government has repeatedly attempted to engage Syrian officials to seek Austin’s release,” Pompeo said in a statement on the eighth anniversary of Tice’s disappearance.
“President Trump wrote to Bashar Assad in March to propose direct dialogue.”
Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.
Thirty-one years old at the time he was captured, Tice appeared blindfolded in the custody of an unidentified group of armed men in a video a month later.
Since then, there has been no official information on whether he is alive or dead.
In March, Trump said the United States had written a letter to authorities in Damascus, without specifying that he himself had written personally to Assad, who Washington wants out of power. At that time, Trump said he did not know if Tice was still alive.

HIGHLIGHT

Tice was a freelance photojournalist working for Agence France-Presse, McClatchy News, The Washington Post, CBS and other news organizations when he disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012.

“No one should doubt the president’s commitment to bringing home all US citizens held hostage or wrongfully detained overseas,” Pompeo said Friday.
“Nowhere is that determination stronger than in Austin Tice’s case.”
Pompeo said he and Trump hoped there would be “no need for another statement like this a year from now.”
“Austin Tice’s release and return home are long, long overdue. We will do our utmost to achieve that goal,” he added.
A year ago, the US government said it believed Tice was still alive.
His mother Debra Tice said in January that she had “credible information” to that effect, without elaborating.
In 2018, US authorities announced a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his recovery.